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(506) 2223-1327        Published  Wednesday, July 2, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 130        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Casino decrees restrict operations to 12 hours a day
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The long-awaiting government decrees will shut casinos for 12 hours a day.

The casino association will meet before the end of the week to discuss the newly released decrees, said the association president Tuesday. Members of the association are mainly worried about the new schedule, which restricts operations to between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., said the president. 

The official government newspaper La Gaceta, published three of the new decrees Friday. Many of the stipulations are similar to the current law and what was announced at a government press conference in April.
But the new hours for casino operation, originally set to be 6 p.m. to 2 a.m were changed in the final draft. The new schedule adds four more hours to the original schedule. Many casinos now are 24-hour operations.

“The new schedule is not what we wanted as an association,” said Rafael Vargas, the president of the Asociación de Casinos, “but we will analyze calmly and see what it means for us.”

Members of the association are not angry but worried, said Vargas. “We still have six months, so we will try to find some options,” he said. Vargas said he wasn't sure how many workers would lose their jobs if the new schedule goes into place. The members of the association will have to do some calculations and look deeper into the matter, he said. The night hours may make it difficult, he added.

In a previous interview Vargas said late hours would make it difficult for employees as well as gamblers.

Many players work odd hours of the day, he said, and some employees have children and other duties and can only work specific hours.
La Gaceta published a decree about health, which included a declaration affirmed by President Oscar Arias Sánchez that ludopatia is a sickness and a public health problem.

The public and private sectors should contribute to help the problem with economic resources, said the decree, although it did not give specifics. The disease can be spotted by a person who “is pushed by overwhelming and uncontrollable impulse to play,” said the decree.

Other parts of the health decree included sanitary regulations and emergency exit plans. If casinos do not follow the decrees, the Ministerio de Salud has the right to shut the offender down temporarily or permanently, said the decree.

The following decree relating to tourism said, as previously publicized: casinos must operate in at least a three-star hotel. The hotel must have at least 60 rooms and that only one casino is allowed per established hotel. 

The casino and hotel must have the same owner or “judicial proprietor” in order to make operations more transparent, the third decree said.

“Given the environment of casinos, it is necessary that the state establish a more strict control in regard to the patents and permissions of their functioning, ensuring the compliance with regulations,” said the decree.
The decree reiterates that casino activity often attracts an informal economy where things like “prostitution, drug addiction, and citizen insecurity proliferate.”

“All part of a problem whose solution rests primarily with Poder Judicial,” reads the decree.

The decrees state that casinos have six months to comply with the new regulations except for those relating to the number of rooms, validation by Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and location in hotels or infrastructures.

Breakup of insurance monopoly gets final approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa Tuesday voted for the second and final time to eliminate the monopoly of the national insurance company.

The 31-12 vote was expected, and the breaking of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros monopoly was foreseen by the free trade treaty.

The Sala IV constitutional course has reviewed the bill and found no legal flaws. Lawmakers delayed
 action until they heard from the court.

Lawmakers of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, long-time foes of the free trade treaty, opposed the bill. Orlando Hernández of that party said that the measure has major implications for the institute.

Oscar Núñez, head of the government's Partido Liberación Nacional in the legislature, said that the insurance institute will continue to be an important service for Costa Ricans but that it will have to compete with other firms.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Maneul Antonio Remírez Corrales 
Sign is critical of the Desamparados mayor.

Protesters seek sidewalks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Protestors demonstrated in front of the Las Brisas free zone Tuesday.

Claudio Mena, one of the protesters, said that the Municipalidad de Desamparados had taken part of the Escuela Manuel Ortuño and a soccer field to improve a road benefitting the free zone facility.

All this was done without consulting the community, he added. Protesters also wanted improvements to the street, such as sidewalks. Neighbors in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados have been unhappy with the free zone for 10 years.

Police and a representative of the Defensora de los Habitantes were present.

Police prepare their forces
for kids' midyear vacation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic police will be out in force from Friday through July 20 as school children and others enjoy their mid-year vacation.

About 670 traffic officers will be inspecting major roads to popular coastal vacation areas as well as taking precautions to increase pedestrian safety and buckling down on driving violations during a period in the year when there will be more children out and about during the day, according to a Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes release.

Speeding and seat-belt violations will be more strictly enforced, and surprise alcohol checkpoints and increased police presence along major highways were also promised in the release.

