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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, May 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 98         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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boats at Playas del Coco
A.M. Costa Rica/Helen Thompson
Playas del Coco has plenty of boats, and now it has a marina approved
Marina plan for Playas del Coco get official approval
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Plans for a marina in Playas del Coco have finally been approved after local small- and medium-sized businesses fought for years to gain permission for the project.

“Marina El Coco” is an important iniciative for the progress of the northern Guanacaste zone, said Maureen Ballestero Vargas, the Guanacaste deputy for Partido Liberación Nacional, who presented the plans.

A total of $24 million has been invested in the marina by the small businesses that make up the  Asociación para el Desarrollo de la Marina de Playas del Coco, headed by Rafael Villegas Castro. It will be built near Punta Centinela, and association spokespeople indicated that the finished product will be public rather than private.

Ms. Vargas said that she found out about the struggle for approval of the marina when she took up her position two years ago, and she has since helped to accelerate the process.

“The capital for this project is all from Costa Rican companies – it is a national investment,” said Ms. Vargas. “We already have things such as customs and immigration booths, but they're very badly attended, and the marina will require improvement in that. There has been some opposition by mainly environmental groups, but this marina is very well planned. The head of the development association is himself a marine biologist, and the project has all the environmental viability permits.”

Plans were approved by the Comisión  
Interinstitucional de Marinas y Atracaderos and the  Secretaria Técnica Nacional Ambiental in the last couple of months.

The Municipalidad de Carrillo is now in charge of authorizing the project to be put out for concession. Banco Nacional is in consultation with the association with a view to raising the capital to carry out the construction work.

“The marina means everything for everything here,” said Olman Solis Segura, who owns  sport-fishing shop Blue Marlin Service in Playas del Coco. “We need a marina with all the new resorts that are already here and that want to come here. It will open up business. My only worry is that I might have to buy my fuel from the marina and they'll charge more for it.”

Anna Paola Stefanoni, of real estate project Playas de las Palmas, agreed, saying that clients will be able to reach their properties with more ease. “From the ecological point of view, the bay is already full of boats,” said Stefanoni. “This just means people will have a good place to put them.”

A second marina was also said to be in the planning stages for the Coco area. Developers interested in building “Marina Punta Cacique” approached the marina commission about a general consultation for the project.

“They have not presented any further plans since they first approached us over a year ago,” said Oscar Villalobos, head of the marina commission, which is part of the Insituto Costarricense de Turismo. “Now that this project looks like it will go ahead, it is doubtful that Punta Cacique will continue, as it would be built on the same site.”

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detained driver
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Driver of suspected twin taxi awaits in handcuffs as investigators check out vehicle at downtown taxi stand.

Driver of twinned taxi
held as suspect in rape

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested a man Thursday they say posed as a taxi driver so he could rape women, said a judicial spokeswoman.

In March a 22-year-old-woman reported that she entered a taxi in San Pedro around midnight and told the driver to take her to Hospital Calderón Guardía, said the judicial spokeswoman. The driver pulled out a knife and told her to move to the front seat of the vehicle where he raped her, took her belongings and left her behind Casa Amarilla in downtown San José, said the spokeswoman.

After the woman described the man and investigators drew a sketch, police arrested a 32-year-old-man Thursday who matched the description, they said. The man was driving a “twin” taxi, said the judicial spokeswoman: an illegal cab whose operator has copied the license plate from a real cab. At the time of arrest, the man was waiting for customers in downtown San José, said the spokeswoman.

At least one other woman who said she was raped by the same method in January has identified the man by a photo, said the spokeswoman. 

Reputed gang recruiter
detained again in Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said they arrested a man that they suspect was a recruiter for the infamous M-18 gang. The arrest took place in Heredia Tuesday.

The suspect, who is 19 and has the last names Aburto Hernández is in Costa Rica illegally, said a security spokesman. Immigration police and municipal police arrested Aburto Tuesday morning in Guarare, Heredia, they said. Authorities said they received reports that a man in Heredia was recruiting young people with the intention of forming gangs.

Aburto was deported back to Nicaragua the first time on Feb. 27, according to the security spokesman. He reentered through Peñas Blancas March 1 two days after he was deported, said the spokesman.

The immigration police said that the suspect carried money from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala at the time of his arrest. Authorities believe the suspect is a member of the gang M-18 because of his large number of tattoos.

Kiwanis plans meeting in Atenas

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A special Kiwanis Club meeting will be held in Atenas for folks in southern Alajuela Province who are interested in helping the children of the communities, said a club spokesman.

