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(506) 2223-1327      Published Thursday, June 18, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 119       E-mail us
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Firms responsible until workers get home, court says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala Secunda supreme court for labor cases has found an employer responsible for the wellbeing of a worker up until the individual enters his home.

The case involved a guard at a site in Heredia who left work at midnight and was the victim of a robbery at his very own front door some three hours later. The man suffered a bullet wound to the foot.

The court ordered the employer, Seguridad Elmo S.A., and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros to pay the man 506,587.50 colons for being incapacitated and 89.303 colons for each of five years for a small amount of permanent disability. At the current exchange rate that is about $886 for being incapacitated and about $156 in each of five years.

The man, Victorino Orozco Orozco, suffered the injury Dec. 3, 2001, at his la Carpio home. He had just arrived home in a taxi about 3 a.m., according to court records.

Among other factors, the court magistrates noted the probability of criminal actions in the dark early morning hours.
In making the ruling the magistrates appeared to expand the meaning of two sections of the labor code that protect workers when they are carrying out functions of their jobs.

The magistrates expanded that section to include employees when they are coming from or going to their homes as long as they have not made a deviation for personal purposes

The national insurance company was involved because the security firm carries riesgo de trabajo or workplace insurance

Magistrates were not swayed by the argument by the guard firm's lawyers that the man took three hours to arrive home. Neither was the court swayed by the allegation that the man took his firearm from his job site without permission and that he has a continuing dispute with a neighbor.

Orozco brought the case to two lower courts without success.

By extension, the Sala Secunda decision covers all employees coming and going to work and makes the employer responsible for their safety and wellbeing.


Legislators vote to end July 25 three-day holiday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers approved a bill on first reading Wednesday that would make July 25 a holiday and drop it from the diminishing list of three-day weekends.

The day is the celebration of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya when the powerful in Guanacaste decided to cast their lot with Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua. The 1824 decision assured Costa Rica of its cowboy tradition and the beaches sought by tourists today.

Residents there are jealous of their day and have complained when a 2005 law made the Monday following the date the holiday. The decision Wednesday, if approved on a second reading, will take effect this year, that is if President Óscar Arias Sánchez signs the measure and it is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper quickly.
The original plan was to make three-day holidays to benefit tourism. If this bill becomes law only April 11 and Oct 12 will be celebrated as three-day holidays.

This year July 25 is a Saturday, so workers will lose the Monday holiday if the bill is approved.

The change had little opposition and drew support from all parties.

Even Mario Quirós Lara, the Movimiento Libertario legislator who opposed the change, sent word from Guanacaste Wednesday that he had changed his mind after talking to residents there.

Typically the government moves to the community of Nicoya for a formal ceremony on that date.

This will be the last July 25 holiday for Arias who leaves office May 8.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 119

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Tiny bit of summer returns
for a weekend without storms

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley and Guanacaste will get a quick replay of summer over the next few days when the rains die down.

Summer, of course is that period, usually December to April, when the rains do not fall in Costa Rica. The rest is called winter, when the afternoons are shattered by cracklings and crashes of thunderstorms.

The Instituto Meteorológico National said Wednesday that the Veranillo de San Juan or the little summer of San Juan, could be expected this weekend in the Central Valley. The phenomenon is longer in Guanacaste, and started Wednesday and will run until Monday.

The weather advisory said that some rain can be expected but probably not those heavy showers.

The reason is a buildup of pressure in the atmosphere that seems to bring back the winds that usually drive away the rain during the traditional summer.

The San Juan is St. John the Baptist who is presumed to have been born sometime in late June, based on biblical estimates. Other parts of the country do not benefit by the weather condition.

Finance minister wants
OK for more national debt


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The finance minister told lawmakers Wednesday that they should pass a proposed law that would allow the central government to pay more current expenses with borrowed money.  He also asked them to raise the dollar limit on the nation's internal debt.

The minister, Guillermo Zúñiga, said all this was necessary due to the world financial situation. Tuesday he was talking about new taxes.

