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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, July 5, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 130        E-mail us
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Uncle Sam, the annual role adopted by Bill Barbee of Escazú, leads youngsters and adults on a July 4 flag parade at the big picnic Sunday west of San José

Our coverage is HERE!



Those planning now will reap future rewards
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Businesses, including hotels, real estate agencies, tour operators and developers, to name a few, need to plan their long-term Internet strategies today.  Social media is transforming the world dramatically, and a simple Web site is just not good enough anymore.

Web sites, online advertising and Internet promotion have for many years been the primary means to market a product or service in Costa Rica to an international audience. The Internet is cheaper than print advertising, and it is an effective medium to reach a mass audience in the United States and other parts of the world, especially those persons in the planning stages of a Costa Rica vacation or retirement.

Being in the middle of a real estate down cycle might not seem to be the best time to promote or spend money on marketing, but most experienced businesses know otherwise.  The things one does during the down market will determine how well they do in the up market.

Small business owners in Costa Rica who are looking to weather the storm are also best advised to start thinking about their long-term marketing plan.  While it is difficult to earn a profit today in Costa Rica from the money spent on advertising or a slick Web site, there will be a time when vacations and dream homes on the beach will become hot commodities again. 

In the old days of the Internet a Web site might retain a small fraction of viewers who would bookmark and quickly forget a page.  If one was lucky, a prospect might send an e-mail message requesting more information and get added to a mailing list.

The good news is now, thanks to social media, a business can see a long-term return on an investment in Internet marketing.  A measure of success is not what is sold today, but how many people subscribe to a blog, newsletter, Facebook or Twitter. Once the audience is captured, it is just a matter of occasionally reminding them about a product or service with an entertaining article, photo or video.

The trick to turn on social media is to get these kinds of marketing efforts beyond traditional e-mail campaigns and onto a page where the entire world can search, link or comment on the content. E-mail is still a powerful distribution method, and leveraging it with a blog allows readers to express their approval by posting to their Facebook, Twitter or own personal blog.

Personal endorsement is at the core of social networking and is effective because often people trust the recommendations and opinions of their friends.  Social media accelerates this kind of interaction through the Internet, and its growth erodes the value of traditional advertising.  This is why Facebook is now the No. 2 Web page on the Internet, according to the Alexa rating service, and social media has replaced pornography as the No. 1 use of the Internet.
social media

Setting up a blog and promoting it is easier than ever thanks to services like Blogger (blogspot.com), which is rated the No. 8 Web page on the Internet by Alexa.  Unlike a traditional Web site, a blog publication does not require any knowledge of things like html code, and expensive software like Dreamweaver and Frontpage.

While a professional may design a blog, the work of updating and publishing it is something that a business owner may do personally or hire out to another person at a much lower rate.

Free services like Feedblitz and Google Feedburner give a business the system to take e-mail subscribers from a web page, distribute a blog, and manage the technical and legal issues of mass e-mail. 

Apart from the opt-in mailing list, it is a good idea to create profiles on services like Facebook and Twitter and then post links and new blog articles. These services work in parallel to the e-mail list, and many people prefer them for their ease of use and rapid social interaction.

A new blog or a Facebook page alone will not get much traffic and needs to be promoted using advertising. The important thing is when the market comes, a business will be starting with an active e-mail list with thousands of prospects. The world Internet audience will more clearly understand who has the established presence in Costa Rica.

Competitors, if they are not doing the same, will start from zero with a cold list of prospects and little social media reputation. The other guys, even if they have been on the ground for years, will be viewed as newcomers by the mass media, and pay high ad rates in a hot market just to stay afloat.

In summary, business owners with Web sites need to upgrade them by adding a blog, setup an opt-in mailing list, and promote on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention A.M. Costa Rica.  The trick to keep a readership audience is to publish a few times a month and entertain but not overwhelm. 


Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2010, use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 5, 2010, Vol. 10, 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

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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.


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Shore leave for anti-drug crews
upsetting to some Costa Ricans


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agreement by the legislature to let members of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard dock to enjoy shore leave has generated concern among Costa Ricans and even U.S. expats here.

The legislature approved the request by the U.S. Embassy, 31-8, Thursday. Such approval is required by the Costa Rica Constitution and an anti-drug agreement between the two countries.

Many Costa Ricans are surprised by the number of ships. The U.S. sought permission for 46 ships of which 43 are warships. The ships carry 7,000 in their crews. The vessels will not come at once. The permission is from July 1 to Dec. 31. Merchants and bar owners in Puntarenas and Golfito will be the principal beneficiaries of the arrivals.

