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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, May 20, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 99             E-mail us
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Housing a couple of prisoners proves to be complex
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Finding housing of two prisoners has approached pure frustration as the judiciary seeks to comply with or overturn a judge's order that the suspected international drug smugglers be transferred from cells to house arrest.

The judge temporarily rescinded that order Thursday after neighbors in Barrio Minerva in Guadalupe took to the streets to object to their new neighbors. The two men already had been declared unwelcome at a La Sabana apartment complex.

In the end, the pair, Rubén Martinez Trujillo, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera, were driven back from an afternoon hearing in a Pavas court to La Reforma prison. They at least own the air transport company that figured in the aborted shipment of some 200 kilos of cocaine. They have not yet gone to trial, and that was one of the reasons a judge, Kathya Jiménez Fernández, said they should be transferred to house arrest.

They have been jailed since Oct. 11.

That the neighbors were outraged and because the Guadalupe home proposed for the men was not secure figured in the judge's latest decision. There also was concern that the home was near a school. And the security ministry said that the cost of guarding the men and keeping them in the house was excessive.

Meanwhile next week prosecutors are expected to ask for four more months of preventative detention for the pair.

The two Mexican men are not the only individuals the judiciary is having trouble housing. There is Libardo Parra, who is the subject of an arrest order in nearly every country in the world.  He served time here for money
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laundering. Colombia wants to extradited him. He is a former anti-government guerrilla.

The trouble is that Colombia has already tried and sentenced him in absentia, which is something Costa Rica does not accept. Colombia refuses to try him again and no other nation will take him. He is languishing in the moderately secure immigration lockup in Hatillo after being in and out of court all year.

Investigators have said that Parra bankrolled the breakout attempt May 11 at la Reforma prison. Agents are working on the theory that the La Refoma fugitives, once free, were supposed to travel to Hatillo to blast their way into the immigration facility to free the Colombian. That is why there was a van parked near the prison loaded with weapons and explosives, they concluded.

There is yet another man that Costa Rican officials wish was not here. He is the copilot of the cocaine-filled plane owned by Martínez and Mendoza. The pilot died of injuries sustained when the plane crashed on takeoff at Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas. 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.

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Our reader's opinion
Unwed moms and poor kids
related to sex tourism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The letter by Robbie Felix that calls upon Costa Rica to demand more financial responsibility from absent fathers (and to offer second DNA tests to determine paternity) as a means of alleviating child poverty is well-meaning but shortsighted.

A main reason why only a third of single mothers in Costa Rica petition for child support is that receiving it is rarely worth their effort.   The courts generally set child support awards at about 20 percent of the father’s income.   If the father earns a typical working-man’s wage of $500 per month, that makes for a child support award of less than $25 per week.   Yes, this is something, but when paying support many men also expect sexual favors, meals, and other things to which they feel their “provider” role entitles them.  Some even try to control the women as if they are still the head of the house, and not a few exert this control through physical violence.  Rather than deal with this machista nonsense, many single mothers opt to forgo the measly amount of support they could legally receive.

Moreover, many of these absent fathers have more than one child, often by different women.   When you start lopping 20 percent off a low income three or four times, you realize that the guy simply can’t pay for them all.   In fact, it is not terribly unusual for a man to have fathered more than five children.   Since the child support payments for five children eat up 100 percent of his income, how is he going to pay for the sixth — much less support himself?

Clearly the problem, and thus the solution, is more complicated than the failure of many men to pay child support or even of many women to seek it.  The problem is why so many women permit themselves to be impregnated by men they prefer not to marry, and then why so many men impregnate women they don’t plan on marrying.   When mothers and fathers commit to one another and share the same household, after all, it is easier for them and their children to avoid poverty.

There are lots of explanations for this problem, including long-standing cultural traditions and the fickleness of adolescent infatuations.  However, another explanation may make some expats uneasy.  The trend lines show a steady increase in births to single mothers and also an increase in female-headed households, since 1990.

These trends parallel the emergence of Costa Rica as a favored destination for sex tourists.   These simultaneous developments do not appear unrelated.  Young mothers who face the choice between dealing with the fathers of their babies or earning more money more easily from sex tourists, sometimes decide to target the tourists.   This in turn intensifies the machismo of men, who priced out of the marriage market for their own women, feed their wounded egos by impregnating and then leaving the women that they couldn’t afford to marry anyway.

