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(506) 2223-1327          Published Monday, June 6, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 110             E-mail us
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Web page easily calculates exiting employee's pay
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Most expats in Costa Rica have experienced the problem of firing an employee or have one leave unexpectedly.  One of the biggest headaches is calculating what is owed to them.

What usually happens is the employee goes to the labor ministry and has the calculations made there.  An employer never knows if the numbers are right or wrong. Since many employees exaggerate the truth, the amounts sometimes end up in the stratosphere.

Here is a secret for expats to get a handle on employee severance pay.  First a note:  An employee’s pay off varies based on years worked.  The more an employee has worked, the more they get in cesantía. This is equivalent to severance benefits.  Every employee is entitled to them, if they do their job in a satisfactory manner.  The amount an employee is entitled to in vacation pay also varies with time.

Expats usually cringe when they have to make these calculations or call a lawyer to do it for them.  Believe it or not, most lawyers do not calculate the amounts correctly either.

The savior is on the Internet located here:

This Web page takes the pain out of employer-employee separation.  There is some information on the Web site that is in English, but not the severance calculations, so here is a quick course to use this valuable resource.  The process is simple, so just follow this example for an employee:

Go to the Web site. Several boxes are on the page to fill in.  They are in groups, the first group is called Tiempo laborado or "time worked."  Type in the date in the box labeled Ingreso. This is the employee’s start date.  One can use the calendar, but it may not work on some browsers.  If not, be sure to input the date as it is represented in Costa Rican format.  For example, the day after Christmas two years ago would be represented as 26/12/2009. The dates are in a day/month/year format.  Use this date for this example to see if the result at the end is the same as in this example.

The next box is labeled Salida for the termination date.  The employee in this example will lose their job at the end of this month so put 30/06/2011 or use the calendar.

The next group is called Tipo de pago or "type of payment."  There are only two boxes, one is labeled Mensual for "monthly" and the other Semanal for "weekly."  Monthly includes monthly and bi-monthly payments.  Weekly includes payments by the week, day or hour.  For this example, check monthly.

The next grouping is named ¿Le ha sido otorgado el preaviso en tiempo?  This means "Was the worker given notice of termination."  The answer is either SI or NO or Parcialmente for some notice was given.  If the latter is the case, put in the number of days the employee was given to look for another job before termination.  For this example, check no.

The last group on this page is labeled Días de vacaciones por disfrutar.  This means, "How
firing employee

many vacation days does the worker have coming."  For this example, use five.

On the right side of the page — on the top and on the bottom of the calculations tables — in small letters are arrows with the word Siguiente. This means "next." Click one of the arrows.

On this page there are 12 boxes to fill in.  These boxes represent the last twelve months of a workers monthly payments.  Fill in the boxes with the correct amounts.

Any in-kind benefits should be included in this amount.  In-kind benefits include housing, food, or anything else that fits this definition:  Payments for goods or services in lieu of money for labor.  The domestic worker in this example is provided lunch by the employer worth 20,000 colons a month.  For this example, fill in the boxes with the number 155,000 colons, 135,000 – this is a bit more than what a domestic employee earns according to the labor law – and add the 20,000 of in-kind benefits – their lunch.

Again, on the right side of the page – on the top and on the bottom of the calculations tables — in small letters are arrows with the word Resultado. This means "results," click one of the arrows.

On the page, the employee is presented the amount of what is called liquidación.  To pay off the employee in this example would cost 472,750.00 colons.  At today’s exchange rate that would translate into $945.50.

Having employees tends to be a pain.  In Costa Rica — as in other parts of the world – the employees are really the bosses of the employers.  Going to labor court is expensive, and unless an employer has an iron-clad case they will most probably lose.

The best advice is to have a good labor contract, give written reprimands when they are needed – but no more than two, the third is to terminate.  Most importantly, and something most people, not even lawyers know, is an employer only has 30 days to act on any fault of an employee, otherwise, the fault expires.

When one needs to end an employment relationship, this handy calculator is easy to use and very accurate and very few people even know it exists.

