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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, June 14, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 115        E-mail us
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Police sweep directed at city's unpopular workers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Academics describe them as unpopular people involved in an unpopular business. Taxi drivers who see new arrivals to San José staring at the elegant and obviously available figures on the corner are quick to break the mood with "Hey, they're guys!"

Fuerza Pública officers, purportedly to protect tourists, swept the area north of Parque Morazán Saturday night and interviewed  about 50 persons, they said. Many were the transvestite prostitutes who work the various streets. But police also said they checked out security guards, those who watch vehicles and apparent female prostitutes.

Police made no arrests in the sweep. Prostitution is not penalized here.

Fuerza Pública officers said they ran identity checks around the Hotel Aurola Holiday Inn, the Hotel Britannia and several night clubs. Usually police are not seen much in these areas at night, although sometimes there is a police presence in Parque Morazán.

Police officers did not report sweeping the Plaza Víquez area or the side streets down to Avenida 18 where other groups of sex workers congregate.

The basic rule that many men follow in Costa Rica is that if she is on the street, she is a he.  Others seek out the transvestites, which sometimes are objects of violence. Several have been killed in recent years, presumably by customers who act out of self contempt.

In one case, a transvestite prostitute was stabbed to death by a man who arrived in a pickup truck near Hospital Clinica Biblica. A week later the man returned in the same truck seeking to pick up a prostitute. Friends of the murder victim quickly pointed him out to the police.

There are lesser humiliations every night, and the sex workers sometimes respond by roughing up passers-by and doing small-scale street robberies.

Surprisingly there are a number of books and academic reports on San Jose's transvestite prostitutes. Many come from Jacobo Schifter, who was associated with the Instituto Latinoamericano de Prevención y Educación en Salud. The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Inc., at Indiana University has an extensive report on sexual aspects of Costa Rica in its International Encyclopedia of Sexuality.

Schifter said, based on 1990s research that an
police checking
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
Police officer checks the identification of an individual on Avenida 7.

estimated 100 to 150 transvestite prostitutes on an
average night have 600 sexual contacts with customers. Schifter also pointed out that many men dress as women at times but do not work as prostitutes. The range of sexual orientation and practices are wide, according to the literature. The customers come from a broad spectrum, too, Schifter said, noting that many are married and with children.

Some of the more committed transvestite prostitutes make heavy use of hormones and other drugs to make their bodies conform to the feminine ideal. And some make use of plastic surgery.

Women sometimes admire the look of the transvestites on the corner because, as men, they are taller and usually have longer legs. One blond sex worker on Avenida 7 tops 6-foot, six-inches in spiked heels.

Schifter and others describe a class generally rejected by their own families who turn to prostitution as the only way to make a living.

Anna Arroba, a Costa Rican academic who wrote an essay for Kinsey, said the active prostitutes spend a great deal of their earnings on their clothes, make-up, and wigs.

Not much is in the literature about transvestites in other parts of Costa Rica. Residents in Heredia complained about transvestite prostitution in their town last Christmas, and police conducted a smaller sweep there of perhaps less than 15 individuals.

There was no indication that the police sweep Saturday was anything other than routine. Nevertheless, political observers expect a conservative and religious Laura Chinchilla to use her powers as president to crack down on public sexual solicitations as well as centers for such activities.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 115

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arrested for robbery
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública 

One of the robbery suspects is placed in the police transport vehicle.

Drug rehab center harbored
two wanted in robbery cases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública raided an unlicensed drug rehabilitation center over the weekend and found that two persons there were wanted and that four persons may not be legal residents.

The two who were arrested face allegations of aggravated robbery in separate cases. The persons detained for investigation by immigration were three Nicaraguans and a Colombian, said the Fuerza Pública. The facility that held 30 men is in Claret de Barrio México.

Caribbean seminars to help
young people plan their lives


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Puerto Viejo businessman is offering two 10-day workshops as tools that can show college-age young adults how to achieve their dream.

The organizer, Barry Stevens, authored a book on life planning. He has operated the non-profit The Bridge, which provides microcredits to Talamancan residents.

