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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, May 25, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 101         E-mail us
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Slaughter of crocodiles shocks television viewers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The execution of two crocodiles shocked television viewers Monday. Residents of a Guanacaste community burned one reptile alive as revenge for the death of a swimmer.

A resident repeatedly plunged a machete into the side of another crocodile, bound mouth and body. Eventually the animal died. There was no indication that these animals were involved in the attack on the swimmer.

The events happened along the Río Cañas where 22-year-old Gerald López Gutiérrez died eight days ago when a crocodile grabbed him while he was swimming. Residents quickly took to their boats then and shot two of the reptiles and dragged them ashore.

The crocodiles that were on television news were alive until residents killed them. Both were 10 to 15 feet long. The crocodile held its head up while a resident plunged in the machete, apparently seeking the animal's heart.  Then the head and jaw just dropped to the ground.

The crocodile that was burned alive was more active. The reptile also was tied up, and residents piled sticks on top of the animal's back. Then someone squirted flammable fluid onto the crocodile. A spark followed quickly. The
television camera captured the whole event.

Naturally environmentalists are outraged at what happened in the vicinity of Carrillo. Several persons are directing letters to the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones demanding an investigation.

The event in Carrillo was more like a fiesta instead of executions. Residents laughed and joked while the reptiles were slain, according to the television soundtrack.

Environmentalists have been unhappy for a long time with the Holy Week activities in another Guanacaste location, the community of Ortega.

Each year residents chase down a crocodile, tie up the creature and then make the reptile the centerpiece of a party. Eventually the animal is released.

Crocodiles are a fact of life in Costa Rica. Tourists delight to see dozens sunning themselves on the mud flats of the Río Tarcoles near Jacó. Less thrilling are occasional encounters by surfers with seagoing crocks. Most of the time, the animals in the ocean are seeking a mate at another river mouth and seldom attack. Several tours feature guides who had fed crocks dead chickens and fish. Still several persons a year, mostly in rural areas, fall victim to crocodiles.

As expected, lawmakers give themselves a raise
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legislative deputies, as expected, approved on first reading Monday a 60 percent salary hike for themselves. The proposal has outraged many Costa Ricans.

In response the Partido Acción Ciudadana renewed its call for President Laura Chinchilla to veto the measure when it reaches her desk.

Some 35 of the 57 deputies voted for the pay raise. Just 29 votes were needed. Those in favor were predominantly of  Partido Liberación Nacional. They were joined by lawmakers from Movimiento Libertario, Unidad Social Cristiana, Renovación Costarricense and Restauración Nacional. The vote came shortly after 10 p.m.

Ms. Chinchilla, over the weekend, issued a statement in which she said that lawmakers should
specify the source of the funds needed to pay for the increase. One legislator who broke ranks with Liberación said the cost would be 1.5 billion colons or about $2.8 million.

Those in favor of the raise pointed out that the legislation abolishes a number of payments to lawmakers that were not considered salary. Under the proposal that received the first of two approvals lawmakers would make about 4.5 million colons a month. That's about $8,500.

Acción Ciudadana cited what it called the disproportionality of the increase. About 560,000 workers here make less than the minimum wage, the political party said in a release. The statement said the average salary for these workers was  116,924 colons per month. That is about $220.

About 200 persons rallied at the legislature Monday afternoon protesting the proposal.

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Bad weather alert issued
with emphasis on Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is not a day for small boats in the Pacific. A low pressure system west of the Guanacaste coast is generating windy and rainy conditions, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The weather institute predicted seas of four to five meters and winds of from 40 to 55 kph. That's seas of from 13 to 16 feet and winds in the 24 to 34 mph range.

Although the weather institute predicted afternoon and evening rain in its mid-afternoon advisory, a check of automatic stations around Costa Rica show no major downpours. But the weather advisory said that the instability in the atmosphere would generate rain through this morning. It also predicted fog, mostly in the mountains, as has been the case for several days.

With rain comes the possibility of landslides. Ruta 32 from San José to Guápiles and Limón is again open during daylight hours. But a heavy rain could change that, particularly in the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo vicinity.

