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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, June 16, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 118           E-mail us
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rail line problems
Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles photo
The proposed rail line to Cartago faces a few obstacles. The right-of-way is overgrown, and some commercial and residential buildings have intruded into the space where the trains will
run. Highway workers have even placed asphalt over the line at some crossing. Work started Wednesday to bring the line up to modern standards. The story is HERE!


Twice yearly battle over salaries beginning again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The twice yearly battle over the minimum wage has begun.

The Consejo Nacional de Salarios eventually will fix the percentage of the wage increase that will take effect July 1.

Union representatives have asked for a 6.82 percent increase. An employer group proposed 2.6413 percent Wednesday.

Both proposals have a basis in the economy. The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados wants an increase that not only reflects the inflation that has taken place this year but also in anticipation of inflation during the last half of the year.

The employers group, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said the increase should reflect the inflation that has taken place. The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos estimates the inflation from January to May to be 2.209 percent, noted the employers group. The estimated inflation for May is less than 1 percent at .6442.

The salary council most likely will pick a figure between the two proposals.
The decision has an impact on expats who hire employees, even if the worker is just a housekeeper. Most employees work at the minimum wage, which is different for every job classification. A typical wage now might be 228,000 colons a month or about $455.

However, minimum wages can go up to 500,000 a month or about $1,000, depending on the job classification. Some minimum wages are hourly.

Not only do employers pay the increase, but an additional percentage of the wage hike goes to the employees when the obligatory Christmas bonus is figured.

Plus the employer, if he or she is following the law, must pay an additional amount to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for social security fees. There also is a small increase in the workmen's compensation premium because the amount is based on the total salaries paid.

Tough economic times have caused many employers to reduce their workforce to save on salaries and social security charges.

If the Consejo de Salarios does not reach a decision by July 1, employers will have to reimburse workers based on the new figures whenever the amounts are set.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 118

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rain in San Pedro
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Soaked power lines and telephone cables sparkle under the light of a street lamp late Wednesday after a heavy rain.

Heavy evening rainstorms
show up right on time

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A heavy rainstorm swept through the metro area Wednesday night, and the national weather service said that more rain is expected for today.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted the evening rains in a morning bulletin.  However, the rain appears to be more confined to the Central Valley than the weather service expected.

The culprit is a low pressure area that is now off the Pacific coast of northern Central America. The U.S. Nacional Hurricane Center said there was about a 30 percent chance that the low pressure area would strengthen into a tropical cyclone. Another tropical wave is expected to pass through Central America today, and this may interact with the low pressure system, the center said.

The weather institute said that much of the country would have afternoon rains and cloudy skies, but the Pacific coast is expected to have partly sunny conditions.

The storm Wednesday night dumped 2.25 inches of rain on Juan Santamaría airport in just a few hours. The automatic weather station there measured 57.1 millimeters.

There was less rain downtown. The automatic station at the weather institute's headquarters near Hospital Calderón Guardia measured 19.5 millimeters from 7 to 10 p.m. That's .76 of an inch. There also was significant rain in Ciudad Colón. The weather station at the University for Peace measured 39.9 millimeters or 1.57 inches.

Hot line set up for info
about new cell phone towers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New entries into the telecommunications field are putting up towers around the country, but they are having trouble. Although they have received permission for the central government to operate, permits for constructing telecom towers are the responsibility of the municipalities.

The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones said Wednesday that it has set up a hot line for municipal officials who seek technical information about towers. That line is 800-88-78835. The Superintendencia expects questions about height, area requirements, radiation and electromagnetic waves, it said. The line is not for the public who might have complaints or questions about the towers.

The two companies, America Movil and Telefonica, have an obligation to service about 28 percent of the country in the first year. Eventually they must service 95 percent of the national territory within five years.

 
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, Thursday, June 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 118
Latigo K-9

These guys seem to have slipped through the judicial cracks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judiciary has lost track of two men. One was supposed to show up for trial in an international drug trafficking case. The other faces 18 years in prison for kidnapping for ransom.

The suspected trafficker is Alexander Villalobos Brenes, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. He promised to show up for trial, so a judge placed him under what are known as medidas cautelares. The typical requirement is that the suspect sign in with prosecutors every 15 days.

