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(506) 2223-1327                        Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 122                          Email us
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Judiciary restricts key files on crimes and lawsuits
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has quietly made private a data base that contains the names of individuals and corporations who have faced or are facing civil and criminal charges.

A U.S. private detective who does business in Costa Rica is leading a crusade —so far unsuccessful —  to have the public records again open to the public.

The data base is called the online consultation system, but a key link, that to the names of parties in court cases is not working and a notation says that this particular information is undergoing maintenance.  However, Lena White Curling, identified as the Poder Judicial's contralora de servicios, said in an email to the investigator that the agency was just following the law.

“As I explained, Costa Rican Law (also several constitutional court rulings) has limited the court's ability to continue providing the information you request, so complying with your request would be solely in the hands of the members of our congress (Asamblea Legislativa),” she said.

The investigator, Seth Derish, had asked for a meting with a Corte Suprema magistrate who was involved in the situation. The magistrate had not responded. Ms. White suggested the magistrate was busy with court activities.

“Under the previous system, any member of the public with access to the Internet could check the name of a person or corporation or by their cédula number to see if they had civil and criminal cases in most major judicial districts,” said Derish.   They could then get a list of documents filed in the case and whether it was open or shut.  They could not get personal data from this type of search such as dates of birth, or cédula numbers, etc. “

He noted that such information is vital for anyone doing due diligence before becoming involved in business with firms or persons in Costa Rica.

Many Costa Rican court proceedings, except full trials, frequently are closed, as are the case files. Only those involved in the cases and their lawyers may see the files.

Derish said that he had been told that the restriction was enforced because access to the data base is under review because of a law for the protection of personal data. He said he was unsuccessful in getting a copy of the directive that ordered this change.
Judicial Web page
The judicial Web page down for 'maintenance.'

Said Derish:

“While this was an admirable attempt at protecting the privacy of all residents of Costa Rica, some agencies are taking this law too far and restricting their data in a way that will impede the public's right to know. Making this search only available to those with passwords (just who are these people?), would mean that only government officials will have access to this information and keep the public in the dark about many things — for example, if someone is running for public office and has a criminal or civil fraud background; if your neighbor has been charged with murder or rape or child molestation; if you or a company want to do business with an individual or business and you want to know if they have any prior financial or legal problems. 

“Costa Rica is already receiving a black eye in the international financial community for its inconsistent government decision regarding investors, and now this will add fuel to the fire if proper due diligence cannot be conducted by interested parties.”
He noted that much private information is readily available from the Registro Civil via the Internet. The Registro keeps information on births, deaths, marriages, divorces, cédula numbers and birth dates.  In addition local credit reporting agencies have all sorts of information in their files, including personal telephone numbers and salaries that are available for a fee.

“Only old fashioned dictatorships keep court records secret,” Derish said.  “Costa Rica can do better than that and work with interested parties to fashion a data protection law that balances the needs of an emerging democracy with that of the public's right to know essential information.”

His firm, Costa Rica Investigations, S.A., has had an office in San Jose for 15 years.

Nature may
this year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Typically there is a break from the rain each June between the 22nd and the 26th. This is called the  Veranillo de San Juan because the liturgical feast day of San Juan is June 24. the English translation would be "the little summer."

Costa Ricans live for this short break from wet weather. The dry period is a function of winds aloft.

But probably not this year, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. A report released Tuesday said that June has been irregular in precipitation and there have been less than average rainfall in the Central Valley.

The weather institute blamed this on the neutral condition of the La Niña-El Niño phenomenon in the central Pacific.

In short, residents may have already had their  Veranillo de San Juan, and the coming days will be wetter. That is because the forecast is for more humidity to enter the country and create unstable weather conditions. Instead of dry days when the park or golf course beacons, the weather institute said that there will be afternoon rains and thunderstorms.

In addition temperatures will be warmer than the average thereby encouraging the formation of mare rain clouds.

The real Costa Rican summer is the high season, mainly December through April. The rest of the year, the rainy season, is called winter here.

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A motorist would want to stay well on the pavement here.

Retaining wall completed
to secure spectacular drop off

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who does not think that Costa Rica is a work in progress needs to take a trip along Ruta 222 between Tarbaca and Tranquerillas de Aserrí. This is a key local road that is used by residents of  Frailes and La Sierra.

One would want to avoid visiting during a heavy storm or on a moonless night. A spectacular dropoff is just a few feet from the road edge. The highway was undercut last year by rain from several heavy storms, including Hurricane Rina.

Consejo Nacional de Vialidad has spent 272 million colons or about $544,000 to construct a retaining wall anchored to the hillside with large bolts and other devices. That is suppose to secure the roadway from future erosion. The Consejo also orders the construction of drainage systems that control the water and keep it away from key parts of the hillside.

