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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, June 23, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 122       E-mail us
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Six firms get OK to offer Internet and phone service
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In what the head of the telecom regulating agency called an historic day, six companies have won the right to offer Internet and voice-over-Internet telephone services here.

"The opening of telecommunications is a fact," said George Miley, president of the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, in an announcement Monday afternoon.

The agency had just authorized the first six company applicants to offer services here. Until now, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, a government agency, had a monopoly, although it  had been long known that Monday's action was inevitable. The Free Trade Treaty with the United States required Costa Rica to open its telecom and insurance markets to competition.

There were no surprises in the companies that got the go ahead. Each had been named in an announcement March 24.

Approved were:

• Dodona SRL, which is now doing business as Amnet offers cable Internet connections and seeks to provide transmission of data, voice-over-Internet, access to information webs, and value-added services like video conferencing and television by subscription;

• Intertel Worldwide S.A., which seeks to provide prepaid public telephone service using the Internet;

• R&H International Telecom Services S.A., which seeks to provide voice-over-Internet services for homes and businesses;

• Worldcom de Costa Rica S.A., which seeks to provide wireless Internet connections and by land line, voice-over-Internet and corporate networks;

• Callmyway NY S.A., which seeks to provide
many types of communication services; and

• Redes Inalámbricas de Costa Rica S.A., which seeks to provide corporate networks with wireless technology.

The companies had met the technical, financial and legal conditions as service providers, Miley said. He promised that many more approvals would be coming and that this would give a very positive signal to attract investment in this area of the economy at a time that this is very necessary for the country.

To be historically correct, Intertel Worldwide had established phone booths in many areas of the Central Valley to offer voice-over-Internet calls at a rate much lower than the national telephone company. The company said it acted when the Superintendencia did not exist and the market was wide open. Naturally the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad objected.

But several weeks ago, the government company withdrew its objections and permitted the awarding of licenses to go forward, resulting in the action by the Superintendencia Consejo Monday.

Missing on the first list of approvals was an Internet cafe and the Junta Admistradora de Servicio Eléctrico Municipal de Cartago, which seeks to provide cable television and Internet.  The Superintendencia said in its announcement that June 30 is the deadline for firms operating Internet cafes and voice-over-Internet services.

The Superintendencia was criticized for requiring the same kind of paperwork from Internet cafe owners as it did from large telecom companies. The agency seemed to agree and reduced the requirements for these small businesses.

The agency did not say exactly when these companies will enter the market and begin offering services to consumers. But the firms would seem to have an advantage being first.


ICE agrees to test biofuels for power generation
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

New Generation Biofuels Holdings, Inc., said Monday that it has signed a letter of intent with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad for a test of its biofuels.

Under the terms of the letter of intent, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, will evaluate New Generation's biofuels, leading ultimately to the potential licensing of New Generation's technology and to the construction of biofuel production plants in Costa Rica for use in its electric generation plants.

"We look forward to working with ICE to explore this opportunity to provide Costa Rica with an environmentally sound fuel, based on locally produced feedstock, which should mitigate the need to use Costa Rica's foreign exchange earnings to 
purchase imported fuel oil," said Cary Claiborne, New Generation's chief executive officer. "In addition to the expected revenue contribution for New Generation Biofuels, the successful implementation of the ICE project using our technology will provide us with an additional platform to market our biofuel technology in the U.S. and abroad."

New Generation, a Lake Mary, Florida, firm, proposes to supply ICE, initially, with biofuel produced in its production facility located in Baltimore, Maryland, for the testing program. That is expected to take about three months, according to the letter.

An additional evaluation will be conducted to assess the availability within Costa Rica of palm oil, jatropha, or animal fats suitable for use as feedstock to produce biofuel, the company said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 122

Costa Rica Expertise
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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.


Residency experts

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Lawmaker is promoting
valley train for Alajuela


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least one lawmaker is looking to the valley train to reduce congestion on the Autopista General Cañas. He is Luis Antonio Barrantes Castro, who is urging the rail agency to extend the passenger service to the Provincia de Alajuela.

The rail line is there but the passenger service stops at Pavas. The Movimiento Libertario lawmaker said that he had discussed the idea with Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of the  Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles.

He noted that Juan Santamaría airport is there, too. If the rail line were extended, tourists would be spared the $10 taxi ride to town in favor of the rail service.

The lawmaker said he has been told that the rail institute is doing studies over what work would be needed for regular rail service. Midway though putting the San José-Heredia line into service, rail workers pulled up all the crossties and installed new, concrete ones. That was an unexpected expense.

Travel on the General Cañas was even worse Monday. A piece fell out of the bridge over the Río Virilla, and highway workers installed a temporary metal plate. That caused traffic to slow and back up. One lane is being closed so repair work can be done.

The Heredia line went into service last week, and that service is expected to cut the congestions at the entrance to Heredia and in La Uruca.