Some 1,100 individuals already have signed an online petition that asks the Asamblea Legislativa to reverse the decision. The petition says that the authorization is excessive and disportionate and cites the anti-militaristic and pacifist tradition of Costa Rica.

The petition is being promoted incorrectly as being against the installation of a U.S. military base in Costa Rica. Freddy Pacheco, a Universidad Nacional teacher, said in a cover e-mail message that 1,100 persons already signed.

The controversy developed after a Friday news story in La Nación. Expat Internet discussion lists were filled with conspiracy theories and tales of black helicopters and secret U.S. bases here.

This kind of legislative approval is routine, although lawmakers expressed their unhappiness that they got the request so late. They asked that future requests come at least a month in advance. The text of the legislative discussion and vote is HERE.

Opinion here of U.S.
generally high, poll says


By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The vast majority of Costa Ricans have a high opinion of the United States, according to a poll by Latinobarómetro. Here, 84 percent of respondents say they have a favorable opinion of the U.S., while 92 percent said relations between the two countries were good.

A somewhat lower percentage of Costa Ricans interviewed thought the U.S. has a favorable impact on Latin America, at 81 percent. This is still the second highest rate after the Dominican Republic.

The poll was taken in 2009 with results released last week. Latinobarómetro is a Chilean non-governmental organization dedicated to opinion polls around Latin America.

The most favorable results regionally come from Central American countries and the Dominican Republic, precisely those involved in the Central American Free Trade Agreement. This was eventually approved in Costa Rica through a referendum. Argentines declared the lowest opinion of the U.S.

Regionally the overall opinion of the U.S. was 74 percent positive, up 10 percentage points from 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration. That is the highest since the question was first asked in 1997.

Costa Ricans showed a low opinion of the influence of Venezuela and Cuba in the region, with favorable answers about the latter dead last in the region at 18 percent.

Pollsters also asked about economic and political integration within the region, and Costa Rican answers were similar to the mainstream of regional opinion. That still meant 72 percent in favor of economic integration, with a much lower number interested in (undefined) political integration at 58 percent. In both cases free trade countries come in lower than the regional average while Southern Cone countries show the most enthusiasm.

These numbers show how complicated the politics behind the Central American Free Trade Treaty referendum were, with high regard for the United States and willingness to consider economic integration not translating into strong support for the treaty, which only passed by a 52-48 percent margin.

In the political here-and-now, the poll also found Costa Ricans optimistic about they and their family’s future, with 84 percent saying they are headed in the “right direction.” In all countries respondents described their personal situation as better than the country’s as a whole, the famous “right track” question often asked in the U.S., with 46 percent of Costa Ricans describing the country’s future as favorable. This is about the same as the regional average.

The regional numbers for the personal and national “right track” questions are skewed by high levels of enthusiasm in regional power Brazil. The poll reviewers also noted that general opinions of foreign countries like the U.S. and others are also affected by the attitudes of the populace in general. Dominicans are the most positive and Panamanians and Argentines sourpusses.

Country to host games

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will be the site of the 2013 Juegos Centroamericanos, an athletic competition similar to the Olympics. The announcement came Saturday from the Organización Deportiva Centroamericana, which sent a team to check out facilities here last month.

The decision brought praise from Casa Presidencial and also officials in San José. The regional sports organization is running the XXI Central American and Caribbean Games that take place later this month in the Puerto Rican city of Mayagüez.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

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 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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
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News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
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News of Honduras
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 130

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll


July 4th Independence Day picnic in Costa Rica
Child and flag
Young lady came dressed for the occasion.
Picnic
Enjoying hot dogs are Elena Paticliet, 12, Giacomo Posla, 6, and Gloria Casafont

Ambassadoir
Ambassador Anne Andrew visits with Gayle Nystrom, director of the La Fundación Humanitaria Costarricense, and other picnic guests.
Marine color guard
Highlight of the Picnic is the raising of the U.S. Flag by the Marine color guard.

For U.S. expats here the day was one filled with emotion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual July 4th picnic east of San José brought an estimated 3,000 persons to the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds Sunday, and the weather cooperated.

The crowd was so big that parking was creative. After the event, which lasted an hour longer this year until 1 p.m., traffic police patrolled the exits looking for alcohol, seat belt and car seat violators. The event featured free beer.

