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(506) 2223-1327      Published Friday, July 3, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 130       E-mail us
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July 4 holiday


Franz Kafka is alive, well and working at a bank
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The request seemed to be a simple one for a hotel owner. Banco Popular had frozen the company account and wanted updated personal information on the principal users.

This situation is developing daily here as banks scurry to "know their customer," as required under anti-money laundering laws.

The problem was the owner was in the United States. So the time was right to remove his name from the account and let the manager continue to pay bills from the company account as he had done for 18 years.

Another problem: The manager and the hotel were in Guanacaste.

Solution: Send a messenger to collect the required identity information.

Problem: For some reason when the central bank office workers in San José got the updated identity information from the manager, they took him off the account instead of the owner.

Problem: The bank action caused a rain of bounced checks because they would not honor the signature of the manager incorrectly removed from the account. And the bank stalled in correcting the problem.

Solution: Have a business associate put a couple of thousand dollars in the manager's personal account at the same bank to cover the bum checks. A messenger was sent with the cash.

Problem: A bank teller refused to accept the money for the manager's personal account even though the messenger had the cash and the account number. The bank officials demanded to see a photo ID of the person GETTING the money.

Solution: The manager faxes a copy of his U.S. passport to the business associate in San José
Banco Popular teller

who promptly sends the messenger back.

Problem: Bank teller notices that the number on the manager's new U.S. passport does not coincide with the number originally presented to the bank 18 years ago. The teller freezes the manager's personal account, too, unaware that unlike Costa Rican passports, the U.S. number changes at every renewal.

Solution: It would be easier to say don't do business with Banco Popular, but in some areas it is the only banking institution. And before long every bank in town will be requiring a photo ID of the recipient when money is posted to an account. Such a requirement is in Law #8204, said bank officials.

Problem: Commerce will grind to a halt. And bank officials are making up the scenario as they go along because the anti-drug law #8204 really does not contain any such requirements.

Solution:  ?



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 130

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Puriscal Properties
sportsmens update
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Residency experts

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A full service immigration agency
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Physicians and surgeons

Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Mora
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Available for surgery in any of the private hospitals in San José.
                
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7Legal services

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Decline in world tourism
pegged at 8 percent by U.N.


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International tourism shrunk by 8 per cent in the first four months of the year as the global economic crisis continued to restrict the budgets of travellers, but the pace of the decline is expected to ease later this year, according to the latest figures released by the U. N. World Tourism Organization.

Some 247 million tourist arrivals were recorded between January and April this year, compared to 269 million in the same period last year, with declines reported in every region of the world except Africa and South America.

The statistics, unveiled Thursday in the latest edition of the agency's World Tourism Barometer, mean the Madrid-based agency has had to revise its forecast for 2009 and now predicts that tourist numbers will drop by between 4 and 6 per cent across the whole of the year.

The agency said the slowdown in the global market in the latter half of 2008 only accelerated this year, with the tourism industry being hit particularly hard by economic troubles in key source markets, such as the United Kingdom.

The outlook remains clouded, the agency said, given the current level of advanced bookings, the recent reduction in airline capacity and travellers’ concerns about the potential threat posed by the swine flu virus.

Europe has been one of the hardest hit regions, with a 10 per cent slide recorded so far this year, due in part to the depreciation of the pound sterling in the United Kingdom, one of the largest sources of international tourists.

The Middle East fell by 18 per cent, but the tourism agency said complete figures for that region are not yet available. Tourist numbers in the Asia-Pacific region dropped by 6 per cent and in the Americas by 5 per cent. But within that, South America recorded a rise of 0.2 per cent.

The best result was registered in Africa, where tourist numbers increased by 3 per cent, thanks to particularly strong demand for North African destinations and the recovery of Kenya as a destination after a decline following the deadly political violence in the East African country in early 2008.

Overall, the pace of the decline is expected to soften, so that in the last four months of this year the drop may be as little as 3 per cent on 2008 figures.

The World Tourism Organization continues to stress that the tourism industry is one of the largest employment sectors in most countries and can serve as an economic stimulus.

After Independence picnic
there is the cheese fair


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The big Independence Day party today is at the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds west of town where the American Colony Committee will be celebrating the 233rd birthday of the United States.

But what to do after the picnic, which ends at noon?