Youngster missing in surf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four youngsters in a Mississippi church group were swept from a jetty into the sea Sunday and one is missing.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal identified the missing youth as Marshuan Braxton, a soon-to-be senior at New Albany High School

Pacific waves are much higher than normal this week. The youth arrived Saturday, and the mishap took place Sunday.


Our readers' opinions
Government should attack
crime to spur tourism


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have lived in Costa Rica on and off for many years and work in the Costa Rica travel industry now for 15 years.  I am the author of the popular Costa Rica travel blog
www.costaricalearn.com

I agree with what Tessa said in her letter.  Many tourist arrive to Costa Rica completely unaware of the severe theft problems . . . .

However, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo cannot say that Costa Rica is not a safe place to visit.   Seems to me the best solution is stronger action by the Costa Rican government.  Thieves should be punished the first time
they commit a theft, and policemen should have adequate training and education, before they are put out there on the police force.
Ann Creed
Atlanta, Georgia

Baker is writing opinion
in family law criticism


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have read several articles written by Mr. Baker, including Monday's "Gender inequalities in family laws are rampant."  I suggest that you need to label his writings as editorial or put a disclaimer that his writings are his opinion.  What he writes is not any kind of journalism but, truly, his opinion about whatever topic he happens to choose. 

For example, ". . . most of the judges in family courts are women." would be written as "of the ___ judges in family court, ___ are women."  by a journalist.  And, by the way, if most of the judges in family court are women, does it follow that they will always find for the woman?  So does it follow that any other kind of court case involving a man and woman, a male judge will always find for the man?  Hmmm. 

I get a sense that underlying this, well, rant is some kind of injustice done to Mr Baker by the family court or laws.  Perhaps if he stuck to using facts and not just opinion, this would not be so obvious. 
Harriet Smith
Bijagua, Costa Rica

Better road to Corcovado
will damage the park


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Well, I guess that the tourist will be happy to get the new road [to Puerto Jiménez].  I agree that it will make getting to Corcovado a lot easier.

To me - that is the problem. I have been going to Corcovado since 1990 and absolutely loved it. Yes, I had to work hard to get there, but it was always worth it. Lots of animals, birds, frogs, bugs and snakes that you will find almost impossible to see anywhere else in the world. What was nice about it was that you did NOT see many of Homo sapiens.

Now that we are opening it up as an easy place to get to, we will be able to watch many changes in Corcovado occur. Instead of seeing all of the wildlife and wonderful natural plants and trees that a wonderful forest provides, we will see and hear the two-legged beast and watch the fantastic new hotels, more new roads and other man-made products come in to replace the trees and wildlife.

We will now have the fantastic beer cans and other trash spread throughout Corcovado which will give the government a reason to hire more labor to clean the place up.

Corcovado is the only place in Costa Rica where you will see all four of the native monkeys and you will see hundreds of scarlet macaws. There are many of the tiny frogs that will be stepped on and poisoned.

Yes I am crying about this wonderful new road.

Frank Yates
Playa La Barqueta, Panama.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 122


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Israeli tourist gunned down in Jacó in apparent robbery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Israeli tourist died in an early morning confrontation at his lodgings Monday in Jacó. He may have been the victim of robbers.

The man is Itai Yosep Shechter Elias, 26, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization and a report from the Israeli foreign ministry. He had been on vacation in Costa Rica since June 8, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported.

The Israeli foreign ministry told the Jerusalem Post that the man and his brother recently had served as officers in the Israeli Defense Force.
The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the  circumstances of the death were not clear but that some people were in the Israelis' room and fired on the victim as they were leaving.

The agency said there was a third person vacationing with the brothers.

The foreign ministry quoted the brother as saying that robbers broke into the hotel room and shot the man as they were leaving when he asked them to return his passport.

He was hit once in the right clavicle and died shortly after 5 a.m. in the Jacó clinic. The shooting happened a few minutes before 5 a.m.


Lawmakers reject a $500 million international loan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

How do you say no to $500 million?

Ask the Asamblea Legislativa. Lawmakers rejected Monday a loan for that amount from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo.

The money would have gone to the Banco Central de Costa Rica to provide lines of credit for exporters and among banks.

The loan proposal has been progressing through the
assembly, but Monday, lawmakers got word from the Banco Central board of directors that the money was not needed. At the same time, a note arrived from Casa Presidencial asking that the measure be withdrawn.

One of the lawmakers, Marvin Mauricio Rojas Rodríguez of Acción Ciudadana, said that the rate of interest is excessive and that it would not be possible for the country to repay the debt.

José Luis Valenciano Chaves of Liberación Nacional wondered why a measure presented as urgent and necessary would now be withdrawn.


Mid-year salary increase set at 2 percent for minimum wages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Private companies will have to pay their minimum-wage employees 2 percent more starting July 1.

That is the decision of the Consejo Nacional de Salarios, which accepted the assessment of the government that the mid-year increase should be 2 percent.

An employer's group noted that the wage increase for the whole year is more than 9 percent when the 7 percent January increase is added in.

The new salaries go into effect July 1 and will be reflected
in pay made after that date, probably July 15 for most.

