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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, May 18, 2011, on Vol. 11, No. 97             E-mail us
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Percentage of North American tourists declines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Over the last six years there has been a fundamental shift in the tourism market. The percentage of visitors from North America has declined while the percent of visitors from Central America and South America has increased.

Based on figures from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, North American visitors made up 53 percent of the tourists in 2005. Visitors from Central America and South America were just 30 percent of the 1.7 million total.

But by 2010 North Americans declined to 48 percent, and Central and South Americans increased to 38 percent of the 2.1 million visitors.

Visitors from Europe declined a single percentage over those years from 14 to 13 percent.

The bulk of the Central American visitors came from Nicaragua, according to the institute's figures.

Although the number of North American visitors increased over the six years from 895,370 to 1,005,309, the increase was just about 110,000 tourists, far fewer than could populate the many new hotels and tourist destinations.

In 2008 when the tourism institute was honoring a New Jersey family as the 2 millionth visitor, only 976,561 came from North America, according to the figures.

The North American figures include México, which contributed about 50,000 tourists in each of the years. The remainder are tourists from Canada and the United States. The statistical situation is complicated further by those expats who are perpetual tourists and leave the country every 90 days to renew their visas and because nearly everyone coming from Costa Rica for whatever reason enters on a tourism visa.

The tourism institute had been shy about releasing the figures which originate with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería until this week. The general impression was that Costa Rica was receiving around 2 million tourists from the First World. New visa categories in the year-old immigration law are expected to clarify the situation.

The numbers figure into the current debate in which a new organization, ProTur, seeks a declaration of a tourism emergency.

That point of view is opposed by established tourism groups that say doing so would cast the industry here in a bad light. In a news release, the
Trend of North American visitors 2005-2010
Total tourists
N. Americans
Based on tourism institute statistics

groups said that a declaration of emergency would
deteriorate the image of Costa Rica, close lines of credit, stop investments, increase the cost of operations and sow insecurity among employees. The industry has about 110,000 workers and perhaps 400,000 indirect workers, the groups said.

The groups are the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles, the Cámara Nacional de Restaurantes, the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo, the Asociación Costarricense de Operadores en Turismo, the Asociación Costarricense de Agencias de Viaje and the Red Nacional de Pequeños Hoteles.
In fact, the organizations said that tourism is up 8 percent in the first four months of the year.

ProTur said it seeks reductions in utility rates for the tourism industry and flexibility by banks and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The
press release Tuesday said that the Caja, which collects social security payments on employees, has new methods to avoid emergency situations like payment plans. The groups also said that banks are showing some understanding.

Instead of an emergency declaration, the groups said that the country needs to push training and development of the human talent and seek greater investment by the government in areas of infrastructure and security as well as the economic aspects of the U.S. dollar exchange rate and passage of a general law of tourism.

The central government has not responded to the call for an emergency declaration, but some lawmakers have expressed support for ProTur's ideas.

The tourism institute supported a new $15 head tax on tourists who enter by air. A lot of the institute's budget is supposed to be promotion of the country, but over the last five years the institute was tapped to help field the new tourism police. The institute also is bankrolling a new swimming pool complex for Puntarenas and will kick in $10 million for a proposed convention center.

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Hospitals under attack
with fires, bomb threats

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley's public hospitals are under attack, and investigators are trying to locate those responsible before there is a tragedy.

Hospital San Juan de Dios has been the target of a series of small fires. And now there are bomb threats targeting different hospitals and phoned in via the 911 system.

Hospital officials are nervous because some of the fire alarm systems are defective. In addition, a fire at Hospital Calderón Guardia killed 19 persons July 12, 2005.

The hospitals are run by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The Judicial Investigating Organization said Tuesday that it was responding to the complaint.

There were cases where someone disconnected the electrical systems at certain hospitals, presumably to inactivate the alarms, said agents. They are considering that those responsible have some link with the hospitals.

The bomb threats have proven to be false, but they still have resulted in response by emergency crews and police. Staff members had to evacuate patients in some cases.

Judicial agents said they were working with hospital security crews to tighten access, although hundreds of persons visit each hospital daily.

The union representing hospital workers has expressed its hope that those responsible are found quickly.

But the union also staged a walkout Tuesday at Hospital México to protest what it says are arbitrary hiring practices. Affected were pharmacies, food services and other non-medical activities.

Tourist police shoot out
tires of fleeing vehicle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourist police had to fire on a fleeing car to detain a man believed riding in a stolen vehicle.

The incident happened in Puntarenas Centro when police recognized the car as one that had been stolen in San José de la Montaña.

Police said the driver stepped on the gas when he saw police coming and drove the wrong way for four kilometers, some 2.5 miles. Because he represented a risk to the public, police said they shot out the vehicle tires to make the arrest, said Nelson Ramírez, the regional chief.

New judicial building
planned for Jicaral

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new judicial building will be constructed in Jicaral de Puntarenas.  Luis Paulino Mora Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia helped place the cornerstone. The structure will be between 1,500 and 2,000 square meters, court spokesmen said. That's about 16,150 to 21,500 square feet.

