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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 111                           Email us
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Chief of judicial police, irked over budget, retires
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials in the Poder Judicial are praising Jorge Rojas Vargas as he makes plans to leave July 1. And Rojas is leaving quietly even though part of his motivation appears be be that he believes his Judicial Investigating Organization is being shortchanged.

He appears to be making good on this threat a year ago when he said he would quit unless the agency got more resources. He renewed his complaint last month when he warned that his agency's budget was being cut back from a 9 percent increase to just 4 percent.

The reduction in the allowed increase will have a negative impact, said Rojas. The increase appears to be less than inflation. He warned that even meals fed to prisoners would be affected.

“The situation is of concern given that the increase in criminality in the country and citizen insecurity during recent years means that the judicial police deserve to have the necessary resources to work and combat crime,” said Rojas then.

The U.S. State Department underlined the problem in its recent human rights report when it said that many criminal cases did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial.  In 2010 approximately 235,000 criminal complaints were filed with the judicial branch, of which 4 percent (9,835 cases) went to trial with a conviction rate of 61 percent, the report said.

That means just 6,000 convictions or just 2.5 percent of the complaints filed.

Rojas has been in the top investigative job since November 2001. He has seen his agency's workload increase geometrically.

Jorge Rojas Vargas
Poder Judicial photo
Jorge Rojas Vargas
Under the Costa Rican system, most investigations are done by a representative of the court from Rojas' agency. Fuerza Pública officers are supposed to prevent crime. Once one takes place, the police in blue uniforms arrive at the scene, secure the area and turn the case over to investigators and prosecutors.

Judicial investigators even have responsibility for handling traffic deaths, frequently in the company of a judge.

Rojas went public with his budget complaints May 16. Year after year his agency is seeing a reduction in resources to fight crime, he said. Lawmakers responded that his budget is part of the judicial budget and it is the Corte Suprema de Justicia that allocated the money.

Rojas met with the court magistrates in a formal session Monday. Afterwards, many praised him.

Magda Pereira said that he was tenacious in strengthening the scientific work of the judicial police.

Zarella Villanueva said that Rojas had opened space in the agency for the participation of woman.

Román Solís pointed out that Rojas defended the autonomy of his agency.

Eva Camacho, Julia Varela, Carmenmaría Escoto and Ernesto Jinesta said the retirement by Rojas would be a loss to the judiciary.

However, the logical conclusion is that Rojas did not get more money for the agency. The judiciary, like many other government organizations, has high fixed costs in its operation that are not easily reduced.

Rojas began in the Sección de Inspecciones Oculares in 1974. That is the crime scene investigation unit. Later he became the boss there. Later he was in the División de Robos y Asaltos, the Sección de Tránsito and as a chief in the  Departamento de Investigaciones Criminales. He also was the regional chief in Alajuela. In 1997 he became deputy director.

Rojas likes to keep track of investigations. From his desk he can check up on each case being handled by the agency via a computer data base.

That was not always the case. When Rojas became director, judicial police had only one long-distance telephone line and computers were clunky. He directed modernizations, including modern scientific approaches to evidence such as DNA testing, toxicology, chemical analysis and x-rays.

These were all the advances Rojas said were jeopardized by limited funds.

Inflation spikes just as salary talks are ready to begin
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Inflation spiked to nearly 1 percent for the month of May, according to INS Valores Puesto de Bolsa, S.A., which made the summary using data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos.

The amount, .99 percent, was about twice what had been expected. This was the highest jump since May 2008, said INS Valores Puesto de Bolsa. Much of the increase was attributed to the increase in the cost of transportation, including fuel.

The spike in inflation comes at a time when the  Consejo de Salarios is about to open negotiations for increases in the minimum wages for the second half of the year. The Consejo, an agency within the
 Ministerio de Trabajo, establishes minimum wages for a long list of job titles. In the first half of the year, a 3.17 percent increase was decreed.

The negotiations include input from unions and from the private sector. Sometimes the sessions are heated.

If salaries are not set by July 1, employers will have to compensate workers when the numbers are established. Talks are expected to begin next week.