Employee representatives proposed a 6 percent increase. Then employer representatives backed off their original proposal of 3 percent and said 2 percent. The government calculations supported that lower number.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado said that the anticipated inflation for the year is just 7.5 percent, based on Banco Central figures.

Many Costa Ricans work at the mandated minimum salary, which is different for each occupational category.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 122


Agents follow a convoluted trail to two Golfito properties
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The latest entry in the strange tales of Costa Rican drug smuggling is a palatial home in Golfito that is honeycombed with tunnels and secret hiding places. Or is it two homes?

Investigators arrived at the scene over the weekend to search one home. They searched another Monday. This region is the likely departure point for a drug-laden helicopter that crashed May 1.

Agents have linked the home to Sigifredo Ceciliano Gamboa, the operator of a fleet of fishing boats. He is suspected of being involved in the container shipment of frozen shark in which Mexican police found 900 kilos of cocaine. However, there is confusion over the ownership. He is in custody and freely admits to providing the sharks that were shipped to México.

Just a guard and a cleaning woman were at home when agent entered the buildings that sit on 150 hectares (370 acres) of land north of Golfito. The property is on a peninsula that is cut off from the mainland during high tides. The property has a number of docks.

Agents speculate that drug smugglers would offload their
illegal merchandise in the area where it would be stored for eventual shipment north. The helicopter that crashed near Cerro de la Muerte May 1 was northbound to Turrialba and an isolated hotel there. Agents knew the flight originated in the vicinity of the Osa Peninsula but someone removed the electronic devices at the crash scene that would have told investigators exactly where.

The concrete-lined storage places under the floors and the narrow tunnels connecting adjacent buildings in the home visited Sunday raise suspicions.  But there is no confirmation that the structures were made to hold drug shipments. They could be for utilities. And agents might have confused one property for another.

They are continuing to sort out the ownerships and senior members of the Judicial Investigating Organization are there.

The properties are at the head of the Gulfo Dulce, which means that any drug shipments would have had to travel the length of the gulf without raising suspicions.

Mexican police discovered the cocaine in the sharks last week. The two containers came form a subsidiary of a Guadalajara firm in Puntarenas. The firm makes leather goods from shark skins.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 122




A.M. Costa Rica

users 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 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.

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.

Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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.


Brazil dumps requirement
on education of newspeople


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Brazil has eliminated the requirement of a university degree to practice journalism.

The Inter American Press Association praised the decision and said the country's supreme court ruling is consistent with international freedom of expression standards and fulfills an ambition long-held by the organization."

Brazil's Supreme Court abolished the legal regulation dating from 1969 that required journalists to hold a university degree in journalism and required mandatory union membership in order to practice the profession, an obligation that the justices held to be unconstitutional and "a direct interference in freedom of expression."

Robert Rivard, chairman of the association's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio, Texas, Express-News, said that the association is in favor of an increasingly professional and responsible press.

"We are not against having a university degree or being a member of a professional trade association, quite the opposite, but it is our position that those requirements cannot be mandatory," he said.

For decades the Inter American Press Association has fought against mandatory licensing of journalists.

One of the most important legal decisions to set a precedent for repeal of similar laws throughout the Western Hemisphere was the 1985 advisory opinion of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, originated by the association through the government of Costa Rica.

The opinion established that requirements for mandatory membership in professional guilds, licenses or obligatory university degrees in journalism constitute a serious limitation of freedom of expression and of the press and are, therefore, not compatible with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

This was the Stephen Schmidt case. Schmidt then was a writer for The Tico Times and Spanish-language pubications. His case went all the way to the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Sala III) where his conviction for illegally practicing journalism was upheld.

The InterAmerican Court of Human Rights later found the conviction to be faulty and basically nullified this part of the law.

Many journalists in Costa Rica belong to the Colegio de Periodistas. Mandatory requirements against journalists still apply in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In the United States many well-known news people do not have a journalism school education. Some are lawyers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 122


Latin American news digest
World Bank predicts
even deeper recession


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Bank said the global recession in 2009 will be even deeper than previously predicted, with developing nations facing increased poverty and unemployment.

The World Bank said in a report issued Monday that the global economic recession and associated market turmoil caused a steep drop in international capital flow to investments in less developed countries in 2008. The bank said foreign investments are expected to fall further this year.

Earlier this month the World Bank said the global economy will shrink by 2.9 percent. In March, the Washington-based lender had said the economy would decline 1.7 percent.

The bank said the world economy should start to grow again in late 2009, but recovery will be slower than expected. 

It urged countries to make bold policy measures to revive lending and growth.

The World Bank's economic forecast is even more pessimistic than expected predictions by its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund. 

Reports on Bloomberg and Reuters quoted unnamed sources saying the fund is raising next year's growth prediction to hit 2.4 percent, up a half a percent from what earlier  studies predicted.

Champs to play in Portrero

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Liberia Mia, the national soccer champions, will help inaugurate a new field in Playa Portrero by playing the local team July 4. The 2 p.m. event will be the highlight of the celebration.




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