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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, May 19, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 98             E-mail us
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It's not a hardware store. It's supposed to be prison
Prison contraband
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Prison contraband
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Any doubts about the insecurity in the nation's prisons were eliminated Wednesday when police and guards combed the five sections of the Centro de Atención Institucional in Puntarenas.

They found 80 knives, six cell telephones and 40 grams of marijuana, according to a report after the sweep. The prohibited items were hidden in mattresses, walls and within other items in the cells, said the Fuerza Pública, which participated in the sweep along with the Policía Penitenciaria.

In addition to the attempted jail break at the La Reforma maximum security unit in San Rafael de Alajuela, the sweep was triggered by the murder of an inmate in Puntarenas last week.

Prisons are unusually insecure in Costa Rica because conjugal visits are permitted as well as visits by other family members, clergy and lawyers. Some prisoners also are allowed to order out for food.

Inmates frequently have been accused of using contraband cell telephones to run scams on victims outside the prisons.

Judge's ruling on Mexican drug duo to be probed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal de la Inspección Judicial has launched an investigation of the judge who agreed to let two Mexican drug smuggling suspects wait for trial in an apartment instead of prison.

The decision raised a firestorm, and the judge, Kathya Jiménez Fernández, will have a chance to rule again Friday when appeals by prosecutors and the security ministry are heard. The ministry claims it does not have the resources to provide security to keep the two men in house arrest. There also is a
concern that other persons might try to free them.

The investigation is preliminary, and no one has suggested that the judge did anything illegal or outside the range of her authority. Meanwhile while the men still are in prison where they have been for seven months.

The two men, Rubén Martinez Trujillo, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera, operated a company that owned a drug-laden plane that crashed in Pavas Oct. 10. They were detained while trying to cross the border into Nicaragua Oct. 11.

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Our readers' opinions
Flawed paternity system
puts kids in poverty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest the article about child poverty in Central America. There was a series of articles in the Nación a few months ago regarding various contributing factors which I found very interesting.
For example, only 34 per cent of women in Costa Rica who have children out of wedlock actually pursue child support payments from the fathers. For cultural reasons and one policy of the government, 66 per cent of children born out of wedlock are highly likely to live in poverty.
What is the policy of the government that appears to affect the legal process of establishing paternity? The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social allows ONE test to establish paternity. If, for any reason the test does not establish the paternity of the suspected father, there is no option for a second test. Unless, of course, one has the money to pay for a DNA testing, which I can only imagine is both hard to find as an independent service and extremely expensive.
The truth is that we punish the children for the sins of the parents. There should be paternity testing until paternity is established. Period. It does take two people to make a baby, and both people need to be responsible for that. I don't care about the moral issues regarding sexual behavior of parents, I care that these children do not live in poverty BECAUSE of someone's idea of morality. What is immoral is to let children continue to live in a cycle of poverty because both parents are not held accountable.
Personally I believe that the Caja should take a very close look at a policy that continues to perpetuate the cycle of poverty in this country. Men should be held accountable, women need legal support to establish paternity and they also need to have access to the tools required, i.e. DNA testing. In the long run, to make absentee fathers responsible for the necessities of the children is the better way to deal with poverty. Let the men pay child support and take the burden off of the state and taxpayers to pay for children who do not have established paternity.
And on the same theme, mothers should be encouraged to establish paternity. In the end the cost of raising children born out of wedlock is a burden to everyone. The state offers many services to these children, which I do not disapprove. But the reality is that the fathers need to be paying some sort of child support so that the burden of caring for all these children falls where it belongs, with the people who experience "the joy of the moment" and not everyone in the society as a whole.
I believe with all my heart that the cultural problems that lead to a lack of establishing paternity can be addressed, but not without full cooperation of the state. It is far cheaper to offer legal support to women to establish paternity than it is for the state to have to be responsible for the children they bear and continue this cycle of poverty that is established in this culture.
Robbie Felix
 Manuel Antonio

Perpetual tourists distort
the important statistics

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With reference to your article published May 18 about tourism numbers.

