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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, July 1, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 128        E-mail us
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July 4th picnic info available on flashy Web site
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Getting to the American Colony Committee July 4th bash Sunday is easier, thanks to a dynamite Web site.

The site, donated by a patron, contains, among other things, a map to the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds off the Autopista General Cañas. The location is a frequent topic of calls to A.M. Costa Rica, and the best that editors could do in the past was to say the site is east of Juan Santamaría airport.

This is the 50th year for the picnic, which is supported mostly by donations. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., slightly longer this year.

The organizing committee noted that employees of the beer company surrendered their Sunday use of the picnic grounds in honor of the 50th anniversary. In past years, the committee did not always hold the event on July 4 because it had to work around the weekend schedule.

Again this year, there is an admission, $5 or 2,500 colons for adults. Kids under 5 get in free. The picnic is restricted to U.S. citizens and their immediate families, although volunteer gate monitors have been known to turn a blind eye to Costa Rican boyfriend or girlfriend and the occasional young Costa Rican neighbor.

The stated purpose of the event is to provide a traditional July 4 holiday for U.S. youngsters living here. As the committee notes on its Web page, the event used to be staged at the U.S. ambassador's residence by the U.S. Embassy staff. That was before many U.S. citizens moved to Costa Rica. Now an estimated 4,000 people will attend Sunday. No public funds are involved.

Youngsters have what amounts to a small carnival with rides and games. For some adults, the attraction is the beer and the hot dogs, all of which are free after an individual enters the picnic grounds.
July 4 event
From American Colony Committee Web page

Costa Rican chapters of U.S. political parties usually have booths to tell their story and promote membership. The embassy staff and veteran organizations also will be represented.

The committee's Web pages this year contain a photographic retrospective of past picnics, including shots of the multiple Uncle Sam figures from previous years. The photos are from the archives of The Tico Times.

The highlight is the raising of the U.S. Flag by the U.S. Marine color guard. There also will be speeches.

Expats in the Quepos area who can't make the Central Valley event plan their own barbeque from noon until 6 p.m. at the  La Foresta Nature Reserve near the Quepos airport. Local musical groups will perform.

Because of the weather, the American Colony event ends in the early afternoon. Commercial establishments that cater to expats pick up the slack then by offering their own Independence Day parties.

Meanwhile Canadians celebrated Canada Day with a picnic at the Zamora Estate Hotel in Santa Ana last Saturday. The official day is today and marks Canada's 143th birthday.



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Canada urged to stress
Latin regions for security


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Haiti, Central America, México, and the countries of the Andean region are the primary sources of high levels of violence and weak state authority, and the strength of national and international criminal organizations in those regions pose threats to Canadian society, concludes a new paper released Wednesday by the Canadian International Council.

"Canada's National Security Challenges in the Caribbean and Latin America" argues that the main focuses of Canadian policy insofar as security challenges are concerned should be Haiti, Colombia, Central America, and Mexico, and the Canadian government should concentrate its resources accordingly.

"The Canadian government must make a new budget allocation to the Americas Strategy if that initiative is to have credibility in either Canada or the region," says Stephen J. Randall, author of the paper.

Randall is professor of history at the University of Calgary and a Fellow with the Canadian International Council, the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, and the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

The Canadian International Council (CIC) is an independent, member-based council established to strengthen Canada's role in
international affairs.

More hours to get license

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The driving license agency in La Uruca will be open two hours longer weekdays during July. The agency, correctly called the Departamento de Acreditación de Conductores, will stay open until 6 p.m., the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Trasnsporte said.

Expats who do not have a Costa Rican license need to check the hours each day when officials will be there to validate their foreign license. Most First World drivers can get a Costa Rican license without taking the academic and practical test as long as they have a valid license in their own country.

But they have to go through a special interview process that is not always available.

For those seeking to renew their license, the agency urged them to apply three months before the right to drive expires. The new traffic law contains stiff penalties for driving on an expired license.

School food criticized

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes wants the education ministry to exercise better control over the type of food that is served at the schools.

The agency said that food of low nutritional value and with saturated fats leads to high blood pressure, diabetes and excess weight.  The concern was directed mainly at foods that children can buy on their own at school.

