A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, June 21, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 122        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Today is the last day of the veranillo de San Juan, the little summer of San Juan, in the Central Valley and Guancaste where residents are supposed to get a couple of weeks of dry weather.

That didn't happen, but the weather experts
say that there might be another short dry period soon. Still they warn of possible flooding and slides on the Caribbean slope and the northern zone.

Meanwhile, residents deserved this fantastic sunset after weeks of sporadic rain.

Foreign ministry will phase out its slush fund
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The foreign ministry is trying to eliminate the subsidy that employees have received from the government of Taiwan. The payments were an embarrassment when they were disclosed during the Abel Pacheco administration.

The foreign minister, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, said in a statement Tuesday that no one in a decision-making or policy position in his ministry was now receiving money from the Asociación para el Desarrollo del Servicio Exterior de Costa Rica.

The association was financed by Taiwan.

However, Stagno said that from 25 to 28 technical and security workers would continue to get money from the association until the government creates sufficient budget lines to accommodate them. To eliminate those jobs now would be to cripple the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, he said.

Stagno added that money for the technical and security personnel would be sought in the next budget, and, if approved, the funds and holdings of the association would be turned over to the national treasury. In the meantime, all payments from the fund would
go through the Ministerio de Hacienda, the budget ministry.

Under the Pacheco administration key employees of the ministry received extra pay over and above that reported in the budget from the association, which was managed entirely within the ministry.

The government of Taiwan has been generous to Costa Rica in exchange for the country's support of the Chinese at the international level.

The existence of the special fund did not upset the average Costa Rican the way other countries' citizens might be upset if their high officials were found to be in the pay of a foreign power. Newspaper reporters wrote stories but most Costa Ricans looked upon the payments as an extension of the generosity of the Chinese. However, Pacheco and others are under investigation on an allegation of accepting money from Taiwan for his presidential campaign. Such foreign payments for political campaigns are supposed to be illegal.

The move by the foreign ministry to distance itself from the Taiwanese slush fund probably will not affect other donations that the Chinese are making for public improvements.

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Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 122

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Our readers' opinions

Thanks for the story,
I am going to sell out

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Garland, thanks so much for the words of warning about Costa Rican real estate. Because of you I have decided to liquidate all my Costa Rican beach properties found in Jacó and plan to move back to either Houston or New Orleans.

So, I have just put up for sale:

1. my fully titled 3-bedroom beach front condo that I got in Jacó, with 2,200 sq.ft, in a gorgeous 6-story building for $499,000 (even though something comparable and not titled in Mexico is over $599k),

2. my mother-in-law’s soon-to-be constructed 1,750 sq. ft. house in Playa Bejuco for $185,000 and even

3. the incredible ocean view lot I got in Playa Hermosa for $199,000 with 10,000 sq. ft. building pad.

I agree with you 100 percent to ignore the advice given from the National Association of Realtors or the Realty Times very favorable article on Costa Rica, because they are Realtors, so they must be biased.  And in keeping with your excellent advice, I have decided to stop driving
my car in Costa Rica and only fly between different cities because statistics show ...

Jeff Fisher
Prudent investments
are still worthwhile here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is refreshing and informative to read Garland Baker's special articles appearing in A.M. Costa Rica. The combination of facts and opinions are, in my opinion, clearly differentiated and helpful to your readers.

The "quick buck" type readers, who erroneously believe in "forevers" foolishly use a premise that what has gone up will surly continue to do so and borrow to the hilt, will suffer, as will their children whose education expenses may not be available when the inevitable corrections take place.

Speculation has its place, if one can afford the inherent risks. Yes, the housing market in the U.S.A. is experiencing a downward correction. However, I see it to be rather selective and not a cause for buyer/investor panic in Costa Rica. I remain convinced that money intelligently invested in this still-stable democracy, with a plan as to the use of the property, will result favorably.

A caveat: If some legislation punishing the investor from overseas is passed, I believe Costa Rica's overall economy will suffer as will worthwhile development here.

Lest I be considered starry-eyed, I submit a criticism of A.M. Costa Rica's crime reporting practice. I am aware it is some of the easiest "news" to get and flesh out a publication's pages. I believe one medium size city in the greater San Francisco Bay area has more reportable crimes in a week than Costa Rica has in a year.

George Perrochet

Tourists can contribute
to their own thefts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

So, Costa Ricans don't like tourists or Americans??? . . . . and you can't trust Ticos??    I have been all over the world and see less discrimination here than anywhere else I have ever been.  When I was in Europe, ­ people were
openly hostile towards Americans.  Ticos just accept people at face value; however, they are not very comfortable with loud aggressive pushy people.
They themselves are very quiet natured and non-confrontational.

