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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, June 21, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 120        E-mail us
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Online U.S. hookers affecting sex tourism here
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Social media like Facebook and Myspace, among others, have officially overtaken pornography as the No. 1 activity on the Web. Obviously, people have not lost an interest in sex, but clearly the marketplace is moving, growing and operating with relative impunity in the United States via social networks.

This kind of global social change has implications for Costa Rica, and it could mean that the problem of sex tourism will come to an end. However, on the other hand it could make it much worse.  When living in Costa Rica, it is easy to lose touch with what is happening in the United States and other parts of the world.  The fact that cities like Houston, Chicago, Dallas and Miami have been turned into virtual brothels is something that an expat might have missed if they have failed to keep up with technology.

The issue is spotlighted by a big federal lawsuit brought by Thomas Dart, the Illinois sheriff who has accused Craigslist — Alexa.com now rates the site No. 7 in the United States — of being the world’s biggest pimp. His case was originally dismissed in October of last year and, the reason is, ironically, due to a federal child protection law.

The history may be unclear to many people, but can be summed up simply by thinking back to the late 1990s when the U.S. Congress took up the issue of protecting children from online pornography. A compromise was brokered into the 1996 Communications Decency Act that provides broad immunity for “interactive computer service(s).” Section 230 of the Act states that any “interactive computer service” is not a publisher of the content posted by third parties and they are immune from lawsuits or prosecution based on the material users post.

The bottom line is that under U.S. federal law Craigslist along with any social network or “interactive computer service” is not responsible for criminal activity perpetrated by its advertisers. It is worth pointing out the print media, such as the infamous Las Vegas telephone book or a “free newspaper,” enjoys no such protection under federal law. 

The difference is the "electronic" element.

Sheriff Dart has filed a new federal case that attempts to prove that Craigslist is complicit in the act of prostitution, and this will prove to be a difficult argument.

His point is supported by the fact that in Cook County, Illinois, a girl can for just $5 publish semi-nude or explicit photos and receive phone calls in under an hour. Some girls ask for as little as $50, and even the more professional ladies charge under $200. The question to ask is why would an American use vacation time and pay the cost of airfare and daily hotel lodging just to seek prostitutes in Costa Rica?

Perhaps there is some allure in that Costa Rica does offer some anonymity from friends and relatives back home, and that prostitution is not illegal in Costa Rica. While sex tourists in Costa Rica are able to enjoy their party in a relatively open environment, this is likely to have less appeal as the culture of prostitution becomes more commonplace among younger Americans.  
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Remember there is a generation of Americans who will never buy a newspaper and are more likely to meet a spouse online than in person. It also stands to reason they will date prostitutes online despite the potential outcome of the Illinois federal case. Mainstream social media sites like Facebook and the Internet in general is a magical place where something can be concealed from public view and promoted at the same time.
 
Once a culture truly changes, it is usually impossible to go back. The phrase to know is media convergence, and it is the reason why 24 out of 25 of the largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation. Once a generation of consumers is lost, the only possible solution is to evolve, and sex tourism is no exception.

Prostitution in Costa Rica is not going to go away, but the face of it will change. The effects are already noticeable when you take a look at the male, aged 20 to 30 who frequent the bars popular with English-speaking tourists in downtown San Jose. This young crowd of consumers are more Costa Rican than international tourists. 

The late Pat Dunn predicted early in his career as a local bar pioneer that the business in downtown San José would not be able to rely on tourists alone. We are seeing his prediction come to fruition, and the local market is becoming a vital part of the downtown entertainment business.  Social networking is the key to reach this audience and the tourists at the same time.

The Costa Rican government has proposed a law to curb sex tourism promotion.  However, the fact may be that they are way behind the worldwide Internet culture.  If a sheriff in Illinois cannot stop sex promotion in his hometown by a company located on U.S. soil, how does the Costa Rican government plan to tackle the problem?


Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2010, use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 120

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Oil spill might bring
more sports fishermen


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The two-month long oil spill ravaging the Gulf of México and the southern U.S. coast may help a few struggling Pacific coast sports fishing operations.

At least five major tournaments have been canceled because of the oil leaking into the gulf, and individual sports fishermen are looking elsewhere to get their big game fishing fix. Costa Rica is a logical choice because the bulk of the fishing is in the Pacific, and the country has good infrastructure for this type of sport.

A.M. Costa Rica has seen a recent increase in visitors to its sport fishing page, but it still is too early to count the number of visitors because many fishermen plan weeks or months in advance to coincide with seasonal changes in the availability of fish.



Exports in first five months
show an increase over 2009


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican exports for the first five months of the year are up 13.1 percent, according to the Promotora del Comercio Exterior. May alone was up 2.1 percent with $854 million in exports, said the agency.

Some 72.2 percent of the exports are of industrial products, including $820 million on microchips during the first five months, said the Promotora del Comercio Exterior. Total exports in the first five months were $2.9 billion.

Agricultural products contributed $1 billion of the $4 billion in exports. The bulk came from coffee, pineapple and bananas.



Parks sweep nets eight
believed here illegally

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers zeroed in on the downtown parks Thursday night and Friday morning. They questioned about 120 persons who were there or passing through and found eight persons suspected of being here illegally.

Participating in the effort were the Fuerza Pública, immigration police, municipal police and Judicial Investigating Organization agents.

Parks involved included the downtown Parque España and Parque Nacional.



Criminal cases to have
a new appeals option


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican criminal courts will introduce a midlevel appeals process next January.

Currently the appeals of most serious crimes go directly to the Sala III, the section of the Corte Suprema de Justicia that handles criminal matters. With the passage of a law that was published June 9, a criminal appeals court is established for each jurisdiction.

Judicial officials are calling the measure the most important piece of legislation passed since the 1996 criminal code. The appeals law also calls for oral arguments in most case.



Police find 12 bodies
in outskirts of Cancún

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican police say they have found 12 mutilated corpses in hidden graves on the outskirts of Cancun, the latest sign drug-related violence is spreading to the popular tourist destination.

Authorities announced the discovery Friday, adding that some of the bodies had the letter "Z" carved on their chests, a likely reference to the powerful Zetas drug smuggling gang.

The grim find is at least the second such discovery this month.

In May, Mexican police arrested Cancun's mayor Gregorio Sánchez on suspicion of offering information and protection to the Zetas, as well as the Beltran Leyva cartel. Sánchez's Democratic Revolutionary Party denounced the charges.


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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.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 120

Rapid Respose
Rock and Roll

Expat group plans security summit in San Ramón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An association of business operators in San Ramón plans what is being called a security summit there Thursday at 2 p.m. in the local cultural center.

Organizers are trying to establish contact with other organizations, expat or Costa Rican, that have an interest in decreasing the crime rate all over the country.

The association said that confirmed participants include Mike McGinnis of Dominical, who is part of a safety group in that community, and James Powell of Rapid response in Escazú, whose firm provides security and also offers personal security training. Also listed is Noelia Sales of the U.S. Embassy.

The session is an expansion of a similar meeting May 19 that featured a talk by Paul Birdsall, the U.S. consul general.

Organizing the event is the Costa Rica Small business Alliance that is set up to help expats conduct business here.

The meeting is not just designed to discuss street crime
Also concerns of the organization are property thefts and scammers, according to the Web site.
Mike Styles of the association said that he and others have met with the local representatives of the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Committee. The advisory council met earlier this month with Costa Rican officials to discuss ways to reduce crime.

The U.S. Embassy said that the goal was to avoid future trucks and stores being robbed, increase security in risk zones where truck drivers have been targeted and join efforts to create a strategic plan to promote the rule of law and reduce crime levels.

The embassy and advisory council members said they would draft a strategic plan to present to the central government. That action dovetails with President Laura Chinchilla's efforts, along with the U.N. Programme for Development, to sound out citizens on safety issues and crime. 

