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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, July 1, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 128       E-mail us
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Remember the 3-D movies in the 1950s? Well, they are back just in time for midyear vacation for school kids.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas



New immigration bill tweaked and ready for action
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new immigration law has had its ups and downs. Now the final, final version has been approved by a legislative committee again and is about to be subject to a vote on the floor of the Asamblea Legislativa. Approval is highly likely.

The Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración has made minor changes in the law as it related to trafficking in persons. The proposed law, on the verge of passage several times, hit a roadblock when lawmakers sent it to the Sala IV constitutional court for a review.

Court reviews before final passage of legislation frequently take place in Costa Rica. The court reported that it found inconsistencies between this bill and the just-passed law to protect victims and witnesses in the area of human trafficking.

Due to legislative rules, lawmakers could not make swift changes in the existing bill and had to send it back to a committee to do the editing. That was done last week. The work appears to be minor compared to the complete rewrite of the bill published several months ago.

The committee Tuesday also incorporated other changes that had been proposed and approved before the measure went up to the court. Originally lawmakers planned a vote May 22. The bill was No. 1 on the list of priorities.

This is the measure that will raise the monthly financial requirement for a pensionado to $1,000 from the current $600 and require rentistas to show a monthly income of $2,500 from $1,000.The new law also would require all foreign residents to
become members of the Caja Costarricence de Seguro Social.

When the measure first was announced, expats and potential expats were surprised by a retroactive clause and a $5,000 a month requirement for a rentista resident. E-mail and telephone campaigns from expats are credited with being responsible for changes from the original draft.

When President Óscar Arias Sánchez took office in 2006 he moved unsuccessfully to stop a new immigration law from going into effect. That law, passed in the last days of the Abel Pacheco administration, was considered to be too harsh. It drew criticism from Roman Catholic Church officials, for example, because they thought their relief operations for illegal immigrants could be considered trafficking.

Officials called together representatives from a number of interest groups and social organizations to consider a new immigration law. For some reason, North American and European expats were not included. That is why the higher requirements for pensionados and rentistas got into the initial bill.

Costa Rican officials lump the measure together among the handful of citizen security bills that are moving through the legislature or have been approved like the victims bill or the organized crime bill. Among other changes, the final draft contains measures to reduce corruption in the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Unless the paragraph has been changed in committee, expats will have six months to apply for residency under the old requirements.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 128

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Well-known boxer sought
to answer rape allegation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heavyweight boxer Carl Davis Drummond is being sought by agents to answer an allegation of rape leveled by a cleaning lady.

Davis is a popular figure in Costa Rica, although he has had police problems in the past. The existence of an arrest warrant was confirmed by the Poder Judicial, which said that the alleged act for which he is sought took place June 21. The location was reported as his apartment in Belén.

Davis is scheduled to fight again July 21. The case is in the hands of the Fiscalía Adjunta de Delitos Sexuales y Violencia Doméstica.

Davis has not been seen in the San José area this week, and he has missed a training session, associates said.

Hondurans march in support
of provision president, army


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of Hondurans have marched in support of the new government that replaced ousted leader José Manuel Zelaya earlier this week. Officials have vowed to arrest Zelaya if he returns to the country.

Supporters of the new government rallied in the capital Tuesday to hear a speech from interim President Roberto Micheletti and the head of the nation's armed forces.

Marchers held signs and waved the blue-and-white flag of the Central American nation as they chanted slogans in support of Micheletti and the army. Some people also voiced criticism of ousted President Zelaya and his close ties to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.

Michelleti led a cheer for soldiers, who he said had done nothing more than fulfill their duties under the constitution.

He called on supporters to cheer for the real heroes of the moment, the nation's armed forces.

The former leader of congress said the military was acting on a judicial order to remove Zelaya, who he accused of a series of offenses as president.

Micheletti said the events this week should serve as an example that no person who becomes president is above the law.