One such new tax appeared on the agenda of another committee hearing where lawmakers were considering an increase in the amount that casinos have to pay each year. The proposed increases would generate some 14 billion more colons a year for the government, some $24.5 million, lawmakers said. The measure has been in the legislature for some time but has gained new life because the country needs money due to reduced income.

Casinos pay a flat fee as a form of license now.  The proposal would raise the amounts based on the number of hours a casino is in operation. Theoretically there is a presidential degree limiting the hours, but lawmakers still are talking about permits of from 10 hours to 24 hours a day.

Casinos operating 10 hours a day would pay 947,000 colons ($1,656) a month instead of the current 120,000 ($210). Casinos operating 24 hours a day now pay 320,000 colons ($560) a month. The legislation would up that to 1.8 million colons ($3,147).

Licenses for a slot machine would go from the current 100,000 colons ($175) a month to 630,000 colons ($1,101).

Whenever taxes are discussed, lawmakers seem to be unaware of the concept of diminishing returns. In this case casino operators are likely to take steps to reduce their taxes.

Patricia Quirós Quirós of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said that the tax increases would be an excellent response to the suggestion Tuesday by Zúñiga that more money is needed. The casino tax increase was considered in the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios.

Zúñiga told the Comisión Permanente Ordinaria de Asuntos Económicos that the economic downturn has cost the country 500 billion colons in revenue. That's $874 million. And that is why he wants an increase in the current expenses that can be financed by debt from 25 percent to 28 percent.


Our reader's opinion
Those avoiding toll booths
are really wasting money


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I recently moved to Escazú from Rohrmoser and have witnessed the increased traffic on the main road in Escazú as a result of the 310 colon ($0.55) fare at the toll booth.  I live on the north end of Escazú and travel to Paco often.  It usually takes me about three minutes to get there.  Now, it can take 15 minutes because of the increased traffic. 

If the people using this alternative route to avoid paying the toll believe they are saving money, they are mistaken.  The extended waiting in traffic will waste more than the 310 colons in gas, believe me.  Also, there is a huge difference in time and mileage with using the alternative route that will further add to the gas cost.  I would venture to say that they will spend at least $1 in gas to take the alternate route through Escazú. 

My advice to them is, wise up.   If they are simply doing this out of protest, more power to them.  However, they must suffer the consequences of increased gas cost and time
in traffic. 

I doubt that the Municipalidad de Escazú can do anything about it.  It definitely is making me sorry I moved from Rohrmoser.  Maybe they should put a toll booth on the off ramp for Escazú going east and one at the Guachapelin exit going east.  Maybe that would change their minds. 

Patrick Williams
Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 119

Republic of Panama
Red Mango Real estate
Noda's newest


Tourism institute plans green season blitz of U.S. markets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute says it is embarking on a $500,000 print promotional campaign directed at potential U.S. visitors.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said it was starting the strong campaign with the help of the  Cámara Nacional de Turismo.

Basically the promotional campaign, called Costa Rica Plus, directs potential tourists to a page on the institute's Web site where nearly 100 participating merchants offer discounts or other deals.

For example:

• Nature Air will let two kids under 12 fly free with two adults or provide two days free in a rental car with a round-trip air ticket. So far it is the only airline offering deals.

• Solid Car Rental is offering a full week of a rental car for five days' payment.

• Gray Line Costa Rica is offering $5 off on any one-day tour.

The hotel offerings were not available Wednesday night, but one had been giving away a free spa treatment to guests and the institute said that some hotels were giving the fourth night free with three paid nights.

The institute said that ads would appear in The New York Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and Travel Weekly magazine
Costa Rica Plus
Newspaper ad proposed by tourism institute

starting this weekend. The promotion runs through Aug. 31 and the newspaper ads run through Aug. 8, the institute said. Unlike other institute promotions, the number of visits to the special Web page will be able to provide an accurate count of the response from North America. The coding on the CRPlus page shows a link to Google Analytics.

The ads are supposed to be 6 inches wide by 2 inches, according to the institute, but the example provided Wednesday is 5 inches wide by 2.6 inches high. The bulk of the color is pea green with a lot of small print. Because the ads are in a printed newspaper, there is no Web link, but the Web address is written on the ad.

