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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 124        E-mail us
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ice cream vendor
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Neither rain
nor rain

For seven years Carlos Luis Araya Seas, 43, has pushed an ice cream cart all over the north side of San José. He starts at 8 a.m. and works this job until about 5 p.m. when he becomes a vendor of socks and other products.

He pushes his cart from Zapote through  Curridabat, San Pedro and Barrio México. He was photographed in Barrio Otoya. And it is all muscle  power.

Araya, a Barrio Lujan resident, said he can make 3,000 to 4,000 colons on a good day. That's $6 to $8. On a bad day like rainy Monday, the income is less.




Insurance bill gets a green light from magistrates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has found that the proposed law opening the nation's insurance market to companies other than the state monopoly is constitutional.

The measure went before the court on a legislative consultation that lets the magistrates rule on matters before they become law.

The court ruled on both the content of the law and the manner in which it was approved. Like other bills related to the free trade treaty with the United States, the measure was approved using a fast-track process that kept opponents from filibustering.

The court also found constitutional the procedure in which the legislative leadership created a special commission to study the proposal instead of sending the bill to one of the traditional committees, the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Económicos.
The constitutional chamber of the Corte Suprema de Justicia made the decision Monday morning, and the summary was released before the close of the business day.

The court magistrates ruled unanimously that the measure did not have any constitutional faults in procedure, but several magistrates took issue with various sections of the law and said there were constitutional flaws.

The magistrates were Ana Virginia Calzada Miranda, Luis Paulino Mora Mora, Adrián Vargas Benavides, Gilbert Armijo Sancho, Ernesto Jinesta Lobo, Fernando Cruz Castro and Federico Sosto López.

Under terms of the bill, the government monopoly, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, cannot conduct insurance business outside of the national territory. However, the court said that the prohibition does not extend to commercial entities created by the institute.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 124

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4257-11/21/08
Minimum salaries go up
for second half of year


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers who receive the minimum wage will get at least a 6.58 percent increase July 1, the Consejo Nacional de Salarios decided Monday. In addition, those at the lower end of the wage scale will get 4,000 or 5,000 colons a month more. Many of the country's blue collar and office workers receive the minimum.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, which represents the employers, said it agreed with the hikes and supported the additional pay for the lowest paid. Some employee groups wanted an 11 percent general raise.

The special increases are for the categories called unspecialized (uncalificado) and semi-specialized, individuals who hold jobs like messengers, construction laborers, car washers and waiters.

Unspecialized, such as messengers and misceláneos, who are mostly janitors, now get 164,007 a month. That is about $317.84 at the current rate of exchange. They will get a raise to 174,799 and then get 5,000 colons more for a total of 179,799 or $348.45. There are about a half million such employees in the country, said the employee group.

Semi-specialized like receptionists and warehouse workers now get 177,967 a month. That's $344.90.  They will get a raise to 189, 677 and then receive a bonus of 4,000 colons a month for a total of 193,677 colons or $375.34.

The Ministerio de Trabajo maintains a current list of salaries by each occupation on its Web site.

accident photo
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio Ramírez Corrales
Two men suffered injuries in this vehicle at the climax of a police chase when the vehicle collided with a utility pole late Sunday near Hospital Calderón Guardia. A patrol car also was involved in the crash. The car was reported stolen, and police found a pistol in the wreckage.

Our reader's opinion
Reader finds faults
in diesel fuel proposal


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
While I congratulate the Arias administration's determination to address Costa Rica's petroleum dilemma head-on, I think they are going about it the wrong way. The current proposal is to eliminate the tax on diesel fuel altogether but to double the annual road tax on all privately owned, diesel-powered vehicles.

At a macro level, this may result in a roughly equivalent revenue stream for the government, and it certainly will favor public transportation and cargo haulers, but it will have a hugely negative impact upon small farmers and others who drive their diesel-powered vehicles on a limited basis.
 
To be sure, these low income, small scale users of diesel fuel will save a few colons each time they fuel up, but the increase in their annual taxes will be staggering. Some will be tempted not to pay the annual marchamo at all which will have the obvious effect on revenues.
 
