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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, May 29, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 105     E-mail us
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New management for Juan Santamaría gets final OK
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's financial watchdog issued its final approval Thursday for a Houston company to take over management of Juan Santamaría airport.

This means that the new manager will invest up to $180 million to improve the airport.

The new manager will be Houston Airport System Development Corp., which has wide experience in running such operations. The firm will buy out 95 percent of the stock of Alterra Partners, the current manager which has experienced financial problems.

The approval by the Contraloría de la República was required, and there were lengthy negotiations on various aspects of the contract. Among other things, Houston Airport System wanted a 25-year contract instead of a 20-year one to improve its profit. The Contraloría approved that.

Alterra has been in repeated financial hot water and has been unable to perform. The company had been unable to work out a deal with its creditors for more money.  In addition, the firm had been under fire by minority parties in the legislative assembly.

Alterra did open some 4,400 square meters of salons as part of a $15 million update in December 2007. However other work at the airport proceeded at a snail's pace.
Houston has been trying to assume the management role for more than a year.

Under the agreement approved Thursday, the company will invest $180 million in remodeling and construction, including $30 million to build the second half of the airport terminal and demolish and reconstruct C, D, and E wings. The firm also will build an electrical substation and put air conditioning in the boarding lounges that already have been constructed.

The remaining $150 million will be used to build more boarding lounges at the terminal and to expand the runway. According to the agreement, work is supposed to start July 1. When Houston took over the Quito, Ecuador, airport it invested $200 million.

Karla González, minister of Obras Pública y Transportes, which has final authority for the airport, said the Contraloría decision vindicated her agency which has drawn a lot of fire from opponents. Some did not like the idea of the government giving up management of the airport. The Arias administration said that a concessionaire was necessary to bring in more investments to make improvements.

In addition to Quito, Houston administers four airports in Texas that handle 58 million passengers a year.


Five policemen held as suspects in theft-robbery ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police detained five Fuerza Pública officers Thursday in Pococí, Sarapiquí and Siquirres during seven raids. One of the raids targeted the Pococí police station.

The arrests were the finale for a week that saw other Fuerza Pública officers held as suspected transporters of marijuana and suspected murders.

In the most current case, the officers face aggravated robbery allegations. The Poder Judicial issued a brief description of the presumed crimes and said that the men were working with street people in the area and would pretend to arrest them but would not report the arrests. the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the men would force drug addicts to steal items from local stores and then take the goods. The Judicial Investigating Organization also implicated police in Guápiles.
The allegations are similar to frequent reports from street children in San José and other places in the Central Valley that certain police officers encourage and direct them to commit crimes and then profit from the loot.

The Poder Judicial said that prosecutors in the communities participated in the raids along with agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization. Many of the raids were at homes of suspects. The Poder Judicial said that clothes, shoes and other objects were confiscated as evidence.

Earlier in the week two Fuerza Pública officers in southern Costa Rica were detained as they escorted what turned out to be a car containing 30 kilos of marijuana. At midweek, a Fuerza Pública officer and an ex-member of the force were detained on contract murder allegations in a case related to a U.S. businessman here who now is charged with fraud.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 29, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 105

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.


Residency experts

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Physicians and surgeons

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7Legal services

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Attorneys & Notaries
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Phone/Fax: 2290-8117, 8841-0007
New location on Rohrmoser Blvd.
 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Afternoon lightning hit
traffic signals pretty hard


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry says that some of its traffic light systems have taken a beating during the last week of heavy afternoon thunderstorms.

The Dirección General de Ingeriería de Tránsito of the ministry said the worst problem is in Guadelupe because a lightning strike burned out the controller and communication antenna of the complex system at an intersection. Workers put the system on local control while they installed a new controller. The traffic lights usually are in constant communication with a central office so that they work together.

Other problems are at Avenida 9 and Calle Central and Avenida 11 at Calle 13 in Barrio Amón, both in San José, said the agency.

Also knocked out by lighting was a monitoring camera near the Caribbean bus station.