There's always the cheese fair in Turrialba, which starts today and runs through this weekend and next. The fair is a benefit for three milk producer organizations in the area, and giant cheeses are the featured attractions.

This year the event is in the Paradero Turístico San Buenaventura, which is opposite the entrance to the well-known Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza or CATIE. Organizers say they can park 2,000 vehicles on the site. Plans are to cut up a 100-kilo cheese Sunday and a 280-kilo one July 12.

Our readers' opinions
Honduran coup not about
constitutional referendum


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Lawson's letter July 2 about the wise and benevolent Honduran military coup was one of the strangest contributions I've read, in fact so weird that it could have been issued by the military itself.

A quick read of Latin American History 101 tells a very different story — that of a persistent pattern of elites not liking the way real democracy threatens to spread the wealth around a bit, and then running to their friends in the American elite for money and military muscle to shove the poor back in line.

The coup wasn't about a referendum (allowed by the constitution) over presidential tenure, it's about the rich feeling threatened by the possibility of democratic rights of the poor majority, and then using force to get their way.

R. Martin
Quepos/Toronto

Honduran expat reports
people support congress


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a North American living in Honduras for 4 ½ years I’m outraged at the reporting outside of Honduras concerning the efforts to preserve the hard fought for peace and democracy in this beautiful country.

There was no coup, military or civil, in Honduras. The toothless United Nations and the good ole boy, back room cigar smoking Organization of American States don’t want the outside world to know what really is happening in Honduras. Wednesday an estimated 7,000 supporters marched for democracy and the constitution of Honduras. About 150 Zeleya supporters were also present. There were no incidents of violence. This is an obvious show of the feelings of the people in Honduras representative throughout the country.

Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega, the Castros, and Evo Morales of Bolivia, and add to that group the embarrassingly uninformed Obama and Clinton want you to believe that anarchy is swelling in the streets. Nothing could be further from the truth!

President Zeleya illegally, tried to circumvent the hard-fought-for constitution of this young democracy. When a brave congress, to the tune of 100 percent, including his own party, legally removed this tyrant friend of the above mentioned Marxist leaders, they have been wrongly painted as the villains. It’s time for the world to wake up and support the good people of Honduras. They deserve your support. 

Support for Zeleya, Chávez and the others only undermines 30 years of democratic efforts. On second thought, maybe Obama and Clinton do get it! That’s even more shameful!

Don Bolinger
La Ceiba, Honduras

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 130

Chlor free
Red Mango Real estate


Postal agency steps up its efforts to sell collector stamps
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's postal service is getting serious about selling stamps to collectors. The agency, Correos de Costa Rica, always had examples of new stamp issues on its Web site, but now it has created a separate set of pages for collectors to browse what is available.

Until now, the best way of getting new issues was to visit the postal store in the downtown main office or make an agreement with one of several private dealers.

The virtual store is being promoted on the first page of the agency's Web site. Linked pages contain examples of the stamps issued this year and last.

The most recent is a six-stamp arrangement honoring the 60 years of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The stamps came out Tuesday. The arrangement is 125 by 170 mm or 4.9 inches by 6.7 inches. The stamps feature tunnel workers and linemen photographed by Fabián Rois Mata and illustrations of telecommunications, renewable energy and environmental education shot by Karina Vanegas Vargas, said the agency. The stamps were printed by Gozaka S.A.
ICE stamp series
Stamps honoring the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad are printed on special gummed paper designed to stand up to tropical weather and humidity, the postal agency said.


The colorful six-stamp set sells for 2,040 ($3.58). The stamps affixed to a first-day cover sell for 3,800 ($6.66). The envelope carries the logos of the telecommunications company.

A children's literature series was the topic of an earlier story.


Citi says involvement by board member in Herradura land dispute not unethical
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Citi Bank has cleared its own board member Armando González of any illegal or wrongful conduct from his involvement in purchasing a squatter's rights to an expat's property in Herradura.

Cristina Alfaro Serdio, legal and compliance head for Banco CMB S.A., Citi's subsidiary here, wrote to expat Henry Schiffner, who lives in Spain, and said that her office and outside lawyers looked over allegations against González, a prominent businessman, based on
information provided by him and another expat. They had complained that his intrusion into the continuing legal dispute between legal owners and a squatter who claimed possession was unethical.

However, she said, the private dispute over a parcel of land is unrelated to the company's employees and banking operations.