A better approach would be to maintain the current tax on diesel fuel for all users and permit public carriers to submit their fuel receipts for a refund of the taxes they paid. Yes, a bit more government bureaucracy would be involved, but that creates jobs, and such an approach would have a much less deleterious impact upon low-income citizens who are high on President Arias' priority list.
David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 124


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taxi drivers
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Taxi drivers Henry Arrieta and Carlos Gutiérrez do not agree wtih the Sala IV constitutional court
Court order for more taxis for disabled prompts discussion
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ruled that there is an insufficient number of taxis equipped to accommodate persons with disabilities, according to a judicial press release issued Monday.

A woman identified by the last names of Valverde Arias brought the complaint against the Consejo de Transporte Público, which regulates taxi services provided to the public, and 11 taxi companies.

Ms. Valverde argued that disabled persons have a higher need to attend rehabilitation and medical appointments, and that, contrary to past demands of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, taxi companies have not met this demand, according to the summary of the decision.

Taxi drivers who frequent a stand at Hospital Calderón Guardia in east San José disagree with Ms. Valverde and argue that there are more than enough taxis equipped to handle wheelchair customers and people with disabilities.

Independent taxi driver Henry Arrieta commented on the situation while waiting for his next fare outside the hospital.

“I think there are sufficient special taxis for people with disabilities,” Arrieta said, “There are more and more new ones every day.”

Arrieta has been a taxi driver for the last 26 years. He said that specially equipped taxis are even more common during
peak business hours during the day when more people frequent the hospital or need to get to and from work.

Carlos Gutiérrez, another independent driver with 10 years experience in San José said that, to his knowledge, there is not a pressing demand for taxis equipped for the disabled.
“The people don't like them,” Gutiérrez said.

Deyanira Gutiérrez, who has been a Hospital Calderón Guardia patient's assistant for two years, agrees.

“Most of them take their own cars,” she said, “Especially if there is a family or many people, they come in their own cars.” Ms. Gutiérrez also mentioned that there aren't many specially equipped taxis around, but there are enough to meet the demand.

“Really I don't see them, I see about seven more or less each day,” she said, “But there are enough here.”

Ms. Valverde, the woman who brought the case to the constitutional court, has another option reflected in the paperwork. She is disabled and uses a wheelchair, according to the summary of the decision.

She said that when she has sought the service, the companies refuse to provide a vehicle with a wheelchair ramp because they do not have one, she said.

The Consejo de Transporte Público was named in the case because she said it had not taken the steps necessary to make sure that the transportation companies were following a law that requires them to provide service to the disabled.


Museum prepares workshops for midyear school vacation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional will host a variety of workshops for school children during the upcoming midyear break from July 7 through July 18.

The workshops are designed to be entertaining for children and adults alike, according to a museum press release. Museum press representative Wendy Segura Calderón commented on the program:

“Really, the workshops are for the whole family,” she said, adding that some are geared more for children, but can be enjoyed by all.

A basic karate class, pre-Colombian pottery lessons and youth workshops on archeology and paleontology are listed
  on the program schedule, among others. Ms. Calderón said the activities are free, but a small materials fee may be required for some at the beginning of the class.

The karate class will be held from July 14 through July 16 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., lessons in making pre-Colombian pottery are July 7 from 9 to noon. Youth paleontology is planned for July 10, and archaeology is planned for July 17, both from 9 a.m. to noon, according to the schedule.

A full listing should be available on the museum's Web site soon. Ms. Calderón confirmed that all of the workshops will be held at the national museum.

The museum typically holds two such workshop periods a year, one in January, and one during the summer break period, Ms. Calderón said.





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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 124


stamp exhibit
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
José Duarte Salazar discusses the work representing the Tomás Guardia stamp  commemorating the first railroad engine, No. 59.

Historic stamps form the basis for an exhibition of paintings
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Art students have joined forces with postal workers to create an exhibit of paintings that display the most significant stamps in the history of Costa Rica.