Tourism this year has been hit hard by the world economic situation and swine flu fears. In addition, Costa Rica faces an ambitious campaign by México where tourism died at the height of the flu scare because the malady was discovered there.

Tourism here is facing the usual rainy season doldrums, and some residents said they were surprised to be among the few individuals visiting some well-known upscale resorts.




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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Kimberly Clark donates
1.7 million diapers


By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Kimberly Clark de Costa Rica is handing out 1.7 million diapers to Costa Rican institutions.

The donations are part of the company's social responsibility, according to Maricruz Rímolo, trade marketing manager.

Wednesday was a busy day. Company representatives dropped off some of 430,000 diapers first at Cuidados Paliativos for use by incontinent adults. By late morning they were at the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (left) where the recipients were and will be adolescent mothers. The Patronato will get a total of 312,000 diapers.

Next week the company representatives will be at the Hospital Nacional de Niños, which will get 761,000 diapers and the Hospital de la Mujer, where 200,000 diapers eventually will be distributed.

The company said that the donation is worth $189,000.



Employers propose a mid-year increase less than 2 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employers have sharpened their pencils and have proposed a 1.83 percent mid-year salary increase. The amount is lower than the 3 percent employer representatives suggested Monday.

Monday is when employee groups and unions suggested a 6 percent increase.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado said that the accumulated inflation only justifies a small increase.  The decision will be made by the Consejo Nacional de Salarios.
The salary adjustments only affect the minimum wage in each occupational category, but many Costa Ricans work for the minimum.

The employer group said that the inflation between January and May was just 1.04 percent, according to government statistics. And that the projected inflation for June is less than a percent at .88 percent, the employer chamber reported.

The employer group also said that any increase should correct the difference between the 7 percent January increase and the actual 6.9 percent inflation in the second half of 2008.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 119


U of Miami and UCR project can predict dengue epidemics
By the University of Miami news service

A team of researchers from the University of Miami and the University of Costa Rica have used global climatological data and local vegetation indexes from Costa Rica, to predict dengue outbreaks in the region.

The new model can predict dengue fever epidemics with 83 percent accuracy, up to 40 weeks in advance of an outbreak and provide information on the magnitude of future epidemics, the researchers said. The model can be expanded to include the broader region of Latin America and the Caribbean, where incidence and spread of the disease has increased dramatically over the past 25 years.

Dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever are the most important vector-borne viral diseases in the World. Around 50-100 million cases appear each year putting 2.5 billion people at risk of suffering this debilitating and sometimes fatal disease.

An early warning system to prevent and mitigate the spread of the disease can potentially be developed using this model, explained Douglas O. Fuller, associate professor and chairman of the department of Geography and Regional Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. He is the principal investigator of this project.

“Such a tool will provide sufficient time for public health authorities to mobilize resources to step up vector control measures, alert at-risk populations to impending conditions and help health professionals plan for increased case loads,” Fuller said.

Vector-born diseases, such as dengue, are ones in which the disease is transmitted from an infected individual to another
by a biological agent. In the case of dengue, one of four closely related dengue viruses is transmitted to humans by
the Aedes aegypti or more rarely the Aedes albopictus mosquito, sometimes with other animals serving as intermediary hosts. Most of the world's population infected by Dengue (also known as “breakbone fever”) is located in tropical and subtropical areas of the globe, where the weather is dominated by rainfall.

This project looks at climate and vegetation variables that have an impact on the mosquito populations in the American tropics, such as El Niño southern oscillations, sea-surface temperatures and seasonal vegetation dynamics that affect evaporation and humidity near the ground.

“We were surprised that sea-surface temperature variations in the Pacific related to El Niño can be linked to a debilitating disease,” Fuller said. “Now we see more clearly that global climate oscillations such as El Niño are important drivers of disease as well”

The study contributes to the rapidly emerging field of climate and infectious disease, which addresses increasing concerns that global warming will exacerbate certain diseases like dengue fever and allow the vectors to spread to more temperate areas. The findings of this study were published earlier this year in the Institute of Physics journal Environmental Research Letters.