The building will house criminal and civil courtrooms, the Judicial Investigating Organization, prosecutors and public defenders as well as social workers and other agencies associated with the judiciary.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 97
Latigo K-9

Drug suspect shuffle pits prosecutors against a judge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats living in Sabana Sur might be getting two new neighbors. The pair are two Mexicans who are suspected to be principals in smuggling cocaine.

The smuggling operation became known when a small plane crashed on takeoff Oct. 10 at the Tobias Bolaños airport. The two men, Rubén Martinez Trujillo, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera, were jailed the next day because they operated the company that owned the plane. They were detained while trying to cross the border into Nicaragua Oct. 11.

Monday, a criminal court judge in Pavas, Kathya Jiménez Fernández, ruled that the men had stayed in prison long enough and said they should be placed under house arrest at an apartment one has in Sabana Sur.

The decision ignited a firestorm of protest. Ignacio Santos delivered a blistering on-air editorial on Channel 7 Teletica in which he urged the nation's high court magistrates to act to stem the crime wave and establish more controls over judges. The nation is losing the battle against drugs, he said.

Officially prosecutors said they would appeal the order.

Tuesday afternoon the new vice minister of Seguridad Pública, Celso Gamboa Sánchez, presented a document to the Pavas court in which he said the ministry does not have the resources to keep the two men incarcerated in the apartment.  The judge ordered that the men be watched 24 hours a day for four months.

Gamboa computed that watching the men would cost  62,444,458.28 colons, about $126,000. That included 2 million colons, about $4,000, for food for the guards. He said police should be in the streets not watching suspects.

Judge Jiménez has based part of her decision on the fact that the men had been jailed for eight months without any effort to bring them to trial. The correct term is
Gamboa and paperwork
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguirdad Pública photo
Celso Gamboa Sánchez presents his objections to a court clerk in Pavas.

preventative detention while an investigation is taking place.

The Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency, responded in a news release in the name of the chief prosecutor, Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, and said that the investigation was on a good road and the reason that no charge has been brought was because defense lawyers introduced new evidence that required analysis.
Meanwhile the two men still are in prison.

The plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee, appears to have crashed because it was overloaded. Some 200 kilos (440 pounds) of cocaine were found to have been hidden in a wing fuel tank.

The crash was on the bank of the Río Torres where there were no homes. The pilot, identified as Máximo Aníbal Ramírez Cotón, died of injuries.

The copilot, who has the last name of Monzón, suffered critical injuries and has been running up bills of more than $200,000 in Hospital México. This also is a sore spot with some Costa Ricans.

The Hung Chi Fu 68 is seen at a dock in  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

shark finners
Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas photo

Shark finners move to Nicaragua to unload their catch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shark finners have moved their unloading operation from Puntarenas to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, reported an environmental organization fighting the practice.

The organization, Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said that the Belize-registered ship Hung Chi Fu 68, was spotted unloading at a dock at the Pacific port.

Recent enforcement of a Costa Rican law caused the shark finners to unload their catch at the government dock in Puntarenas. This the fishermen did not want to do because of a second restrictive law that says a shark fin must be attached to the shark for unloading.

Typically fishermen harvest the valuable fin and dump the disabled shark back into the ocean to die.

There was a prolonged court fight on this issue in
Puntarenas, and the Sala IV constitutional court just decided it would not entertain an appeal.

The organization here said that environmental groups in Nicaragua have expressed concern to the natural resources ministry there. The boat was photographed April 30, according to Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

The environmental group here encouraged the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura to take action against the shark finners so that they would comply with the unloading law. They had been unloading at private docks.

Last March 2 a Taiwanese boat captain was caught at the public docks unloading fins. His firm had to pay a $36,000 fine.

Shark finning has been big business in Puntarenas since 1998, and the fins are considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine even though they are not very nutritious.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 97

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Plaza Mayor planning sculpture expo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 22 sculptors will display their works and techniques at the first Festival Escultura Mayor 2011, called that because it is taking place in Centro Comercio Plaza Mayor in Rohrmoser from Thursday to Sunday.

Although the exhibition has commercial origins with Auto Mercado and the plaza mall, the event also is being sponsored by the Asociación Costarricense Época del Arte and the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud through the Museo de Arte Costarricense.

There will be 22 sculptors, known and unknown, showing their work, said an announcement.

There also will be a Peruvian singer, a classical guitarist, a ballet great to be honored and flamenco guitars.

Sculptors will demonstrate their techniques in a tent that will be erected in the plaza's parking lot, said the announcement.

Those invited by the organizing committee are Adrián Gómez, Amalia Delgado, Aquiles Jiménez, Arturo Santana, David Villalobos, Donald Jiménez, Édgar Zúñiga, Emilio Argüello, Jacqueline Córdoba, Lilibeth Martínez, Luis Alonso Martínez, Luis Arias, Miguel Angel Brenes, Patricia Rucavado, Rainier Mora, Raúl Gamboa, Roxana Badilla, Rodolfo Varela, Silvia Durán and painter Caludio Cabezas.

The artists will maintain booths or stands where they will show their works, according to the announcement. The event starts Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The work is 'Cargando su destino' by Edgar Zúñiga, who will be at the weekend event. It means burdened or loaded with his destiny or fate.