Earlier, the attorney general under the new government released details about a criminal investigation into the ousted leader, who he said is accused of 18 offenses, including treason and abuse of power. Officials also said Zelaya was involved in trafficking drugs from South America through the country.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York, Zelaya pledged to return to Honduras Thursday and reclaim the presidency. The new attorney general said Zelaya will be arrested if he sets foot in the country, and he said officials were seeking help from INTERPOL to capture the ousted leader on foreign soil.

Also Tuesday, supporters of the ousted leader held separate marches around the capital. One day earlier, security forces outside the presidential palace clashed with hundreds of protesters demanding Zelata's return.

President Barack Obama has said the coup against Zelaya was illegal and that he remains the president of the Central American nation. Scores of Latin American governments also have rejected the new government in Tegucigalpa.

The Organization of American States held an emergency meeting in Washington to consider a response to the coup, including the possible suspension of Honduras from the regional bloc.

 
U.N. General Assembly votes
in support of ousted president


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.N. General Assembly has condemned Sunday's coup in Honduras that expelled President José Manuel Zelaya from the country and has called for his restoration to power.

In a vote by acclamation, the 192-member states of the United Nations agreed Tuesday not to recognize any other government in Honduras than President Zelaya's.

President Zelaya then strode to the podium, embraced the Nicaraguan president of the General Assembly and began an hour-long speech detailing why his ouster was undemocratic and illegal.

"A number of charges have been leveled against your humble servant in Honduras. But I have not been put on trial," he said. "I have not been called to the stand to defend myself. Nobody has told me what my crime is, nobody has indicated what my errors are, no accusations have been brought to my attention by any judge."

Honduran soldiers, acting on orders of the supreme court, arrested Zelaya early Sunday and flew him to Costa Rica.

In a sometimes rambling address, he blamed the country's elite and its media which he said manipulated the military to win his ouster. He then went on to detail his ordeal Sunday when authorities roused him from his bed and took him away in his pajamas to Costa Rica.

"I was awoken by shouts, by hammering against the door below, screams. And I awoke and rose still in my night clothes and saw an entire contingent of armed officials with helmets, with rifles, who pushed me out into the street jostling me," said President Zelaya. "These are moments I do not wish to remember because it breaks my heart to see humanity slide backwards."

He said he told them if they had orders to execute him, then they should carry them out. But he was instead taken to the airport and sent to Costa Rica, where he began seeking the help of regional allies.

Following his address to the General Assembly, Zelaya told reporters that he would not seek to stay in office after his term ends in January and would return to life as a farmer.

"If I was offered the possibility of remaining in power, I would not do it," he said. "I am going to fulfill my four years, I am going to fight to have the four years respected, because it is part of our law."

Zelaya said he plans to return to Honduras Thursday. He said the president of the General Assembly, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, would travel with him, as well as the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador and the head of the Organization of American States. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 128

Chlor free
Red Mango Real estate

3-D cartoon movie arrives in time for midyear vacations
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The three-dimensional movie "Up" is in town just in time for the public school midyear vacations that starts Friday.

The cartoon is by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. The director is Pete Docter, who also did the hilarious "Monsters, Inc." Voices include those of Edward Asner and Christopher Plummer.

The movie gives youngsters a chance to experience the 3-D craze of the 1950s, except the necessary red and green glasses are on loan for 500 colons (nearly $1) and the penalty is $20 if you lose them.

In the 1950s the 3-D glasses were cardboard and a viewer could take them home.

There was a steady attendance at the Mall San Pedro theater Tuesday because some of the private schools already are on vacation.  The story line is complex, but it involves a grouchy old man and a boy flying a balloon-filled house south to Angel Falls in Venezuela.

In doing so, the man fulfills a promise made with his late wife. Critics say the man's character is modeled on that of
Thre-d glasses
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Some of the youngsters who enjoyed the film Tuesday.

the great movie actor Spencer Tracey.

The entry for the 3-D movie is 3,000 colons, not counting the rental of glasses. That's $5.25. Parents should be cautious because the movie also is being offered in a non-3-D version that is cheaper but lacks the dynamics and surprises.