The national emergency commission also warned about going to sea with boats smaller than 22 feet. It also said that rain was supposed to increase this morning. It issued an alert for Guanacaste and the Pacific coasts.

U.S. raises price of visa
for tourists and students

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. State Department is increasing the fee for non-immigrant visas by $9, effective June 4. The increase includes tourists, business visitor visas and all student and exchange visitors, the department said. The State Department said that fee changes for U.S. passports, immigrant visas, and other consular services are being reviewed.

The new non-immigrant visa price will be $140. That does not include the $14 fee Costa Ricans must pay to make an appointment via a call center.

The State Department said that it has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to increase non-immigrant visa application processing fees, also called the machine-readable visa fee, and border crossing card fees.

By June 1 another change will take place. All non-immigrant visa applicants must submit the new electronic application form, the DS-160. The new DS-160 is an online application that will be used to collect the necessary application information from persons seeking a non-immigrant visa. The application will be submitted electronically to the Department of State via the Internet, said the State Department.

The visa application Web page does not support letters like ñ, é, ü, ç even though the site is provided for worldwide use. It is HERE.

The State Department also proposes to increase the fee to $150 for so-called petition-based visas. These are visas issued upon specific request for persons like temporary workers and trainees or athletes.

The new fee structure was created to cover the higher unit costs for processing certain categories of non-immigrant visas that are more complicated and require more in-depth consideration than most other categories of non-immigrant visas, the department said. The department said it is required to recover, as far as possible, the cost of processing non-immigrant visas through the collection of the application fees.

The department said it would open a 60 days for public comment with the publication of the interim notice.

Pregnant municipal worker
wins back her cashier's job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica tradition of putting employees on three-month contracts did not help the Municipalidad de Pérez Zeledón. The Sala IV has issued a ruling that basically treats a pregnant contractor as an employee.

Many companies use the three-month contract technique to avoid putting an employee on the payroll permanently. Contract workers do not receive the same benefits as a permanent employee.

Such was the case with a cashier with the last name of Salas. She worked under repeatedly renewed contracts at the municipality. But when she reported that she was pregnant, the municipality said it would not renew her agreement.

The Sala IV said that she should be rehired with back salary and that she should get time off for motherhood.

Disabled air traveler
wins case over access

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Santamaría airport has been ordered to provide accommodation for disabled travelers who have to board aircraft away from the terminal.

A traveler with a son who has muscular dystrophy filed a case with the Sala IV after having to carry the child into the plane. Some aircraft at the airport stop some distance from the terminal, and passengers have to walk down steps and board a bus. The airport is increasing its terminal capacity.

The decision is against the Consejo Técnico de Aviación Civil which supervises airports. The constitutional court gave the Consejo a month to make the appropriate adjustments.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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.

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.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 101

Local market spared major impact from EU milk imports
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s dairy industry dodged a bullet in negotiations with the European Union, but Central America overall was made to accept 1,900 tons of powdered milk. The subject was a serious sticking point to the free trade agreement.

Only 200 tons of dry milk powder per year will be allowed duty-free into Costa Rica, where the dairy industry is much more advanced than elsewhere and was able to defend its interests. But the local company Dos Pinos will be hit in its ongoing efforts to expand to Guatemala and the other Central American countries.

The local industry hides behind an import tariff of 65 percent for milk products. That will make exports from Europe competitive in spite of high production costs there.  The northern Central American countries have tariffs of 15 percent on powdered milk, while Panama’s are higher. Imports from both Costa Rica and outside the region (New Zealand, United States) are already a factor in the poorer countries, but duty-free treatment of the negotiated amount will make Europe more competitive.

Costa Rica is also obliged to allow duty-free 317 tons of hard cheeses. Aside from the obvious possibility that the dry milk might be used to make cheese, those imports should be a lesser impact of imports on small-scale dairy producers in Central America, who largely produce and sell fresh cheese. Given the high prices of aged cheese in Costa Rica, the few local producers, like Monteverde, are facing a reduction in sales.