Disgraced governor's wife
here to brave jungle


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Illinois news outlets report that the wife of former governor Ron Blagojevich is headed to Costa Rica to participate in an NBC reality television show.

This is the "I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here" show that debuts Monday.

The woman is Patti Blagojevich, still not exactly a celebrity. But her husband, who is under indictment, was stopped from participating by a federal judge who would not let him leave the state. He became a celebrity when it appeared he was trying to auction off Barack Obama's senate seat to the highest political bidder.

There are eight to nine participants selected so far. The tenth is still not known to the public.  Also not known is where the participants will brave the Costa Rica jungle. Some have suggested the Papagayo Peninsula in the vicinity of the upscale Four Seasons Hotel. Others have said the impenetrable depths of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. But one inside source suggests a rainforest preserve near Dominical.

The show's Web site suggests that participants will have to eat bugs in order to survive.


Budget request will pay
for protection of victims


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial will send the legislature a budget amendment calling for 3 billion colons, some $5.3 million, to pay for protection of victims and witnesses.

The legislature passed the law but did not provide a way to finance it.

The decision comes after a meeting between officials from all branches of government Thursday afternoon.

Lawmakers eventually put the responsibility for protecting witnesses and victims on the Ministerio Público, but that is simply an independent agency of lawyers. So the responsibility fell on the next best agency in the judiciary, the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Director Jorge Rojas complained that his employees were investigators and were not trained in protection techniques. He also said he needed money to hire new people, buy equipment and readjust his staff.

That's where the budget amendment comes in.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, said that the government would seek donations from the People's Republic of China for additional resources.


Anti-tuna fiesta generates
letter to the president


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 704 persons have signed a letter to President Óscar Arias Sanchez in opposition to the proposed tuna farm in the Golfo Dulce.

The letter was reported by the environmental organization Program para Restauración de la Tortuga Marina. The signers ask Arias to overrule his environmental minister who has approved the tuna farm.

This is the project by Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. that seeks to buy captured yellow fin tuna from local fishermen and raise them in what are basically ocean feedlots.  The environmental organization and the residents of the area worry about pollution from tuna waste and uneaten food.

The signatures were gathered at a festival last week in Pavones in southwestern Costa Rica.


Same-sex marriages vetoed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal against a section of family law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. A lawyer filed the appeal, which, if accepted, would have opened the way to same-sex marriages.

The appeal sought to change the family code phrase to say marriage is a union between persons.


New Heredia police station

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials will inaugurate the site of a new regional police headquarters in Aurora de Heredia this morning.


Oil supply to be unchanged,
cartel members decide


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire  services

Members of the international oil monopoly have decided to keep the cartel's production unchanged following a ministerial meeting in Vienna, Austria. The decision is based on expectations that the world may soon recover from its economic slump.

The decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to keep output at nearly 25 million barrels a day was widely anticipated. And ministers at the meeting in Vienna did not dash those expectations. Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri told reporters the decision was based on confidence that as the world emerges from its current economic crisis, it will begin to use and demand more oil.

That, in turn will drive up slumping oil prices, a better outcome for cartel members than boosting prices through production cuts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 29, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 105

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Two lawmakers question quality of highway reconstruction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another controversy is brewing. This one is over the reconstruction of the Autopista Próspero Fernández.

Two opposition lawmakers led an inspection of the work and called on the central government not to allow the concession holder to collect tolls until the highway is brought up to specifications.

This is the easternmost portion of the Autopista del Sol, the highway to Caldera which will open the central Pacific coast to easier access.

The complaints by the lawmakers are technical but could have long-term ramifications. For example, they complain that some storm sewers are too small and that some grading is too steep. They also said that the contractors reduced the width of the access way to bridges.

The lawmakers are Marvin Rojas Rodríguez of the Partido Acción Ciudadana and Mario Quirós Lara of the Movimiento Libertario. They called attention to what they
said were anomalies in construction during a legislative session Thursday.

In an earlier press release the unlikely pair said that certain finishes were bad and that the company has not made a sufficient payment to be applied against any environmental damage that might take place. The company posted $1.2 million but should have posted $3 million as a percentage of an expanded project, the pair said.