For years I have had problems with the tourist numbers published by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

As everyone knows there is a distorting factor that does not seem to be addressed — the legion of the so-called perpetual tourist.  It would be interesting if someone could provide some numbers as to just how many people fall into this category.

As I have no idea as to the real number, assuming there are say 100,000, to make the math simple, that would mean
that 100,000 people leaving and coming back into the country at least four times per year, distorting the true tourist numbers by about 400,000 visits or about 20 percent, a significant amount when planning for transportation, hotel
rooms, employment, expense budgets and income.  Even if there are only 50,000 people going in and out four times per year the numbers are off by 10 percent or 200,000 people, which is still a substantial number.

Perhaps can provide some information on the real perpetual tourists numbers and publish them?

Simon Shaw

Crime and crooked cops
cut down tourism flow

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The reason that North Americans are not going to Costa Rica as much anymore is twofold. #1 crime and #2 tired of dealing with bribe dealing police. Another reason is your news stories about political corruption and rising drug infestation.

The North Americans are very Internet savvy and want to be safe. Period. I have been to Costa Rica seven times and plan on going again in July. On my last trip I had nine family members with me. We got our rental cars and left San José as fast as we could for the country. We never went over the speed limit but were passed out by Ticos (because the police don't ticket them, just tourists ). I wonder why ? In America, if a cop is caught taking a bribe, they get fired.

OH! did I mention the rising taxes on foreigners. Don't get me wrong. I love Costa Rica and America is having huge problems of their own, and you can blame the same people in both countries with the same problems: P O L I T I C I A N S.

Howard Daniels Jr.

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.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 98
Latigo K-9

Chart shows the monthly variations in the arrival of international tourists from 2007 to the first three months of this year.

tourism aarrivals

Tourist arrivals in first three months appear to be a record
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute confirmed Wednesday that international arrivals were up just short of 8 percent in the first three months of the year.

The increase was 7.8 percent or 49,595 international tourists, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The total for the three months was 685,959, the institute said.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Wednesday that the percentage of North American tourists had eroded since 2005 and represented just 48 percent of the international tourists in 2010. The tourism institute said Wednesday that U.S. citizens represented 54.2 percent of the tourists who arrived by air but did not give a figure for the percentage of total tourists. Just 68 percent of the tourists arrive by air, it said.

The Wednesday news story noted that a heavy concentration of tourists from Central America, mainly Nicaragua, tends to skew the statistics.

The institute said that in the first three months of this year 363,898 tourists arrived at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and 100,864 arrived at Daniel Oduber airport in
Liberia. The number of U.S. citizens who came by air was 252,468, the institute said.

Allan Flores, the new minister of Turismo, was quoted as being pleased that the 7.8 percent figure was greater than world average increase, which was nearly 5 percent, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization. However, the organization also said in a report last week that South American tourism grew by 15 percent. All of the Americas was in line with the 5 percent world average with strong results for South America and the Caribbean, but rather weaker growth in North and Central America, it added.

One cannot extrapolate the number for the first three months to obtain an estimate for the year. Typically tourist arrivals are highest in January, dip to a low point in May, climb again in July and August when the Northern Hemisphere is having vacations, dip again in September and October to begin climbing again in December.

The monthly figures seem to bode well for a tourism recovery because each month was a record. January saw 252,532 tourists. February saw 210,618, and March saw 222,799, according to the institute. That was an average of 8 percent more than the previous year.

Three pineapple plantations closed in environmental sweep
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, the environment police, closed down three pineapple plantations this week for alleged threats to the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro.

The tribunal also cited internal violations at the plantations.