"Our objective is to work collaboratively to create a singular and resonant voice representing all expats to work with other organizations and the central government to make Costa Rica a safer place for all of us who live and conduct business here," said Styles.

Styles said he would welcome contact by individuals and groups in other areas of the county at 8333-8750.


Florida pedophile really would like to come back to Garza
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tom Mastin really likes Costa Rica. The convicted pedophile fled to this country in 1999 as a fugitive from Brevard County, Florida.

The U.S. sex offender finally came into police hands on Jan. 31. 2007, for violating visa regulations and was sent back to Florida to answer two charges of lewd and lascivious or indecent acts on a child.

Mastin admitted the two charges in a plea agreement the following February. He was sentenced to two years house arrest and 13 years of probation for sexual offenders.

Just a few days later an A.M. Costa Rica reader saw Mastin back home in Playa Garza where he once operated a bar. He had ducked out of the Florida court and somehow slipped back into Costa Rica. Brevard County law enforcement workers were furious.

"He's supposed to be on house arrest here," said the prosecutor in charge of the case.

So police officers detained Mastin for a second time in Playa Garza in late March 2008. Back he went to Brevard County where he was sentenced to two years in prison, one year of house arrest and 12 years of probation that included
wearing a GPS monitor. He spent only a few weeks in prison because he got credit for time served awaiting sentencing,

Saturday Florida Today newspaper reported that Mastin's lawyer appealed to a judge there to let his client go back to Costa Rica. Mastin said in the courtroom that he wants to move here because he has a partner and two children there, he coaches a soccer team with players in the age range of 18 to 25, according to the newspaper. His attorney, Todd Deratanay, said Mastin also owns a business in the country, the newspaper said.

The judge took the motion under advisement and said he would see if there was a system in place in Costa Rica to monitor Mastin.

Readers at the Pacific coast beach were dumbfounded. They were unaware of any children, soccer team or business owned by Mastin. He did work as a bartender in Garza, but he seemed to live the life of a fugitive here on his Social Securitry check that was delivered faithfully by the U.S. Embassy. Mastin is now 74, according to the Florida newspaper.

Some Pacific beach residents knew of Mastin's history when he was living there. They stopped short of turning him in but they kept close tabs on their children.


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 120


Skateboarders show off
Skateboarding professionals show their skills in Parque de la Paz

Skateboarders have their day to take over the city streets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 1,500 skateboarders took advantage of the Día Internacional del Skateboarding to travel though the heart of San José in a mostly downhill 6-km route to Parque de la Paz.

They were not all youngsters. Identified as the oldest was Jorge Monge, in his 70s, who said the community needs skateparks for the sport.
The route was from Barrio Aranjuez in northeast San José to Parque Morazán and then to Parque de la Paz. Youngsters competed for prizes at Parque Morazán and then some 20 professional skateboarders showed their skills and gave some insider tips at Parque de la Paz.

The day coincided with Father's Day, and some parents joined in the Sunday morning caravan. Skateboarders were protected by the Policía Municipal and the Policía de Tránsito.



Traditional cooks in Heredia sought for food contest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year it is the typical food of Heredia province that will be in the spotlight when an agency of the culture ministry holds a contest Saturday.

The contest is the Certamen de Comidas y Bebidas Tradicionales de Heredia, which is organized by the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural. The idea is to preserve the unique yet intangible aspects of the local cooking tradition.

The heritage center already has conducted contests every year since the first in 2001. Various provinces and population centers have been selected, one each year.

The result has been a series of booklets with the recipes that won the event.

The event this year begins at 2 p.m. in the Museo de Cultura Popular of the Universidad Nacional in Santa Lucía de Barva de Heredia. No pre-registration is needed.
Cooks can just show up with a dish for one of the categories.