Correos de Costa Rica, the post office, is 91 years old this year, and the students' school, the Escuela Casa del Artista is 57. The Museo de Arte Costarricense is 30. That was enough birthday coincidence for José Duarte Salazar, the professor at the art school, to arrange a showing of 29 works. All but one are oil paintings. One is Acrylic.

Evelyn Garrido Mora, a professor and exhibitor, did the work to determine the most significant stamps. Among them is a stamp commemorating the arrival of the country's first railroad locomotive during the dictatorship of Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez. The railroad to the Atlantic was not finished until more than 15 years later due to the unfriendly geography. The exhibition runs until July 20 at the central postal office downtown.
second stamps display
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Gullermo Calvo Loaiza surveys his work of hanging the pictures, including one that represents a stamp containing the words to the national anthem.


Executive branch presents fuel tax hikes to the legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch sent to the legislature Monday afternoon a bill that would eliminate the 97.50-colon fuel tax on a liter of diesel. At the same time the bill mandates a tax increase from 173.25 to 325.50 colons for super and from 165.75 to 306 colons for regular.  The 152-colon tax hike on super is about 29.5 U.S. cents.

This is one of the government's proposals to shift the increasing cost of petroleum from the working class. President Óscar Arias Sánchez said he thought that much of the truck and bus transportation runs on diesel.  However, most taxis use gasoline. There was no mention in the government statement about adjustments for taxis.

In addition, there is no guarantee that the notoriously slow Asamblea Legislativa will pass the measure or do so rapidly.
Rodrigo Arias, the brother of the president and minister of the Presidencia, said that a decree will be published   Thursday that increased the no-drive zone for vehicles with the wrong final digit on the license plate. The rule that used to cover the center of town is being shifted to the south as far as the Circunvalación. The prohibited digits change each weekday.

All these measures had been announced last week, and Óscar Arias made mention of them again Sunday.

The government also is restricting truck use of the major metropolitan highways from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The idea is that big trucks slow down peak hour traffic and cause motorists to waste gasoline.  The highways are the Braulio Carrillo (route 32 to Limón), the General Cañas (to Alajuela), the Bernardo Soto (to San Ramón), the Próspero Fernández (to Santa Ana) and the Florencio del Castillo (San José-Cartago).


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 24, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 124

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A.M. Costa Rica

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


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.


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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.


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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


Hunting of whales still
international debate topic

 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Representatives of 80 nations are gathering in the Chilean capital Santiago for the annual, meeting the International Whaling Commission.

The 62-year-old consortium, which governs the manner and extent of global whaling, has been split in recent years by forces opposed to commercial whaling and those in favor of it. The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on the practice in 1986.

But Japan continues to hunt whales under a provision that allows for whaling for scientific purposes. It planned to introduce a resolution at this year's meeting that will allow it to resume commercial whaling in its coastal waters.

Iceland and Norway have both resumed commercial whaling, ignoring the ban altogether.

But Australia, which opposes commercial whaling, says it will push for stronger conservation measures. A group of 13 Latin American countries plus Spain, known as the Buenos Aires Group, is expected to push for expansion of whale sanctuaries. Costa Rica is within this group. Members signed an agreement in Buenos Aires in 2005.

Among the other issues to be addressed during the week-long conference are whale-related tourism and the effect of climate change on whales.

Mexico acts to freeze
prices of food staples


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's government is taking on soaring food prices with a series of voluntary prices controls.

President Felipe Calderón said prices for staples, like tortillas, beans, coffee and hundreds of other items, will hold steady for the rest of the year following an agreement with the country's food manufacturers.

Inflation in México has accelerated at its fastest pace in three years.

Last month Mexico announced a temporary suspension of tariffs on some imported food products.

Also today, corn prices fell for the first time in two weeks in trading on the Chicago Board of Trade, on speculation near record prices were hurting demand.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture said corn sales fell 35 percent for the week ending June 12.

The United Nations says it will take $15 billion to $20 billion each year to stem the tide of soaring food prices that increased global hunger and poverty and sparked rioting in some countries. 

Delegates at an emergency food summit in Rome earlier this month approved a declaration vowing to work together to ease the suffering caused by the global rise in food prices.






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