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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, May 20, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 98         E-mail us
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Traffic law modifications face an uncertain future
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The draconian traffic law will not be changed easily, even though the former group of legislative deputies appeared ready to pass it.

The Sala IV constitutional court found only a small flaw in the proposal, but that is enough to send the measure back to legislative committee.  This time 57 new legislative deputies will be responsible for passing or not passing the modifications.

The proposal would reduce fines in the law that went into effect March 1. It also would keep drunk drivers out of prison for their first offense.

The constitutional court magistrates found three words in one of the articles of the proposal to be contrary to due process. That was enough to send the entire proposal back to the legislature.

The Asamblea Legislativa leadership is expected to
send the document to a committee for changes. Because all the lawmakers are new, there is no way to tell what may happen to the proposal.  They are not bound by the actions of the previous legislature.

The law is of high interest to expats because some have found that even a parking violation can cost hundreds of dollars. The bulk of the routine violations carry fines as high as 293,000 colons, some $550. That is the penalty for speeding and for failing to have a child in a protective seat, among other violations.

The last contingent of lawmakers passed the measure on first reading toward the end of April.

Some deputies who opposed some of the changes asked the Sala IV for a review before final passage. The Poder Judicial reported on the constitutional court decision Wednesday.

The membership in the legislature changed May 1.


Matina anti-malaria efforts cut incidents of disease
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Drought conditions associated with the El Niño warming pattern have not had much effect on dengue fever cases in Guanacaste and the Puntarenas area, but mosquito control around the Caribbean town of Matina has reduced malaria cases this year, said Rodrigo Marin, head of vector control for the Ministerio de Salud.

Malaria cases for the year to date total 50, compared to 213 cases last year and 769 in 2008, said Marin. About 90 percent of all infections are from Matina.

Malaria is transmitted by the mosquito Anopheles albimanus which thrives in flooded fields, drainage canals and most any stagnant water where the larva can develop, according to Luis Guillermo 
Chaverri. He is a mosquito expert at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad in Santo Domingo de Heredia. Year-round wet conditions on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica are favorable for the mosquito.

Dengue is transmitted by a different mosquito, Aedes aegypti. It breeds in smaller recipients of water, like old tires and tree cavities, which should have been reduced under the exceptional hot and dry season this year. However, Chaverri said that female mosquitoes can lay in places likely to flood later and the eggs survive dry conditions.

Dengue has no vaccination and the only way to avoid exposure is to reduce the likelihood of being bitten. For expats or tourists, avoiding Matina is easy and reliable.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 98

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Real estate agents and services

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with Great Estates of Costa Rica

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Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

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Core services: real estate due diligence, real estate escrow services, residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.
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Hearing consultant

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Dentistry

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Dominical suspect faces
renewed detention order


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Freedom, if there was any, was brief for the suspect in the Ben Vaughn attempted murder case.

A judge Tuesday ended the preventative detention of the suspect, Jasón Rojas Rodríguez, Tuesday morning. He was facing allegations of simple robbery and fraud unrelated to the assault last week that left a Dominical area real estate broker in critical condition.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday a judge imposed a three-month preventative detention on the attempted murder allegation. A.M. Costa Rica reported Wednesday that the man was freed because reporters were unaware of the 4 p.m. court action.

Investigators are looking at another individual in the Vaughn case, but so for there is insufficient proof, according to William Soto, the local prosecutor in the Cantón de Osa on the central Pacific coast.

Friends reported Wednesday that Vaughn, founder of Guys in the Zone realty, which is located in Uvita, underwent another surgery Wednesday. He suffered multiple head injuries. He is at Hospital CIMA in Escazú.


Our readers' opinions
Vaughn crime is atrocity
prompting serious questions


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the recent events surrounding the horrific attack of Ben Vaughn in Dominical early last week. 

When are we going to stand up and start protecting ourselves from the violent criminals that roam this country without regards to anyone’s value of life? Although there seems to be some conflicting stories as to just what happened, this is no excuse for an innocent person to almost get beaten to death by a band of delinquents. The crime itself is an atrocity but the fact that the accused are now free roaming the streets again is inexcusable.

Are we really not that important here? Does the government grant more rights to the criminals than taxpaying, law abiding residents? Who will be the next victim? Will it be you or me?  These are all serious questions we must ask ourselves. There needs to be change and it needs to be done quickly.

Enjoy yourself in this beautiful country of Costa Rica but don’t get killed in the process. Protect yourselves! Our hearts and prayers go out to you Ben Vaughn.
Jerry Werth
Naranjo Alajuela

Editor's note:  The principal suspect only was freed for a few hours. See today's story above.
 

Legislative action needed
to derail bogus projects

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I take strong exception to the statement you made in your story about the Paragon Properties debacle that "The Florida lawyer, Sarelson, incorrectly calls the Paragon operation a ponzi scheme. But a ponzi scheme is when early investors are paid with money collected from later investors."

What difference does it make whether the new money coming into a real estate project is surreptitiously returned to existing investors in the form of promised cash/a return on investment or a water system which is also part of a promised reward for investing?