But Villalobos did not show for his trial last month, judicial agents reported. He also seems to have changed his residence, they said.

The second individual, William Segura Jiménez, already has been convicted, said judicial agents. That happened in 2005 and the sentence was 18 years. As is normally the case, the trial court sentence was appealed, and a higher
fugitives
             Villalobos                               Segura


court reviewed the conviction. In the case of Segura, the conviction stands. But he is no where to be found. Agents said they expected that he is using a false identity.

Judicial agents asked that anyone who can help them to call 800 8000 645.


Administration planning to double number of tourist police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Chinchilla administration will be doubling the number of tourist police from 312 to about 600, thanks to 300 million colons promised by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo for the next four years. That's about $600,000.

The agreement was signed Wednesday by Allan Flores, tourism minister, and Mario Zamora, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Since 2006, the tourism institute has invested 223 million
colons in the Policía de Turismo, officials said. That's about $446,000.

Zamora said that the special police force has been able to reduce by 40 percent crimes reported by tourists. Tourism police are trained as Fuerza Pública officers, but they have special emphases on identification of forged documents and other aspects of law enforcement related to their main job. Many also are trained to speak English.

The force has nearly 100 bicycles that are in daily use in areas with high concentrations of tourists.


Passers-by cannot miss the doves, which are well over six feet tall, not counting the globe on which they rest. They will be placed at strategic locations all around the downtown.
Peace Parade
Municipalidad de San José photo

If you missed the cows, there is a chance to paint a dove
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember the life-size fiberglass cows in the downtown? Well now there are gigantic, larger than life-sized doves.

The first went up last week on the pedestrian boulevard not far from Teatro Nacional.  The project is being sponsored by the Municipalidad de San José.  Just like the 130 life-size cows in the 2008 Cow Parade, the doves will be tackled by artists. Most will be school children, but some professionals  also will get to decorate a dove.
The decorations will take place in August, and the finished products will be judged in September and remain on display for the rest of the year.

Grupo Vallas y Gigantografías, the outdoor advertising company, is the prime sponsor of what is being called Peace Parade. This is the same company that sponsored the Cow Parade.

The event was a benefit with the majority of the money raised selling the painted cows going to charities.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 118


CR home

Cartago route
Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles/A.,M. Costa Rica graphic

Work begins to provide passenger rail service to Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Work began Wednesday to clear the rail right-of-way from Curridabat to Cartago so that passenger service can resume.

The rail line is overgrown with weeds, trees, dirt and the occasional structure. Once cleared, workers for the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles will rip up the old rails and cross ties and install everything new. The institute has had plenty of experience trying to make do with the old line. The initial runs by trains from San José to Heredia were on tracks patched together. That is why a train carrying then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez derailed.

So the institute replaced all the wooden cross ties with concrete, installed new rails and mountains of gravel. There have been no derailments since.

The valley line now runs from Belén, where the institute will be installing a second station, to Curridabat. The 23.5 kilometers (about 14.5 miles) is being rehabilitated with the help of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The work will be in four phases, and the first stage will be from Freses to Cipreses de Curridabat.

Then the way will be repaired from Cipreses to Tres Ríos and then from there to Ochomogo. The last sections will be between Ochomogo and Vicesa and from there to Cartago. The whole project is a $6 million job, said the institute.


Workers have to install drainage systems and culverts to protect the rail line and replace about 35,000 cross ties. They also have to install the ballast stones and repair bridges.

Cartago has not had train service for 15 years, but last Costa Rican independence day President Laura Chinchilla promised residents there that the train would run again.

Officials hope to have the right-of-way prepared by September, but because there are private structures intruding on the public property, there is a chance that lengthy eviction proceedings might take place.

Train service will be a boon for commuters. Many now take cars or buses from as far away as Turrialba each day to work in the metro area. Officials hope that train service will reduce air pollution, too. Eventually they hope to electrify the entire line, but there is no money to do that now. Diesel engines pull the cars now.

The institute also has plans to bring rail service to Alajuela.

The rails now connect Caldera on the Pacific coast with the metro area, but passenger service is limited to some weekend tourism trips. Eventually rail planners want to push further east to Turrialba and beyond to join with an existing line in the province of Limón. That will give coast-to-coast coverage for cargo shipments and perhaps passengers.