Salary increases themselves will have an effect on inflation for the rest of the year. Every 1,000 colons more in salary also means about 300 colons more in payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and increased insurance premiums.
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Our readers' opinions
There are more rich Democrats
in Congress than Republicans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It might interest your correspondent Doug Hicks to know that according to Roll Call, eight of the top dozen wealthiest members of Congress are Democrats, not Republicans.  Democrat activist (once convicted of insider-trading) George Soros is #22 on Forbes' list of the wealthiest men in America.  Joined-at-the-hip-Obama-twin Warren Buffett is #3.  Karl Rove doesn't even appear in the top 100.  I couldn't find anything on Grover Norquist, but I think he's more of a scary boogeyman for liberals because of what he thinks, not how much money he has.  Oh, I know, Mr Hicks will say it all matters on how much money they control behind the scenes, but the same is true of Buffett, Soros, et al. Only they're even more secretive.  Let's just say that the Republicans do not have any corner on the nation's wealth, despite what Mr Hicks thinks.
Gregg Calkins
La Fortuna

We can't endure Obama
for another four years

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read about Doug Hicks urging U.S. citizens to vote to re-elect Obama, and it scares me. In the past 3.5 years President Obama has managed to double the U.S. debt, and with what results has he achieved by doing this to us?

I also am a Veteran of the U.S. military. I'm not rich, but do know if we don't want the U.S.A. to go by the way of Greece, soon Spain, soon Italy, broke and desolate: We better get Mr. Obama out of office. I don't know what scares me more having Obama as president for another four years, or that the U.S. citizens are so stupid to vote him in again.

We are close to having 50 percent of the U.S. population on some sort of government assistance. When that number becomes over 50 percent all those people will vote for the person that will keep giving them all that "FREE STUFF" (Think about how Hugo Chávez took over Venezuela) . As I think we all know, it is not FREE.

Doug Hicks says to vote Democratic if you want to stop the increase of disparity of wealth and continued political wars. News for you Mr. Hicks: The middle class is shrinking faster now, than ever before, under Obama Rule. Doug, do you actually think the political wars will stop with Obama as president? Giving all his friends Billions of taxpayer dollars to fund companies and projects that have failed?

Obama said himself: "We need gas to be around $6 a gallon that will help us change over to more green energy". Is this the guy, Mr. Hicks, you think will lead us back to prosperity? Obama only wants to "tax the rich". This is how the income tax system was started in the first place. In the early 1900s lawmakers said: "We will only tax the rich," and everyone was for that! 

Well look where that lead us to today. I think we should go back to the days and ask the question that then President Kennedy asked back in the 1960s: "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country". To quote Thomas Jefferson:  “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have". Or in today's case: When the U.S. credit card is DENIED: All that "FREE STUFF" is OVER. Then what do we do? God help us all if my fellow Americans vote Obama in for another 4 years.
James Middlebrooks

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 111
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Some more health tips for driving on the Costa Rican roads
Rob Rowntree
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Thanks for the humorous article about the driving test in Costa Rica. Here are a few more I thought of!

11. When driving at night with your bright lights on and approaching an oncoming car, you should:

a. Check to be sure your fog lights are also turned on.
b. Dim your lights out of courtesy for the other driver.
c. Dim your lights so the idiot in the other car won’t hit you head on.
d. Leave your lights on bright. It is more important for you to see where you are going.

12. What do the double yellow stripes in the center of the road mean?

a. Stay on your side of the line.
b. No passing.
c. Only chickens stay on their side of the line.
d. Nothing. It’s only intended as a hint.

13. When traveling on a stretch of road that curves to your left, you should:

a. Stay in your lane.
b. Be aware of oncoming that may be traffic hidden by the curve.
c. Go ahead and pass if you are behind a slower vehicle.
d. Always make sure your left tires are over the yellow line in the other lane so you won’t slide off on the right shoulder. You can always jerk the wheel to the right if you’re about to hit someone head-on. 

Reader Rob Rowntree of Quepos/Manuel Antonio had some additional thoughts on the driving test article of Monday.

14. When climbing a hill, you should:

a. Maintain your speed.
b. Move to the right to allow faster vehicles to pass.
c. Drive like a bat out of Hell going uphill. See if you can get it up to 120 kph.
d. Stay in the left lane, no matter how much the hill slows you down.