Promises have been and are being made by developers that can only be kept when/if there is sufficient new investment money to, for instance, install infrastructure.

If the new money dries up, so does the project, as we've seen again and again all over Costa Rica in the last years, and the investors get hosed. It may not qualify as a classic Ponzi scheme, but it's no less manipulative, no less a misrepresentation of the intention of the developers. It's fraud.

These slippery developers have cost the Costa Rican economy countless millions of dollars by shutting the door on hundreds if not thousands of investors who would have eventually come, built their dream homes/lived in their condos and spent copious amounts of money in the pursuit of happiness and recreation! Thousands of jobs were lost as well.

The amount of money that would have been spent on construction materials must be staggering. The reputations of honest real estate businesses and Costa Rica as a place to buy a vacation/retirement home have been damaged severely, and possibly irreparably.

The government should require would-be developers like Paragon to deposit funds into escrow accounts that are sufficient to cover the installation of basic infrastructure needs like power, water, roads, security systems and phone systems.

If the government would do this, the number of real estate disasters like Paragon would be reduced significantly and the economic picture would be brighter all around because fly-by-night developers and outright scammers would be kept out of the game.
Dean Barbour 
Manuel Antonio.
 
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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 weekday.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 98

There really is a method in computing gasoline prices
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Gasoline in Costa Rica seems to vary without too much attention to international crude prices, but there is actually a clear system for setting prices at the pump.

According to Carolina Mora at the government Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Publicos, the price is adjusted once per month. Since production and distribution of petroleum products is a government monopoly, her agency sets the colon price.

Costa Rica imports about 45,000 barrels of petroleum derivatives per day.

Each product is calculated separately based on international spot market prices. The government company Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo does indeed have its own refining capacity but that is not considered, Ms. Mora said.

In order to get the next month’s price, the average market rate for the 15 weekdays before the second Friday of each month is calculated. Prices are from the NYMEX exchange. These are in dollars so to convert to colons the Banco Central's sell rate for the second Thursday of the month is used.

Then the change is put out for public consultation before being finalized. To be official it must be published in the government’s newspaper La Gaceta. This process takes about a month.

In May the change didn’t take effect immediately since the employees of the registry’s press were on strike.

Essentially May’s prices are based on the spot market prices and exchange rates prevailing during the last two weeks of March and the first week of April.

Actually what is calculated above is only half the present price at the pump, since taxes, Refinadora Costarricense’s margin, transport, and retail margins are added in colons without regard to the base cost.
gasoline prices
May 6 prices from Refinadora Costarricense

The refinery gets 54 to 55 colons per liter of motor vehicle fuel for its costs. Other less-common items like asphalt seem to have prices set internally without the intervention of the Authoridad.

The central government’s tax is 191 colons per liter of regular gasoline, amounting to about 32 percent of the pump price now. For diesel, it’s 112.75 colons, as a subsidy for the transport industry despite the heavy use and damage caused to the highway system. That makes the tax about 21 percent of the end price. These taxes were recently increased for inflation.

Retailers get 36 colons per liter for all motor vehicle fuels. A small margin for transport is allowed. Distant gas station owners are not given any consideration for an extra cost, but once a truck is loaded and “rolling” the extra costs of transport in a small country like Costa Rica are minor.

Recope is also working with the Chinese government oil company Chinese National Petroleum Corp. to build a new refinery near the old one in Moin on the Caribbean coast.

The agreement is presently hung up on administrative details before searching for financing.

The designed capacity is stated at 60,000 barrels per day at a cost of $1 billion, says the refinery. Plans have the facility built by the Chinese then rented to Costa Rica.


Phone company promises better GSM cell coverage on Caldera highway
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national telephone company said Wednesday that it should have full GSM cell phone coverage of the San José-Caldera highway in four months.

The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said it is taking steps to improve its coverage. Lack of cell phone coverage was the topic of an article in a Spanish-language newspaper Wednesday.

The company said that it sent a note to the  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones outlining the level
of coverage for its GSM cell phone system. It listed the
 locations and specific steps it was taking.

In four locations, Balsa de Atenas, Pozón, Coyolar and the Ciudad Colón toll plaza, the company was putting in portable relays to quickly improve coverage, it said.

The company also said it was making technical changes to improve coverage in Santa Ana, La Guácima, La Garita and Orotina. At Nuestro Amo, Concepción, Hacienda Vieja and Escobal the company is acquiring land to install radiobases, it said.

The company said that the coverage of the newer 3G system along the highway was satisfactory.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 98

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

Got milk?

Chow time is a tough time for this street dog mother in Pueblo Nuevo de Alajuela. Her nine puppies are nearly three weeks old, but she still shows maternal shock.

The dog is living in an open garage, and some animal lovers are concerned that the puppies will be too close to the nearby road when they can walk well. So a neighbor wants to relocate them some place safer and said she needs help.

She can be reached at 2441-5671 or 8869-4133.

poor doggie mom
Zully Barrera Cordero photo


Expotur opens to the public Saturday and Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The public will get a chance to see exhibits of tourism operators Saturday and Sunday when Expotur 2010 opens its doors. The tourism marketplace began Wednesday night with an opening ceremony.

