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(506) 2223-1327          Published Friday, June 10, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 114             E-mail us
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Here are some of the good reasons why expats stay
By Sharon and Jay Brodell
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The front page is usually where crimes and other tragedies are reported. But good things frequently are overlooked because they are not news.

So here are some reasons Costa Rica is a great place to live:


Taxis are cheap, starting at about $1.10 for the first kilometer.

The new valley train and its Curridabat, San Pedro and Heredia extensions soon will reach Alajuela and maybe even Cartago.

Buses go everywhere, and to spend more than $5 the trip has to be a really long one. Most city routes are 44 U.S. cents or less


Weekend ferias contain the bounty of the earth. Vegetables and fruits are almost given away. And the flowers!

There are plenty of working class restaurants and take-out chicken outlets for the cost conscious. For the well-heeled, there are plenty of upscale eating places, and some are world class.

Even at the supermarket the Costa Rican-style diet is very reasonable. Rice and other products are priced controlled. The Costa Rican tamal is available all year long.

Upscale markets are now carrying U.S. beers and an assortment of U.S. foods for those who want to live as a Gringo.

Who can walk past a bakery without dashing in and buying great bread, sweets, empanadas, almojábanas and all kinds of crunchy treats.

The Mercado Central is a step back into the 19th century. Yet sanitation is acceptable.

This is coffee country, and the local brands sure beat the $8 export varieties.


The Walmarts, the Pricesmarts and similar have not yet taken over the Costa Rican market, although its nice to know they are there. The hidden corners of every town hold surprises for the shopper. The San José pedestrian malls have changed the face of the downtown.

When the folks up north tire of their clothes, the garments end up in dirt cheap Ropa Americana stores here. The clothes come in as bales. Where else can you get an elegant designer dress for $2?

How about all those Chinese stores where certain products like dishes and other ceramics are total bargains. Not to mention the 50-cent beers under the counter.

Those who require First-World shopping always have the malls. They are the same all over the world.


Not being confronted with ice, snow and those winter ailments is a real plus.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social clinics may be uneven, but the major hospitals provide excellent care. The Hospital Nacional de Niños is envied all over Latin America.

Private hospitals are more expensive but with prices far below those in the north even for
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U.S.-trained physicans and technicians.

Some medicines here are available over the counter instead of with prescriptions as in the north and the prices seem more reasonable. And some are available for free from the Caja.


Rents range from $100 to thousands a month, depending on the quality of the location. A frugal expat can find a safe, secure apartment for $300, but double that will put the place in a better area.

Housing prices represent a great savings over two years ago. There is city living. There is country living and all options in between. Those with a green thumb will like a rural home with garden space. Maybe room for a few chickens. Got some cash? How about a lap pool or one that approaches Olympic size?

Expats can kiss the oil and gas heating bill good-bye. Unless one seeks out chilly mountain living, nearly every place in Costa Rica does not require heating, just a second blanket a couple of times a year.

Beach living might require air conditioning, but one can survive with proper, screened ventilation even during the warmest periods.

Utilities are a steal. Where else can you get a land line from the phone company for 2,450 colons ($4.90) a month or a cell phone for 3,685 ($7.37). Toll calls are extra. The government subsidizes and controls these and other utility rates.


Television still is free, but cable is better, particularly for those who must see North American programs or U.S. sports. Internet continues to improve, and new firms are entering the market. You get what you pay for but still less expensive than elsewhere.

Expat bars are plentiful, but the beer is cheaper at a hole in the wall that caters to locals.

First-run movies are priced for the local market, and iTunes and some online services are available. Netflix says it soon will add Costa Rica to its list of countries.

No place is far from a beach.

Sponsored and free entertainment can be found in all but the smallest burg.

This is a tourism destination, and expats can enjoy these benefits.

Daily life

Costa Rica teaches patience to a new arrival. The pace is reduced. There is time to enjoy the sunny mornings and prepare for the afternoon rain. The evenings are time for sitting outside with a favorite beverage.

In fact, the country is bilingual, although Spanish is required to understand the culture. Even most grade school children know some English. The government is pushing that.