15. When driving downhill, you should:

a. Maintain speed limit, use brakes sparingly.
b. Ride the tail of the car in front of you. Less than one car length is best.
c. Slow down to at least 10 kph below the posted speed limit.
d. Brake frequently to 40 kph, especially if your brake lights are burned out.

16. When driving a motorcycle, you should always:

a. Park in moto parking only.
b. Park on the sidewalk.
c. Park near other motos if there is no designated parking.
d. Park in an automobile parking space, and remember, only one moto per space. Especially helpful if you are going to a bank or shop with limited parking.

Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica photo
 A student form the  Colegio Científico de Cartago was
 among those liberating butterflies.

The whole month of June
will be colored green here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday may have been environment day, and the week is environment week, but in some agencies all of June is environment month.

To celebrate the day the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica in Cartago invited local high schoolers to liberate hundreds of butterflies Monday.

There was a seminar Monday. Today the higher education institute expects to plant 1,000 trees. Wednesday there are plans to clean nearby water courses of trash. There also will be an exhibition of new hybrid autos Thursday.
Also Wednesday Michael E. Webber, of the University of Texas at Austin will participate in a forum on energy of the future. In addition to the auto exhibition Thursday, the school plans a fair of environmental-friendly products and a concert. Friday has been designated a day without smoke. They are not talking about cigarettes. The use of bikes is being encouraged.

The Universidad de Costa Rica also will celebrate the day today. Like the Cartago institution, the university has events planned all week. Today the university will only permit vehicles that do not produce emissions to enter the grounds. This is another day without smoke.

The Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones and private companies will be presenting an environmental fair in the Antigua Aduana in San José Wednesday. There also are plans to plant trees in Parque la Sabana.

Other agencies have announced plans for events all through the month. World Environment Day is a creation of the United Nations Environment Programme.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 111
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Queen Elizabeth's 60 years has been a time of technical progress
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The 60 years of Queen Elizabeth's reign spans a period of human history like no other. Enormous technical advances took place at an unprecedented speed.

Proof of this is the fact that there was not worldwide satellite television coverage when Elizabeth received her crown June 2, 1953.  The Queen went on radio to promise "Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust."

The coronation ceremony itself was televised by the BBC and that organization estimated viewership at more than 20 million. But that was just in Britain. The BBC film made it to the New World the old fashion way. Telstar still was nine years away.

The BBC points out that the undeveloped film of the event went by motorcycle to Heathrow Airport. The plan was to develop the film in flight.

An NBC craft took off but developed mechanical trouble and had to return. It was a Royal Air Force aircraft that brought the film to Newfoundland where a Canadian Air Force crew flew the now developed film to Montreal where Canadian television aired the ceremony and patched the feed into New York where both ABC and NBC aired the signal.

The film was in color, but the televisions were black and white then. The ceremony began to air in mid-afternoon in the eastern United States. CBS aired its own film brought in directly to New York.

Elizabeth actually became queen in February 1952 when her father, George VI died. The coronation was held more than a year later to respect a period of mourning.

The young Elizabeth looked tiny amid all the pomp in Westminster Abby. She was clothed in a gold robe that appeared too big for her when she received the crown from the Archbishop of Canterbury. She was only 26. Her country was at war in Korea along with other United Nations forces. The Cold War was at its peak.
Elizabeth crowned
From BBC film via YouTube
Elizabeth is about to receive the crown.

Royal carriage
From BBC film via YouTube
Royal carriage carries Elizabeth from the coronation.

Yet the television showed a strong woman who spoke clearly and directly as she promised to serve her country.

The Queen has managed to evolve along with the technology. The A.M. Costa Rica news services say that Paul McCartney and Elton John were among those who participated with her in festivities Monday.

The Queen lit a symbolic torch during a ceremony in London. The London beacon was the last of 4,200 hundred torches and bonfires lit all day Monday across Britain and the Commonwealth, starting with New Zealand and Tonga.

Readers invited to express their political views
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

This is another presidential election year in the United States, and plenty of expats here have opinions on who should win.

The choice is between the incumbent, Barack Obama, and the Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, although a reader wrote Wednesday to say that Ron Paul still has a chance. There also is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.