My point is that sex tourism bears some of the responsibility for child poverty in Costa Rica.   Ironically, many of these tourists believe that they are helping the single mothers, and in the short term they may be.   However, in the long term, sex tourist dollars entice women into prostitution, discourage them from committing to the men who father their children and even discourage them from taking other practical steps to improve their own financial lives, like finishing school.

It would be nice if the problem of child poverty in Costa Rica could be solved with a second DNA test and a more active pursuit of deadbeat dads.   Alas, the problem is more complicated, and some of these complications can be seen by a reflective look in the mirror.

Ken Morris
San Pedro

Find out what the papers
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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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 20, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 99
Latigo K-9

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Red Sismológica Nacional/A.M. Costa Rica             
Each green dot represents an epicenter. Most are clustered in the top 50 kilometers
Duration of 3-second quake depended on soil composition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The quake that struck near Puriscal a week ago lasted just three seconds at the epicenter, but the time it was felt elsewhere depended on the composition and consistency of the soil, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

Residents of Jacó only felt the quake for about 10 seconds, based on recordings from monitoring stations there. But in the Central Valley with the soil there, the earthquake lasted much longer, said the observatory at Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

The situation was similar to a shock applied to a dish of Jell-O, which will shimmy for some time.

The Red Sismológica Nacional at Universidad de Costa Rica reported that there were six aftershocks in the 2.0 to 4.0 range, but none was felt by humans. The quake itself was magnitude 6.0.

Mauricio Mora Fernández of the Red said that the quake originated in the Coco tectonic plate, and such events usually are greater than 50 kilometers (31 miles) deep. He
prepared a map showing quakes from 1985 to 2008 ranging from the Mesoamerican trench beneath the Pacific to the central volcanic mountains of Costa Rica.

The Coco plate goes to 100 kilometers (62 miles) below the central mountains. The quake Friday was 74 kilometers (46 miles) deep, he said. Other estimates were slightly higher.

Such quakes within the tectonic plates are infrequent, said Mora, and because they are deep the impact on people living on the surface is less.

He noted that a 7.0 quake took place Nov. 19, 1940, at a depth of 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) below the central mountains and that a 6.2 quake took place below Naranjo at 85 kilometers (53 miles) in 1991.

The quake Friday caused little damage although there were reports of items being knocked off shelves. A few cracks opened up in the asphalt of highways.

The epicenter was placed at 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of Santiago de Puriscal by the observatory and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) southeast of Turrúcares de Alajuela by the Red. That's about the same location.

Freedom Riders have theme in common with Arab Spring
This week Dick, a reader-friend, sent me YouTube videos of Joan Baez and Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee.” Their renditions are very different. Baez is melodic and musical while Joplin tears at my emotions. 
At any rate, I have been thinking about freedom and what it means to different people. This month and next mark the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, the CORE (Congress of racial Equality) inspired bus trip taken by about 15 people, black and white, young and old, men and women who got on buses to peacefully — by riding together on a bus — protest the unconstitutional custom/mandate in most southern states that designated the back of the bus for blacks, as well as separate drinking fountains, bathrooms, etc., etc., The Supreme Court had ruled, in 1946 and again in 1960 that this segregation on interstate buses and trains was illegal in the United States.  But Jim Crow laws still persisted in many Southern states and transgressors were considered criminals.

Now, 50 years later there is what is being called the “Arab Spring.” In the Middle East where ordinary people, educated and illiterate, young and old, men and women, have come together to peacefully protest their own lack of freedom, asking for rights that their governments give lip service to but do not practice.
When the Freedom Riders were attacked at every stop in the South, it was mainly their fellow Americans who beat them with whatever they had, including iron pipes. They even set fire to one bus and blocked the door in an attempt to kill them all. The town and state police generally stood by or even aided the infuriated full-rights citizens until the White House stepped in.
In all of the countries, except Libya, so far, the protesters have been peaceful.  It is the governments and their police and armies that have been violent against the protesters. There are those who support their governments, but they usually have not joined in the violence.
Listening to some of those who participated in the Freedom Rides, the same theme is played that is being played today.  They felt that without their freedom they had nothing else worth having, not even their lives.  The same holds today in the Middle East.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

There have been protests in Costa Rica, even marches blocking the streets of San Jose.  The only one I experienced close hand several years ago was women marching (in vain) to end violence against women.

