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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, May 26, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 102         E-mail us
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An expat wish list for new President Chinchilla
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At the start of a new administration everyone has a wish list. Here are some suggestions for President Laura Chinchilla Miranda that would be helpful to expats, if accepted.


1. No new taxes. The government is snagging every non-resident who enters the country with a $15 head tax. There is a new luxury tax that skillfully protects many large landowners. The central government just created a new ministry of sports to join the many other ministries that seem to do very little. Some serious belt tightening is required before slapping more taxes on an unwilling public.

2. Fix up immigration. The place is a mess. The waits for residency can be years long. And getting a straight answer is almost impossible. The country needs a way for North Americans and Europeans to extend their tourism visa for 90 more days without leaving the country. That was the original intent of a section in the new immigration law. But the final version does not do this. Snowbirds would like to come and stay four or five months a year in their $450,000 condo without having to run to the border on the 90th day.

3. Eliminate the Caja requirement. The new law requires every resident foreigner to sign up with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The math-challenged staff at the legislature probably only looked at the income to the country. Did they ever consider the cost if 15 percent of these foreigners need a triple bypass? Many North American expats have Medicare or other types of insurance. That should be recognized in the law. And they should be allowed to substitute a private policy.

4. Crack down on land thefts. Crooked notaries and others still are stealing land with the stroke of a pen. The central government can do little about the glacial pace of the judiciary. But it sure can institute better security systems at the Registro Nacional to prevent fraudulent transactions. And it can create an office to work with victims to aid them in their encounters with the court.

5. Do something about security. The response of the new administration has been to create another committee to study the security question. That took place even though the new president headed a similar commission just two years ago. Simply putting police out to congregate on the street is not an answer. There needs to be a shift in emphasis from "the poor criminal" to "the poor victim." And penalties need to be raised drastically.

6. Be sensible on the coasts. Many concession holders, including expats, are being hammered by monumental increases in the estimated value of their land. Tax officials should recognize that land under a private home does not have the same value as land designated for a new hotel.

7. Consider the investors. Two high profile projects are in limbo because of public opposition and extensive paperwork demands. The Las Crucita open pit gold mine has complied with all the requirements. Yet it is frozen. Pacific coast developers put up $7 million for a line that the national water company was supposed to use. That, too, is frozen in the face of public protests. Meanwhile condo after condo do not have water 
Laura Chinchilla
Casa Presidencial photo
President Laura Chinchilla Miranda

and are basically valueless. Millions have been lost. The situation requires decisive action and not
politics as usual. No matter what one thinks of gold mines or beach development, these projects have complied with the law.

8. Consider the industries. Intel has been pushing for years to have more flexibility in employee work rules. One proposal has been for a four-day work week of 10-hour days. Under the current laws such a schedule would require overtime payments. The Presidencia needs to get behind an effort to change these archaic rules.

9. A voice for expats. When the new immigration law was being drawn up, there was no representation from the expat communities. The central government needs to stay in touch more even if officials have to read A.M. Costa Rica letters to the editor. They could learn a lot.

10. Effective tourism promotion. Four years ago the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo poured $4.5 million into exhibition stands at the World Cup in Germany. Was there any increase in German tourists? The figures for the last four years are cloaked in mystery and propaganda. Tourism operators need raw data on which to base decisions. Smoke and mirrors are not enough. And the tourism count should not include perpetual tourists entering and leaving four times a year or thousands of Nicaraguan coffee pickers. And the external advertising program should be continuous and creative.

11. Reduce bogus law suits. The central government should propose legislation that sharply reduces nuisance lawsuits of the type that the president of Panamá is leveling against a Spanish-language online daily. There should be some initial review required and stiff penalties for lawyers who file bogus cases. A frequent strategy is for a lawyer to file a criminal case to stall a civil one.

12. Fix those highways. People should not die because the highway was constructed cheaply. The central government should bring cases against engineers who sign off on disasters-in-the-making like the San José-Caldera gauntlet. This is not just an expat issue, but one big rock smashing a tourist bus will have strong negative publicity for the country.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 102

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.


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President's security council
orders out more police officers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The presidential security council said Tuesday that it would add 180 policemen to patrols in 10 communities and 20 schools to prevent and control violence. The majority of the officers, 108, will be stationed in San José.