The first category is an open one with two first prizes, each 300,000 colons or about $565. A second category is restricted to dishes with a coffee base.  There also is a bread and dessert category and one for what is being called almuerzos campesinos or a country lunch, which presumably will be transportable of the style for those working in the fields. The final category is drinks. The heritage center wants a written recipe with each dish and enough for three judges and for samples to the public who may attend.

The center also is seeking dishes that make use of ingredients that are available locally. The center also suggested that participants present their dishes in traditional containers, like iron pots or wooden bowls, typical of an earlier era.

The center already has three recipe books published as a result of previous contests.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 120

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


U.S.-Cuba migration talks
clouded by jailed contractor


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials from the United States and Cuba have met in Washington for the latest round of migration talks between the two countries. 

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly was among the U.S. officials attending Friday's talks, which marked the third such meeting with Cuba since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year. 

Details of the talks were not known, but prior meetings have focused on implementing agreements to promote safe and legal migration between the two countries.  U.S. officials, however, were expected to bring up the subject of an American contractor who has been jailed in Cuba since December. 

Cuban officials said earlier this week that Alan Gross is under investigation for having violated Cuban laws and committing serious crimes in support of what those officials described as "subversive" U.S. policies.  Cuba has alleged Gross is a spy, a claim the United States denies.  He has not been charged with a crime.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Thursday saying the U.S. is deeply concerned about Gross's welfare and poor health, and that the U.S. has used every available channel to push for his release.

Secretary Clinton also said the United States would "view favorably" the release of Gross so that he can return to his family.  Clinton met Thursday with relatives of the jailed contractor.

Havana accuses Gross of distributing illegal satellite equipment to dissident groups.  The U.S. says Gross works for a private firm outside Washington called Development Alternatives, Inc.  The company says he was taking part in a U.S. government-financed program to strengthen civil society in Cuba.

Earlier this month, the State Department said U.S. officials have made five visits to the contractor and were last granted consular access to him May 25.

President Obama has said he wants improved relations with Cuba.  Last year, his administration eased travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.

A decades-old U.S. embargo on Cuba remains in effect.  Obama has said the embargo will stay in place until Havana takes steps toward democratic reforms.

The United States and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations, but have interest sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

Cuban President Raúl Castro has said his government remains open to talking with the United States about improving relations.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 120


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Santos wins in landslide
as Colombia holds runoff


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Juan Manuel Santos has won an overwhelming victory in Colombia's runoff presidential election, making him the successor to two-term President Álvaro Uribe.

Santos, a former defense minister, has pledged to continue Uribe's fight against illegal drug trafficking and leftist rebels.

The president-elect, who ran as the candidate of the Partido Social de la Unidad Nacional, won 69 percent of the vote, compared to nearly 28 percent won by his challenger, former Bogota mayor and Partido Verde candidate Antanas Mockus.

Police say election day violence Sunday left at least seven police officers dead when a roadside bomb in the country's northeast exploded near a patrol.  Three soldiers died in fighting with guerrillas.

Security has been a central issue in the presidential race.  Leftist rebels of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia have been at war with the Colombian government for more than 45 years. Uribe made great inroads against the rebels, who get their support from drug trafficking.

Sunday's runoff election followed the first round of balloting last month, in which Santos won 47 percent of the vote but fell just short of the simple majority needed to win outright in a field of nine candidates. 

Santos campaigned on a promise to continue cracking down on the rebels.  Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher, campaigned on a message of "clean politics."

Turnout was lighter Sunday than in the first round of voting on May 30.  Experts cite Santos' strong lead in polls, as well as bad weather and competition from televised World Cup soccer matches.

Santos also promised to make overtures to Venezuela and Ecuador, leftist allies who have been highly critical of Colombia's war on terrorists.

Country seeks sports event

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two evaluators from the Organización Deportiva Centroamericana were in San José Friday checking the country out as a possible site for the X Juegos Centoamericanos in 2013.

Both Costa Rica and Panamá are seeking the games. A decision is expected July 4 when the organization's general assembly takes place.





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