Usually the protests have been by interest groups – unions, students, government workers, taxi drivers, street vendors, etc. For the most part, in the past 50 years, demonstrations have been without violence either from the protesters or the government.  But there have been incidents in Costa Rican history of police and government violence against its citizens. There have been no recent mass uprisings of people fighting for freedom.
Finally, in the States, the more privileged people who saw the injustice against the protesters joined them, creating what you might call a critical mass.  Then things began to change. Perhaps it is only when those who are free join those who are not, does change occur.
Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, most of the noisy gatherings in the streets and parks are pretty happy occasions — fiestas, concerts, and national anniversaries.
Just as I have stopped muttering about the lights and fireworks coming from the stadium in Parque Sabana, last night as I sat in my bedroom trying to watch the evening news, I was assailed with cheers, applause and roars that could come only from a nearby stadium. I ran to my office window to glare at the new stadium.  All was quiet and dark.  Puzzled, I went back to my room, and then I saw the arch of lights over Saprissa Stadium, several miles away. Of course, it takes a fútbol match to bring out the roars of protest and approval today. I hope it stays that way, even though I am sandwiched between the two stadiums.

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Central American women face crime, cultural barriers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Central America has made significant progress in recent years toward narrowing literacy gaps and empowering women. More women are coming to positions in power in places like Costa Rica and Guatemala. But the overall situation for women remains dismal in a region designated by the United Nations in 2009 as the most violent.

The region’s homicide rates have escalated in the past 15 years, according to Manuel Orozco, director for Central America and director of the migration and development program at Inter-American Dialogue. He says current homicide rates in most of the region have been occurring at the rate of 10-15 a day since the late 1990s. Out of that tally, the number of murdered women has nearly tripled in almost every country, especially El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Orozco attributes the trend to youth crime, violent transnational gangs, and sexual violence, all of which increasingly affect women, particularly those related to gang members who quit, or those who have joined gangs. But that kind of violence also spills over to affect ordinary people like Rosa Leyva, a mother and homemaker in Mexico who said in an email interview that she and her mother always live with the “fear that our sons and husbands … leave our home and not return.”

El Salvador has had the world’s highest number of female homicides for the last few years, according to Jocelyn Viterna, a Harvard University associate professor of sociology.

“There has been … sort of a machismo understanding in El Salvador that men have the right to control what happens in their house,” said Ms. Viterna. “And that includes the right to keep women in line, perhaps by violence if
necessary. And there is a lack of legal and judicial will to change that situation.”

Despite recent legal initiatives to address the problem, Ms. Viterna says gang violence in El Salvador is a bigger problem and judges are unlikely to punish domestic abusers in the first place.

A recent bill pushed by female legislators calls for the creation of a fund to support victims of domestic abuse. Ms. Viterna says the fund would create a space for women to escape their aggressors.

“But my concern is that the fund is supposed to be paid for by the aggressors when they go to court," Ms. Viterna cautioned. "So if the judicial system … continues to pardon men for domestic violence … it might take a very, very long time to develop.”

These types of violence stem from the culture of the region and perceptions of authority, says Orozco. He argues that the region's social structure gave precedence to males as heads of the church, the country, and the family.

“So we call it the Trinity – il padre de la iglesia, el padre la patria, e il padre de la familia.  The Three Ps basically created a condition by which authority was male-gendered, as well as concentrated in authority,” said Orozco. “This ... has been inherited as part of the popular and political culturing of our societies.”

Orozco says the region is still "prisoner of many notions of gender differentiation, where women are still perceived by some as being below.” He cites Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica as examples of places where women, particularly ethnic women such as Mayans and Afro-Caribbean women, are discriminated against on multiple levels of gender, race, and ethnicity.

Artist seeks to take viewers
back to their childhood

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Colorful and whimsical paintings make up the exhibit by artist Efraín Méndez that opens Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery west of Liberia.

Méndez said he combines childhood companions in a capricious and intuitive manner as is the meeting of the land and the water that he portrays in the space. The companions are sea horses, ships, fish, dragonflies and imaginary characters. The works are acrylics on canvas.