Garland M. Baker is a 39-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2011. Use without permission prohibited.

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Our reader's opinion
Tragedy in la Fortuna
certain to hurt country

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Friday, the Web site: published a scathing report/reader comments about the security of Costa Rica and the tragic shooting death of a 16-year old Kansas student while on a school-sponsored trip.   Let's get ready for the blame game: 

(1)  The victim who didn't listen to his guardians that he was not to leave his cabin after curfew.  Seems kind of a harsh consequence to me; 

(2)  The alleged undocumented Nicaraguan who was an unlicensed guard at a La Fortuna de San Carlos lodge hotel.  Yes, if he is guilty, he is in big trouble here -- more-so because of his nationality and situation.  Locals will consider him expendable but he doesn't have deep pockets to carry the backlash;

(3)  The owners of the lodge who hired the alleged undocumented worker.  There's an option the pundits can sink their teeth into:  he's at fault for the hiring.  And he has deep pockets — at least it will be perceived as such, if not in fact (he's probably struggling to keep his tourist operation open). 

Question begs:  why would he hire this foreign person when so many Ticos are in need of a job?  Many here who have marginally-profitable businesses know the answer to that and have experienced the one-sided financial outcome when a local decides on a big cash labor payoff from an "employer who is foreign" versus the option of working responsibly.

(4)  Guns!  There's the problem!! If guns were outlawed, we'd all feel safe and secure.  But guns don't kill, people do.  Yes, you can take the guns from the law-abiding citizen but they are not the problem.  Criminals don't follow the rules.  The criminal element in Costa Rica is multiplying and getting more embolden in their violence (crime pays better than a job, with little downside because getting caught is a joke); 

(5)  The government for failing to adequately provide the basic right of security for its people.  Obviously, private guards (and guns in the hands of homeowners) wouldn't be necessary if we had a handle on crime here.  Those "legal" guns would sit comfortably bedded down in some locked, citizen's cabinet never to be needed for protection.  People would feel secure and be happier.

Administration will claim they need a new committee formed to study the problem (even though it is obvious) but will basically come up with more huggy/feel-y proposals whilst the justice system goes on its merry way of catch and release or charge the victim of a violent attack for trying to protect himself. 

I suspect we'll hear the mantra that there is no money for public security and we need to tax corporations more and other entities that don't create the security problem but suffer as victims (an impoverished Tico rarely gets robbed).  Does that make sense?  Where is the money coming from for "huggy/feel-y" programs and is it paying off?  Art and culture programs seem to find funds and provide for great photo ops.  New social programs are always popular.  Is there any government waste/indulgences that could be tapped instead of more taxes on victims? 

For the tragic loss of this young life, the government has succeeded in allowing such fear for public security that the law-abiding citizen has only himself to depend on when criminals do their violent thing. 

Congratulations, we've made big-time news AGAIN and I don't think this is going to endear tourists to visit our country. 
For those who click the link, suggest you read the blog comments.  This story is going to hurt all of us who call Costa Rica our home.  
Mary Jay

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story made CNN with Wolf Blitzer Friday.

Find out what the papers
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 6, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 110
Latigo K-9

Lawmakers shelve extending penal code to younger teens
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers appear to have declined to include suspects younger than 18 years in the country's criminal code.

This pleases the Costa Rican branch of the organization  Defensa de Niños y Niñas — International, which lobbied against any changes. The group said it was joined in opposing a proposal to lower the age by the Programa de Apoyo a la Población Penal Juvenil of the Universidad de Costa Rica as well as other organizations and individuals.

The proposal to reduce the age of suspects to be covered by the criminal code was before the Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico of the Asamblea Legislativa.

Defensa de Niños y Niñas said that the president of the committee, Carlos Humberto Góngora, proposed a motion to eliminate a section of proposal 17.615 that would subject youngsters age 15 and over to the same laws and penalties as adults face now.

This happened May 26 but appears to not have been reported widely. Article 17 of the penal code is very brief and says that the code is applicable to persons who have reached the age of 18.