Those interested are invited to join club members for lunch May 29 at noon. The lunch is 4,000 colons or about $7.80  Details are available from Ron Tucker at 2446-3840 or Tom Costello at 2446-4136.

Our reader's opinion
Motorist voices criticism
over parking ticket fines

I can understand how San Jose is reaping fines from individuals for violating parking laws. After all, you
can never find anyone to pay. I have waited 15 minutes at times to locate a person to pay and have either
driven off or received a ticket because I did not have time to search for a new location. 

Further, how is a person to know which business sells the parking tickets? There are no signs that say "pay here" or anything close to that.  It would appear that San Jose pays its budget in this manner and encourages this activity.  How else can they pay people to not clean up the city streets and stop crime.
Patrick Williams,

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 98

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Commercial practices endanger sports fishing, group says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sports fishing operators say that their tourism industry is endangered by the lax inspection and under reporting of sailfish taken by commercial operators.

Friday representatives from Guanacaste, Quepos and the southern zone met with the head of the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura which regulates fishing.

The group presented 12 proposals to restrict the catching of sports fishing species and said that the policies would reduce the deaths of sea turtles, too.

The sports fishing representatives said that the $300 million industry is in danger of collapse and gave as an example a Golfito firm that went out of business and left 50 Costa Ricans without jobs, according to a news release.

The group said that the fisheries institute just changed its rules to allow commercial operators to take up to 15 percent of so-called incidental catches, that is fish that were not really being sought. In response, commercial operators asked that the limit be raised to 25 to 35 percent, it said.
Among other suggestions, the sport fishing representatives said that commercial longline operators should be restricted to lines just 10 kms (about 6.2 miles) in length and that operators should bring in their lines every three hours to free unintentionally caught protected species. Some boats have lines now as long as 40 miles, the group said.

The group also wants sports fishermen represented on the institute's board of directors.

The group, the Asociacion de Pesca Turistica Costarricense, also said that the amount of game fish imported from Costa Rica is reported dramatically higher by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration than the figures supplied by operators.

"First there needs to be inspectors at all fish landings to assure that incidental catch is not direct catch and the law is applied," said the group. "Second the export of all species of tourist interest needs to be stopped and the incidental catch used only as an inexpensive food source for Costa Rican consumption. With no exportation a maximum of 8 percent incidental catch is sufficient."

The association also condemned the use of sailfish as a bait for shark fishing.

New, swifter debt collection law goes into effect Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday a revised and streamlined debt collection law goes into force in Costa Rica, and the judiciary is setting up special courts to deal with the changes.

One significant change is an emphasis on courtroom arguments in lieu of stacks of paperwork.

In addition debtors will have only a few reasons to contest the debt. To avoid being ordered by a judge to pay debtors would have to show that the debt document was false, the debt is illegal or that the debt already has been paid. There would be no other defenses.

Judicial experts estimate that some 80 percent of the lower court cases are based on collection claims and that these cases keep other matters from moving through the judicial system swiftly.
The Poder Judicial is calling the new law a vanguard in modernizing the justice system. But they also said that the new law is a challenge to the courts where documents and extensive paperwork have ruled. That is why an astute lawyer could tie up a collection case for years.

Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema, said that the oral arguments will be an advantage over paperwork. But he said he recognized the challenges facing the judges.

A.M. Costa Rica already reported that the new law will have a positive effect on the collection of foreclosed mortgages. The law was passed in December. The courts will be empowered to seize goods or properties to auction.

The lack of a rapid method to collect debts has hampered the development of business credit and also has generated a cottage industry of kidnapping for debt repayment.

Truck driver gets four years in death of two men in Limón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A truck driver whose vehicle killed two men who were changing a tire got four years in prison last week, according to the Poder Judicial.

The man was identified by the last names of Martínez Molina. He faced trial in Limón criminal court in the deaths of the two men who were identified as McArthur Solano Villalobos and Bruce Williams Richards. The highway mishap took place Nov. 7, 2004, said the Poder Judicial.
 The location was in Penshurt near the highway bridge over the Río La Estrella.

The court also ordered that Martínez lose his driving privileges for 10 years and that he pay 22 million colons (about $43,100) in damages.

The court found that the Martínez truck was traveling at a high rate of speed without lights and that Martínez was driving under the influence of alcohol, said the Poder Judicial.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 98

Security minister promises to fix up decrepit police stations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a tour of various police stations last week, the security minister said major disrepair could be the reason for so many resignations in the police force.