They said they seek an independent technical commission to inspect the work. One serious allegation, based on third-party assessments, is that the materials used to widen the bridges is not adequate.

Quirós has filed a Sala IV constitutional court appeal seeking inspection reports and other information on the highway job.

The toll will be 310 colons for each leg of a San José-Santa Ana-San José trip. That's about $1.10 round trip. Tolls are not being collected now, in part because the toll booth plazas are not completed.


After necessary visits a retreat into 19th century is in order
My calendar for the past two weeks contained chores I had been dreading. Prior to my appointment with my cardiologist I had to go to Hospital San Juan de Dios for some lab tests.  I have become weary of long lines, so I went to a private lab and asked how much the exams would cost.  Almost 50,000 colons, the lab technician told me. 

For nearly $90 I figured I could wait in line.  So I headed to the hospital at 7:30 without breakfast.  San Juan de Dios is my least favorite of the Caja hospitals.  It is the oldest and largest (or seems so) and, if I didn’t know better, I would say there are always thousands of people there. The huge main waiting room is filled no matter the time of day. 

The lines in front of the lab windows were not that long, and one in particular had only one person, so I stood there.  The young man ahead of me looked at the paper in my hand and told me I should go to another line around the corner. It was another line for seniors, disabled and pregnant.  There were a dozen people there, but it moved quickly because two lab people were being very efficient.  (The lab technicians with the Caja are the most expert I’ve found.) When it was my turn, I was informed that I was in the wrong line and to return to where I had been.  So much for unsolicited advice.  But I discovered myself finished and out on the sidewalk within a half-hour from my arrival. I didn’t know what to do with myself except dance a little jig.

Okay, I handled that.  Second challenge was to go to immigration to replace my resident’s carnet, which had got itself lost. Now I think it was stolen.  I had noticed before that the crowds at immigration were smaller as the morning wore on, so I went in the middle of the morning.  I had my letter from the lawyer and wish I’d made a copy of my carnet before I lost it. The young man who waited on me was the same one who had told me I needed a letter from my lawyer — except now he was wearing a surgical mask.  He took my letter and went away.  And stayed away for 45 minutes. 

He returned to tell me there was no such number as given on my carnet and no name matching mine in their files.  That’s a bit of a downer for someone who has been accepted as a resident for over eight years. He told me to return next week with a copy of my passport.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

I still had my cardiologist appointment to get through, or I should say, wait for.  Three of us waited for over two hours on the back patio of the hospital.  We watched the lightening slice the sky and listened to the crack of nearby thunder and the rumble of the more distant thunder. And we watched as the water rose above the drain ditch and flowed onto the patio.

When the doctor finally arrived, he was worth the wait.  He was brisk in delivering the good news (my tests were normal) and sympathetic when he told me the bad. My mitral valve is not in good shape.

Then back to immigration where my passport did no good.  I am still unknown and unheard of.  Unlike the friendly pub Cheers, at immigration, nobody knows my name.

The only thing left was my dental appointment, which turned out to be the best necessary procedure of the past two weeks.

Once home, I have decided to escape the present – even the 21st century. I am escaping to the 19th century and "Cranford," a small town in the English countryside, populated mainly by ladies of a certain age who generally live alone or with a sister (and one or two servants) and everyone practices “elegant economy,” which, in 19th century England, still allows for one or two servants. And life moves at a leisurely pace and is generally predictable or quietly unpredictable where the appearance of a man, except the young and virile working type, is rare, and thus responsible for the unpredictable moments. 

"Cranford" was first published in serial form in a paper called Household Words. The author, Elizabeth Gaskell, wrote two other novels before she died suddenly at the age of 55 in 1865 — of heart failure. Poor dear. Maybe a good mystery full of noisy action and unpredictability would be a better antidote for me.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 29, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 105


ICE plans to offer television over the Internet this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE,  said Thursday that it expected to be offering television over the Internet by the end of the year.

The disclosure came as the Contraloría de la República rejected two appeals disputing the award of a $19.7 million contract to set up the electronics for the television feeds.

Two firms that did not win the contracts filed the appeals.