"An adolescent in conflict with the law is not equal to an adult criminal," said Defensa de Niñas y Niños in its campaign to ashcan the change.

The bill has been languishing in the Asamblea Legislativa since 2009, but a wave of serious youth crimes has made this section of the proposal more popular.
Still, Defensa de Niñas y Niños said that lowering the age to 15 would be a violation of human rights. The organization said that a surge in crime causes the Costa Rican public to blame juveniles when 2009 figures show that only 3.9 percent of the serious crimes in Costa Rica were committed by persons under 18.

The organization said over the weekend that its campaign had born fruit and that this was a great achievement. The organization also said that a reduction of age would conflict with an international treaty on the treatment of juveniles.

In Costa Rica international agreements the country has accepted carry stronger weight than the country's Constitution.

The organization also said that it did not agree with some changes that were being proposed to stiffen the criminal code of adults and that it would continue its campaign.

The news of the action came in a message to Virginia Murillo, president of Defense de Niños y Niñas, from the legislature. The message said that six legislative deputies on the committee voted unanimously to strike the change from the measure that is being considered.

Had the measure become law, the biggest change would be in subjecting juvenile criminals to much longer prison sentences for serious crimes. Adults still can face prosecution if prosecutors can prove they hired youngsters to commit crimes.

There are some indications that this is being done because of the lesser penalties juveniles may face.

Verdict expected this week in juvenile execution-style killing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two 17 year olds are on trial this week in juvenile court facing the allegation that they invaded a Desamparados home, tied up two occupants and took them to San Ignacio de Acosta where they executed one.

The case is in the Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José. The incident happened Feb. 16, 2010. That was when gunmen invaded the home in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados to tie up two victims, put tape over their mouths and take them to a deserted area in Acosta.

Yaymir Villalobos Castro, 16, was made to kneel as one of
the individuals shot him in the head.

A passing motorcycle surprised the gunmen, and the second individual, identified by the last names of Jiménez Zúñiga, managed to throw himself down a steep hillside and avoid being shot, said agents. Eventually the man, 20, managed to find help at a nearby home.

Two men, identified by the last names of Morales Navarro and Esquivel Sancho, have been convicted in adult court in the same incident and sentenced to 50 years in prison each.

The two juveniles went on trial May 26, and a verdict is expected Thursday. The trial is closed to the public.

Thursday shooting in Alajuela resembled one in la Fortuna
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A shooting nearly identical to the one that took the life of a 16-year-old U.S. tourist early Thursday took place Thursday night in Alajuela.

A guard at a rice processing facility spotted what appeared to be an intruder and fired several times. The man fled the grounds of the facility but dropped dead on the public right-of-way not far away.

Investigators said that the dead man appears to have been stealing two bags of rice. The shooting took place at 11 p.m. in San José de Alajuela. The dead man was identified by the last name of Alfaro. He was 33, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. the guard was carrying a .38-caliber  firearm.
The incident involving the U.S. tourists happened in La Fortuna de San Carlos. The victim, Justin Johnston, was not stealing anything but was outside his hotel room at 4 a.m. visiting other students. A guard at the facility, the La Cangreja Lodge, mistook him and two companions for intruders and fired.

Friday a judge ordered that the guard, who has the last name of Guevara, be jailed for six months for investigation.

Agents said the weapon he used was not registered and that he was in the country illegally.

Johnston was a student at McLouth High School in the U.S. state of Kansas and a member of the school's Spanish club. The school said in a release that he was on a nine-day trip with 12 students and two district sponsors.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 6, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 110

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Traffic officer murdered while investigating Tibás accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A traffic policeman died Sunday when a man intervened in a drunk-driving case and shot the officer in the chest.

The afternoon shooting happened at the scene of an automobile accident in Cinco Esquinas, one of the five districts of the Cantón de Tibás north of San José.