I have been coming and going in Costa Rica since 1993 and basically find Costa Ricans to be the nicest people I have ever met.  Are there bad ones ­ of course. There are bad people in every country in the world.  Do I
understand Ticos??  Not exactly. ­ But I keep trying.  They don't understand me either ­ and, if I don't like it, I can go back to where I came from. They don¹t have an option — this is their country. ­ It is up to me to conform or leave. 

I own a hotel and way too often I have tourists come running to reception saying they have been ROBBED. They are in shock ­and with good reason. Do I wish it hadn¹t happened ­ of course. But when we start asking
questions ­ they left their wallet, their passport, their travelers checks, camera, everything important, ON THE BEACH on their towel. 

Generally their comment is "But I only went swimming for a minute."  My response is "Would you do that at home?" And they say "No — but everyone is so nice here we thought they were honest people."  This has not happened once. ­ It happens two or three times a year.

I am baffled ­ why on earth would anyone leave everything of importance ON THE BEACH. We have free lock boxes at the hotel.  You have to be a little more careful here, ­ maybe a lot more careful, but no one can tell me that you can leave all those things on the beach in California or Vancouver and hope they will be there when you return.  Do you consider everyone in
California/Vancouver to be dishonest because you can't leave your things on the beach and expect them to be there when you get back? Of course, not. You just know better.

There was recently a robbery at Mikanda hotel ­ but the tourists LEFT THEIR DOOR UNLOCKED.  Now, would you do that in Chicago, or New York or Toronto?? Of course not.  What were they thinking?  If the same thing happened at home they would go "Was I ever dumb to leave my door unlocked."  Here, they go "What a horrible hotel, what a horrible country, what awful people....to rob me." 

Yes, it was a terrible experience ­ but, you can't blame Costa Rica. You can¹t say all or most Ticos are dishonest. You can't say Ticos hate Americans. ­ it just isn't true.  Your hotel in Chicago would not reimburse you if this happened there. ­ Just ask them.

I have signs in my rooms saying to be careful and then I read on Internet that people were uncomfortable in my hotel because the signs make them feel like we have had a lot of problems.  We haven't, ­ but, we have had a lot of people arrive after being robbed elsewhere.  I think people need a reminder here ­ to be careful.

I¹ve been robbed myself. ­ Was it my own fault? ­ Partly.  Am I more careful now? ­ Of course. I love the people, I love the country. I choose to live here.

Marlene Henderson
Manuel Antonio
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 122

Now there's an oasis of culture in Ciudad Colón
By Ambika Chawla
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Located in Ciudad Colón's Plaza de la Villa de Pacaca, La Casa de la Cultura serves as a center which provides community members the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of cultural activities.

According to Sergio Nuñez, director for the House of Culture, the center aims  “to promote and contribute to the integrated development of community members. Courses benefit students, not just via artistic and academic support, but also through social support by opening doors and opportunities to young people in the community.”

The house of culture was initiated in March 2005 by a group of Ciudad Colón residents with the aim to give community members of limited economic resources greater exposure to culture. Since then the center has grown to give members access to 40 courses and workshops, including language courses (English, German, French), music, sculpture, theatre, dance and painting. The courses not only enrich students lives, but also provide them with greater possibilities for securing a job.

For Katherine Mora Piedra, a 19-year-old student of English, “The house of culture will give me a title saying that I have studied English — and this title can be added to my curriculum and will give me greater work opportunities.” 

The courses and workshops are coordinated by local artists, residents of Ciudad Colón, who come not only from Costa Rica but other parts of the world, such as Germany and Columbia. Since last year, it is estimated that approximately 600 students of all ages, from children to older adults, have attended and participated in courses and workshops.

In addition to the regular courses offered, the house of culture, in collaboration with the local development association for cultural, architectural and historic restoration, coordinates additional

A.M. Costa Rica/Minor Hernández
Youngsters practice in the center courtyard

artistic activities such as African drumming classes organized by African students from the U.N. University for Peace, symphonic concerts by the Ciudad Colón orchestra and Costa Rica's national symphony, and has commissioned the construction of murals in order to decorate the Plaza de la Villa de Pacaca.

The center has also invited guest artists from other countries, such as the January visit of Mexican sculptor Josefina Temín, who offered sculpture and painting courses for children and young adults.

Funding for the center comes primarily from the local government of the Cantón de Mora which contributes 3 percent of its annual budget. Students pay a monthly fee of 2,000 colons for each course.

Ciudad Colón is about 20 miles west of San José, so facilities in the capital are not convenient to youngsters in the Cantón de Mora.

Mechanical problem causes immigration to shift appointments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can things get any worse at immigration? The short answer is yes.

The department is afflicted by long lines, slow computers and systems that don't work, not to mention missing files.

But now the air conditioning in the section that houses the computer servers has broken.

The department, formally the Dirección General de Migración y Extranerjía says it will have to suspend appointments for foreigners today and Thursday.
Only foreigners who need services in the Área de Extranjería are involved, a release said. The passport section for Costa Ricans will continue to operate normally.