“We want the police to feel proud of their work and this requires that they be placed in decent stations,” said Janina del Vecchio, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública at a press conference Friday.

The minister said she hoped many Fuerza Pública officers could be placed in new buildings within two months. The ministry already has spaces in mind and is currently working on the building, she said.

Ms. del Vecchio added that placing officers in dignified surroundings would be a priority in her administration. "We can not draw a direct link, but the problems of sickness and desertion in the Fuerza Pública may have originated from this situation," said Ms. del Vecchio, who did not mention anything about salaries or pay raises for officers.

There are currently 9,515 police officers in the Fuerza Pública. Over the past two years, about 535 have resigned
or quit, according to data from the Departamento de  Sanidad of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública, said a security spokesman.

In the last year, officers asked for about 165,000 sick days, added the spokesman. Discounting this year's graduates that's an average of 18 sick days per officer. 

Officials from the security health department are working on a nutrition plan, physical conditioning, and new health exams for all the units, said the security spokesman. Health specialists will aim to especially combat chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and bronchitis.

Talks will be given to teach police officers about healthy lifestyles, motivation, and leadership, added the spokesman.

In the press conference Ms. del Vecchio addressed rumors that she will resign from her new position. “The idea has never crossed my mind,” she said. She added that there is much to do in the ministry and she is dedicated.

She has been under fire for lack of experience and for a business relationship with an Italian woman who has real estate holdings here.

Constitutional court tells city to improve park police booth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In an effort to end robberies, underage prostitution and other criminal activities, San José officials announced in August 2003 that they would install a small police building in Parque Morazán in the downtown area.

The emphasis was on small, and the eventual metal structure looks more like an oversized telephone booth.

Not good enough, the Sala IV constitutional court said last week. The court acted on an appeal filed by a member of the Policía Municipal who has the last names of Monge Marín.

The court ordered the head of the city's department of citizen security and Mayor Johnny Araya to fix up the booth within six months.

The appeal said that the police booth does not have bathroom facilities, does not have the basic services of water or electricity and has poor ventilation. The appeal also said that city officials were well aware of the situation.
In fact, most officers assigned to park duty do not really stay inside the booth for many of these reasons. They can be seen standing in the door or in other parts of the park.

The decision seems to apply to all such structures, called casetas, in which the police are expected to work as well as other police installations, according to a summary of the decision released by the Poder Judicial.

It was unclear from the decision if city officials will have to provide air conditioning.

The lack of electricity seems to be one reason that the booth is not staffed during the evening and night hours. These are the peak times for criminals who frequently waylay tourists walking back from downtown bars to hotels on the north side of the park.

For that reason, too, the installation of the booth, seems to have done little to reduce soliciting by underage prostitutes. The girls seek business on the sidewalk at the west side of the park while the booth is on the south side and toward the middle of the park property.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Dominican Republic picks
current president again

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voters in the Dominican Republic have reelected President Leonel Fernández for a third term.

The runner-up, Social Democrat Miguel Vargas, conceded defeat in a short statement late Friday before counting had even been completed and results officially announced.

Fernández, widely credited for an economic recovery in the Caribbean country, had been expected to beat his six rivals and win a third term. He garnered more than 50 percent of the vote in Friday's elections enough to avoid a runoff.

Dominican officials say the election generally went smoothly and was largely peaceful, though the campaign had been marked by some violence.

Three people, including a former lawmaker, were killed Wednesday in a clash between supporters of Fernández and Vargas.

Voting in the election also took place in the U.S. cities of Miami and New York, where Fernández grew up, as well as in other countries with large expatriate communities.

Fernández served as president from 1996 to 2000, and was elected again in 2004.

U.S. official unimpressed
by Cuban leadership change

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Since taking the reins of power in Cuba, President Castro has made headlines by allowing ordinary citizens to purchase cellular phones and personal computers. Some analysts see the moves as evidence that Raúl Castro is more reform-minded than his older brother, Fidel, and that over time Cuba may gravitate away from the communist orthodoxy that has gripped the island for nearly five decades.

But the Bush administration says it sees no evidence of meaningful change on the island. Cuban-born U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke on CNN's Late Edition program.

"Everything we hear is that it is the same exact repression, fear, brutality that has existed over 49 years,” said Gutierrez. “We believe the people deserve to know, and we believe that the political prisoners in those dungeons deserve to know that the international community is paying attention to them."

Gutierrez said several hundred Cubans remain imprisoned for having criticized the government.

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