The model predicted a major Dengue epidemic of 2005 and has also been tested on data from Trinidad and Singapore with extremely accurate results, Fuller said. Other factors that may contribute to the increased occurrence of dengue dever in the tropics are: global trade, population growth and uncontrolled or unplanned urbanization.

More than 10,000 persons contract dengue each year, mostly on Costa Rica's two coasts, despite aggressive health campaigns to eliminate mosquito breeding locations. As many as 10 persons die from the hemorrhagic fever every year.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 119




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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 week day.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Value of Cuban broadcasts
debated in U.S. Congress


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. lawmakers have heard testimony about continuing weaknesses in U.S. government-funded television broadcasting to Cuba. The General Accounting Office  updated members of Congress on steps taken by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and its Office of Cuba Broadcasting on recommendations to deal with management, morale and other problems.

Since its inception in 1990, TV Marti has been the subject of controversy over cost, contracting, internal management and journalistic issues, and the inability of the Miami-based station to reach enough of the population in Cuba to justify the $500 million spent on the operation so far.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting which runs TV and Radio Marti manages a staff of 153, producing 330 hours of Spanish language broadcasts each week to Cuba, costing nearly $37 million annually.

While TV and Radio Marti have received praise for broadcasting news to people in Cuba, where the government jams foreign signals, TV Marti continues to face internal and external criticism.

Critics continue to question why TV Marti's audience by most accounts has remained small. The station has been the subject of General Accounting Office and State Department investigations into mismanagement and allegations of fraud and abuse.

"I wanted to focus on what seems to me to be a most egregious waste of money. TV Marti does not seem to have an audience. It's a station that no one watches. So why spend all the money on it?," said William Delahunt, a Massachussetts Democrat who heads the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight Subcommittee.

TV Marti transmits over-the-air signals from an aircraft, the Aero Marti, two satellites, and the Internet to get programming into Cuba.

Jess Ford of the General Accounting Office, said that despite using multiple methods, the station's audience remains small based on four telephone surveys conducted since 2003. "The four telephone surveys have reported less than 1 percent of the respondents had watched TV Marti over the past week. Most notably, the most recent surveys in 2006 and 2008 showed no increase in reported TV Marti viewership after the launch of the Aero Marti and Direct Broadcasting," he said.

The General Accounting Office mentions one non-random survey showing that 21 percent of recent Cuban émigrés listened to TV Marti within six months before leaving Cuba, but the agency says these results likely do not represent the actual size of TV Martí's audience.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 119


Latin American news digest
Arenal park is back open
after gigantic burp of ash


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials closed the Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal briefly when the volcano spewed out a bit more rock and ash than normal. Officials evacuated 25 tourists Tuesday but then reopened the park Wednesday morning.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that emergency workers were monitoring the mountain.

Emergency workers have outlined restricted zones on the mountain and encourage visitors to follow the rules.

Arenal is the country's most active volcano and usually spews out rock and ash around the clock. The scene is spectacular in the evening when the superheated ash and rock glow as they fall down the volcano's side.

Arenal is near La Fortuna and is a major tourist attraction.

There is such a thing
as a free train ride


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The railway institute is offering free rides on the Heredia-San José line for the next two weeks, according to information posted within the trains.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles has been silent on the matter and the availability of the train has been distributed by word of mouth. The institute likely will schedule a grand inauguration and prefers not to let most citizens know the train is carrying passengers.

High food prices predicted
during the next 10 years


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A report released in Paris says international food prices will likely remain high during the next decade, although they will probably not hit the heights that sparked riots last year. Experts also say the prices will have a mixed impact in developing countries.

Jointly published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, the report predicts crop prices will be 10 to 20 percent higher during the next decade than during the previous 10 years.

"The basic message is that because input prices are higher, because biofuel remains high, this is going to keep real prices for agriculture [higher] than in the early part of the decade," said economist Merrit Cluff at the Food and Agricultural Organization.




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