Negotiators did manage to repel export subsidies. Exports of milk, cheese, and butter are heavily supported through the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. Subsidies take the form of a “refund” which is paid to the processor (not the farmer) who exports milk or cheese at a rate less than the internal EU market price, which is itself artificially high due to import tariffs. These can be dumped at the world market forcing those prices down. Overall the policy costs the European taxpayer about 55 billion euros per year in direct subsidies, or 100 euros per person. About one billion of that is for dairy.

Other advanced countries including the United States have
generous subsidies for farmers, and that was an issue during
negotiations on the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. Quotas on imports of dry milk and cheese are actually rather similar to what was conceded to the Europeans. Eventually the U.S. free trade treaty requires total elimination of import restrictions and duties, but over a 20-year term for milk.

Powdered milk as a commodity can end up anywhere, and one of the main destinations from the United Kingdom in 2006 was Nigeria, according to, a watchdog organization. In many places like south Asian countries or Africa, investment in a single cow can be a way out of poverty. Cheap foreign milk, while benefiting the consumer, tends to destroy dairy production when it arrives.

Central America is wealthier, but most milk production in the region outside Costa Rica qualifies as small-scale, with hand milking and usually cheese made on the site for easier transport and storage. In other countries such as El Salvador, farmers and consumers contend with issues such as smuggling, contamination, and extortion not known here.

Costa Rica has a relatively advanced dairy sector, with about 60 percent of total production given industrial treatment, according to figures from the Cámera Nacional de Productores de Leche. The remainder is made into cheese, natilla, or sold as raw milk locally.

Most dairy farms are in the cooler areas of the Central and Tilarán mountain ranges, with Holstein about 65 percent and Jersey 30 percent of milk cows. In 2000, at the time of the last census, there were about 162,000 head though that number has declined with increases in production per cow.

There were about 6,000 specialized farms.

The market for milk products is dominated by Dos Pinos, which places its products in even the most remote towns and smallest pulperías. In addition to milk products, it has a substantial line of sugared drinks and juices.

Dos Pinos didn’t respond to requests for up-to-date information but it has 80-85 percent of the market for industrialized production and packages about a million liters of milk per day. Of that, about 20 percent is presently exported to Central America and the Caribbean.

Nine years of income tax cases: Not a single court trial
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not a single allegation of tax irregularities from 2000 through June 2009 has gone to trial.

That was the finding of the Contraloría de la República in a study of nine years of a revised tax code.

The Contraloría said that it followed up on all the complaints sent to the Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency, by the Dirección General de Tributación, the tax collector.

The reason does not appear to be that the tax agency is not doing its job. In last October alone some 71 cases were
referred to prosecutors. The cases may have been under-reported income or excessive claimed expenses on tax returns.

Prosecutors threw out 27 of the October cases because the majority did not have sufficient proofs, said the Contraloría. The average duration of tax cases in the Ministerio Público is 3.5 years, the Contraloría said. Some 44 of the tax cases filed in October are still active without resolution, said the report.

Customs violations are more common, according to the data released Monday by the Contraloría. From October 2008 to October 2009, Tributación filed 1,193 cases of which some 95 percent were customs violations, it said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 101

U.S. teacher tells how she was deported by immigration

By Marissa Henkel*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

On Tuesday morning, May 11, 2010, I was meeting with my co-teachers when the immigration police arrived at Pan American School. They informed me that the Sala IV had made their decision about my case and they needed to bring me in to discuss the results. As they took me away in the police vehicle, I contacted my lawyer. I was confused because she had told me that after the Sala IV made their decision, the procedure was to notify my lawyer so that she could relate it to me. She was also confused, and said that she hadn’t received notification of the court’s decision.

At the immigration police office I was rudely directed into a sort of holding cell. I was scared waiting for my lawyer (who never made it to Migracion because she was tied up in court with another case). One immigration worker told me in a raised voice that I could not use my cell phone. Another young female worker, in Spanish, came in to give me a fax from the Sala IV and told me that my recurso de amparo, a petition for an appeal against immigration’s decision to deport me for five years, had been denied. At 5 that evening, an immigration officer escorted me, like a criminal, onto the next flight to Miami.