The company ITS Servicios de Infocomunicación S.A, won the contract. ZTE Corp. and Consorcio DESCA-ATL. filed the appeals, which were dismissed in decisions announced Thursday.

The Contraloría, as the nation's budgetary and financial watchdog, now has to study the contract in detail and either approve or reject it.

The contract was awarded April 15, and a notice to that
effect was published in the La Gaceta official newspaper later in the month.

A company spokesman outlined the possibility of television service in discussing the contract. Television already is available through the Internet, although the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is no longer promoting connections.

Teletica, Channel 7, has a pay-per-view system and places videos online on its own Web page. However, the new service is expected to be television on demand, hence the need for a new system.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has been hard pressed at times to deliver e-mails much less television signals, and the company management complains that its best technicians are being lured away by private companies that are now entering the telecom market.

Amnet, the television cable company, has applied to offer independent Internet service.


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A.M. Costa Rica

users 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 week day.

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.

Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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.


Labor monitor predicts
bleak employment situation


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Labor Organization is predicting between 210 million and 239 million people around the world will be unemployed in 2009.  That corresponds to global unemployment rate of from 6.5 to 7.4 percent respectively. The organization has launched a report on "Tackling The Global Jobs Crisis" in advance of the organization's annual conference, which begins Wednesday.

The report presents a bleak picture of increasing job loss in every region of the world. It projects an increase of between 39 and 59 million unemployed since 2007. And, says 200 million more workers are at risk of joining the ranks of people living on less than $2 a day.

The director general of the International Labor Organization, Juan Somavia, said the economies of some countries that have introduced fiscal stimulus packages are beginning to show faint signs of recovery. But, he says it is hard to know when unemployment will bottom out.

"Based on the experience of previous crises, we know that unemployment returns to pre-crisis levels at a slow and uneven pace and on average, it can take four to five years after economic recovery starts or pre-crisis unemployment levels to be recuperated," said Somavia.

The Report says 2009 will represent the worst global performance on record in terms of job creation. It notes 45 million new job seekers enter the global labor market each year. This means that in the period between 2009 and 2015, around 300 million new jobs will have to be created simply to absorb the growth in the labor force.

Somavia says everything points to a global jobs crisis. And, that, he says is why the International Labor Organization is proposing a global jobs pact, which is intended to reduce the lag time between economic recovery and unemployment recovery.

He says this is not a jobs program, but a policy approach, that aims to make sure stimulus measures and other government policies better address the needs of people who need protection and work. He says it also is based on a productive vision of crisis management through investment and enterprise promotion.

Among its key findings, the report notes the developed economies and European Union are likely to account for 35 to 40 percent of the total global increase in unemployment, despite accounting for less than 16 percent of the global labor force.

The International Labor Organization projects an increase in unemployment of up to 25 percent in the Middle East and up to 13 percent in North Africa this year. And, it says, in sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 73 percent of the region's workers are in vulnerable employment. It adds this could rise to more than 77 percent this year.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 29, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 105


Latin American news digest
quake map

Quake kills at least six
in coastal Honduras

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials still are assessing the damage after a strong earthquake struck off the Honduran coast early Thursday. The quake killed at least six people in Honduras and sending residents fleeing into the streets across parts of Central America.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.1 magnitude quake struck about 64 kilometers northeast of the Honduran island resort of Roatan.

The agency said the earthquake was at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6 miles) and centered about 130 kilometers (about 80 miles) north of the coastal city of La Ceiba.

Authorities said the dead included a 15-year-old boy who was killed when a home collapsed in La Lima, Honduras. The quake caused damage to buildings in a number of towns. Other children were reported to have died under the rubble, too.

The Pacific Tsunami Center issued a tsunami watch for Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. But it canceled the alert after no damaging waves occurred within two hours after the quake.

Much of the country appears to be cut off from telephone or Internet service. Cell phone service was spotty.

The quake, which took place at 2:24 a.m. local time, also was felt in Belize.

A report from Honduras said that the courthouse in San Pedro Sula suffered damage and that a stadium wall collapsed in Santa Barbara.





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