The seminars are directed at young adults who may be overwhelmed by the choices presented to them, Steven said on his Web site. One session begins July 9 and the second Aug. 6.

Participating will be Christine Bradley, a medical doctor who is trained in counseling and crisis resolution, and Sharon St. James, who has significant experience in tools that can help reduce stress, increase mental clarity and strengthen the body, said the organization.

Our reader's opinion
There are more poor here
than most people think

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to commend Manuel Avendaño Arce for his article "Life can still be a struggle even in this paradise." If anything, I think he understates the problem.

According to a paper published by the International Monetary Fund, “The informal economy comprises those economic activities that circumvent the costs and are excluded from the benefits and rights incorporated in the laws and administrative rules covering property relationships, commercial licensing, labor contracts, torts, financial credit and social systems.”

The same paper estimates that in the early 2000s, Costa Rica's “informal” economy comprised around 42 percent of gross domestic product. You don't have to be a genius to see the "informal" economy here. You need anything? How about some genuine fake Ray-Ban sunglasses? How about some nearly-authentic, nearly-Cuban Cohiba cigars? Look at the price of those Rolex watches! Need socks? Prepaid telephone cards? Feel like buying some original black velvet artwork? Chiclets?  How about the latest release on DVD? The latest hits on CD? Some Michael Jackson? All that and more is available on the streets. If you can get half a block without seeing a street vendor, it only means you are in a deserted neighborhood.

The government's response to this problem is about what it's always been. They commission a study, employ some relatives, overpay them, then do a few PR moves and retreat to their mansions, behind the razor wire and private armed guards. The truth is that the oligarchy here is quite happy with lots of unemployed people . . .  keeps the cost of labor down. They just don't want bad PR. The number of people who never got past the sixth grade is staggering, and it's because it costs about $300 for every child in a family to start the new school year. Considering the average family size and average family income, it's a wonder they can keep the kids in school even to age 12.

There are, in theory, government programs to aid the poor, but the percentage of the poor that actually get any help is abysmal. I know a single mom who has been on the waiting list for three years to get aid paying for school expenses. Her kids will likely have dropped out before the program gets around to helping her, if it ever does. The 'social safety net' here is a joke, but those who prefer not to see the ugly face of poverty like to believe it works. It doesn't. Anybody who doubts the extent of poverty and unemployment here is invited to take a tour with me through a few of the slums. You might want to bring along a few armed guards.

Alejandro Martínez Coronado is just one of (many) hundreds of thousands living on the edge of economic disaster every day. It's not getting better. Costa Rica is not the worst place to be poor, since nobody is going to freeze to death at least. It's not paradise though, unless you chose the right parents.
Daniel Evans
San José

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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

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

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


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 115

Krav maga
Rock and Roll


Autopista operator succumbs to the obvious decision
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport ministry officials took the obvious step and ordered the concession holder for the Autopista del Sol to shut down a dangerous stretch where rocks were falling on motorists.

Workers started detouring motorists off the seven-mile section Saturday morning. Traffic is following the former main highway, Ruta 1, that was replaced as the main San José-Pacific coast route by the new highway.

The closed section is between Atenas and Orotina where engineers allowed steep hillsides alongside the highway. A motorcyclist hit a boulder last month and a woman passenger later died. Other motorists have been showered with rocks and mud. There have been other injuries.

The closing is supposed to be for two weeks, but that depends on the progress of the work.

The company Autopista del Sol S.A., still is working on a plan to make the highway safer. Earlier projects installed a cement covering on some hillsides and chain link mesh elsewhere. These fixes have proved to be inadequate.
Last week workers with heavy machinery were cutting back hillsides, but rocks kept tumbling.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes approved the plans for the highway, which was considered a major achievement of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration. After 32 years of planning and abortive work, the highway finally opened.

Both the ministry and the concession holder resisted closing the highway until public pressure forced the closing. There also were highly negative engineering reports.

A solution might be a long way off. Some of the property on the hillsides is under private ownership. In one location, the elevated right-of-way of the country's train system runs close to the end of a hillside.

Although the concession holder has used rock bolts in some locations to hold the hillside together, most of the material is fractured and crumbling.