Organized crime bill advances with vote in legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though most Costa Rican officials agree the country does not have the resources to fight organized crime and despite concerns that the measure is not constitutional, lawmakers passed the law against organized crime Tuesday.

The approval was on first reading, and the legislature is expected to approve the bill for the second and final time later this week.

The initial approval was met with praise by Casa Presidencial and the security minister, Janina del Vecchio.

The principal elements of the bill are that in cases deemed organized crime, investigators will be able to tap telephones for a year and go back into bank accounts for 10 years seeking ill-gotten gains.

As A.M. Costa Rica reported Thursday the bill also will allow various police agencies and the Instituto Costarricense Sobre Drogas to share in the confiscated goods or money.

Only one lawmaker voted against the measure. That was  Jorge Eduardo Sanchez of the minority Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. He wanted to revise the bill because he said it did not meet with expectations and contained grave constitutional flaws.

Under the definitions of the bill, most crimes could be categorized as organized crimes if two or more person participate.

The bill would create a Centro Judicial de Intervención de las Comunicaciones, envisioned as a 24-hour center that will
eavesdrop on suspected criminals. Telecommunication companies are ordered by the proposal to help with the wiretapping.

The bill also authorizes a computer system containing all the information on crimes and investigations. This information would be shared among police officers and agents with certain levels of access.

A judge at the request of the Ministerio Público could order the lifting of bank secrecy for individual and companies involved in organized crime investigations. The Contraloría General de la Republica, the Ministerio de Hacienda, the Instituto Costarricense Sobre Drogas or the Ministerio Público are empowered to file complaints citing any income that does not appear to be justified.

The period of oversight is 10 years.

Anyone who is accused of accumulating goods or money without apparent legal ways of doing so would have the burden of proof to show that the income is legitimate. Otherwise, the bill allows confiscation, fines and the cost of the investigation.

Similar confiscation laws in the United States have been criticized as being exploited by police departments to get income.

As A.M. Costa Rica has pointed out, the wiretapping measures could easily be circumvented by criminals by using disposable cell phones and available encryption software on computers. And the concept of having all police information on one computer program raises concerns of illegal intrusion into the data perhaps by crooked agents.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 128

Health ministry gives warning on refrigerated cookie dough
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Salud issued a warning Tuesday on Nestlé cookie dough, which has been linked to E. coli bacteria in the United States.

The ministry pointed out that uncooked Nestlé dough is not registered for sale in Costa Rica. Nestlé said that the majority of the suspected products were distributed in the United States and exported to Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Bahrain and Singapore. The company has instituted a recall.

The bacteria was confirmed in a sample of 16-ounce Nestlé Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough bar, the company said late last week.

"Nestlé Toll House cookies made from refrigerated
 frozen dough are perfectly safe for consumption when prepared according to the instructions on the label," said the company. "These clearly state that the raw dough must be baked before consumption."

Still Nestlé said that consumers who have purchased the recalled products are advised by Nestlé not to consume them and return them to the store.

Raw cookie dough is a kitchen treat. That may be why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said 75 percent of the persons sickened in the United States are women and two-thirds are below the age of 19. In all, the ministry said that 70 persons had been infected and that 25 had been hospitalized. Seven persons had developed complications.
The E. coli samples were found in Danville, Virginia, June 25, the ministry said.
 

Heredia-San José rail line hits unexpected legal barrier
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Getting the Heredia-San José train running again is proving to be a frustration for rail officials.

The latest problem is a landowner who says that the train endangers his property because the track runs at the base of a steep hill. The landowner has filed a complaint in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, the Poder Judicial confirmed Tuesday.

Officials, a judge and a civil engineer were at the scene Tuesday. The engineer, being considered a court expert, now has five days to present a report.

The grade is nearly vertical, although rain officials have installed wire and barriers to prevent slide. The primary concern is vibration from the daily passage of 16 or more passengers trains. However, the tracks have been there since the beginning of the 20th century.

In the meantime, the court has ordered a halt to regular passenger service. Officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles were planning an inauguration for Tuesday. They also have been running the passenger train for two weeks with a free fare.