U.N. study says that one in four children here are in poverty

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 45 percent of children are affected by at least one moderate to severe deprivation, which means that almost 81 million people aged under 18 suffer from child poverty, according to a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the U. N. Children's Fund.

The study "Child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean," develops measurement and diagnosis of child poverty in the region and seeks to put forward public policy recommendations to overcome the problem. The study points to a very uneven situation among countries:  in Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, over two thirds of children are poor while in Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay, fewer than one in four live in poverty.
The study, carried out between 2008-2009, measured multiple dimensions of child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, linking each one to compliance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in 1989.

The study took account of factors such as nutrition, access to drinking water, connection to sanitation services, quality of housing and the number of people per room, school attendance and access to information and communication media. The study said that deprivation of comumunication and media is something that contributes to a frame of poverty and social exclusion.

The analysis also considered the level of household income and the potential capacity of these resources to meet their basic needs.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 97

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State of siege imposed
after gruesome discovery

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemala's government has declared a "state of siege" in the Peten region near Mexico's border in response to the recent massacre of nearly 30 field workers on a ranch in the area.

President Alvaro Colom has said the state of siege — which suspends constitutional guarantees — was put into effect to give authorities time to track down the killers.

The government has blamed Mexico's Zetas drug gang for the massacre, which has been described as one of Guatemala's worst mass killings in a generation.  Police have said most of the victims were beheaded.

Mexican drug cartels face an escalating crackdown at home and are expanding their operations in neighboring countries.

Authorities have said that of the various Mexican drug gangs operating in Guatemala, the Zetas seem to have made the most inroads.  In Mexico, the Zetas have been hit hard by the military and federal police since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006 and began a crackdown on organized crime groups.

Last year, a U.S. State Department report said entire regions of Guatemala are now essentially under the control of the Zetas.

The Zetas began as a Mexican military unit that defected and began working with the Gulf cartel, based in Ciudad Juárez, México, just across the border from the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas.  The Zetas split from the Gulf cartel last year.  The two groups are now fierce rivals.

Colom tells Guatemala
to stand up to drug violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has told the nation that Guatemala must stand up to drug-related violence.

He made the remark in a televised address late Monday after visiting the site of a mass murder in Guatemala's Peten province.  Officials have blamed the killing of nearly 30 field workers, including two women and at least two children, on the Zetas drug cartel.

Colom said drug-related violence affects not just Guatemala, but the whole region.  He announced a state of emergency that gives security forces increased authority.

Pacific-wide trade accord
inches forward in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Trade ministers with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meet this week in the western U.S. state of Montana. The meeting is one of a series leading up to a summit in Hawaii in November.

With a market of more than two and a half billion consumers, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation's 21 member countries account for about 55 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 43 percent of global trade. 

Economist Fred Bergsten says region's rise reflects its growing importance of the region. "Things have changed a lot, particularly the relative importance of China and the other Asian members of APEC.  But it's interesting APEC has in fact renewed the goals that were initially created back in the 1993-1994 start up of the APEC summits.  At that time the leaders agreed to create free trade and investment in the region by 2010 to 2020," he said.

Despite some progress in reducing tariffs, the goal of an Asia-Pacific wide free trade zone remains largely unfulfilled.

Bergsten says a trans-Pacific partnership proposed by the U.S. would level the playing field and create new opportunities on both sides of the Pacific.

Hurdles include preferential treatment among some trading partners and uneven economic growth among member countries. Another is the currency dispute between the United States and China.

At the trade ministers meeting in Montana beginning Thursday, discussions will range from export regulations to the development of incentives to promote trade in green technologies.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 97

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Pick Amnet or RACSA,
telecom agency insists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There still are 7,000 Internet users who are using the services of both Amnet Cable Costa Rica S.A. y Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. under a joint agreement between these firms. But the customers have to choose one or the other by next Monday.

That announcement came from the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones Tuesday.

Amnet used to provide just the cable hookup to the computers and Internet system run by the firm known as RACSA. But then Amnet got permission to set up its own Internet service bypassing RACSA.

But there still were customers using both. If they do not pick a firm, the companies will do it for them. În any event, the customers will retain their user name and email mailbox, the telecom agency said.

Both companies are supposed to advertise telephone numbers for more information.

U.N. chief lauds effects
of rural info technology

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

From connecting village schools to the Internet to using telemedicine in remote health clinics to providing accurate weather information to farmers, information and communication technology can bring enormous benefits to the lives of rural people worldwide, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

In a message marking World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, Ban urged policy makers around the globe to do more to ensure that rural communities are able to take advantage of the latest technologies and not fall victim to the digital divide that can separate rich and poor.

Youth band plays Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banda Sinfónica Juvenil will perform Saturday night at 8 o'clock in the Teatro Nacional. The program includes
“La Divina Comedia,” the same work that the group performed at the inauguration of the new national stadium.

Ad rates are going up

Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica, announces that it will be increasing advertising rates as of June 1. The increases, between 0 and 9 percent, will affect display as well as some classified rates.

Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

The company last raised rates in 2007 and held the line for the benefit of clients during the recent recession.

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