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(506) 223-1327               Published Tuesday, July 3, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 130               E-mail us   
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Sala IV finds nothing unconstitutional in trade treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday)
The Sala IV constitutional court said today that there was nothing unconstitutional in the free trade treaty between the United States and Costa Rica. Two of the  seven magistrates thought differently.
This means that the treaty will go to a public referendum that is planned for Oct. 7.

The treaty had been referred to the constitutional court by the Defensoría de los Habitantes and legislators opposed to the agreement.  
The announcement was made by the press office of the Poder Judicial.

Opponents had enlited the aid of legal experts at the Universidad de Costa Rica. They had prepared a list of a number of sections of the treaty they claimed contained requirements contrary to the Costa Rican Constitution.

One such requirement was the possibility international arbitration of economic claims instead of suits in local courts.

Department reported to be still swamped
Decree extends foreigners' residencies for 2nd time

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreigners living in Costa Rica have received an automatic extension of one year of their temporary or permanent residency status.

A decree authorizing this extension was published Monday in La Gaceta, the official newspaper.

This is the second time that the government has automatically renewed the residency documents of the estimated 300,000 foreigners here. A similar decree did the same thing Dec. 20, 2006, extending the legal status of foreigners until this year.

Now the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería admits it still is swamped, so the legal period is being extended again.

A pensionado or rentista resident who had documents expiring Aug. 15, 2006, automatically was extended in December of that year to Aug. 15, 2007. The new decree extends the period again to Aug. 15, 2008.

The documents will now expire in 2008 on the month and day date printed on the original. The decree was signed by President Óscar Arias
Sánchez and Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The immigration department is in that ministry.

The decree said that the great number of cédula and carnet renewals had saturated the immigration office.

Meanwhile, the immigration department is working to install a photographic and computer system that will issue credit card-like cédulas and carnets in the future, regardless of the type of residency. Mario Zamora, director de Migración has said he hopes this will speed up issuance. He also said that he hopes to route some renewals through the national banks starting in January.

Despite the 2006 decree, some foreign residents with expired dates on their residency documents have had trouble conducting business, particularly at national banks that are picky with details. Some have reported experiencing trouble in attempting to subscribe to a cell telephone line, for example.

The decree does nothing for new arrivals who are attempting to obtain their first legal documents. One lawyer reported getting an appointment date 15 months in the future for one client.

Even when iPhones get here there may be a glich
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Don't hold your breath waiting for the fabled Apple iPhone to go on sale in Costa Rica. And even then there might be a problem.

The sleek phone, which went on sale Friday in the United States, is also a music and video player, and it allows owners to store photos and access the Internet. It costs $500 for the basic version or $600 for one with twice the memory.

Mauricio López, who is in charge of support for Apple Costa Rica, said that the iPhone is a four-band GSM device that would work on the GSM system of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE. The catch is that Apple has blocked the phone so that it cannot use a chip from another communications company. In the United States the provider is AT&T, and the cost for phone service is at least $59 a month.

There is no date set yet for the sale of the
iPhone graphic

iPhone in Central America, said López, nor is there a certainty that software will be available to remove the blocking so the phone could talk to ICE here. And, he said, the eventual sale price also is unknown.

Although other cell telephones are available that do many of the things the iPhone can do, the new product has a touch sensitive interface that is wowing computer and technology fans.

From New York City to California, eager buyers lined up early Friday before retail stores selling the much-anticipated device opened their doors.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 130

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Traffic police are fighting
to keep holiday toll down

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Tránsito has embarked on a major effort to keep the traffic toll down during these two weeks that are the midterm vacation for school children.

But people are still dying.

The Judicial Investigating Organization logged four traffic-related accidents Monday, including the death of an 11-year-old bicyclist who fell into a culvert and was found dead Monday.

Three other fatal incidents involved headon collisions.

The dead boy, identified by the last name of Cortés, left his home in Guararí de Heredia about 3 p.m. Sunday to bike in the neighborhood. His family reported him missing but it was not until about 10 a.m. that workmen found his body and the bike in a covered storm drain near the Río Virilla. Investigators presume that both he and the bike fell into the
rain-swollen culvert and were carried away.

Early Monday at Y Griega of the Interamericana highway in  Pérez Zeledón a 32-year-old woman drove her car into the back of a platform vehicle recovery truck. She was identified by the last name of Barquero.

About 6:30 a.m. Monday in Sonador de Buenos Aires  de  Pérez Zeledón, a motorcycle collided with the front of a truck. Dead was a 20-year-old with the last name of  Villalobos.

About 7:30 a.m. a car driven by a man with the last name of Zeledón collided headon with the front of a tanker truck. The scene was near the bridge over the Río Lagarto on the Interamerican highway near Abangares. The victim was identified as a civil engineer doing work in the area.