The main force behind the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is political speech. Readers are encouraged to express their views, tightly and clearly. A.M. Costa Rica is not a discussion list, so readers have just one chance to express themselves on this topic.

Discussion is good. Personal attacks are bad. Readers should try to focus on facts to support their argument.

The election is Nov.6, but most expats here will have filed their absentee ballots long before that date. So A.M. Costa Rica will cut off discussion of the candidates and their positions Oct. 15.

Shortly thereafter, this newspaper will publish its opinion and endorsement.

This is the same rule that applied in 2008, but 

some readers, miffed at the newspaper endorsement, became enraged when told their letters would not be published.

So if readers have something to say on the presidential or congressional elections, they should say it before Oct. 15.

Of course if someone wishes to insert political advertising promoting one candidate or another, the newspaper will happily accept money at the printed rates. The ad must contain a line of type saying who paid for the message.

This message will be repeated as the election draws near.

Expats have many options to register to vote Nov. 6
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. expats have plenty of time to register to vote in the Nov. 6 federal election. They have a right to do so no matter how long they have lived overseas.

Several organizations exist to help expats register and obtain their absentee ballot. Probably the best known is the non-profit Overseas Vote Foundation that also operates Youth Vote Overseas mostly for U.S. students in foreign countries and several other initiatives. The Arlington,Virginia, based organization is non-partisan.

The Democratic National Committee also has a program to help overseas voters, be they expats or military. It is Vote from Abroad.
The U.S. government has the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

All have set ups so that expats and others eligible to vote can register at their designated state and submit requests for ballots. Some states allow online registration and online ballot requests.

In some states, the primary election already has passed. In others, there still is time to vote in the party primaries. Every site appears to have detailed information to answer any questions expats may have.

Local organizations affiliated with the U.S. political parties also have staged voter registrations in the past and will likely do so again this year.

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Suspect in grisly killing
turns up in Internet cafe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

German police have arrested a murder suspect dubbed the "Canadian Psycho" by the media for allegedly dismembering his homosexual lover and mailing body parts to Canadian politicians.

Witnesses say Luka Rocco Magnotta simply said, "You got me," when police arrested him Monday after someone recognized him in a Berlin Internet cafe.  The International Police Agency had issued a red notice for him, its highest alert.

Canadian authorities say Magnotta fled Montreal for France last week and took a bus to Berlin.

He is wanted for allegedly murdering his Chinese lover, Jun Lin, with a pick axe, dismembering the body, and posting a video of the grisly killing on the Internet.

Canadian police say he mailed Jun's foot to the headquarters of the ruling Conservative Party.  Police found Jun's hand in a package in a post office and a janitor found the victim's torso in a suitcase behind Magnotta's Montreal apartment.

Magnotta is in a Berlin jail awaiting possible extradition to Canada.

Canadian media say Magnotta had changed his name numerous times and frequently wore heavy make-up and other disguises.  They say he appeared in pornographic films and might be responsible for other crimes, including killing kittens and posting the video online.

Chávez appears in public
after meeting Belarus official

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is undergoing radiation therapy for cancer, made his first public appearance since April Saturday, hosting Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko.

President Chávez was shown on state television leaving his meeting with Semashko at Miraflores Palace in Caracas.  They had discussed a visit by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko scheduled for later this month. 

Chávez did not take questions, and he remains silent on specifics about his cancer.  The 57-year-old leader has made several trips to Cuba for radiation treatments since doctors discovered and removed a cancerous tumor last year, and a second tumor earlier this year.

President Chávez has said his illness will not keep him from campaigning for the October 7 presidential election.

Latin vote in U.S. to play
significant role in November

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hispanics represent the fastest-growing minority in the United States and an increasingly important segment of the voting population, especially in so-called swing states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, where they could play a decisive role in the U.S. presidential election in November.  Recent opinion surveys show Hispanics favoring President Obama two-to-one over the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Luis Torres and Willie Fernandez run a Houston company that does completion work on construction projects.

But when it comes to politics, they differ, with Fernandez being more critical of President Obama, the Democratic Party candidate.

“Look at the deficit we are in now, economically,” Fernandez said.