In addition to long lines of parked vehicles, the picnic featured long lines of visitors seeking hot dogs and bagels.
The perception was that attendance was bigger than normal, but organizers said they would have to count the total of the 2,500-colon entry fees to determine the exact number. The crowd was augmented by more than 200 young English-language students participating in a U.S. Embassy-sponsored program and a host of volunteers.

Flags, the national anthem, raising of the colors and even
  Uncle Sam, played by Escazú resident Bill Barbee again this year, struck an emotional chord with some picnic goers. Even Anne Andrews, the U.S. ambassador, sensed the emotion of the gathering. Her voice broke as she finished delivering an Independence Day message.

Some former U.S. servicemen and women migrated to members of the U.S. Marine Corps color guard to share stories. The Marines are part of the embassy contingent and they were responsible for raising Old Glory.

This was the 50th year for the event staged by the American Colony Committee for the benefit of U.S. expats living here and guests.

Many who attended come from U.S.-Costa Rican families, and Spanish was as common as English.

An addition this year was a booth by the U.S. Marine Corps League, a veteran's organization that has just been chartered here.


Opponents plan 200-kilometer march to protest gold mine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-mining activists plan a 200-kilometer hike from Casa Presidencial in Zapote to the site of an open-pit mining project in Cutris de San Carlos starting July 12.

The activists said they are copying the idea from Bolivian peasants who marched 460 kilometers in 1996 to push a political point of view.

The 125-mile march is part of an effort by the groups to urge President Laura Chinchilla to revoke a decree by former President Óscar Arias Sanchez that declared the mine project to be in the national interest. The project has run into other trouble because of the need to cut down
some trees and because operators plan to use cyanide to leach out the gold from the rock.

The mining project is fully permitted, although there is another case in a lower court despite a Sala IV constitutional court rejection of challenges. The project is operated by Infinito Gold Ltd., a Costa Rican subsidiary of a Canadian firm.

The protesting groups include Preserve Planet and an organization that identifies itself as Ni Una Sola Mina and another called Juventud Progresista de Cartago.  The organizations said that their hikers would be accompanied by a caravan that would distribute written materials and show videos to stress their point of view.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 130

Highway jam
Photo by Jerome Ives
Highway detour becomes parking lot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The autopista detour between Atenas and Orotina has become a nightmare, a resident reports.

Sunday the highway was jammed. "It is a slow-moving party with very loud horns blaring, people in less than a happy mood sitting for 30 to 40 minutes in the same spot and generally no cars or trucks moving beyond Atenas," said Jerome Ives from his vantage point in Barrio Jesus there.

He provided photos to support his statements. The individuals in the photo to the left are not behaving dangerously. The vehicles are not moving.  They are among those stuck in traffic.

" . . . maybe I should open a small business at my driveway, and sell soda, tacos, and a really good map of the back roads around this mess," said Ives.

The Autopista del Sol, the new, direct route from San José to the Pacific has been closed between Atenas and Orotina because the steep hillsides are spewing rocks. The congestion is greater than normal because public school vacations have started.



New route for Colombia airline might reduce high fares

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Colombian airline, AeroRepública, is starting a new service to San José.  A liberalized treaty allowing new entrants was necessary after the fusion of Colombian flag carrier Avianca with Taca and its implications for competition. In theory, additional competition will help lower exceptionally high fares between Costa Rica and Colombia.

The arrival of AeroRepública will do little to lighten the load on fliers however, since it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Copa, the Panamanian airline. The new flight will go to Bogotá via Panamá, essentially making it the fifth Copa frequency. Given the announced arrival and departure times of 9:15 am and 3:09 pm, it is evident that the Colombian-flagged airplane will do at least one of Copa’s flights in the meantime. AeroRepública flies only Brazilian-made Embraer E-190s.

Another low-cost Colombian airline called AIRES also announced interest in serving Costa Rica, but seems to have put its entrance to the market on hold. It has only recently expanded from domestic operations to go from the major Colombian cities to Fort Lauderdale.

Presently fares from the AeroRepública website are $730 for a roundtrip in July with four days in Bogotá. Fares in the heavily competitive U.S. domestic market for the similar distance from Phoenix to Portland can be as little as $336. But a traveler can go to Leticia on the Amazon river (nearly twice as far) for $639. This is the closest and cheapest way to get to the Amazon from Costa Rica at present.
Now only Avianca and Taca operate between Colombia and Costa Rica. They reached an agreement last year to make a regional airline including Taca in Central America, Taca Peru, and the recently-purchased AeroGal of Ecuador. The companies will continue to operate under their respective brands, but will cooperate on routes, sales, and fleet management.