Closed were Agropecuaria VISA S.A. in Cuatro Esquinas de Los Chiles, Agrícola del Valle S.A. in Veracruz de Caño Negro, and Agropecuaria PPM S.A. in Buenavista de Guatuso, said the tribunal. Caño Negro is in northern Alajuela province in the cantons of Upala, Los Chiles and Guatuso.

Judges of the tribunal personally served the closure orders accompanied by the Fuerza Pública, said the tribunal.

At Agricola del Valle, the inspectors found water sources affected, mangroves drained, trees cut and burned and the improper use of agricultural chemicals, said the tribunal. The plantation is just 10 kilometers, about 6 miles from Caño Negro, which is a short distance environmentally, said the tribunal. Caño Negro is an internationally recognized wildlife habitat and wetlands.
At Agropecuaria VISA S.A., which is 300 hectares, about 740 acres, the investigation was for illegal wells, the dumping of sediment among trees and misuse of trees as well as operating without a valid environmental permit, said the tribunal.

At Agopecuaria PPM S.A. the tribunal said it found trees cut, changes in the use of the land, bad management of waste water and lack of permits. The tribunal also said that lumber cut without permission was confiscated.

The Tribunal has made two sweeps around Caño Negro, both in 2010. Inspectors found many environmental problems. The area also has a lot of pineapple operations but none were closed last year.

The tribunal said that much of the land had been used for rice production so it is lowland near the mangroves. The tribunal said it was concerned with human health, too.

Elsewhere pineapple plantations are big problems with concerns that the agrochemicals have infiltrated the local water supplies.

The tribunal is likely to hold formal hearings on the allegations of environmental damage.

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Seven held in driving license scam in Limón province

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An undercover judicial agent paid 165,000 colons ($332) to get a commercial license to drive a 75-passenger bus, but only had to take the practical test in a nine-passenger vehicle, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents said they detained seven persons involved in the long-running license scam in Limón province Wednesday. Held was the regional head of the Consejo de Seguridad Vial with the name of Mora and a license test evaluator with the last name of Sánchez, said the Poder Judicial.

Judicial agents said that the other five persons, four men and a women, were facilitators who directed license
applicants to the officials.

Judicial police said that the owner of the nine-passenger vehicle drove it during the test because the applicant said he could not drive. The applicant was awarded the license after payment nevertheless, said judicial police.

Prosecutors in Limón is seeking preventative detention against the officials with an allegation of bribe-taking, said the Poder Judicial.

Lesser restrictions were being sought against the other five persons. The Poder Judicial said that the penal code may allow prosecutors to seek charges and stiff penalties against the five as if they were public officials.

Costa Rican study says dairy products are not bad for heart

By the Brown University news staff

Dairy products can be high in harmful saturated fat but not necessarily in risk to the heart, said a new analysis of thousands of adults in Costa Rica. Researchers found that their levels of dairy consumption had nothing to do statistically with their risk of a heart attack.

“Things like milk and cheese are very complex substances,” said Stella Aslibekyan, a community health graduate student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She is the lead author of the study, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. “We looked at dairy products in their entirety and then looked at separate components of those dairy products, including fats, and it turns out that the results are null," she said of heart attack risk. "Perhaps the evidence is not there.”

Rather than suggesting that the saturated fats in dairy products are harmless, Ms. Aslibekyan and co-author Ana Baylin, an adjunct assistant professor of community health at Brown, hypothesize that other nutrients in dairy products are protective against heart disease, for all but perhaps the highest dairy consumption 20 percent in their study. The potentially beneficial nutrients include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium and conjugated linoleic acid.

To conduct the study, Ms. Aslibekyan and Ms. Baylin analyzed data on 3,630 middle-aged Costa Rican men and women who participated in an epidemiological study between 1994 and 2004 by co-author Hannia Campos of the Harvard School of Public Health.
They split the study population between two equal groups: 1,815 cases who had non-fatal heart attacks and 1,815 comparable “controls” who did not. The researchers looked not only at the subjects’ self-reported dairy intake, but also at measurements of dairy fat biomarkers.