Lottery agency honored
with postal cancelation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica is celebrating the 165th anniversary of the Junta de Protección Social by issuing a special commemorative cancelation that will be on every piece of mail entering or leaving the country.

The Junta is the agency that runs the national lotteries. The special cancelation, called matasello in Spanish, is used by the postal service to honor persons and institutions.

Álvaro Coghi, general manager of Correos de Costa Rica, said that the Junta has given away thousands of prizes and has been fundamental in strengthening many social organizations that work with those most vulnerable in society. The Junta began as the Junta de Caridad April 9, 1844.  It's job than was to organize the health services for the city. The lotteries came later.


Our reader's opinion
Referendum on civil unions
is a way to crush minority


Wrestling over rights is indeed not a one-time process, so the question of same sex unions should not be put to a popular vote or referendum. As has often been said, asking the majority if the minority should have the same rights as they enjoy is as fair as asking a pack of wolves and one sheep what should be served for supper.

There are lots of minorities in Costa Rica whose access to the same rights as the majority enjoys is automatic and constitutional, and quite rightly not subject to popular opinion. To deny same sex partner rights is to imply that these people are not human, or citizens, or are somehow criminals excluded from equal rights. In practical terms this is quite a double standard. For example, as a expat resident I am now required to join the Caja, whether I want or need the service at considerable expense to myself. However I would be denied the basic right to include my family in the application should same consist of a same-sex partner.

It seems to me that allowing a referendum on this matter merely creates an opportunity for the Catholic Church and like minded straight people to crush a minority and is a pointless and unfair exercise that should not be allowed in a just society.

R. Martin
Quepos/Toronto

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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.

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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.

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 128

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

Chief prosecutor Dall'Anese takes U.N. job in Guatemala
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations secretary general tapped Francisco Dall'Anese Wednesday to direct the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Dall'Anese is Costa Rica's chief prosecutor, and the appointment means he will go to Guatemala and leave his job here.

As chief prosecutor, Dall'Anese supervised all the criminal court cases and investigations. That he was seeking the United Nations job was known because newspapers elsewhere published his name as a candidate.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Dall'Anese an experienced legal campaigner. The United Nations-backed commission is charged with dismantling illegal armed groups and tackling impunity in Guatemala. Dall'Anese will succeed Carlos Castresana, who served since the commission's inception in 2007.

Castresana accused Guatemala's attorney general, Conrad Reyes, of criminal connections when he left office June 4.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who made the appointment, thanked Castresana for his excellent work.
“The achievements of CICIG during that period have been praised by Guatemalan authorities, civil society and the international community alike,” Ban said.

Since becoming Costa Rican chief prosecutor in 2003, Dall’Anese has waged campaigns against narco-trafficking and organized crime, led major investigations against corruption and helped introduce prominent legislation against organized crime, said the U.N. in a release.

Dall’Anese has also served as an alternate magistrate in the Corte Suprema de Justicia, taught criminal law at a university and co-authored numerous books and articles on criminal, judicial and procedural law, the U.N. added.

The U.N. and the Guatemalan government set up the commission as an independent body to support the public prosecutors’ office, the national civilian police and other institutions to investigate a limited number of sensitive and difficult cases regarding illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations and also dismantle them.
Based in Guatemala City, the capital, the commission seeks to bolster the rule of law and is permitted by its mandate to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts.

Dall'Anese was short tempered and created an international incident when he was detained briefly by U.S. border security agents in Miami  in 2008.

The fiscal general said he was treated so badly when he tried to enter the United States April 23 of that year that he immediately booked a return flight and did not keep an appointment with U.S. prosecutors.

“They treated me worse than a criminal” said Dall'Anese in a letter he wrote to the Costa Rican minister of foreign affairs. “They never respected my rights. They knew exactly who they were detaining.”

An A.M. Costa Rica reporter who traveled to Miami found vast differences between the story told by Dall'Anese and U.S. officials there. Dall'Anese does not speak English.

Dall'Anese also made the headlines when his bodyguards complained that he was staying out at social events until the wee hours. They were replaced.

When he came up for renewal as fiscal he basically had to plead in a public session with the supreme court to keep his job.