Some early work has created a terraced hillside, but there is no vegetation, and rains are likely to do some contouring, too.


Strange case of cross-border flight being investigated
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Smugglers do not often use a crop dusting plane unless they are insistent on carrying contraband insecticide.

So why a Costa Rican pilot flew a crop duster from a private Nicoya air strip to Nicaragua is still being sorted out by police.

Then there is the vehicle in which three persons were riding. The vehicle is related to the aircraft, according to the Fuerza Pública. Officers stopped the vehicle Saturday morning in Puerto Soley de Cuajiniquil, La Cruz, in northwestern Costa Rica. Inside were a Mexican, a Czech and a Costa Rican. The Costa Rica was reported to be the owner of record of the aircraft. The Czech already has been
the subject of an extradition proceeding in the courts in
 Puntarenas, said police. The Costa Rican has a prior arrest for drug trafficking.

The aircraft attracted attention when it landed Friday night in Cañas Gordas de Rivas, Nicaragua, because it was then abandoned. Callers told police they saw packages being dropped from the plane. Nicaraguan police later detained a man, identified by the last names of Vargas René, said police here. Police said they thought he was the pilot.

The single seat, high performance aircraft appears not to be currently registered in either Costa Rica or Nicaragua although it carries a Costa Rican number.

After being interviewed, the three persons in the vehicle were freed, police said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 115


Spirit flights grounded at least until Tuesday, company says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Spirit Airlines, which serves Costa Rica and the Caribbean from the United States, has canceled its flights through Tuesday because the Air Line PIlots Association has called a strike.

Spirit Airlines is continuing to work with our pilot union to reach a fair and equitable agreement that ensures the long-term stability of the company, and allows us to continue offering you the ultra low fares you have come to know and love, the company said.

According to Spirit, the Air Line Pilots Association turned down a compounded average 29 percent pay increase costing the company an additional $70 million over five years.  This 29 percent pay increase when combined with annual step increases totals a 47 percent increase in annual compensation over five years, prior to any overtime pay, signing bonus and 401K matching contribution increases, the company said.

Under the proposal, pilots also would get a $3,000 signing bonus and maintain their rights to a four-day layover between flights, said Spirit. There also would be company contributions to 401K retirement accounts.
Spirit said it is processing future flight credits for customers for the full amount of their unflown flight purchase and is also giving them a $100 future flight credit. Customers also can seek a full refund, the airline said.

“It is surprising to me that ALPA would turn down this generous offer that would have paid senior captains over $200,000 per year,” said, Ben Baldanza, Spirit Airlines president, speaking of the pilots union.  “I am concerned that our employees are being used in a broader political game that may not be in the interest of their careers or their families.

"This deal should be about Spirit and Spirit only, not about the pilots whose contracts are under negotiation at other ALPA carriers, but it would appear other forces have intervened.”

Spirit pilots have been negotiating for three years. The Spirit pilots said that the current pay is less than at other airlines and that the company's proposals only keep up with anticipated inflation.

There are about 440 pilots and the company puts about 150 flights in the air each day.



Another trough of low pressure reported entering country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another tropical wave entered Costa Rica about 6 p.m. Sunday, but the low pressure trough does not seem to be causing as much rain as the weather experts feared.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted rain on the Caribbean and in the northern zone over night. But by 1 a.m. Monday the automatic reporting stations in the Caribbean reported only slight amounts of rain.

The heaviest rain Sunday appeared to be in Liberia where 17.3 millimeters fell. That's about seven-tenths of an inch. But the rain had little to do with the tropical wave because it all fell in the afternoon.
Forecasters are nervous about tropical waves because one brought heavy rain and violent winds to the Central Pacific coast two weeks ago.

The current wave is No. 16.  The weather institute said that prior to the arrival of the low pressure trough that some rain in the northern zone and the Caribbean was increasing the levels of the Río Cariblanco and the Río Sarapiquí. The water was coming from the mountains where there are no automatic weather stations to measure downfall.