". . . to date we have been unable to establish any illegal or wrongful conduct by Mr. González," she wrote in English in the June 30 letter.


The beneficial effects of appreciating your situation
Because I have been thinking about my friend Mavis, I opened a file with her name on it.  In it I found an e-mail dated March 26, 2007.  She had originally received it from her friend, Margaret Nydell.  Mavis had added a note saying, “Might help when you can’t think of a topic for your column.” 

I have a topic, but reading over what she sent, I think it is a good time to share it with others.  Although some of you probably have read this, when it first circled the Internet, it can’t hurt to reconsider it today.

This is the “Earth Status Report” for 2006.  Things have changed since then with the economic outlook considerably dimmer and more people hurting and depressed, but . . .”If you woke up healthy this morning, you are happier than the one million people who will not survive next week. 

“If you never suffered a war, the loneliness of a jail cell, the agony of torture or hunger, you are happier than 500 million people in the world.” (I am sure that number is much greater today.)

“If you can enter a house of worship without fear of jail or death, you are happier than 3 million people in the world.

“If there is food in your fridge, you have shoes and clothes, you have a bed and roof, you are richer than 75 percent of the people in the world.  And if you have a bank account, money in your wallet and some coins in the money box, you belong to the 8 percent of the people in the world who are well-to-do.

“And if you read this, you are three times blessed because: 

1. somebody just thought of you, 2. You don’t belong to the 200 million people in the world that cannot read, and 3. You have a computer!”

Actually, dear Mavis, as I said, I do have a subject for this week – it is the placebo effect.  Some of my friends laugh at my faith in the power of the placebo effect. I try not to proselytize.

Just recently I read an article in Psychological Science by Alia J. Crum and Ellen J. Langer on “Exercise and the Placebo Effect.”  In it is a definition: “The placebo effect is any effect that is not attributed to an actual                   
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


pharmaceutical drug or remedy, but rather is attributed to the individual’s mind-set (mindless beliefs and expectations).”

They go on to describe a study testing whether “the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one’s mindset.” To this end they had 84 hotel room attendants for subjects.  Forty-four were told that the work they did, cleaning hotel rooms every day, was enough physical exercise to qualify as a healthy lifestyle as described and recommended by the surgeon general. The control group of 40 attendants was not told this.  After a month the researchers found those who were told that they were actually exercising, “showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index.”

“This supported their hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.”  It also shows again that the placebo effect is not just about sugar pills.  Symbols and beliefs and plain old expectations can bring about both positive and negative results.

My report, of course, is an incomplete and condensed view of Crum and Langer’s study which is available via an online search.

And finally, back to Mavis’ e-mail.  She ends it by saying,“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt, Dance like nobody’s watching.  Sing like nobody’s listening.  Live like it’s heaven on earth.” 

People who have followed this advice as well as having counted their blessings, have lost weight, got over their depression and lived to be at least 88.

And in case you think this is all hogwash, there is also the nocebo effect.  That happens when you think nothing good can of come of it, and it doesn’t.  Oh, dear, I hope I am not proselytizing.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 130


Boxer Carl Davis surrenders and goes free as case is dropped
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Well-known boxer Carl Davis Drummond went free Thursday hours after surrendering himself to prosecutors.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said they were searching for the man as a suspect in a rape case, but Davis later said that he simply was on vacation at a beach.

The Poder Judicial said that Davis went free because the woman who filed the rape complaint withdrew the allegation. She was a cleaning lady at his home.

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 Tuesday 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.  Law officers suggested he was on the run, although they had no evidence of that. Davis has a fight in the United States July 21.

Davis in the company of a lawyer submitted to questions at the Unidad de Delitos Sexuales de la Fiscalía Adjunta del Segundo Circuito Judicial de San José. He was handcuffed and officially booked by agents.

The Poder Judicial in an explanatory statement said that the Ministerio Público and its prosecutors could not continue an investigation as a public action when the presumed victim has decided not to continue pressing the case. There is a legal impediment for doing so, the Poder Judicial said.


28 Africans safe after 15 days abandoned on the high seas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 28 presumed African illegal immigrants on their way to Canada spent 15 days abandoned on the high seas before they were able to make shore at Playa Manzanillo Wednesday afternoon.