He is believed to be instrumental in the return to Costa Rica of Luis Milanes, who faces fraud charges for a high interest scheme he ran. Milanes spent just one day in jail before being allowed to post property as bail. The casino owner goes to a preliminary hearing today. Investors lost perhaps $200 million, and at least $40 million are represented by those who filed formal complaints. Many investors complained that Milanes was allowed to live the high life for two years with the apparent approval of the judiciary.

Dall'Anese also pushed for the organized crime bill that allows more flexible procedures in such cases as well as what is called a police platform, a computer linkup so that information on crime and criminals is available throughout police and investigative agencies.


Acción Ciudadana reconfirms opposition to electricity bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana reconfirmed its opposition Wednesday to a proposed law that would allow extensive private generation of electricity.

The 11 members of the party in the legislature met with President Laura Chinchilla to express their concerns.

A release said that the party saw some positive changes in the position of the Chinchilla administration in contrast to that of the former Óscar Arias Sánchez regime.

A number of bills have been presented on the topic of allowing the private generation of electricity. The bulk of the generation is now in the hands of the government's Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Plans exist by  investors to challenge the institute's domination, mostly with hydropower.
The Acción Ciudadana lawmakers said they would await the actual text of a bill that the Chinchilla administration is proposing. The central government is expected to draft something different than what is now in the legislature.

All the bills are still in committee for study.

The visiting lawmakers also said they used the meeting to promote their own agenda and found some common ground. The opposition lawmakers want to see a reform of the law against violence toward women approved.

That reform would seek to circumvent some constitutional flaws that the Sala IV constitution court found basically gutting the measure.

The meeting was one of a series that the president is having with lawmakers from political parties other than her own Liberación Nacional.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 128

Escazú Christian Fellowship
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Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Deal reached to formalize protesting contract drivers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has reached an accord with porteadores that basically gives the contract drivers everything that they wanted.

The porteadores are those drivers who carry passengers under a provision of the commercial code. They and their families are said to number 10,000.

The porteadores have set up blockades to stress their point of view. Taxi drivers have responded by doing the same thing. More recently the porteadores threatened to close down the country with blockades.

The situation was inherited by President Laura Chinchilla from the Arias administration.

In an agreement announced Wednesday the contract drivers will be allowed to carry passengers from door to door but not allowed to pick up passengers on the street as formal taxi drivers do.

Casa Presidencial said that the conflict between the taxi drivers and the porteadores has been going on for eight years. Although the contract drivers' claim to legality is thin, the government never tried to end the practice. Now they will have to follow the same rules that govern taxi drivers. They must follow the transportation laws and pay taxes and enroll for coverage in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

They also have to maintain accident insurance.

For three years the porteadores can use their current vehicles, but after that time they will have to provide newer vehicles just as taxi drivers have to do now, according to the agreement

In addition to central government officials and some legislative deputies, the Federación de Cooperativas de Taxis, the Cámara Nacional de Autobuseros, and the Cámara Nacional de Porteadores participated. Nevertheless, some formal taxi drivers consider the deal too advantageous for the contract drivers.

Contract drivers usually provide transport services at a lower rate and sometimes in crime-ridden areas where
porteadores block highways
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Porteadores staged this protest Feb. 4, 2009

formal taxi drivers will not go. They complained that getting a permit as a taxi driver was either too expensive if they bought it from a current holder or nearly impossible if they sought one from the government.

The accord announced Wednesday depends on favorable legislative treatment that will incorporate the understandings into Costa Rican law.

At the very least, the deal eliminates one immediate problem faced by the president. At least in the short term there will be no nationwide blockade. This is not the first agreement in this situation announced by Casa Presidencial in February 2009, what was called an historic agreement came as porteadores blocked the nation's highways. But that deal fell apart.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 128

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

China's Internet restrictions
reported more sophisticated

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Earlier this year, Google's decision to stop censoring search results on its Web site for Chinese authorities created a tense standoff with Beijing that might be drawing to a close as China weighs the renewal of the U.S.-based Internet company's business license.  U.S. lawmakers and Internet experts say Google's struggle highlights the inability of high-technology firms to promote change in China.