The release also encourages vacationers and travelers to report unsafe driving and overpriced fees for bus and taxi drivers to the transportation ministry.

The transit police will be paying special attention to motorists duing the weekends, they said. Lots of families go on vacations at this time of year, and some government offices, including the Poder Judicial, will be closed or with short staffs.

Five bandits rob casino

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men are on the loose after robbing Lucky's casino in Barrio Tournón Monday at around 9 a.m.

The robbers threatened employees with firearms and made off with approximately 25 million colons, according to Fuerza Pública spokesman Carlos Hidalgo.

Lucky's is part of the Hotel Villas Tournón next door.  The barrio is in Goicoechea north of San José.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 130

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Television and newspapers thrive on simplistic sex exposes
By Jay Brodell
editor of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Greivin Moya, a television reporter, provided viewers Tuesday with the stunning revelation that there is a house of ill repute in Tibás.

The five-minute sequence was compete with hidden camera shots, although the faces of the women inside the home were electronically distorted.

Moya must be the only person in Costa Rica who does not know that many places with pensión licenses are really houses of prostitution. And he could have saved gasoline by simply walking around the Sabana Oeste location of his television station.

An analysis of the news

Revelations about sex seem to come up when the daily news is sagging. La Nación told its readers recently that a popular expat hotel and bar was the scene of orgies, although the evidence was that women dressed like prostitutes were seen entering the business. Reporters seemed to be working on the spite of a neighbor.

"The very center of the city of Tibás functions a house dedicated to promoting the services of prostitution," said Channel 7 on its Web site describing the show Tuesday, which was available for repeat viewing.

IDEM, the popular tourist attraction on Calle 9 in San José, also has a pensión license, although the guests usually stay less than a couple of hours. On Avenida 9 is New Fantasy, another popular stop for expats.

In one city block between Avenida 7 and Avenida 5 there are no less than four so-called pensiones offering something more than a good night's sleep. And the classifieds in the Spanish-language daily newspapers can lead a visitor to many more.

Perhaps the best example of pseudo-surprise was the La Nación story about the Michigan Boys in May 2004. The newspaper would have its readers believe that men from that U.S. state would skip the deep sea fishing around Tamarindo to frolic with young ladies from Costa Rica. With photos.
tv reporter Mora
From the Web site of Teletica
Earnest Greivin Mora asked viewers to tune in tonight

Moya's point was that the Tibás location, Pension Florida, housed a pimping operation, which is illegal in Costa Rica, although prostitution is not prosecuted. But so do all the other operations. Someone other than the young lady or young man involved collects the money. He also correctly suggested that some operations might involve underage prostitutes although he had no evidence with Pension Florida.

The Channel 7 person with the hidden camera suggested to the women at Pension Florida that he would deliver foreign customers for a commission. That also is fairly routine. and technically illegal.

Mora interviewed the mayor of Tibás, Jorge Sallas Bonilla. But the same questions could be asked of any mayor in the country.

The pragmatic answer is that sex is big business and dovetails nicely with tourism and the Latin macho attitude. Less well covered by the local media is gay prostitution, although businesses offering such services exist in the San José downtown.

Meanwhile, the executive branch targets casinos as centers of prostitution while pensiones and their variations flourish all over the country.

Mora will be back again tonight with more thrilling revelations. He needs to get out more.

fire scene
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Bookstore damage is extensive as men work to close in the roof
San Pedro merchants are working to put Monday's destructive fire behind them
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's a new chapter for the Policromía bookstore as workers and employees began repairing the damage from a fire that devastated several stores along the Calle de la Amargura in San Pedro early Monday.

The smell of burnt wood hung thick in the air under the partially collapsed roof. Charred walls and piles of charred, blackened metal collect on the sidewalk. Shiny patches of oil swirl along with the rainwater running through the gutters. Workers unload bags of concrete and wooden planks from a truck as Maria Vega surveys what is left of the store she has worked in for almost two years.

“Right now, they think it was a problem with the ballasts.” She said, pointing to the fluorescent light fixtures overhead where authorities believe the fire started.

Ballasts are the metal fixtures on the ends of long fluorescent lights. Failing ballasts can overheat and become fire hazards due to any number of causes, including faulty
wiring, over use and failure to replace old lights.

“We believe it started here,” Ms. Vega said, “But there are other buildings in this block that were burned, too.” The bookstore is one of the largest businesses on the short block.