San José and the rest of the Central Valley had some steady, light rain Sunday afternoon. But there were no reports of flooding


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 115

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.N. rights council hears
from trafficking victims


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Human trafficking is relatively risk-free because it usually is the victim and not the victimizer who is regarded as the criminal and prosecuted. To redress this wrong, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva invited several trafficking survivors to relate their first-hand experiences and to act as the voice for the voiceless.

There are common threads that run through all of their stories. Victims fall prey to traffickers who may be people they trust, parents, neighbors, friends and relatives. All go abroad in the hope for a better life.

"I went to the United States thinking that I was going to be working as a nanny and I ended up being a prostitute, not by my choice," said Kikka Cerpa. "Somebody else put me to do it."

It was her boyfriend who persuaded her to leave Venezuela in 1992 and go to New York. She went to live with her boyfriend's cousin and a friend. She says they beat her and raped her and forced her to work as a prostitute to pay off her boyfriend's debts.

She says she lived as a prostitute for three years and was helped to escape by a customer, who then forced her to become his personal slave. She says she lived with him for 10 years and had two daughters.

"And, I could never leave him because every time that I tried to leave, he said that he will use my criminal conviction and he will have me deported from the United States and I would never visit my daughters anymore," said Ms. Cerpa.

She finally did escape. She sought a court order of protection. Instead, she says, her daughters were taken away from her and she was accused of being a criminal.

Eventually, with the help of an organization, Sanctuary for Families, she says she managed to free herself from the pimps and madams who had controlled her life.

Charlotte Awino's story is different, but no less compelling. She was 14-years old when the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army abducted her in 1996 from her boarding school.

"We were taken away from the school campus heading nowhere," she said. "Walking the whole time. Made to carry baggage. And, we were taken to southern Sudan and all that time there was raping, working in the gardens, digging, carrying luggage, being a slave, being beaten was the order of the day and threats. If you want to escape, definitely you were killed."

Ms. Awino says she was held as a sex slave for eight years. She was 22 years old and had two children when she finally managed to escape. She says she remains haunted by the memories of those lost, traumatic years.

"I am not here just to, you know, visit Geneva or anything. I am here to represent the victims of trafficking where they do not have a voice," said Ms. Awino. "No one is there for them. And, nothing is being done, even if they escape back home. Since no one cares, I am just here to be a voice of the voiceless and ask the world to do something for such victims."

Unlike the previous victims, Kumar Ramjali describes how he was trafficked for labor exploitation. He says a Jordanian company recruited him in his native Nepal in 2004 to work in America.

Unfortunately, Kumar says he soon realized he had been duped with the promise of a good job and good money. Instead of going to America, he says he was sent to Iraq where he ended up working at a U.S. military base against his will. He says his passport was confiscated and he was not allowed to leave for four years.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 115


Latin American news
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Court will not permit
gates at subdivision entries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has struck down two efforts by residents to keep their subdivisions free of transients.

The court ordered the relevant municipalities to remove access gates. That action was against the municipalities of Curridabat and Santa Ana, which must actually take steps to eliminate the protective measures.

The subdivisions are Altos de Granadilla and Río Oro. The court said that free transit is the right of all citizens and that there is no obligation to submit to any type of restrictions.

In Curridabat, the complaining individual, a woman identified by the last names of Valerio Jiménez, said that since the gate was installed persons who do not live in the subdivision cannot enter unless they explain their presence to a security guard. In addition, she said, there is no free access to a public park inside the subdivision.

The complaining individual in Río Oro de Santa Ana was identified by the last names of Arroyo Barrera. He also objected to be asked why he wanted to enter the subdivision.


Canadian woman facing
allegation over child


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian woman who lives in Jacó Centro is being investigated for mistreating a 4 year old who has been living with her since he was six months, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents searched the woman's home Thursday and said they found the child living in some form of wooden and metal construction at the rear of the house. The Poder Judicial identified the woman by the last name of Kuckuck.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the woman took the child from a mother who could not care for it. However, a potential adoption four years ago was not completed in the courts due to a lack of paperwork, said agents.

The child was remanded to the care of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.

Investigators said they got a complaint two weeks ago about the treatment of the child, but they did not specify who made it.


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