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 122
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A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
At the supermarket or just somewhere along the street, locals seek renters.
A newcomers guide to finding a reasonable apartment in the city
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You are fresh off the plane, umbrella in hand for the rainy season and awe struck by the towering mountainous skyline: A true Gringo ready to make the best of the Costa Rican Pura Vida motto.  Now what?

When thinking of moving to a new country, the first question to ask is "Where do I live?" Many find the task of searching for a home or apartment daunting. However, with the right tools, it doesn't have to be.

Here is my findings as I journeyed across San José on the apartment hunt.

The cyber world

The world tells you anything you want can be found in the classifieds.  This generation knows the Internet is the place to begin any search, especially if you don't have any knowledge of the area. Combine them both together and you end up with Craigslist.  The Costa Rican Craigslist has updated listings everyday from individuals and businesses.  Prices for apartment and room rentals are listed along with contact numbers. Use pictures and Web sites, as well as personal judgement to weed out the creepies and choose what is trustworthy. 

The local English-language publications, and, also have specific sections for rentals.  Real estate agents advertise here, so the rent can be costly.

The truth is, no one knows the area better than the Ticos or long-time residents.  Forums such as Costa Rican Living on Yahoo allows you to post a question, and local expats will respond with questions.  Also sites like and will allow you to send direct messages individuals who share your interest of travel. With luck, they may have a room to rent.

The streets

Once you have overloaded your brain with information, scribbled down countless phone numbers and addresses, accessed every site possible, and ruled out things that does not fit your budget, it's time to get out in the streets and explore your options.  However, before you unleash yourself to the Costa Rican wild, there are two important things you should know.  The first, addresses are given by landmarks and not street signs.  Coincidently, streets are not marked at every intersection, but with signs sporadically placed on businesses.  This means unless your map gives you sodas instead of calles, you will get lost. 

The other thing to know is "walk signs" are few, and to cross the street you must put yourself out there and hope you don't get hit.
Online sources are great but some are dangerous.

While walking the streets, it's useful to stop at supermarkets and check telephone poles for locals advertising rooms.  Also, at language schools you can find host family options or check with students to see if they are looking for people to share space.

The bottom line

The hierarchy of places to live by price runs hotel, apartment, hostels, room in a house.  Each place offers you the basics: a bed, lights, water, wifi and cable.  Breakfast can be included depending on the place, and usually laundry for $10 extra. That's way more than you can ever have in the States, so you are already in a good situation.

My findings show that the average place will cost you around $400 a month.  If willing to share your space, and use a little charm, you can get the price down to around $250 at a hostel. Most places are willing to negotiate, because their bookings are down, and they need to fill space.  For example, newly opened Hostel Urbano in San Pedro had less than 10 borders Tuesday.  The bright side to that is you may be able to pay a dorm price, and get a room to yourself. The lowest price for a room was $150 a month. That had a shared bath.

Hostels may sound scary, but in retrospect they can be quite cosy.  For example, Kaps Place in San José features rooms with vibrant colors and an atmosphere that owner Karolina Bermúdez V. refers to as "like family."  Also, Pangea in downtown San José features a rooftop pool and restaurant.

Use your instinct, follow your signs, and don't be afraid to talk.  As consumer, the ball is always in your court. 

Opinions mixed over deal that ended Limón dock strike
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Reaction to a deal struck by the government to end the Limón port strike is generating mixed reactions.

The Cámara de Exportadores de Costa Rica  said Tuesday that its members were pleased. The deal commits the government to  spent some $70 million to improve the public docks at Moín. The dock workers union went on strike to protest plans for a concession that would let a Dutch firm build a competing $1 billion container-handling facility.

Television reports, however, were critical and noted that the deal cost the government 3.5 million colons for every hour of negotiations with union representatives Monday night. A television report said that the dock workers union was a big winner at the expense of the central government.

The Dutch firm, APM Terminals, has not been heard from yet.

The export chamber said that the $70 million would go for buying new equipment for general cargo and expanding dock space. Everyone agrees that the docks are some of the most inefficient in the world.
The chamber also lamented the violence that had been visited on the area Thursday and Friday night before more police were sent in.

According to some reports, the central government also agreed not to deduct for days they were on strike from the workers' pay. That is not in the agreement that both sides signed at Casa Presidencial late Monday, but it is a typical demand during negotiations over strikes.

Casa Presidencial posted the accord to its Web page without comment.

There has not been a lot of comment from other organization because the one-page agreement is not very specific.