Pepito's Nachos, Rococo S.A. and a KX copy shop were also burned, but the damage was hard to evaluate from the street. Vega estimates that about six buildings were damaged, some more seriously than others.

“The workers are repairing the roof and cleaning the trash from the fire,” Ms. Vega said, but could not say when the store would open again.

“It will be closed for some time.” She said.

The fire began at around 2 a.m. on Monday, so no one was injured, but extensive damage was done to the block before authorities could arrive and put out the blaze, according to Vega. The location is close to the Universidad de Costa Rica campus and the street is well-known for its many college-age nightspots. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 130

Costa Montaña says that work has been allowed to resume
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Montaña, the Pacific condo development that was frozen by environmental officials, has been authorized to continue some work, according to a press release from the firm.

The developer also is working on a $500,000 environmental mitigation plan, it said.

Costa Montaña is in Tárcoles in the Cantón de Garabito. The firm said that the Tribunal Ambiental has permitted work to continue on five homes and ordered that some 900 meters of road be hard-surfaced to avoid erosion.

Karen Dondi, a spokesperson for the firm, said that the mitigation plan will last for a year. She said the company has some 250 employees in the area.
Costa Montaña ran into trouble because some of the structures were placed in areas where the grade was too steep. The freeze in mid-March included other unrelated properties. At Costa Montaña the construction of a dwelling on an 80-degree slope in the middle of a forest was one of the principal reasons the project was closed down, said the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía at the time.

The tribunal said that the Costa Montaña project is developing 98 hectares (242 acres), but construction had only begun on 18 terraces for homes when the project was frozen, The tribunal estimated the environmental damage at $1.3 million.

A number of persons who have contracted for homes in the project have called news people seeking additional information. The project seems to be popular with North Americans.

Transport officials seek new traffic lights and bike paths
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has announced plans to encourage the public use of bicycles among commuters and students, likely stemming from concerns over increased gas prices.

A ministry release outlined the proposed construction of up to 167 kilometers (more than 100 miles) of bike paths to increase biker safety and encourage the health habit, which also happens to have taken prominence at a time when gas prices are reaching new heights.

The project envisions 43 kms between Liberia and Cañas
and 30 kms between Guácimo and Siquirres.

The ministry also has proposed plans to increase traffic flow in and around the capital with new traffic lights for up to 80 intersections. The area would include Zapote, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, San Sebastián and Alajuelita among others, according to a release.

The new traffic lights would cost about $2,360,000. The proposed bike path initiative could amount to $100,000 per kilometer, according to the release. Officials are seeking a $1 million grant from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo and $1 million more from the World Bank, although initial money will come from the local budget.

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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.

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.

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.

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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Mercosur participants rip
EU immigration policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

South American leaders attending a summit of the regional trade bloc, Mercosur, have strongly criticized a new immigration policy adopted by the European Union last month.

The presidents voiced their opposition to the EU policy Tuesday, the last day of their two-day summit in Tucuman, Argentina.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described the EU measures as "xenophobic" while his Ecuadorean counterpart, Rafael Correa, called them "shameful."

The EU adopted the new immigration rules June 18, and they are to take effect by 2010. The policy allows governments to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and imposes a re-entry ban of up to five years.

Thousands of Latin Americans migrate to Europe in search of job opportunities. The EU estimates eight to 12 million illegal immigrants live in Europe.

Mercosur members also discussed the global food crisis at their talks. Mercosur was created in 1991 and includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay as full members. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are associate members. Venezuela expects to join as a full member. 

Another volcano in Chile
erupts and emits lava flow

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Llaima volcano in southern Chile has erupted for the first time in months, forcing the evacuation of about a dozen people from nearby areas. Authorities, however, say populated areas are not immediately threatened.

The volcano, which is one of Chile's most active, began erupting Tuesday. The eruption sent a stream of lava creeping down the flanks of the 3,120-meter (10,236-foot) mountain.

Llaima is located about 700 kilometers (about 435 miles) south of the capital, Santiago. It last erupted in January, spewing ash and molten lava.

Two months ago, another volcano, the Chaiten, erupted after being dormant for thousands of years. The eruption forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 people from the nearby town of the same name. 

Winds also blew the volcanic ash into Argentina, grounding airline flights and forcing some schools to close.

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