My deportation from Costa Rica, for a time period of five years, came to me as a rude awakening to the injustice of the immigration system. I had been working in Costa Rica, with a permit with the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Ministerio de relaciones exteriors) until December 2009. When I changed institutions in January 2010, the human resources department assured me that they, with the help of the school’s lawyer, would get my work permit renewed. I visited human resources every other week to ask them if they had any news of my visa or if they needed additional documentation from me. Always they replied that my paperwork was in process and that I had no need to worry. Finally, in March, the lawyer looked at my passport. Seeing that the visa was from the ministry of foreign relations and not immigration, he told human resources that they could not renew it (which I had no knowledge of before), and that I would have to apply for a visa through immigration. No problem, I thought, and that very same day sent away for the additional paperwork that I needed to acquire from the U.S.A. It was only two days later that immigration showed up at the school and gave me a citation for working illegally.

This was a clear example of negligence on the part of the institution. My paperwork should have been reviewed for processing upon hiring. And then, after the citation, the school should have backed me legally since they were responsible for the processing of my paperwork. Institutions that are legally negligent deserve the consequence for their responsibility in employing illegal workers. Yet, the institution I was working for didn’t incur a single fine.

On April 23, La Nacion published an article described the new Immigration law (el artículo 33 de la Ley N.° 8764 ),
which states: Any foreigner found with their documents out of date will be charged $100/month out of status and given a six month grace period to bring their documentation up to date. This law went into effect on March 1, 2010 . I was given my citation on March 23. So, why was this law not applied in my case?

Another unanswerable question about my case is why immigration arrived at the school in the first place. Generally, immigration receives reports of illegal workers and targets them. Did someone report the institution or me personally? My lawyer asked for this information from the Sala IV and Migracion, but it is not on record. Those in charge refused her request.

Upon the first charge with deportation (March 26), my distraught Costa Rican fiancé asked the woman working the window at immigration police who we could talk to and how we could appeal the decision. The woman, with a cruel grin, snapped that I had no rights or options to change the outcome. “This is how they treat the Ticos in the United States, so we are going to do the same to Gringos here,” she said. The school’s lawyer also told me I had no rights or options and that to appeal would be like putting someone on life support that was dead already.

That same night we talked to the lawyer who would represent me, who immediately wrote a recurso de amparo to present in the Sala IV. She explained that, as a foreigner, I still had rights and options. My fiancé and I were prepared to explore every possible avenue. The next month I waited for the Sala IV to make a decision. My lawyer informed me that the Sala IV would investigate my case on a more personal, detailed level, to review my past four years teaching English to elementary students, pursuing my master's in education at La Universidad Latina, and paying my taxes, like a responsible member of society. Each year I spent in Costa Rica, I contributed to the community a skill which not many Costa Ricans can offer, being a native language speaker. I learned their language, too, and the values of their culture summed up in the Himno Nacional: Vivan siempre el trabajo y paz.

I still don’t know why the new immigration law didn’t apply to me and why I received the longest deportation sentence of five years (I was legally out of status for only 3 months). But I have learned that every foreigner living in Costa Rican should not be lulled by the “pura vida” slogan. Each individual should handle their own legal documents, chose their lawyers with discretion, and personally make sure that their paperwork is up to date. Most importantly, they should educate themselves about their own legal options and rights. 

*Ms. Hinkle was the subject of an article May 18. The story is HERE. She worked four years at the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. Her encounter with the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is unusual for the speed with which she was deported.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 101

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Arizona immigration law
creates a political divide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A coalition of advocacy groups has filed a lawsuit in Washington to block a pending law in the Western U.S. state of Arizona. Arizona is on the U.S. border with Mexico, and the controversial law is a response to illegal immigration to the state. The statute will go into effect in August, but it has prompted a backlash in neighboring California and other parts of the country.

For the past few weeks, thousands have protested the Arizona law in Washington, Los Angeles, and other U.S. cities.  Last week, Los Angeles barred city officials from doing business with companies based in Arizona.   A number of other cities have done the same.

The Arizona law allows police to check someone's immigration status if they believe the person may be in the country illegally.   It also requires immigrants to carry immigration documents. The law's critics say it encourages racial profiling.  Its defenders say it prohibits police from taking ethnic origin into account.