In this, the Aquarium series, Méndez said he uses "the environment of rivers and oceans in the paintings as an element that represents continuous purification and constant flow between the being and nature.  This is the stage where children have fun and enjoy themselves with their intrinsic and ephemeral games, making it possible for fantasy and imagination to create scenes that are simple and fanciful, leading to introspection and to a sensorial communion with the image."

The show runs until June 16 at the gallery 5 kilometers west of Daniel Oduber airport. Saturday Méndez will be at the show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the gallery said.
Part of an Efraín Méndez painting

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 20, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 99

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Anti-drug police show where packages were hidden.

Tip to police helps them
locate truck carrying coke

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone tipped off police that a truck driver was carrying a load of cocaine. Fuerza Pública officers set up a checkpoint in Miramar de Puntarenas and quickly located a vehicle driven by a man with the last names of Valverde Tenorio. He is 40.

Agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas and the Judicial Investigating Organization located some 378 kilos of cocaine hidden in the front wall of the truck cargo compartment.

New Barrio Don Bosco hotel
gets praise by city's mayor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José Mayor Johnny Araya helped place the cornerstone of a new $20 million hotel this week. He lauded the project as an advance in his plan to repopulate the center city.

The hotel is Hotel San José Express, a project of Hogares de Costa Rica S.A.. Planned are 12 stories with 130 rooms. The site is at Avenida 10 at Calle 28 not far from the municipal building. The location is in Barrio Don Bosco.

Araya also said he had hopes that some 230 condos will be developed to accommodate athletes who attend the Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos in 2013. Expected are some 3,000 participants. Meanwhile, construction continues at projects on Paseo Colón and in La Sabana. Other firms are advertising for land.

Araya is critical of the development of North American cities that resulted in freeways and shopping malls on the outskirts of the towns.

Automatic cars now OK
for driving license tests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As Gilda Radner's alter ego Emily Litela used to say on "Saturday Night Live": "Never mind."

The transport ministry now says automatic transmission vehicles will be allowed for drivers taking their road test.

In 2008 the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes issued an order that prohibited those taking a driving test to use any vehicle with automatic transmission. The reason never was fully explained.

Now equally without warning, the ministry issued a decree specifying different types of licenses and also giving the go-ahead to driving tests with automatic transmission vehicles. The decree was published Thursday.  In addition those taking the test with an automatic transmission may later drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.

The decree also specifies that a 13 year old can obtain an A license that allows him or her to drive a motorcycle or quadracycle with cylinder displacement of 90 cubic centimeters. A 15 year old can obtain an A-2 license for vehicles with displacement of 91 to 125 cubic centimeters. And 17 year olds can obtain an A-3 license that allows driving a motorcycle or quadracycle with 126 to 500 cubic centimeters of displacement. Parental permission is required in all these cases.

Despite the regulations, most youngsters drive such vehicles without any license, and some have been invovled in fatal accidents.

The traditional B-1 license for motor vehicles under 1,500 kilos requires the applicant to be 18 years old.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 20, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 99

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Corporate tax proposal
among those given OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers have put a bill to assess a $300 tax on each corporation in the country on what they call a consensus agenda. Each political party in the Asamblea Legislativa wants the bill to pass.

This is law 16.306. It imposes the $300-a-year tax on corporations and limited liability companies. The law is supposed to go into effect three months after passage, and operators of corporations are supposed to pay a proportional share of the tax by Dec. 31 and then the full $300 in January. Any company that does not pay for three years in a row will be dissolved by the Registro Nacional, says a text of the proposal.

In addition, the text says that the tax cannot be deducted as an expense for income tax purposes.

Also getting the green light from lawmakers is law 17.861 which provides for fines if a taxpayer fails to pay the appropriate partial tax every four months.  The measure also makes changes in the so-called luxury home tax that allows for the assessment of penalties for those who underreport the value of their dwelling.

The Chinchilla administration supports both bills, and both are on the floor of the assembly for final action.

In addition, the political parties have agreed on 23 other proposals that they want to see passed. These include changes in the law governing lotteries, a law protecting subjects in medical experiments and a law designed to advance freedom of the press. Some of these have been in the hopper for years. Some are highly technical covering areas like pensions.

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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