What can you say about the legions of friendly, pleasant Costa Ricans who usually go out of their way to help a foreigner. Not everyone but most.

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Our readers' opinions
Subcontract the crime fight
and require some results

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Great reporting from Mr. Perry Edwards on the problems with trying to find his work boat on inlet from Port of Limón.  As a retired law enforcement officer from California, who has spent most of his time in drug law enforcement and who has owned land in Costa Rica for almost 20 years, I feel this story is incredible.  Did the local police and coast guard personnel not have ammunition for their weapons?  Was money offered to just stay away from the sectioned off passage area?  Was required procedural police action overcome by fear?  Something is not kosher here.

Since, in the same edition of your paper, but on a different page, you report that the central Costa Rican government has not been able to spend their budgeted amount for national security, I have a proposal; spend some more money and require specified results.  Subcontract the effort if need be to a private contractor.

On a different part of the same article, your paper reports the U.S. ambassador is donating two more vessels to be used for security purposes at the Caldera port.  Maybe we can install GPS equipment before these boats are deployed.  Then we can find them if need be.

I’m sorry to feel the need to use the intended sarcasm, but enough is enough.  No wonder Mr. Edwards is reported to be in Colombia and thinking of moving his business elsewhere from Limón.  Panamá appears to be thriving on this type of Costa Rican news story. In 20 years, this is the first time I have written a message to the editor, but I feel a need in an effort to keep this story active until resolved.

Robert J. Gieser

Have we lost Limón
to crooks and traffickers?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for exposing and writing this article. Since President Laura Chinchilla has been in office, crime has increased. Home invasions, kidnappings here have spiked. I am not saying it is her fault. The border issue brought this to focus. Costa Rica cannot protect itself from another country or, it seems, from a group of organized thugs!

You could also write the same article here in San José in the barrios they fear. Carpio, Leon 13 to name a few. The thugs, gunman rule these areas as well. I have seen the police hide in their stations at night. The local citizen know they have no protection and they too fear and hide. Taxi drivers will not go to certain areas.

Border police specially trained Ha! The OIJ showing as well they will not and cannot confront the crooks here in any major way. I do not blame companies pulling out of Limón. Question is have we as a nation lost Limón to the drug traffickers and organized crime?? I fear, yes, we have.

Dwayne Egelund 
La Uruca

14 year old held in robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police have detained a 14 year old who faces 10 allegations of robbery and one of rape. The boy,who was detained in his San José de Alajuela home, is part of a group of youngsters who robbed passers-by by threatening them with a knife, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents are seeking the other youngsters.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 114
Latigo K-9

Cocaine confiscations
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Anti-drug police check suspected cocaine April 29 in San José and May 1 in Curridabat
 Cocaine seizures trigger 15 raids in country and 10 arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents Thursday conducted 15 raids as they followed up on discoveries of cocaine shipments discovered last April 29 and June 1.

Among those detained was Alexander Leudo Nieves, a
Colombian who is wanted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrations for alleged cocaine smuggling and sale in the state of Washington.

The organization was involved in shipping by land, sea and air cocaine from Panamá to México where it would be turned over to representatives of Los Zeta for shipment into the United States. said agents.
Alexander Leudo Nieves

Leudo is connected to the Buenaventura, Colombia, cartel, and agents allege that he and two countrymen were in charge of obtaining the cocaine, sometimes robbing it from rival gangs. The Costa Ricans, headed by a man with the last names of Rodríguez Salas, and his wife with the last names of Bonilla Esquivel, had the responsibility of transporting the illegal merchandise, said agents.

Raids were conducted in Miramar, Barranca, Ciudad Neily, Lomas de Ayarco, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Ciudad Colón, Uruca, San Antonio de Belén, Rohrmoser, Moravia. Zapote, Santo Domingo and San Miguel de Santo Domingo de Heredia. There also was a raid at a repair shop in San Joaquín de Flores and at a storage location on Calle 5 in southern San José.