Today and through the weekend, the bulk of the activities will be at the Hotel Herradura convention center west of San José. Today and Friday the convention center is restricted to registered participants.

The event is sponsored each year by the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo. Some 350
companies are paying an average of $2,000 each to show their tourism wares. The idea is to be able to engage in face-to-face negotiations with tourism wholesalers worldwide. There are about 200 firms that have come to the country to arrange deals with tourism operators.

The entire exposition cost participants about $800,000, a press release said.

Participants acknowledge that 2009 was a tough year for Costa Rican tourism, but the sponsors of Expotur anticipate a 6 percent increase in tourism this year. They say Exportur alone will generate about 100,000 more visitors.



Emergency commission wants unofficial highway closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission, irked that citizens took matters into their own hands, has asked the transport ministry to close the section of road between Quebrada El Ángel and the Montaña Azul area. This is near the Cinchona earthquake site.

The board of directors of the Comision Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos said the actions by residents put people at risk. The board also criticized the use of heavy machinery to open the highway and said this may have damaged high tension towers.
This is a section of Ruta 126 that has been closed for more than a year after the earthquake damaged the highway. Residents opened a single lane of the roadway.

The emergency commission also said it would study possible legal action against the residents.

The bootlegged roadway is about four kilometers or about two and a half miles. Most of the way is a shelf road with high cliffs on one side and a steep drop off on the other.

Earlier government officials said millions would be needed to put the road back into service.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 98

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


Obama and Calderón agree
Arizona law discriminatory

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

With Mexico's leader at his side, President Barack Obama called Arizona's tough new law misdirected and warned that it could violate civil rights.

"It gives the possibility of individuals who are deemed suspicious of being illegal immigrants from being harassed or arrested, and the judgments that are going to be made in applying this law are troublesome," he said.

Arizona's law makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.

Obama has directed the U.S. Justice Department to review the law for potential civil rights violations, and he said he expects a report soon.

Calderon's government has warned Mexicans that they could face an adverse political environment if they travel to Arizona. The Mexican president carried out his pledge to discuss the Arizona law in his Oval Office meeting with Obama.

Through an interpreter, Calderón said he agreed that the border state's law could be discriminatory.

"We will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration, so that people that work and provide things to this nation will not be treated as criminals," said President Calderón.

Calderón said he and his U.S. counterpart will work together on immigration issues.

Obama also said Arizona's law shows the need for federal immigration reform.

"The Arizona law, I think, expresses some of the frustrations that the American people have had in not fixing a broken immigration system, and frankly, the failures of the federal government to get this done. I am sympathetic to those frustrations. I share those frustrations," said the president.

Obama said Congress needs to pass legislation to reform U.S. immigration laws, and that support from opposition Republicans will be needed to do it.

The president has promised to work on an immigration overhaul, but has admitted that lawmakers may be reluctant to address the issue in an election year.

The U.S. and Mexican presidents discussed other issues as well, including the economy and efforts to stem the drug violence along their border. Battles involving drug cartels in the past decade have killed tens of thousands of people in Mexico, and threatened public safety on the U.S. side.

Obama said the drug problem needs to be fought through both supply and demand.

"U.S. demand for drugs helps to drive this public safety crisis within Mexico, and so we have got an obligation not to drive the demand side of the equation," he said.

The president said his administration has put forward a new strategy that emphasizes enforcement, prevention and treatment to reduce U.S. demand for drugs from Mexico and elsewhere.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 98


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Four convicted of fraud
against poor families


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal de Juicio de Cartago sentenced three men to eight years each and a fourth man to six years for fraud against 39 poor families.

The men were convicted of developing a housing project in Fila del Rosario de Aserrí on land that was inadequate. One of the defendants, Rándall Mora Cordero, worked for the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, which is supposed to provide housing money for the poor. He got six years.

Alejandro and Pablo Arrieta Torres and Roger Solano Castillo got eight years each.

The poor families ended up with inadequate housing, too, and the defendants declined to provide needed repairs, the court found.

50th time is a charm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detained a 48-year-old suspected drug dealer and said that he had been arrested at least 50 times perviously.

The man was identified by the last names of Soto Vargas. Police said he was driving a vehicle in Calle Blancos, San José, when he was stopped in the afternoon. Officers said they found 168 doses of crack cocaine inside.

The man has been investigated for robbery as well as drug dealing allegations in the past, police said.


Ornamental plants displayed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Producers of plants, flowers and foliage are showing their wares at the Ornamental Tropical Show at EARTH University in Guácimo though Friday.

The event is sponsored by the Promotora del Comercio Exterior's Limón branch in an effort to increase sales of the plant products.

Some 35 national firms are showing ornamental plants and similar products. Foreign buyers have been invited to visit the expo. The sponsor also will provide training in export regulations, overseas collections and import rules elsewhere.

About 250 separate appointments between producers and possible buyers have been arranged, Promotora del Comercio Exterior said.






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