The law's critics also say illegal immigrants are important to the economy of the United States.  There are several million in California, and nearly 500,000 in Arizona, and they are usually indistinguishable from legal immigrants.  They work on farms, in restaurants and in service jobs.

Political analyst Raul Hinojosa of the University of California, Los Angeles, says it is impractical and inhumane to deport half a million people from Arizona. And he says the state cannot afford to lose them.

"Our estimates are minimally anywhere from 13 billion to as much as $100 billion in lost economic activity in Arizona if they were to deport the undocumented population of the state," he said.

He says a university study shows that legalizing the estimated 12 million people in the country illegally could boost the U.S. economy by more than $100 billion a year. But others say the illegal immigrants put a strain on public services like schools, and hospitals.  And they say immigration laws now in place should be enforced.

In one Arizona neighborhood, a couple worries about drug crime that they say spills across the border. "The gangs.  You know, that's really what is scary about all of this," the husband said.

At a center for day laborers in California, immigrants say they are here to work and are concerned about what is happening in Arizona. One, named Saul, is worried.

He says he has looked for information in the news, on the Internet and in magazines.  He says the law seems to target those of Hispanic origin, and perhaps those without documents.

Work has been stalled on a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and Arizona Senator John McCain says finishing it will curb illegal immigration. He made the point in a television ad. "Complete the dang fence," he said.

Last week a small group of undocumented students and their supporters held a protest in Los Angeles.  Organizer Cydni Bendezu says the Arizona law should be repealed.  "It's a law that does not allow students to have education or people to have life and liberty," she said.

But others say those who enter the country through legal methods would be penalized if those who entered illegally were given legal status.

Jose Veliz, an organizer with the Los Angeles day labor center, says many undocumented immigrants have been here for years.  He says they live in the shadows, and that something must be done to solve the problem.

"They don't have any access how to gain citizenship, so there needs to be some sort of reform so we could have those people legalized," he said.

Both supporters and critics of the Arizona law say the problem must be solved at the federal level and that Congress needs to tackle the controversial issue of immigration.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 101

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Canadian Club is planning
a pig roast party June 26

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian Club of Costa Rica plans a Canada Day celebration June 26 with a pig roast.

The event will be at the Zamora Estates in Santa Ana, said the club.

Tickets will soon be available at the Association of Residents of Costa Rica at 2233-8068 and at the Out of Bounds Hotel and Tourist Center in Escazú at 2288-6762.

The club mentions that no passports will be needed in a reference to the American Colony Committee July 4 celebration that is restricted to U.S. citizens.

The club promises a great view, dancing, swimming and activities for children.

Jamaican police battling
drug gang on extradition

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Jamaica have clashed with gunmen for the second straight day, in violence related to an alleged Jamaican drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.

Troops backed by helicopters battled gunmen allied to reputed gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke in a slum in West Kingston Monday.

During the violence that began Sunday, Jamaican officials say two police officers were killed and at least six others were wounded.

The Jamaican government declared a state of emergency Sunday in sections of the capital, Kingston, and nearby St. Andrew.  The government says the emergency clampdown will last at least a month.

The United States has issued an arrest warrant for Coke for alleged cocaine and arms trafficking.  The Jamaican government has called on Coke to surrender to face a U.S. judicial request seeking his extradition.

U.S. officials sent the extradition request for Coke to the Jamaican government nine months ago, but Prime Minister Bruce Golding refused to allow it to be processed, arguing that the evidence in it had been obtained illegally.

But amid growing criticism, Golding said last week that Coke must be arrested and brought to court for a hearing.

The United States and Britain have issued travel advisories for Jamaica because of the threat of violence and unrest.  Coke is the alleged leader of a gang, the Shower Posse, with ties to the ruling Jamaica Labor Party. 

Monday a State Department spokesman said the U.S. Embassy in Kingston will suspend its non-essential services because of the deteriorating situation.

Separately, the violence prompted Air Jamaica to call off three flights from Kingston, two of which were headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The third flight would have gone to New York.

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