The Tránsito operation involving 770 officers runs through July 15. Last year during the midyear vacation 13 persons died in traffic mishaps. More than 1 million students are out of school.

Sitting down for long periods
is health risk, U.N. reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

So you didn't think you could get into any health trouble just sitting down in a plane?

That was before the United Nations released a report last week warning that the risk of developing fatal blood clots during travel doubles after the passenger has been seated for four hours or more.

The report was the result of a study on blood clot formation in the legs.

“The study does confirm that there is an increased risk of venous thromboembolism during travel where the passenger is seated and immobile over four hours, whether in a plane, train, bus or car,” said Catherine Le Galès-Camus, assistant director-general at the World health Organization.  Thrombosis is what physicians call blood clots. They can be potentially life-threatening if the thrombosis then breaks off and travels through the body to the lung where it becomes lodged and blocks blood flow.

The risk remains elevated for about four weeks after a trip is over, and those who travel multiple trips of short periods of time are also potentially at risk, the U.N. agency said.

The study did not explicitly investigate preventative measures but the agency suggests that up and down movement of the feet and ankles can increase blood flow.

Hospital workers on strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The hospital workers union in Puntarenas says it has struck two departments at the institution because of inadequate infrastructure and because of risks handling possible contaminated materials.

The two departments at Hospital Monseñor Sanabria are nutrition and the equipment center. The strikers, members of the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social, say they want to negotiate with management.

In food preparation, workers complain of obsolete equipment, deplorable working conditions and possible health risks.

Our reader's opinion

Why do they need invitation
to investigate obvious crime?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Why is it that the Costa Rica's Judicial Investigating Organization operates in such an inefficient manner. Why is it the victim needs to go and make a complaint at their offices. Many victims are not able to do so or are so traumitized as to not be able to do so.

Have you tried calling the OIJ on weekends or holidays?  GOOD LUCK!  The OIJ has the responsibility to investigate criminal complaints. When a vicious assault occurs, such as happened in Hatillo (north of Dominical), the Fuerza Publica should be on the phone to the OIJ immediately to get them to the scene of the crime. 

When evidence and victims memory is fresh, it is the time to act, not several days later when evidence is gone and memories and willpower are fading.  What will it take to get Costa Rican authorities to open their eyes and find out that good quick police work will help solve many more of their crimes. 

This old story of lack of manpower, lack of funds doesn't cut it in this day and age. Costa Rica is in boom times and the "we don't have the money for manpower" has become a worn out cliche and a thing of the past.  Wake up Costa Rica and smell the roses before they whither and die. You have no choice but to substantially reduce the crime rate throughout the country.

On another note, the Fuerza Publica casita at the Dominical bridge used to do a good job of checking who went through their post.  For the last six months you could drive an airplane through their checkpoint and they wouldn't get off their chairs.  As far as I know, they are being paid the same as the previous crew who did a much better job.  Checkpoint?  What checkpoint!

Bob and Lone Klenz
Dominical, Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 130

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A tale from the south of crime and lack of punishment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"Waiting for Godot," the existentialist work by Samuel Beckett, may be one of the best 20th century works, but in southwestern Costa Rica the long-running drama is "Waiting for the OIJ."

In fact, the wait has been so long for a couple who own a hotel in Rio Claro that they have packaged their plea in a letter to Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, known as OIJ. The initials in Spanish are pronounced ooh  eee  hota.

The couple is Doris and Manfred Wilms. Like the characters in the Beckett play, they report that they have been waiting without success — since Saturday, June 2 —  for an investigator from Ciudad Neily to take an interest in the home burglary they reported that day.

The tale they tell is not very existential but more Kafkaesque. Shortly after the burglary, the couple said they got the names of the chief suspects, found a witness who could identify a man running from the scene, learned where the crooks were keeping their merchandise and found out their goods were up for sale.

In addition, the Banco Nacional office in Ciudad Neily told them that the camera covering the automatic teller machines captured three times the image of someone trying to use their credit card, they said. They have been asking for an investigator to visit the bank and retrieve the video.  In the letter they point out to Rojas that the OIJ office is but a three-minute walk from the bank.

The couple even approached La Nación and Repretel, the television network, for publicity without success.

From the letter, it appears that the judicial investigators began to become a little unhappy with the daily phone calls from the couple.
waiting couple

The wait has been going on so long that they even experienced another home burglary. Some construction tools were taken. When the Fuerza Pública arrived, the couple got a lesson in police problems. The few officers cover a sprawling area with 20,000 persons and sometime respond to three burglaries a night, the letter said.

And they do that in a vehicle officers sometimes have to push to get started. Fuerza Pública does not investigate. That job is reserved for the OIJ.