Business executive seeks to rent or buy luxury apartment or condo in the downtown area. Walking distance to Plaza de la Cultura preferred. Contact: apartment@amcostarica.com.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 118

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Controversial U.S. hearing
on Muslim prison recruits


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The House Homeland Security Committee has held a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims in U.S. prisons.  Several state and local law enforcement officials told the panel that radical Islamic groups abroad are targeting the U.S. prison population for recruits to carry out terrorist attacks against Americans.  But some Democrats on the committee protested the narrow focus of the hearing on one religious group, saying there are other serious threats, including prison gangs.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a Republican, strongly defended his decision to hold the second in a series of hearings on the threat of radicalization of Muslim Americans.

This hearing focused on the conversion to radical Islam of some U.S. prison inmates, which King said is an increasing threat. "I will say that again: dozens of ex-cons who became radicalized Muslims inside U.S. prisons have gone to Yemen to join an Al Qaeda group run by a fellow American, Anwar al-Awlaki, whose terrorists have attacked the U.S. homeland several times since 2008 and are generally acknowledged to be Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate," he said.

Most of the Democratic members of the committee objected to the narrow focus of King's hearings, pointing out that there are many different kinds of violent prison gangs, and white supremacist groups which also operate inside prisons and pose a threat.

The ranking Democratic member, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said, "Limiting this committee's oversight of radicalization to one religion ignores threats posed by violent extremists of all stripes.  And there are other threats to be concerned about."

Thompson said the number of violent attacks by people who converted to Islam in prison is small compared to the problem of gang violence emanating from prisons.  One of the experts testifying to the panel, Bert Useem of Purdue University, agreed, saying prisons are not fertile ground for those who would seek to recruit Islamic terrorists.

But the other witnesses to the panel disagreed, saying the threat of Islamic radicalization within U.S. prisons is real. 

Ash from volcano in Chile
continues to delay air travel


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A cloud of ash from a volcano in Chile is disrupting air travel for a fourth day Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of flights in South America, Australia and New Zealand. 

More than 60,000 passengers have already been stranded.

Virgin Australia said Wednesday the ash cloud would be too low to avoid on flights to and from Perth, the largest city in western Australia.  Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar also cancelled flights to Perth.  The Perth airport says it is open and urged passengers to check with airlines to see if their flights would go ahead.

The Australian carrier Qantas said all flights in and out of the southern island of Tasmania and to New Zealand remained grounded since Sunday, but it lifted a ban on flights to and from the southern Australian city of Melbourne.  Air New Zealand and Virgin Air changed flight paths to continue service between Australia and New Zealand and Tasmania.

The volcano in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain in Chile has been erupting for several days.  In addition to Argentina and Chile, flights have been disrupted in Brazil and Uruguay.

Venezuelan prison toll
set at 19 dead in El Rodeo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's minister of interior and justice says the death toll from a Sunday prison riot has risen to 19.

The minister, Tareck El Aissami, said Tuesday that as many as 20 inmates were wounded in the violence that erupted at the El Rodeo prison.

Overcrowding and violence are common in Venezuelan prisons.  President Hugo Chavez's government has established a new ministry dedicated exclusively to prisons and allocated nearly $100 million to humanize prison conditions.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 118

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Heredia arrerst
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Police are putting one of the suspects into the transportation vehicle.

Quick action by law officers
leads to capture of suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police based in Heredia were able to catch three robbery suspects Wednesday quickly enough after a crime that the men will be subjected to immediate justice in the flagrancy court.

Fuerza Pública officers said that three persons held up a coffee delivery truck and fled in a white vehicle. That took place in the section of Heredia known as Mercedes Sur. The robbers locked the delivery driver into the box of the truck, but somehow he was able to alert police.

Officers said they had road checkpoints set up minutes after the robbery and managed to stop the suspect vehicle in Belén.

Officers said they recognized two of the persons in the car, identified by the last names of Bonilla Marín and Álvarez Jiménez, as men with a police record of robbery and illegally carrying a weapon. Police did not explain why they were not already in prison. The third person in the vehicle was a minor, 16.

Police said they recovered items that were stolen from the delivery truck, and that was enough to bring the men into flagrancy court, which is designed to handle cases when the suspects are caught red-handed or nearly so.





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