The council, a creation of President Laura Chinchilla, also listed San Pedro, San Juan de Dios de Desamparados, Cieneguita in Limón, Guarari in Heredia, Aguirre, León XIII and la Uruca as places that will get the reinforcements. The council also specified four districts in San José for more police: Catedral, Hospital, El Carmen and Merced, basically the center of the city through la Sabana.

The council said these areas need special attention. The council also said it would support the proposed law against organized crime, a law to create more flagrancia tribunals and a proposal to link the judiciary and also police agencies by computer.

The council listed an ambitious five priorities including:

- strengthen and improve the police and the prison system;

– the prevention and control of crime;

– the fight against impunity;

- combating drug trafficking and organized crime

– creation of an integrated security policy for the long term.


Pacific communities face
flooding and other woes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was flooding, slides and damage from Golfito to the north Pacific coast Tuesday, compliments of a low pressure area in the pacific.

The national emergency commission said these communities had problems: Abangares, Bagaces, Liberia, La Cruz, Santa Cruz, Carillo, Nandayure, Hojancha, Nicoya, Cañas, Tilarán, Puntarenas centro, Esparza, Montes de Oro, Garabito, Aguirre, Parrita, San Mateo and Orotina.

At 7 p.m. the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the low pressure area was stationary just off the coast and was strengthening. It said strong rains would continue.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported 40 homes flooded in Caldera near the city of Puntarenas. There also was flooding and slides in the Golfito area, it reported.

Some 63 homes were flooded in Josué de Bellavista de El Roble de Puntarenas. Bajos de Manzanillo and La Esperanza de Cóbano were isolated because bridges collapsed.

In Jicaral de Puntarenas some 12 persons were in shelters because of flooding.

In Río Seco 40 more homes were flooded, and 72 persons were living in the local school.

There also were problems in Santa Rita de Nandayure and Bejuco de Jabillo because the Río Nandayure was running out of its banks. Pez Dorado, Barrio Limón and 27 de Abril, all Santa Cruz, suffered problems.


Dollar off life support
and keeps strengthening


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is less grumbling among U.S. expats these days as the dollar continues to strengthen against the Costa Rican colon.

The rate for today is that one U.S. dollar can buy 534.81 colons and 545.52 colons are needed to buy one dollar.

This is a 6.7 percent increase from the 506 rate that marked the bottom last month.

Some expats were seeking out a conspiracy by currency traders or others and some blamed the government. The rates are a function of the free market within limits set by the Banco Central de Costa Rica.


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A.M. Costa Rica guide

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.

Searching

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.

Newspages

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.

Classifieds

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.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us

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

Visiting us

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


For your international reading pleasure:


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 102

Girl, 5, survives her father's murder-suicide attempt
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man in Esparza threw himself off a steep hillside Tuesday while holding a 5-year-old girl in his arms.

The man died but the girl managed to walk nearly 500 meters to seek help.

The man is identified as Edwin Jiménez Sequeira, 28. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man was having trouble with the girl's mother. The man was identified as the father of the girl.

The girl is Jennifer Jiménez Gónzalez, who suffered a
serious injury to her head as well as other injuries to the body. She was airlifted from the community near Puntarenas and remains in the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

The man came to the home of the woman Tuesday morning and took the girl away, said agents. Not clear is if the mother was there at the time.

The man who found the girl said that she was concerned about the condition of her father. Neighbors marveled at the way the girl managed to walk some distance with significant injuries.

Police found the father at the base of the steep hillside.


Autopista del Sol hillside instability claims its first victim
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The woman motorcycle passenger who suffered a critical injury Saturday night when the vehicle hit a boulder has died.

She is 30-year-old Marlem Briones Cruz. She was a passenger on the motorcycle heading to the Central Valley from Orotina. Her companion suffered injuries, too.

The boulder, bigger than a Volkswagen, is one of the rocks that fell from cliffs along the Autopista del Sol. Rocks keep falling, and at least one other vehicle was put out of service Tuesday when it hit a boulder.

This had been a continual problem on the new highway, but weekend rain aggravated the situation.

The woman died in Hospital México. Investigators from the Sección de Estupefacientes were called in when physicians
saw on the x-rays that the woman had hidden what turned out to be 95 crack cocaine rocks and five ounces of marijuana on her person.