One of those detained is a lawyer with the last names of  Briceño Obando. Agents claim he was in charge of laundering the money generated by the operation.

Leudo is believed to have been known to law enforcement here. A man with that name figured in a Sala IV habeas corpus case a year ago along with other men. They were being held in Liberia. The Drug Enforcement Administration said earlier that he was living in Costa Rica.
One man, one of two brothers with the last name of Rojas Prendas, was detained April 29 when he was driving a vehicle in downtown San José near the headquarters of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Fuerza Pública officers said they found 40 kilos of cocaine hidden in the truck.

Police said at the time that he was acting suspiciously. The Policía de Control de Drogas confirmed the presence of cocaine, they said.

Another man who figures in the investigation has the last names of López Mendoza.  He was believed to have been detained May 1 in Curridabat when police stopped a truck that had 56 kilos of cocaine hidden under the truck bed.

Two other Colombians detained Thursday were identified by the last names of Amador Montenegro and Viafara Mina.

Agents said they confiscated  $286,000 when they detained Leudo. Prosecutors said there would be more arrests.

At least three groups are involved in the shipment of major amounts of cocaine across Costa Rica. While they were investigating this case, agents confiscated cocaine from unrelated groups. The drug organizations sometimes let police know about the activities of their competitors.

Monday the Poder Judicial and the Judicial Investigating Organization will inaugurate a new incinerator for the purposes of burning up illegal drugs. The location is at the judicial complex in San Joaquín de Flores, Heredia.

The incinerator can destroy between 300 and 400 kilos of drugs per hour, said the Poder Judicial. The Holcim firm helped law officers obtain the English-built device, which is worth $70,000, said the Poder Judicial.

In the past some of the drugs were destroyed in an incinerator operated by Holcim. In one case some workers at an incinerator found the temptation too great and managed to save some of the drug for themselves. They have been arrested.

The Poder Judicial said that the new system will destroy drugs under strict control and supervision.

Country needs more pragmatic approach to natural resources
Environmental concerns in Costa Rica seem to have triumphed over common sense.

Trees are sacred, mining gold is a no-no and the president says natural gas is OK but crude oil is not.

When Nicaraguan troops invaded a small piece of Costa Rica along the Río San Juan in October, the country chose to play the environmental card in its protest to the International Court of Justice. The Nicaraguans had ravaged a part of Costa Rica where nearly no one ever goes and cut down trees that no one really cared about.

Never mind that the invasion was a blatant attack on national sovereignty. Costa Rica went to bat for the trees.

Trees grow from little saplings, mature, die and then fall down. That is if no one uses the lumber. Trees are supposed to capture and sequester carbon. But when they die and rot, they give it off.

Trees also figured in a continuing protest over the Las Crucitas open pit gold mine north of San Carlos. The almendro amarillo trees were home for endangered great green macaws, known in Spanish as lapa verde. The situation is not as if Industrias Infinito S.A. was going to cut down all the trees. There are only about 200 great green macaws in Costa Rica and plenty of trees to go around even if some are cut to provide a space to mine gold.

Costa Rica is desperate for money. Residents of the northern zone are desperate for jobs. It seems silly not to take advantage of the government's share of the extracted gold and create jobs. Some 150 workers were laid off when the Canadian-owned mining firm suffered a setback in a lower court that overstepped its responsibilities.

Meanwhile Costa Rica is out begging for foreign aid and takings on enormous loans, not to mention trying to create unjustified new taxes.

Now comes a U.S. firm that has been fighting environmentalists in court since 2000. The company wants to do exploratory drilling in several locations in the northern zone for petroleum and natural gas. The company won approval 11 years ago but has been tied up in the black hole of the Costa Rican judicial system until recently. Now comes the time to actually look for petroleum and gas.

But wait. President Laura Chinchilla says that natural gas
The Friday column.

By the editor of A.M. Costa Rica

is alright but the petroleum should stay in the ground.
This from the president of a country that imports all of its petroleum. She also spoke of a joint venture between government agencies like Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. In other words, let the U.S. company, Mallon Oil Co., provide all the expertise, take all the risks and make all the decisions and then bureaucrats will move in and take a chunk of the profits.