What they found is that the dairy intake of people who had heart attacks was not statistically different than the intake of people who did not.

After breaking people into groups, based on their dairy consumption amount, there was no significant linear relationship between consumption and heart risk, even among the most voracious consumers.

The highest consumption 20 percent ate an average of 593 grams of dairy foods a day.

When the researchers controlled for such risk factors as smoking, waist-to-hip ratio, alcohol intake, and physical activity, the lack of a statistically significant association between dairy intake and heart attack risk remained, they said.

Ms. Baylin likened the nutritional complexity of dairy products to that of eggs, which were once a source of intense consumer concern because of their cholesterol content, but are now viewed in a more complex way because they, too, have seemingly protective nutrients.

“The message is that it is important to look at the net effect of whole foods and dietary patterns and not only isolated nutrients”  Ms. Baylin said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 19, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 98  

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Brazilian woman, age 114,
is now world's oldest person

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 114-year-old Brazilian woman has been identified as the world's oldest living person.

Record-tracking organization Guinness World Records named the new titleholder, Maria Gomes Valentim,  Wednesday.

Guinness says Ms. Valentim attributes her longevity to a healthy diet. It says she eats a roll of bread every morning with coffee and fruit, and treats herself occasionally to a glass of wine.

Guinness says Ms. Valentim was born on July 9, 1896, in Carangola in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. She has lived there all her life.

At 114 years and 313 days, Ms. Valentim is 48 days older than the world's previous known oldest person, American Besse Cooper. Ms. Cooper, of the U.S. state of Georgia, will now hold the title of oldest living North American.

The editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, Craig Glenday, said Ms. Valentim represents an unprecedented accomplishment for Brazil.

The organization says it has received several claims from potential Brazilian "super centenarians," but none was ratified because of a lack of evidence and documentation.

The new record holder married Joao Valentim in 1913, and was widowed in 1946. They had one son. Her family also included four grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

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Sala IV rejects challenge
to traffic ticket system

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected a challenge to the system of resolving traffic tickets. That means that  the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad can resume hearings on the estimated 80,906 tickets that have been in limbo.

A coalition of professional drivers had challenged the system and said that it lacked due process.

The court said that those who want to challenge the traffic tickets had options to do so.

But the court also ruled in another case that owners of motor vehicles should not be liable to traffic tickets resulting from the action of third persons. The Unidad de Impugnaciones of the Consejo did not accept these arguments, and the ticket and the fine were bestowed on the motor vehicle.

Customs service getting
new standards for goods

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's customs agency, the Servicio Nacional de Aduanas, will be getting a data base that will establish the likely cost of imports. The system will be used when customs inspectors believe that the product has been undervalued for duty purposes.

The government acted after complaints from trade organizations such as the Cámara Textil Costarricense. The decree was signed by Luis Liberman, acting president, and Fernando Herrero, minister of Hacienda. The system will use international prices to assess duty on imports in much the same way that the customs inspectors use automobile blue book figures to determine import tax on vehicles.

Undervaluing imported items can result in big savings for businesses. Until now the duty was assessed on the amount shown on the product's invoice. However, evasion was possible. One well-known expat used to create his own invoices and had the original invoices replaced at the point of shipment. That process is even easier now with the use of desktop publishing.

Quepos bridge work due

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said Wednesday that it is starting preventative repairs on an older bridge that spans the Río Paquita in Quepos. The bridge is on Ruta 34.

Starting tonight at 10 o'clock, the bridge will be closed for several hours at a time through 5 a.m. The agency did not estimate how long the job would take, but it did say that traffic police would open the route every two hours for motorists.

Cruz Roja scam victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja says that crooks are making telephone calls seeking money in the name of the rescue institution. The scam is another of those advance fee lottery gimmicks in which the victim is told they have won a money prize but first must pay certain fees.

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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