Some of the hillsides along the highway appear to contain unconsolidated material and very soft rock that crumbles to the touch. This is the route that runs from San José to Caldera and cuts down the travel time to the Pacific coast.

The concession holder for the highway has put up chain link material and covered some slopes with a layer of concrete, but there is a continual seepage of water. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has not outlined any proposals yet to fix the problem.

Meanwhile, traffic continues to be slow on Ruta 32, some 22 to 24 kilometers north of San José. This is the highway to Guápiles and Limón. Hillsides there have dumped tons of material on the highway, and passage is restricted to daylight hours.


Immigration detention center in Hatillo is back in service after Jan. 20 fire
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration lockup in Hatillo is back in service. The facility, called the Centro de Aprehensión de Extranjeros en Condición Irregular, suffered heavy damage when three inmates there set blankets and mattresses on fire Jan. 20.
The facility can hold 100 persons, but 70 is considered the optimal number.

Julio Aragón, director of the center, said that respect for the human rights of migrants was fundamental to the center's operation.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 102


Costa Rica is backdrop for unusual order by a U.S. judge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is the setting for a news story that a judge in the U.S. State of Wyoming thought was illegal to tell.

The judge relented, and a local biweekly publication in the capital of Cheyenne eventually published the tale which gives the story of a college president who traveled to Costa Rica with his two daughters. The editor, David L. Featherly, wonders if public funds were involved.

The controversy would be highly local except that Peter G. Arnold,  a judge in the state's First Judicial District, Friday issued a temporary restraining order against the newspaper. That act propelled the controversy into the national headlines.

The judge set aside his own order Tuesday, and the article is now available online.

Costa Rica does not come off very well in the article although the nature of a Laramie County Community College biology class trip here from Aug. 3 to Aug. 13 is merely a backdrop. The editor continually questions the role that the college president Darrel Hammon, played when he accompanied the class here. Featherly says the college president characterized the trip as a family vacation although he was listed as an instructor.

The editor also said that one female student was in fragile mental health and tried to run away from the group at one point. He questioned whether the college president acted correctly in not removing the girl from the group or seeking medical help.

"The 2008 Costa Rica trip was an unmitigated disappointment," the article says. "Students could not see the volcano because of fog, they saw no turtles, no monkeys, no birds. It was unsafe and it was dangerous to leave the hotels without male escorts. Food had worms, water was impure, it was the rainy season, every activity or sight cost extra money (even second [nonalcoholic] drinks with meals were an extra charge). When students got sick they were not provided medical attention — except Hammon’s older daughter — and students lived through constant concerns for their fellow student who desperately needed mental health care from a professional."

The student opinion came from interviews conducted recently. The students visited Tortuguero, La Fortuna
Newspaper logo

and Arenal, Monteverde and Sámara. They paid from 2,000 to $2,200 each, said the newspaper. That did not include the college fees for the class.

Of course, Costa Rican officials pride themselves on providing potable water to nearly 90 percent of the country, and the news story does not dwell on the condition of the water. Also strange is the characterization of La Fortuna. Sámara, Monteverde and Tortuguero as unsafe and dangerous.

Lawyers for the junior college obtained the restraining order by convincing the judge that the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act would be violated if it were published. That took place without the editor's knowledge. He said he learned about it when he was served with the order and a summons Friday night at his home. The judge also restrained the print daily in the same town. As a result of the order, Featherly said he had the story removed from the newspaper's Web site.

The college lawyers argued that the institution could lose millions in federal funding if the article was published. The federal law generally prohibits the release of personal data about individual students. It does not restrict the news media from publishing information legally gathered.

"Press experts say orders barring the media from publishing material are extremely rare and raise constitutional issues," said The Associated Press of the case.

Arnold said in a short order that he had looked into the case further and therefore lifted his order on his own initiative. The newspaper has called for an investigation of the college president's financing for the Costa Rica trip.

Featherly says this of his newspaper:

"The Cheyenne Herald is unique in that it has no public office, no listed telephone no. and no employees. Financial support comes in the form of advertising, subscriptions, and non-deductible contributions. It is said that this independent newspaper is Cheyenne’s longest running paper of its type. Public support - in readership, praise and financial - has been outstanding and has kept the Cheyenne Herald alive."



Conductor from Uruguay will lead symphonic orchestra

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Serebrier of Uruguay will be the guest conductor when the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional gives its fourth concert of the season Friday night and again Sunday morning.