The previous Óscar Arias Sánchez administration tried without success to get rid of the testy union. There was an offer of substantial payments based on years of service. The union leadership rejected the offer that may have meant $100,000 or more for some long-time workers. A rebellion with support from the central government ousted the union leadership and installed persons in favor of the government offer. But a series of legal cases put back the anti-deal union executives.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 122
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trafficking report
From the front page of the slick U.S. State Department trafficking report
Costa Rica gets a better grade in U.S. human trafficking report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country received a slightly higher grade this year in the U.S. State Department's human trafficking report. But once again the report fails to note that prostitution is not a criminal offense here and that men also are engaged in commercial sex.

Costa Rica was listed in the tier 2 category of the report, which means that the government does not fully comply with the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act  minimum standards but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards. Last year the country was listed in the tier 2 watch list, which means, among other factors, that 
there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons.

The report not only covers prostitution but also forced child and adult labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic labor and child sex trafficking. Also mentioned are child soldiers elsewhere.

The report for Costa Rica was based on input from the U.S. Embassy staff here, local government officials and non-profit organizations. The report said in its preface:

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and residents of the north and central Pacific coast zones are particularly vulnerable to internal trafficking. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Child sex tourism is a serious problem, particularly in the provinces of Guanacaste, Limón, Puntarenas, and San José. Child sex tourists arrive mostly from the United States and Europe. Costa Rica is a destination from other Central American countries and from Asian countries for men subjected to conditions of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture, construction, and fishing sectors.

The body of the report does not provide sufficient evidence to support these claims.
However, the report also notes that there were no reported investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year-long reporting period.

“During the year, the government achieved its first conviction under its 2009 trafficking law, increased anti-trafficking training for government officials, granted several foreign victims temporary residency status with permission to work, and strengthened prevention efforts,” said the report.

Since the report last year, police reported identifying 39 possible trafficking victims, 31 of whom were Costa Rican, said the report. Authorities also reported assisting 75 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and 60 child victims of labor exploitation, and it is likely that many of these were trafficking victims, it added.

The report noted that Costa Rican lawmakers have just drafted a new anti-trafficking bill that still is in the legislature. A.M. Costa Rica has criticized the measure because it lacks the requirement of force or trickery that is essential in anti-trafficking laws and definitions by the United Nations.

In reference to the notorious Quepos case, the report noted that authorities initiated the investigation of a mayor for possible trafficking crimes but did not report any prosecutions or convictions of public officials complicit in human trafficking during the year. The Quepos mayor and an aide were using a municipal vehicle to recruit underage prostitutes in low-income areas.

The report does not mention the arrests of several persons who were caught bringing Nicaraguan immigrants from the border into central Costa Rica.

Worldwide, the report said 33 countries comply fully with U.S. standards. Some 42 are on a watch list because of various deficiencies. The State Department said that there were 27 million people in situations of forced labor, servitude or prostitution. The report is a slick presentation fills with grim tales from elsewhere in the world. There are heart rending photos. A copy is HERE!

Emergency commission chief tells lawmakers that  Ruta 1856 oversight not her job
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the country's emergency commission took no responsibility Tuesday for overseeing the construction work on the controversial Ruta 1856 along the northern border of the country.

The executive president, Vanessa Rosales, was appearing before the legislature's  Comisión Permanente Especial de Control de Ingreso y Gasto Público.

She said that in February her agency, the  Comisión Nacional de Emergencias, simply responded to a request from the public works ministry which had run out of money.

She said her agency gave an initial transfer of 10 billion colons or about $20 million.
The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and its Consejo Nacional de Vialidad were in charge of oversight, she said. Lawmakers appeared satisfied with her version of events.

In October 2010 Nicaraguan soldiers invaded Costa Rica's Isla Calero, and former Contra leader Edén Pastora began efforts to dredge the Río San Juan which runs along the northern border, she noted.

That is when the government took steps to provide better transportation along the northern part of the country. The result is the 160-kilometer (99-mile), two-lane highway. The construction jobs were awarded without bidding because of an emergency decree authorizing the work, but the project has become mired in investigations and allegations of corruption. Three ministry inspectors are under investigation, and agents have searched some 40 locations, mostly construction firm offices, for documents.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Obama welcomes plan
for Euro Zone stability

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama is welcoming statements by Europe's major economic powers that they will work toward a plan for growth and an integrated banking system.  The president spoke Tuesday, at the end of the annual Group of 20 economic summit in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.

 President Obama says the leaders of Europe's G20 countries answered the concerns of world markets about their willingness to do what is required to hold the euro currency zone together.

“Over the last two days, European leaders here in Cabos have made it clear that they understand the stakes, and they pledged to take the actions needed to address this crisis and restore confidence, stability and growth," said Obama.