The Poder Judicial said that the legal maneuver has been going on since Jan. 10 when the landowner first presented his complaint.  The judge ordered a technical and scientific study of the situation to demonstrate the stability of the slope. The rail institute presented the study June 24, said the Poder Judicial.
The situation probably will not be resolved soon. Once the engineer's report is in the hands of the judge, the Poder Judicial said that the man will schedule an oral public hearing on the matter.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 128

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Malaria nets highly effective,
and U.N. promotes their use


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Despite the huge toll that malaria takes on the world, preventing the disease is relatively easy. Since most transmissions occur through mosquito bites in the middle of the night, widespread use of long-lasting, insecticide-treated bednets can reduce transmission by as much as 90 percent. 

That's why the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created to support U.N. goals, has a campaign devoted entirely to raising money to purchase bed nets.

The campaign is called "Nothing But Nets." The name not only highlights the group's sole mission; it's also the way people describe a basketball shot that goes right through the hoop, touching nothing but the net.

The sports connection is no accident. The campaign was launched by American sports writer Rick Reilly. In 2006, Reilly wrote a column in Sports Illustrated asking readers to give money to the U.N. Foundation to buy bednets. More than 17,000 people responded, sending in more than $1 million.

Following the success of this initial drive, the U.N. Foundation, the National Basketball Association, the United Methodist Church and other groups partnered together to form Nothing But Nets.

Executive Director Elizabeth Gore says, "The Nothing But Nets campaign has been responsible, thus far, for raising 26 million dollars, which translates into 2.6 million nets, which is a big part of this. The U.N. system is now up to distributing almost 20 million nets a year."

Every bit of prevention is important, considering the devastating effects of malaria around the world. There are about 300 million infections and one million deaths from malaria each year. Malaria hits children the hardest, to the extent that an infected child dies approximately every 30 seconds. In Costa Rica several hundred or more persons contract the disease every year, mainly on the coasts. This year the Ministerio de Salud reports just 128, about half the 2008 total for the same period.

The disease also has broader impacts.

"Malaria is also hurting all of our other efforts from getting kids to school to people that are on anti-retroviral drugs dying of malaria," Mrs. Gore says. "It's a root cause of poverty."

More recently, Nothing But Nets has partnered with the U.N. High Commission on Refugees to distribute nets in refugee camps. Refugees and internally displaced peoples are among those most vulnerable to malaria. According to Thomas Albrecht of the refugee agency, "Refugee situations are often very complex, but here we can see that one can make a concrete difference without having to go into much analysis."

Perhaps because of this concreteness, enthusiasm for the Nothing But Nets campaign has remained strong, even in a troubled economy.

As part of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations would like to eradicate malaria by 2015.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 128

Latin American news digest
Dota bus crash generates
flood of rider complaints

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bus accident in Santa María de Dota Monday has unleashed a flood of complaints by residents, and the Defensoría de los Habitantes has stepped in.

The Defensoría said Tuesday that it has asked the Consejo de Transporte Público to intervene, perhaps to the extent of voiding the franchise to service the route.

The cantons involves are Dota, Terrazú and León Cortés. Representatives of the Defensoría went to the area Tuesday on the heels of the bus accident that injured 60 passengers Monday.

The Defensoría said that it had been accumulating complaints all year. The bus accident is attributed to a mechanical fault. The vehicle plunged off the highway on a curve into a depression and rolled on its side.

Residents expressed concern about the condition of the buses Tuesday but also complained about customer service, the hours and that the buses sometimes are full, said the Defensoría.  The company is Musoc y Autotransportes Los Santos.

Tourism officials report
name is being misused


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute said Tuesday that sales companies are using its name to promote vacations and even language classes.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo also said that its trademark "Redescubra su país" and others were being used illegally for the same purposes.

One of the companies is offering a prize of a dinner at a local hotel and is using the name of the institute, the announcement said. The institute said that it is not involved in any vacation plan or premium offer.


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