"We regret this very much," said Mario Zamora, immigration director. "This is something out of our hands and for which we already have taken appropriate steps so that it does not occur again, and it will be solved as soon as possible."

Technicians report that the air conditioning will be fixed by Friday, officials said. 
Those who had appointments for today or Thursday will be able to visit immigration June 29 and 30, the release said. Only those who have appointments will be able to conduct business those days, even though Thursday and Friday are days when persons normally can visit without an appointment, according to the release.

Zamora has just taken over the director's job, and he is faced with a department that does not function well. Lines are long. Expats complain of long waits in order to renew cédulas de residencia or to apply for residency.

Ticos face long lines to obtain or renew passports. That line begins to form shortly after midnight. Police raided the waiting area in the agency's parking lot last month to remove persons who sold spaces in lines.

A previous director combined the departments that service rentistas and pensionados with that serving other forms of residency, eliminating the quick service North American expats enjoyed.

In early March shelving collapsed in the archive area of the agency and thousands of files were dumped in disarray. It took workers a month to straighten out the mess.

Stolen at gunpoint in
Desamparados Saturday afternoon
1991 Nissan four-door sedan
Plate No. 571158
Color blue

Last seen traveling Sunday from Guadalupe to Hatillo
If seen, call 911. Do not approach.

¢100,000-colon reward for information
leading to recovery.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 122

National soccer team members coming home today after their disaster
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican national team latched on strongly to last place in its World Cup group by losing to Poland 2-1 Tuesday.

Spanish-language newspapers are calling the World Cup a total disaster for the Tico team, which is due to return home today at Juan Santamaría airport about 11 a.m.

Two other teams in the group, Germany and Ecuador, have advanced to the next level.
Both Polish goals came on corner kicks. Costa Rica's  Rónald Gómez scored on a free kick.

The Costa Rican team and fans in Germany and here hoped that the national team would at least beat Poland to salvage some honor from the World Cup encounter.

Some fans griped Tuesday that they would meet the homecoming team with eggs. However, cooler heads are likely to prevail and the team will get a warm but not enthusiastic reception. Next will come extensive discussion of what went wrong.

Police officers return in strength to evict squatters near Herradura
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers and the Unidad de Intervención Policial made a dozen arrests Tuesday when they showed up again at a settlement of squatters in Herradura.

The local prosecutor's office ordered the eviction of families in some 30 structures and the destruction of the buildings. The settlement is on private land.

Police said they also wanted to make arrests of
residents there who fought with police during a similar incursion June 1. Some 21 officers were hurt then when residents attacked with stones and bottles.

Local Mayor Raul Rivera was in charge of the evictions, and an additional 50 police officers showed up. Residents confronted the officers in the morning, but calmed down when some neighbors were arrested and taken away. The property is in the Cantón de Garabito.

A backhoe began the task of destroying dwelllings.

Extra fat lottery drawing planned July 2 with top prize of ¢125 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shades of Christmas. The agency that runs the national lotteries said Tuesday that it will order up another fat one for July 2.

The Christmas "gordito" or fat one is a tradition, but the Junta de Protección Social de San José says it will give everyone a chance to win 125 million colons, the top prize. That's about $244,000. There will be two top winners and a series of lesser prizes.
Each full lottery ticket of 10 pieces will cost 6,000 colons or $11.72. Favorite numbers can be purchased by the piece, too. Each ticket carries a two-digit number and a three digit series number. The numbers are drawn from a roulette-type basket in public.

The junta provides funding for a number of social agencies, and the legal lottery faces strong competition from neighborhood numbers runners.
The surprise fat lottery is seen as a way for the junta to increase its bottom line.

Today is the Fiesta de la Música all over the valley and the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The streets will be filled with the sounds of music today as Costa Ricans and foreign friends celebrate Fiesta de la Música.

Every level from young amateur to professional and nearly all traditions will be represented.

Stages or places for performances are being set up in front of the main Correo Nacional building on Calle Central, at Parque Morazán, Parque Central and near the music store Bansback on Avenida 1 at Calle 11. Other locations include the Plaza de la Cultura, the Plaza de la Democracia, the Academia Editus, Multiplaza in Escazú, Paseo Colón, the Fuente de la Hispanidad in front of Mall San Pedro, the Calle de la Amagura in San Pedro, at the University de Costa Rica, the Antigua Aduana just east of the Estación al
Atlántico, the Teatro Eugene O'Neill in the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano in Los Yoses and elsewhere in the country, including most libraries.

Look for performances in Ciudad Quesada, Pérez Zeledón, San Ramón, Limón. Belén, Ciudad Colón and Atenas.

A full list and types of performances is HERE! And everything is free.

The fiesta originated in France in 1982, and has spread to more than 100 countries, according to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

For starters, the Banda Nacional of Cartago, San José Alajuela and Heredia will be performing between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Avenida Central, the pedestrian boulevard.

Jo Stuart
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