Rep. Christopher Smith praised Google during a legislative commission on Wednesday for daring to stand up to Beijing.  Smith called the company's decision to stop censoring itself on its Web site remarkable and thrilling.

But the Republican lawmaker from New Jersey said he feared that China would eventually push the Internet company out of its market.  "Google's difficulties in China make it clearer than ever that however well-intentioned, American IT companies are not powerful enough to stand up to repressive governments, especially the Chinese government," he said.

Smith told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China's tools for surveillance and repression were growing increasingly sophisticated.  He also voiced concern that freedom of expression was in retreat in China, noting that the monitoring group Reporters Without Borders states that 72 people are imprisoned in China for Internet postings.

Rebecca MacKinnon, an expert on the Internet in China at Princeton University, said Beijing's increasing control of the medium is the result of what she calls "networked authoritarianism."

Ms. MacKinnon noted that all Internet and communications technology companies in China are vital components of China's system of control. "In this way, much of the censorship and surveillance work is delegated and outsourced to the private sector, who, if they fail to monitor and censor their users to the government's satisfaction, will lose their business license and be forced to shut down," she said.

Ms. MacKinnon and Smith said this raises concerns about the role that U.S. companies and their investors play in helping Chinese authorities deny their people freedom of expression.

They pointed to Baidu, the largest Chinese search engine and Google's main competitor in China, as an example of how U.S. investors can become involved in Beijing's efforts to control society.  Ms. MacKinnon noted that two of Baidu's five directors are American and that U.S. investors provided much of the company's startup capital.

Baidu has been publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock market since 2005.

According to Christopher Smith, these are details that investors need to know.  "Both those who own the stock and those who are on the board need to realize they are aiding and abetting a dictatorship that is so unbelievably lethal to its own people," he said. 

Baidu won China's Internet self-discipline award last year for fostering what authorities called a harmonious and healthy development of the Internet.

Officials from Baidu were invited to attend the hearing, but commission members said they declined to appear.

Smith has proposed legislation that would give high-tech companies what he says is much needed support to help them stand up to repressive governments.

The bill, the Global Online Freedom Act, calls for the creation of a worldwide Internet office in the State Department that would rank countries' Internet restrictions.  It would also require U.S. companies to report to the State Department any requests by foreign governments for filtering.

According to industry estimates, Baidu's share of the Internet search engine market in China has jumped from about 58 percent late last year to 64 percent during the first quarter of this year.  During the same period, Google's share of the Chinese market slipped from more than 35 percent to 31 percent.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 128


Latin American news
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French prosecutor asks
10 years for Noriega


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French prosecutors have called for the maximum 10-year jail sentence for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, on trial in Paris on charges of laundering millions of dollars in drug money.

Prosecutor Michel Maes also urged judges Wednesday in closing arguments to freeze some of Noriega's other assets.

The 76-year-old ex-general is charged with laundering illicit cocaine profits in the 1980s through two French banks and then using the proceeds to buy luxury apartments in Paris.

Noriega has dismissed the charges, testifying Tuesday they stem from an imaginary banking scheme concocted by the United States.  He said the funds came from his legitimate businesses and from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which he, at one time, assisted in monitoring Colombian drug trafficking.

Noriega's lawyers said Wednesday that there is nothing to prove the money spent in France came from drug trafficking.

France convicted Noriega in absentia on the money laundering charges in 1999, but he was entitled to a new trial under French law after being extradited from the United States.

Noriega ruled Panamá from 1981 to 1989, and was arrested a year later during a U.S. invasion. He has already spent 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Quake was near Quepos


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An early morning earthquake Wednesday was in the mountains about 25 kilometers northeast of Quepos, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The magnitude was 4.0, it said

Based on incomplete data from remote sensors, A.M. Costa Rica estimated incorrectly in Wednesday's edition that the quake was near Volcán Poás  Later in the day scientists computed the location. The quake took place at 1:45 a.m. and was a product of the Coco tectonic plate pushing under the Panamá Block, the observatory said.

Two smaller quakes Wednesday took place about 1:35 p.m. five miles northwest of Pacayas. These were blamed on a local fault. The magnitudes were 3 and 2.5, the observatory said.




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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details