Report from the scene said that the officer determined that one of the drivers involved in the crash had been drinking and that he issued a drunk driving ticket and called for a
tow vehicle to confiscate the car, as the law provides. While the car was being hoisted for transport, another vehicle drove up, and a man pulled a gun on the officer and relieved him of his 9-mm. service pistol. Then he shot the officer in the chest.

Tránsito officers do not wear protective vests as do Fuerza Pública officers. The assailant fled with both weapons. A short time later Fuerza Pública officers located a car matching the description of the one that fled the scene. Inside they found the traffic officers weapon. They also located a suspect on foot walking nearby and detained him.

Low pressure in the Caribbean is causing the precipitation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A low-pressure system is now off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is the reason for all the rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that the system is disorganized but still has a 40 percent chance of becoming a cyclone.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in San José said the system is far from the country but still is having an effect. The system is drawing moisture from the Pacific into the national territory and generating moderate to strong rain, mainly in the afternoons.

The Central Valley saw rains from early Sunday through the evening. Emergency officials continue to warn about flooding rivers and possible landslides. The Interamericana Sur has been closed between Palmar Norte and Buenos Aires de Puntarenas due to slides, and motorists headed that way have the option of checking with the Policía de Tránsito on conditions.
A stretch between Sarchí and Bajos del Toro also has seen a slide, officials said. They said the route may be closed.

The prediction for today is possible thunderstorms in most sections of the country in the afternoon

The wet weather already has caused deaths. Five persons died in Peralta de Grecia about 4:20 a.m. Friday when a tanker truck skidded on wet pavement and smashed the side of a small bus headed in the opposite direction. Five persons of the 10 in the bus, including the 18-year-old driver, died from the crash. They were on their way to work.

In the Hospital de Pérez Zeledón Friday a fourth victim from a Wednesday accident died. He was identified by the last name of Ureña. That crash also happened at night when a vehicle seemed to go out of control and hit two other vehicles.

Three persons in the car died at the scene. Ureña was hospitalized.

Gasoline going up again as price agency computes costs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The improvement of the U.S. dollar against the colon has a downside for expats here. The exchange rate figures in calculations of the price of imported petroleum.

So super gasoline is going up 28 colons (5.5 U.S. cents) to 740 colons ($1.47) a liter, and the lower-grade plus is going up 36 colons (7.1 U.S. cents) to 726 colons ($1.44).

In terms of U.S. measures, this means that plus will be selling for $5.45 a gallon and super for $5.55.
In the last week the U.S. dollar has risen against the colon to 504.5 colons for one U.S. dollar and 514 colons being required to buy at U.S. dollars. The price regulator, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos based its calculations on a 505.35 exchange rate.

For some expats the good news is that diesel is going down 6 colons once the new prices are published in the official government newspaper. The new price will be 627 a liter. That's $1.24 a liter or $4.70 per U.S. gallon.

Costa Rica imports all its petroleum via the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, S.A., a national monopoly.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 6, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 110

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Humala appears winner
in Peruvian elections

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Partial results in Peru's presidential run-off elections Sunday show former army officer Ollanta Humala emerging as the winner over the daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori. But the race is tight.

The Oficina Nacional de Processos Electorales, the Peruvian election comission, said at 11:42 p.m. Lima time that with 81.2 percent of the voting places counted Humala had 6,494,970 votes, about 50.7 percent, to Ms. Fujimori's 6,313.992 or about 49.3 percent. That is a difference of  about 181,000 votes.

Participating in elections is mandatory for Peru's nearly 20 million eligible voters.

In the first round of balloting in April, Humala won 32 percent of the vote, falling short of the 50 percent margin needed for an outright win. Keiko Fujimori, a conservative candidate, took 24 percent.

Some voters are concerned that as president, Keiko Fujimori would try to free her father, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for his role in death squad killings in the 1990s.  Keiko Fujimori has apologized for mistakes and crimes committed while her father was president from 1990 to 2000.

Humala led an uprising against Alberto Fujimori in 2000, but lost a run-off election to current President Alan Garcia in 2006.  Humala was outspoken during that campaign about his admiration for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, but he has since distanced himself from the leftist leader.