The new arrivals said they had paid between $6,000 and $7,000 to make the trip from a gathering point in Colombia, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Immigration officials said the individuals were from Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, New Guinea and Ethiopia. The group includes two women, said the Policía Especial de Migración.

The 28 survived in part because they drank sea water, said immigration officials. Four are being treated for dehydration and sunburn. Officials are trying to check their stories.

Rodrigo Araya, regional director of the Fuerza Pública in Limón, said that all the individuals agreed that they had left Africa on airplanes but then their stories become disconnected.  Some said they had been in Cuba. All agreed, however, that they met their escorts on a mountainside in Colombia.

Most of the individuals are traveling on false passports,
African immigrants
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo by Guillermo Solano
One of the detained men tells police and immigration officials about his route.

said immigration officials. The new arrivals are in custody at the immigration detention center in Hatillo after spending Wednesday night at a police station on the Caribbean coast.

The bulk of the individuals said they had higher education and had worked as secretaries, teachers and in other professions in their homelands. They said they left due to continual violence, said immigration agents.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 130


Casa Alfi Hotel

Honduran compromise
sought to resolve crisis


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Diplomats are pushing for compromise in Honduras to resolve a tense standoff between the deposed president and the interim government. So far, both sides are unwilling to cede ground on the claim to the presidency.

The Organization of American States is expected to lead the diplomatic effort to resolve the political crisis sparked when President José Manuel Zelaya was deposed and flown out of the country on a military plane to Costa Rica Sunday morning.

A team including Jose Miguel Insulza, Organization of American States secretary general, might arrive in the Central American country today. Zelaya said he would return Saturday.

The United States has given its backing to the Organization of American States to pursue a multi-lateral effort at reaching a compromise between Zelaya and the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti.

The Insulza team likely will face a delicate balancing act because the regional group has refused to acknowledge the new government led by Micheletti. At the same time,  Micheletti has rejected calls from the hemispheric organization to return Zelaya to office by the end of the week.

The organization said Honduras will face suspension from the regional group if Zelaya is not restored as president.

Both men say they have a legitimate claim to the presidency based on the Honduran constitution. Zelaya says he remains the elected president. Micheletti said the president was removed after a court ruled that Zelaya was guilty of unconstitutional acts.

Foreign governments have been increasing pressure on the interim leaders in Tegucigalpa. Several countries have recalled their ambassadors to protest the new government and some Central American nations have threatened to enact trade embargoes against Honduras.

The World Bank has suspended lending to Honduras, which relies on loans for development and health programs.

In Costa Rica President Óscar Arias Sánchez said he feared a domino effect in the rest of Latin Aeamrica if the provisional goernment was allowed to stay in office. He did not say it but there is a similar political split in Nicaragua between the Sandinista presidency of Daneil Ortega and much of the population.

Arias said Costa Rica was considering withdrawing diplomatic recognition of the Honduran government.

Meanwhile, protests continued Thursday in Honduras by people in support of the new government and the ousted leader. Backers of Mr. Micheletti's interim government marched in the western city of San Pedro Sula, while Mr. Zelaya's supporters rallied outside the Congress in Tegucigalpa. 

In Tegucigalpa, Micheletti said his government will not bow to outside pressure, and that he is not fazed by the overwhelming negative reaction from foreign governments.

The interim leader said he is confident that Honduras will not be isolated for long, and that other countries will begin to understand how the new government has saved the country. He added that God is with the new government to help it resolve the crisis.


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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 130


Latin American news digest
Asphalt in Palmar Norte
Municipalidad de Osa photo
Work crews are putting down asphalt in the southern  Pacific community of Palmar Norte, one of the projects cited by Cantón de Osa officials as an improved use and oversight of funds.

U.S. jobless index continues
to be larger than expected


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. unemployment continues to rise, with a larger-than-expected number of job cuts in June. The unemployment rate now stands at 9.5 percent, the highest in 26 years.

Economists and U.S. officials had almost identical reactions to a Labor Department report that American employers cut 467,000 jobs in June.

"This month's report is a setback," said Jack Albin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based Harris Private Bank.  "This is certainly a setback," said Cristina Romer, who heads President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors.
Both Ablin and Romer appeared on Bloomberg Television.

America's true unemployment rate may, in fact, be higher than the number provided by the Labor Department, which does not include people who searched for work in vain and have given up, or those who settled for part-time work. If both categories are added, the unemployment rate would top 16 percent.




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