Instead, the Costa Rican agencies should get their own shovels or whatever other devices they choose to use and find their own oil patches and start digging.

There are plenty of oil and gas wells producing needed energy in many beautiful parts of the United States and Canada, and they are not eyesores. The world needs the energy, and alternate sources are still far behind in providing the amount of energy that is needed.

Environmentalists were a prime reason Harken Oil was forced out of its exploratory drilling plans offshore in the Caribbean. Now instead of producing its own petroleum, Costa Rica is an importer. And Harken probably will be a big winner in international arbitration.

At the legislature some lawmakers want to ban drilling for energy in Costa Rica. Maybe they should start by surrendering their government-provided gas hogs and walk to work.

Environmentalists will be gathering Saturday at Plaza de la Cultura to protest petroleum drilling. They ought to walk, too, and thank that guy in Africa who had to go down a dangerous two miles into the earth to get the gold they wear for earrings.

Jo Stuart is taking the week off. She seldom does because she fears editors will use the space to promote the Sarah Palin Fan Club and other right wing causes. Relax, Jo. Today we just promote common sense.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 114

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Poison dart frogs said to the the most athletic species

By the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center

The most toxic, brightly colored members of the poison frog family may also be the best athletes, says a new study.

So-named because some tribes use their skin secretions to poison their darts, the poison dart frogs of the Amazon jungle are well known for their bitter taste and beautiful colors. The spectacular hues of these forest frogs serve to broadcast their built-in chemical weapons: skin secretions containing nasty toxins called alkaloids. Like the red, yellow and black bands on a coral snake or the yellow stripes on a wasp, their contrasting color patterns warn would-be predators to stay away, said lead author Juan Santos of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

As it turns out, the most boldly-colored and bad-tasting species are also the most physically fit, the authors report this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In forests in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panamá, Santos subjected nearly 500 poison frogs — representing more than 50 species — to a frog fitness test. He measured their oxygen uptake during exercise using a rotating plastic tube, turning the tube like a hamster wheel to make the frogs walk.

Santos estimated the frogs' metabolic rates while at rest, and again after four minutes of exercise. The result? The most dazzling and deadly species had higher aerobic capacity than their drab, nontoxic cousins.

"They're better able to extract oxygen from each breath and transport it to their muscles, just like well-trained athletes," Santos said.

Poisonous species owe their athletic prowess to their unusual foraging habits, explained co-author David Cannatella of the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike snakes and other poisonous animals which make their own venom, poison frogs get their toxins from their food.
poison frog
Photo by Cesar Barrio-Amoros
Dendrobates leucomelas, a poisonous frog from Venezuelan Guiana, has higher aerobic capacity than its nontoxic relatives.

"They acquire their alkaloid chemicals by eating ants and mites," Cannatella said.

Because of their picky diet, poisonous frogs have to forage far and wide for food. "Nontoxic species basically stay in one place and don't move very much and eat any insect that comes close to them," Santos said. "But the bright, poisonous frogs are very picky about what they eat."

"It's not like a buffet where they can get everything they need to eat in one place," Cannatella added. "Ants and mites are patchy, so the frogs have to move around more to find enough food."

This combination of toxic skin and bold colors — a syndrome known as aposematism —evolved in tandem with specialized diet and physical fitness multiple times across the poison frog family tree, the authors explained. In some cases the frogs' physical fitness may have evolved before their unusual diet, making it possible to forage for harder-to-find food. But the specific sequence of events was likely different for different branches of the tree, Santos said.

Dispute near Jacó leaves one man dead and a guard hurt

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One man died and another suffered injuries in what appears to have been a confrontation at a home in Herradura near Jacó.

Judicial police identified the dead man by the last name of Bolaños. He was 31. Injured was a man they said was a guard at a property. His name is Sibaja and he is 46, they said.
Agents still do not know exactly what happened but it appears that Bolaños came to the home of Sibaja to seek permission to enter the property to look for a lost dog. The guard denied the permission and a fight broke out.