The new agreement, still not ratified by either country, allows free access to and from any two points between the countries, with unlimited numbers of flight frequencies and seats.

Colombians are now the second-largest immigrant group in Costa Rica. In recent years the only direct service from San José has been to Bogotá, until Taca began flying to Medellin in May (also via Panamá).

At present most Costa Rica-Colombia and inter-Central American routes are flown only by Taca and Copa, with very little competition on fares. While AeroRepública is unlikely to make much of a difference in forcing fares down, if ARIES brings its low-cost model to Central America that could help.

With new 737s it has brought the business model used by Southwest or JetBlue to domestic Colombian flying. AIRES presently has eight 737-700s with two more expected this year.

Colombia and Panamá also recently reached a liberalized treaty that allows free access to and beyond their main airports. Currently, traffic between Panamá and the secondary cities of Colombia is dominated by Copa and AeroRepública.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 130

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Opposition party seems
to be winning in México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voters in a dozen Mexican states cast ballots Sunday in municipal and governor's elections overshadowed by the country's drug war.

The big winner appears to be the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, the main opposition to the Partido Acción Nacional of President Rafael Calderón.

The regional elections are being seen as a runup to the 2012 presidential vote. The opposition party appears to have retained governorships in six states and won three more. The unofficial results are based on exit polls.

Sunday's vote takes place six days after a candidate for governor from the northern state of Tamaulipas, Rodolfo Torre, was shot dead while campaigning in the state. Torre represented the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, which was expected to sweep the elections.

The opposition party held power in Mexico for 71 years but lost control to opposition parties, such as Calderon's, in the past decade.  Supporters say the recent drug-related violence shows President Calderon's efforts to fight illegal drug trafficking have not worked.

Calderón has pledged to defend Mexico's democracy against the gangs, which have launched a campaign of intimidation against politicians running in local elections.

Torre and several aides were killed in an ambush while campaigning in the town of Valle Hermoso, near Mexico's border with the United States. It was Mexico's highest-level political murder in 16 years.

In May, a candidate for mayor from the ruling Acción Nacional, Jose Mario Guajardo, was killed along with his son in Valle Hermoso, which is just south of the U.S. city of Brownsville, Texas.

About 23,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Calderón took office in late 2006 and began cracking down on the cartels.


Panamá blames rebels
for planting land mines


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panama says drug-running Colombian rebels have planted land mines in Panama near the two countries' shared border.

Panamanian security minister Jose Mulino said Friday that whoever planted the mines is apparently protecting something in the area.

Mulino did not say how many mines were found in the Darien region where two police officers were wounded last week in a mine blast.

The region has been the scene of occasional incursions by rebels into Panamanian territory in the past. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 130


Latin American news
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Pawn shops closed down

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers closed five pawn shops in San Jose's downtown Friday, mainly because they lacked all the permits required to operate.

The pawn shops are a key link in the distribution of stolen goods, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. In addition to the Fuerza Pública and the Policía Municipal, agents from the Ministerio de Salud and immigration participated.

More cheese in Turrialba

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The second weekend of the Turrialba cheese festival takes place next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The event is called Expoferia de Queso 2010 and features some 350 small firms that are involved in the production of a variety of cheeses and other milk products.

The location is in Santa Cruz de Turrialba. Organizers said that for next weekend they would use 1,500 liters of milk to create a 250-kilo cheese.

Open access route closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Perhaps in response to television footage showing Nicaraguans walking into Costa Rica unhampered, the Fuerza Pública in los Chiles detained 72 illegal immigrates in 24 hours Saturday and Sunday.

Officials promised continued efforts to curb the illegal flow. Television reporters showed a dismantled police station and interviewed individuals as they crossed the border into Costa Rica from Nicaragua.  José María Tijerino ordered the police to tighten control, and Allan Obando was appointed the new regional chief in the area.

Limón murders plummet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Murders in the Provincia de Limón has shown a dramatic decline. In the first six months of 2009, there were 29 killings in the province. In 2010, there were just nine, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency also said that robberies declined from 331 to 273. Murders are the most solid statistics because they are so high profile.

The Judicial Investigating Organization attributed the decline to the efforts it and other police agencies have made in the province.





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