The president returns to Washington with an indication from the European leaders that they will make a coordinated effort to promote economic growth, something Obama and several other leaders have been urging.

Growth and job creation are mentioned very early in the G20 leaders' statement at the end of the summit.

“I welcome the important steps that they have already taken to promote growth, financial stability and fiscal responsibility," said Obama. The statement of unity was intended to reassure world markets, which appear worried about Greece's effort to form a coalition government and a bank bailout for Spain. 

Ecuadorian official says
Assange seeks refuge there

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuador's foreign minister says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum in the South American nation.
Ricardo Patino told reporters in Ecuador's capital, Quito, Tuesday that the country is considering the request.
The 40-year-old Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning about allegations he raped one woman and sexually assaulted another during a visit to Sweden in 2010.
Patino said Assange is currently taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The announcement comes less than a week after Britain's Supreme Court rejected Assange's application to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden.
In a ruling issued Thursday, all seven Supreme Court justices dismissed the application as being without merit, rejecting arguments by Assange's lawyers that they had not been given the chance to properly cross-examine the evidence.
Assange, who denies the allegations against him, can still make one last appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The WikiLeaks Web site gained international notoriety when it released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents, including diplomatic cables held by the State Department about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Final document already set
for sustainability Rio confab

Special to  A.M. Costa Rica

Diplomats said Tuesday that they have reached an agreement on the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

“We now have a text which will be adopted at the conference,” said Sha Zukang, said in a statement. “We think the text contains a lot of action, and if this action is implemented, and if follow-up measures are taken, it will indeed make a tremendous difference in generating positive global change.” He is secretary general of the conference.

Friday, the responsibility of the negotiations was handed over to the Brazilian government, which holds the Presidency of Rio+20, the name of the conference. Delegations worked on the consolidated text presented by the South American nation until late Monday night, before announcing their agreement Tuesday.

Sha stressed that since the document is the result of intensive and prolonged negotiations, it is a compromise text, in which countries have had to both give and take to achieve progress.

“Like all negotiations, there will be some countries that feel the text could be more ambitious. Or, others who feel their own proposals could be better reflected, while still others might prefer to have their own language,” he said. “But, let’s be clear: multilateral negotiations require give and take.”

The text will now be put forward for adoption by heads of state at the conclusion of Rio+20  Friday.

The agreed outcome document spells out action points such as the need to establish sustainable development goals and mobilize financing for sustainable development, as well as the promotion of sustainable consumption and production, among others.

It also stresses the need to include women, non-governmental organizations, and native groups in the sustainable development agenda, and calls on the private sector to engage in sustainable corporate business practices.

In addition to the outcome text, there have been over 400 voluntary commitments for sustainable development by countries in the lead-up to the high-level meeting of Rio+20, which officially starts today with an address by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The spirit of compromise is the mark of a good consensus, and crucial if all countries are to be on board, take ownership, and share a collective commitment,” Sha said. “This is the only way forward if we want to harness the necessary action for advancing together on a path of sustainable development.”

Rio+20’s high-level meeting is expected to bring together over 100 heads of state and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, U.N. officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

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Latin America news
World press groups seek
Mexican candidates plans

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In personal letters to the three Mexican presidential candidates, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum have called on the candidates to explain the measures they would take to end violence against journalists and to bring their attackers to justice.

“We are seriously concerned at the horrific levels of violence facing journalists in Mexico,” the letters said.  “At least 53 have been murdered in the past six years and many more have disappeared. In very few cases have the perpetrators been brought to justice and those who kill and threaten journalists are routinely protected by a climate of impunity. “

The letters went to Josefina Vázquez Mota of the Partido Acción Nacional  Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática. The global press organizations urged the candidates to use their election campaigns to explain how they would end this intolerable situation and restore Mexico’s democratic reputation.

The letters also reiterated the call for Mexican authorities to quickly find and bring to justice those behind the gruesome killings of Regina Martínez, Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge Córdova, and Esteban Rodríguez in Veracruz state; and of Marco Antonio Ávila García, whose tortured body was found on the side of a highway near Guaymás, Sonora.

Since 2007, the government’s war against drug-trafficking cartels has plunged Mexico into unprecedented levels of violence, making it the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. As a result, prevailing self-censorship and massive news blackout have become common in some regions.

U.S. pilot lands on beach
after aborted trip to valley

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A twin-engine private aircraft made a forced landing on a beach at  Playa del Cocal, Puntarenas, after a failed effort to fly from Liberia to the Central Valley.

The craft suffered mechanical problems and also was low on fuel, officials said. The pilot, a U.S. citizen, was unable to land at Central Valley airports because of weather and returned to the west where after two failed attempts to land at an airport in  Chacarita, the pilot opted for the beach.

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