"La Mer" by Claude Debussy is on the program. This is one of the great works of the 20th century. It was first performed in France in 1916.

Serebrier is scheduled to conduct one of his own works, the 2003 composition "Symphony No. 3 for strings & soprano," called the  "Symphonie Mystique."
Serebrier is one of the world's great composers. He conducts without a baton because he once stabbed himself in the hand during a particularly energetic performance.

Carole Farley is the invited vocalist. She was nominated for a Grammy in 2006. Ruth Garita, harpist with the orchestra, will be featured in "Concert for Harp and Orchestra" by Alberto Evaristo Ginastera.
 
The Friday performance is at 8 p.m., and the one Sunday is at 10:30 a.m., both in the Teatro Nacional.

Admission ranges from 3,000 colons, less than $6, to 15,000 colons, some $28.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 102

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


Obama said ready to send
National Guard to border


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama is reported to be preparing steps to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border, including sending National Guard troops to the area.  The president traveled to Capitol Hill Tuesday where border security and immigration were key topics in a discussion with minority Senate Republicans about his agenda for the remainder of this year.

Under the plan widely reported first late Tuesday and quoting un-named administration officials, as many as 1,200 additional National Guard troops could be deployed to the border.

Former president George W. Bush sent thousands of National Guard to the border to help federal immigration agents burdened by illegal immigration, an operation that lasted until 2008.

The development comes just a week after President Obama committed to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, during his state visit to Washington, to do more to bolster security as both nations combat illegal drug trafficking gangs.

In addition to deployment of National Guard troops, the administration would request $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border security.

The president's visit to Capitol Hill was aimed at winning some opposition Republican support for his hope to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Republicans made no commitments and asserted that 1,200 troops would be insufficient to do the job on the border.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican of Arizona, was reported to have told the president that the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured before Republicans would  support a White House immigration reform plan.

"It is simply not enough," said McCain. "We need 6,000.  We need 3,000 across the border and an additional 3,000 National Guard troops to the Arizona-Mexico border."

"It's important to secure the border simply because of all of the reasons why that is important, and that ironically securing the border will make it easier not more difficult to later on get comprehensive immigration reform," said Sen. Jon Kyl, the other senator from Arizona. He, too, is a Republican.

Republicans in the House of Representatives issued statements calling for thousands more National Guard troops to be sent to the border, and there have been similar calls from House Democrats.


Manning's party loses
its legislative majority


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voters in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago have ousted Prime Minister Patrick Manning in Monday's snap general elections.

Manning's People's National Movement lost its 26-seat majority in the 41-seat parliament to the opposition United National Congress coalition, headed by former Attorney-General Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar will become the first female prime minister in Trinidad and Tobago history.

Manning called the snap elections midway through his latest five-year term, after coming under constant criticism for mismanaging public funds, including spending on extravagant public buildings, and for corruption scandals. 

Manning, who has served as prime minister since 2002, told supporters that he took full responsibility for Monday's losses.

The People's National Movement has ruled energy-rich Trinidad and Tobago for most of the past 50 years.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 102


Latin American news
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Jamaican battle toll
is at least 30 killed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Jamaica say gunbattles in the capital, Kingston, have left at least 30 people dead, as hundreds of troops and police search for an alleged drug kingpin wanted by the United States.

At least 25 people have been injured and 200 others taken into custody.

The violence has been triggered by government moves to extradite Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the alleged leader of the "Shower Posse," named for the practice of showering rivals with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Heavily armed security forces stormed the Tivoli Gardens slum of western Kingston Monday in an effort to locate Coke, who has not been found.  Last week, Coke's supporters barricaded the area to thwart his arrest.

The trouble has forced the closure of schools and businesses across the capital, and the government has appealed for blood donations for the wounded.  A state of emergency is in effect for parts of Kingston. 

The United States has issued a travel alert to warn citizens against visiting the island nation. 

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has promised "strong and decisive" action to restore order. 

Prime Minister Golding told parliament that the government deeply regrets the loss of lives, especially those of members of the security forces and innocent, law-abiding citizens caught in the crossfire. 

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he fully supports the efforts of the Jamaican government and its security forces to reassert the authority of the state over the criminal elements in western Kingston.

Coke controls the Tivoli Gardens slum, a key constituency of the ruling Jamaica Labor Party.

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