“I don't think that is all due to Obama; it all came from before,” said Torres.

“No, but $15 billion in the first year...” noted Fernandez.

“Well, he has inherited a lot of this,” replied Torres.

But, while Torres defends President Obama, he is still not sure how he will vote in November.

“The last time I voted for Obama. I am disappointed in what he has done. I mean, he has really not done much.  I don't know if it is all due to the politics that are in play, but he has not fulfilled the promises that he made,” Torres said.

In recent speeches, President Obama has argued that he needs more time to deal with the nation's enormous problems.

“I know we have gone through some tough years and I know that for all the things we have done, we still have so much undone,” Obama said.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney discussed the economy in a recent speech in Washington to a group of Hispanic small business owners.

“I know your prosperity means greater opportunity, for you, for your families, for your employees, for your communities and for the nation,” Romney said.

What Romney did not mention was his hard-line policy on illegal immigration, which some Hispanic supporters, like Willie Fernandez, find troubling.

“Here you have to look at who is the worst of all evils, I mean the reality.  Am I happy with him? No, I am not. Am I happy with Obama? No, I am not,” Fernandez said.

Both Torres and Fernandez are naturalized U.S. citizens;  Torres came from Colombia, Fernandez from Cuba.  They both favor some form of immigration reform and think it would be counterproductive to deport millions of laborers who are needed here.

Another issue of concern to Luis Torres is that the number of Hispanic elected officials does not match the size of the Hispanic population in many states and Hispanic voting rates are generally low.

“Hispanics have to get behind their candidates and get them elected so that they can have more representation,” Torres said.

But Willie Fernandez thinks the ethnicity of candidates is often over-emphasized.

“If you are elected by the people, you should represent the people, whoever you are. You can't bend it to one ethnic group or another, you have to represent the people,” Fernandez said.

Both men strongly believe in the democratic system and plan to vote in November, but neither one is entirely sure whom they will support.
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Coffee protects seniors
from Alzheimer’s, study says

By the IOS Press news staff

Those cups of coffee that adults drink every day to keep alert appear to have an extra perk. A recent study monitoring the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65 found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up. Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami say the case control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset. Their findings will appear in the online version of an article to be published June 5 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, published by IOS Press. The collaborative study involved 124 people, ages 65 to 88, in Tampa and Miami.

“These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee — about three cups a day — will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease — or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s,” said study lead author Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy. “The results from this study, along with our earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice, are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.”

The study shows this protection probably occurs even in older people with early signs of the disease, called mild cognitive impairment. Patients already experience some short-term memory loss and initial Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains, the study report said. Each year, about 15 percent of such patients progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers focused on study participants with this impairment because many were destined to develop Alzheimer’s within a few years.

Such patients who had a caffeine blood level representing about two cups of coffee remained stable over the same period, the study reported.

Murder suspect ordered
to prison for investigation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A judge has ordered a home invasion suspect jailed for six months while the investigation continues. The man was identified by the last names of Rodríguez Fuentes. He is a suspect there.   A man with the name Ronald Monge Poras died.

Agents detained Rodríguez in Los Geranios de Pococí Thursday.

March 29 armed men broke their way into a home on a finca occupied by Monge. They took items of value and tied up a woman there. She was unable to free herself in time to get medical aid for Monge, who was shot in the stomach.

Anti-drug agents snag
three persons at airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Guatemalan man detained after agents found packets of heroin in his stomach went to prison for three months preventative detention Monday after a hearing in the Juzgado Penal de Alajuela. He was detained last week in Juan Santamaría airport. Attendants at the Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela recovered 1.2 kilos of the drug, agents said. The man was identified by the last names of Alfaro Ramírez, He is 21 and was returning to Guatemala from Panamá, said anti-drug agents.

Meanwhile Monday agents detained an Italian citizen with the last name of Pironti at the same airport on the allegation that he had cocaine hidden in a bottle of shampoo. Agents said they found 724 grams of the drug. He is 35.

Last weekend agents also detained a Costa Rican woman identified by the last names of Pérez Fernández. She was headed to Madrid, they said. The 24-year-old woman had 4.3 kilos of cocaine in a suitcase, agents said.

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