Then other persons arrived and began shooting. Sibaja went to a local clinic for treatment of a gunshot wound. Later the body of Bolaños was found near the scene of the dispute, judicial police said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 114

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Economy hurts Obama
and his re-election chances

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In U.S. politics, growing concern over the health of the domestic economy is casting a shadow over President Barack Obama’s hopes for re-election next year.

Three opinion polls this week highlight President Barack Obama’s challenge in turning around an increasingly negative public perception of the U.S. economy.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll found the president’s job rating at 47 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove.  That is a five-point drop from a month ago when Obama was enjoying a popularity boost in the wake of the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

“The president has lost roughly half of his bin laden bounce, which means it is still better than it was, but not as good as it was right afterwards,” said Brown.

President Obama’s approval rating is also down in other polls this week conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News and by CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation, and the main reason is what voters see as a sputtering economic recovery.

In the latest Quinnipiac survey, Peter Brown says Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy by a margin of 58 to 36 percent, and 78 percent of those surveyed believe the United States is back in an economic recession.

Brown says that unless voters believe the economy is turning around by the middle of next year, the president will be in for a tough re-election fight in 2012 no matter who the Republicans nominate to run against him.

“Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the economy and the number who think that we are in recession is climbing and the number who think we are in a recovery is dropping.  Those things could change.  If they do not, it will be a close election,” noted Brown.

Democrats are urging the president to refocus on the economy and jobs, and Obama acknowledged this week that his administration is facing what he called some headwinds in trying to spur hiring and economic growth. “I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we are on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen,” he said.

The domestic economy figures to be the top issue in next year’s election, and the Republican presidential contenders are making President Obama’s economic record the main focus of their attacks.

“Unemployment is back over nine percent, our national debt has skyrocketed, our budget deficit is growing worse and the jobs and manufacturing reports are grim.  Now, if that was recovery then our president needs to enter economic rehab,” said former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty as he spoke about the economy in Chicago.

Pawlenty is one of several Republicans hoping to overtake the frontrunner for the party nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Romney continues to place first in polls gauging support for the Republican presidential contenders, including the Quinnipiac poll where he garnered 25 percent support.  Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin placed second with 15 percent, and several other contenders were in single digits.

Pollster Brown says it has been a good few weeks for Mitt Romney. “Mitt Romney obviously has a clear lead.  It is not a huge lead, but it is a clear lead in the race for the Republican nomination.  And the rest of the field is in single digits except for Sarah Palin, and it is not clear yet whether Ms. Palin is going to run or not,” stated Brown.

In addition to Palin, other Republicans who are considering entering the presidential race include Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Petroleum protest planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Preserve the Planet and other environmental groups will protest the possibility of petroleum drilling. They will do so Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Palza de la Cultura.

Mallon Oil Co. has rights it acquired in 2000 to drill in three locations in the northern zone. The environmentalists took notice because the company has emerged victorious form 10 years of court cases.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 114

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dance class
These Grecia students have been studying western line dance for three months.

It's western dance time
at Cajon de Grecia school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elementary students at the Cajon de Grecia are getting some extra training as dancers.

Students in fourth through sixth grade have learned western line dancing as well as cha cha and jitterbug. Younger students are studying tap dancing.

Residents who help at the school said that 12 of the students will compete in a Grecia competition this month. They had a dress rehearsal this week.

Canadians will celebrate
nation's 144th birthday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canadians will be celebrating their day June 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Santa Ana at Zamora Estates.

The celebration marks the country's 144th birthday. The band Bedrock, led by Canadian singer Nancy Wallace, will perform.

The Canada Club Costa Rica is sponsoring the event. Admission and a silent auction will benefit school communities supported by the Asociación Caritativa Canadiense, said an announcement.

Admission is only by advance sale tickets, which are $20. They can be purchased before June 22 from the Association of Residents in Costa Rica (2233-8068) and Out of Bounds Hotel and Tourist Center in Escazú (2288-6762).

The menu features a pig roast, barbeque chicken and the trimmings.

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