In the Becket play, the unseen character Godot never shows up. That also seems to be the case with the overworked OIJ investigator.

The supposedly dangerous hit men are set free in Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The case of five supposed hitmen who came to Costa Rica to kill high-ranking politicians took another wacky turn Monday.

The five men, characterized by Costa Rican officials when they were caught as highly dangerous, have been freed in Colombia.

At the same time the two politicians who were supposed to be the target of the hitman conspiracy have not much to say.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother to the president and minister of the Presidencia, released a statement Monday saying that he would have no comment on the case.

Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, said informally that the chapter was closed. In a formal statement he said that the penalty levied here on the five men was a prohibition to reenter Costa Rica for five years.

That probably is not troublesome to the men. Officials said they entered Costa Rica illegally via a boat that landed on the extreme south Pacific coast.

Berrocal also said that he respected the decision of Colombia authorities and that it was not legally possible to
hold the Colombians for more than 24 hours. They were deported by air Saturday morning.

Costa Rican security officials were reported to have received information about the supposed assassination plot from telephone intercepts. But it is not clear if the intercepts were made by Costa Rican police or those in Colombia.

The theory was that the men were working on behalf of the Cartel del Norte del Valle, which has lost tons of cocaine to law enforcement efforts here and by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific.

Colombian officials said Monday that the men were let go because there were no arrest warrants or pending  investigations involving them.

The action in Colombia raises speculation that Costa Rican officials got the wrong men and that Colombian assassins still are stalking Rodrigo Arias and Berrocal. Or the case could have been overblown from the start.

Immigration officials said they would beef up some border crossing points to make sure the men do not return.

Meanwhile, local television is showing clips of the John Kennedy assassination and discussing security arrangements when the U.S. president visited in 1963.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 130

Market for digital products predicted to grow to $2 trillion
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Digital entertainment and mobile media are expected to grow at a rapid pace over the next five years to nearly $2 trillion by 2011.  The five-year forecast by an international accounting firm says the Internet, TV and video games will lead the way.

In its latest industry outlook, accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers said, by 2011, spending on the convergence of home computing, wireless technology and television will exceed 50 percent of total industry spending.

Marcel Fenez, global managing partner for Price Waterhouse Coopers, said "In summary we're entering an extremely exciting period for the industry.  We've got strong growth and that growth is coming in different areas than what we have seen before.  Its obviously underlined by broadband and wireless penetration but what it really means for the industry is opportunity, change."

The biggest changes come in four key sectors:  the Internet, television distribution, video games and casinos.  A quarter of that growth will come from what Fenez calls the "BRIC" countries:  Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"The huge markets of China and India are leading that
growth but something that we are seeing this year is the emergence of Latin America as a real power growth as well.  Not yet in terms of rates of growth as Asia, but certainly developing very quickly."

Most impressive is the rise in wireless communications.  India, for example, sees an average increase of six million mobile phone subscribers per month.  And Fenez says by 2011, "People will be spending more on video games than they have been doing on music.  And then finally casinos, again, a completely different story, but the emergence again of Asia particularly in terms of Macau which is now bigger than Las Vegas and the integrated resort that we are going to be seeing developed in Singapore."

And there are other challenges too.  Among them, protecting intellectual property.

"Obviously in various parts of the world and almost globally we're seeing illegal downloads and other forms of piracy.  One of the ways obviously to deal with that is to consider alternative business models which are more advertising focused."

Price Waterhouse Coopers says advertising spending is expected to increase by more than $100 billion in five years, fueled partly by the growth of the worldwide Web

Wife of Argentine president expected to announce her own candidacy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A government spokesman for Argentine President Nestor Kirchner says he will not seek re-election, and his wife will run instead as the ruling coalition's presidential candidate.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is a prominent senator in the Peronist coalition, is expected to formally announce
her candidacy July 19 for the October presidential elections.

She and her husband have been considered frontrunners for the presidency, but for several months they have refused to say if either of them would run. The president has not said why he is not seeking re-election. He is a popular leader credited with improving Argentina's economy in the last several years.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 130

U.S. soccer team falls to Paraguay, 3-1, in Copa América action
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. national soccer team is down but not out.  The young team took a 3-1 beating from Paraguay Monday night in Copa América action.

But the team still has the mathematical possibility of getting in the quarterfinals if other third place teams in two other divisions lose and the U.S. wins against Colombia Thursday.
The U.S. team was tied with Paraguay at the end of the half, thanks to a Ricardo Clark goal in the 40th minute. But just as in the game last week against Argentina, the U.S. team faded in the second half and permitted two goals.

The game was one of missed opportunities for the U.S. squad.

Paraguay, thanks to the victory over the U.S. team, is assured of a quarterfinals berth.

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