Much of the current presidential campaign has focused on continuing Peru's rapid economic growth of recent years, while ensuring that the poor also see some of that increased prosperity.

Neighbors forced to flee
erupting Chilean volcano

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Puyehue volcano in southern Chile has erupted for the first time in a half century, sending a column of gas about 10 kilometers into the air.

Authorities say they plan to evacuate 3,500 people from areas around the mountain, which is nearly 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) south of the Chilean capital, Santiago.  The eruption also prompted authorities to shut a border crossing into Argentina.

Emergency officials recorded many small earthquakes in the region Saturday.

There have been no reports of injuries.

Chile has the second largest volcanic chain in the world after Indonesia.  Of some 2,000 volcanoes in Chile, about 500 are active.  Other Chilean volcanos, Llaima and Chaiten, have erupted in recent years.

Large stash of weapons
found by Mexican army

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican soldiers have discovered a huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition buried in an underground chamber, apparently hidden by one of the country's warring drug cartels.

Authorities said they found more than 150 rifles and shotguns, 92,000 rounds of ammunition, four mortar shells, two rocket-propelled grenades and assorted other weaponry. The cache was found at a ranch near the industrial city Monclova in the northern state Coahuila that borders the United States.

They believe the cache belonged to the Zetas cartel, which has been battling the Sinaloa cartel and other drug gangs for control of Coahuila.

Mexican authorities have seized more than 102,000 handguns and high-powered rifles in the past four years but some experts believe that 2,000 weapons are being brought into the country each day.

Drug-related violence has become commonplace in Mexico, with about 37,000 people killed since the government launched an anti-drug crackdown in 2006.
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An initiative that has made hotels in Slovenia more accessible for people with disabilities and a project in Australia that allows people to volunteer to protect biodiversity are among the winners of United Nations awards aimed at encouraging innovation in tourism.

The 2011 Ulysses Awards – handed out in a ceremony in Vilamoura, Portugal – were given by the U.N. World Tourism Organization to a series of state institutions, private enterprises and non-profit organizations.

For innovation in governance, the winners were: China’s Tourism Academy for a tourist satisfaction index; Peru’s foreign trade and tourism ministry for a discovery trail of the ancient Moche civilization; and the Madeira Regional Secretariat for Tourism and Transport in Portugal for its environmental work.

Three non-governmental organizations were rewarded: Conservation Volunteers Australia, for its project recruiting local and international tourists to serve as volunteers in the cleaning up and restoration of a nature reserve; the Slovenian Association for Mental Health for its initiative promoting accessible tourism for those with special needs, and Kéroul of Canada, a company which offers guided tours for people with disabilities.

In the enterprises category, the winners were: Ingelia of Spain, for a project transforming organic waste into biofuel for more sustainable tourism; OHL Desarrollos of Mexico, for sustainable and responsible tourism development at a resort; and TCI Research of Belgium, for a global survey measuring tourist satisfaction and trip quality.

Special jury awards were also given to the Alghat Cooperative Association of Saudi Arabia, Uruguay’s tourism and sports ministry; and the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe.

Kaye Chon, of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, won the Ulysses Prize for his overall contribution.

Dolores Kores, a project manager for the Slovenian Association for Mental Health, said that since 2006 her organization – through research, training programmes and the establishment of industry standards and a certification system – has been working to make hotels, travel agencies, tour guides and tourism sites more accessible for people with disabilities.

Ms. Kores said a common misunderstanding among tourism operators was that it was expensive and time-consuming to improve accessibility to people with disabilities.

“They think it’s only about investment in changing the physical environment,” she said. “But the solutions can be simple and don’t have to be expensive.”

The Slovenian Association for Mental Health has arranged for people with disabilities to educate staff at hotels, restaurants and other facilities about how to treat a guest if they have a disability and what measures they can take to ensure the guests enjoy the experience.

“People with disabilities don’t want pity… but they want to be treated well, and they will remember,” Ms. Kores noted.

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