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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, July 7, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 133        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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First of two parts
Illegal pimping is the engine that drives sex tourism

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica.  The activity is legal because there is no law against it.  In this country, if there is no law prohibiting something, it is legal.

The legality of paid sex has spawned a wide range of activities that are not legal. Yet Costa Rica makes no effort to enforce these laws, despite lip service to the contrary.

The criminal code lumps most of these illegal activities under the heading of pimping. The skeptical could call it, simply, marketing.

Costa Rica has become a magnet for the sex tourist.  The country rivals  competitors like Thailand, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Dominican Republic and Cuba.  Brazil and the Dominican Republic are the de facto leaders for sex tourism in the Western Hemisphere, but Costa Rica is a serious contender.

The penal code prohibits pimping in Articles 169 and 171.  However, pimping is widespread throughout the country, and the government is generally tolerating the activity. Pimping is the marketing engine that brings the customer and the prostitute together. Without pimping, there would be much less sex tourism.

There are two words for pimping in Spanish, proxenetismo and rufianería.  Proxenetismo is the activity of promoting or fostering prostitution of either sex.  Rufianería is coercively engaging another into prostitution for financial gain.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “A pimp finds and manages clients for prostitutes and engages them in prostitution (in brothels in most cases and some cases street prostitution) in order to profit from their earnings.”

Most every expat knows there are literally hundreds of brothels throughout San José and thousands throughout the country.  The owners of those brothels advertise to get clients and manage the money for the prostitutes. 

This is how it works: one goes into a brothel to have sex with a prostitute and pays another person for the activity.   The owner keeps a portion of the proceeds, and the prostitute gets a percentage of the take.  In other words, the owner of the establishment “finds and manages clients for prostitutes.”  This is pimping.  The government does not crack down on these locations or controls them in anyway.

There are other pimps selling sex that go unnoticed and uncontrolled.  Who are they?  Well they are taxi drivers, tour bus operators, guides, and — believe it or not — other expats. 

These people arrange sex for anyone.  They sell men and women, boys and girls.  Some students — as in high school and university students — prefer to work with tour bus operators because they can hide their activity from their parents.  Prices for a high school or university student can range from $100 to an astonishing $500 an hour because the prostitutes are outside the normal marketplace. 

One extraordinarily beautiful 19-year-old called prostitution “her hobby.” She said she engaged in the activity because she came from middle class Costa Rican family and wanted more.  Her family does not know she is a prostitute.  A tour bus operator finds her clients, drives her to their location and picks her up when she is done.

Some expats also make their living arranging
pimping  graphic

tours to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of assisting their customers in finding prostitutes.   Others arrange sex tours of the local hotels and brothels to sample the menu.  Others run online “peek shows.”  Many of these activities would fall under a reasonable definition of pimping as contains in the Costa Rican code.

Try this test: Google these keywords prostitutes costa rica.   The results of the test will reflect Web sites promoting sex tourism to Costa Rica.  Foreigners including Americans — not Costa Ricans — own and run them.  In many cases, customers must buy a package from the Web site for their sex vacation.  This again is “finding and managing clients for prostitutes” or pimping. 

Does Costa Rica try to control this activity?  No, it does not.  In some cases, fishing or property-finding trips to Costa Rica by foreigners disguise the real activity. 

The Óscar Arias government seeks to crack down on casino operations because officials say such locations promote prostitution. No official says anything about the rampant pimping and prostitution visible and invisible all over the country. Only when underage youngsters might be involved do officials express dismay.

The visible includes the strip clubs that are just fronts for the activities that go on in the private rooms inside where the house takes a substantial cut.

One of the few — and the most famous — case in Costa Rica for pimping was the ring run by Sinaí Monge.  She was accused and found guilty of pimping in 2004.  

Her case was notorious because she allegedly arranged sex with minors for public figures, football players and even judicial workers. Although she was convicted, years of surveillance, wiretapping and detective work failed to get the goods on any other person. Her prison sentence was modest.

Why does Costa Rica not enforce articles 169 and 171 of the penal code?

Maybe because it would be an almost impossible task. It would mean closing down thousands of brothels throughout the country.  Maybe it is because sex tourism is very important for the economy of Costa Rica.  

On the other hand, it could be that prostitution is so much a part of the Costa Rican culture no one really cares.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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All-day vehicle restrictions
draw businessmen's fire

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's business chamber has come out against a plan to restrict vehicle access to the central metropolitan area for the whole day. That plan was supposed to start today.

The chamber, the  Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said that the government instead should extend peak hour restrictions to other major urban areas and eliminate highway toll booths. Peak hour restrictions have been in force in the San José metropolitan area since June 26.

Based on the final digit of the license plate, some 20 percent of vehicles will be forbidden to enter that area bounded by Calle Blanco to the north, the Circunvalación to the south and east and La Uruca to the west. However, it still was unclear if the executive branch had issued the required decree. It was promised Wednesday.

The chamber complained that many companies are located within this area and will have 20 percent of their truck fleets idle every day.

The government plan is to save fuel by cutting down traffic congestion. However, economics might have an effect, too. The price fixing authority said that a liter of diesel will go up 88 colons to 710 colons July 15. Gasoline is going up 60 colons more, regular to 704 colons and super to 716. The exchange rate is about 516 colons to the U.S. dollar.

The price increase was enough to cause bus operators to threaten a nationwide strike starting Tuesday if the government does not move to cut the fuel prices. Buses are vital to the vehicular restriction plan.

For today the forbidden numbers are 1 and 2, at least during the peak hours.
Our readers opinions
Surf lover says he's sick
at developers' impact here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I help people plan surf trips to Costa Rica. But now the country is going to shit, literally, as these developers are going in, tapping out the locals water supply, and filling the rivers and beaches with runoff from faulty septic systems.

You see all these fancy ads, brochures, and presentations about how eco-friendly these places will be, but yet they clearcut the trees, put in roads, and have no plans for waste treatment.

Why do people think they have the right to trash the country because they own a piece of land? Many owners who would never break the law in the U.S. flagrantly disregard it in Costa Rica. The worst part is how gullible the investors are. They have no clue that the plans they were shown did not get environmental permits, and it's never mentioned that their property is in a flood plain or prone to earthquakes, or they don't have access to water.

It makes me sick, and I am trying to do something about it. I don't promote or sell ads to developers. I post environmental articles and community events to raise awareness of the issues. And I donate to the Tamarindo chapter of Surfrider which does educational projects, beach cleanups, and water quality testing for their beach.

But it is not enough. As surf travelers, if we don't try to curb the destruction of the coastal ecosystem, then I fear the surfbreaks will get so polluted that no one will want to surf them anymore. If you care enough to do something about it, contact me anytime at
Greg Gordon
Miami Beach.

Does country profit at all
from commercial fishing?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am curious as to how Costa Rica benefits from allowing foreign, commercial fishing boats, to commercially fish in Costa Rican waters.  As your latest articles suggest, allowing commercial fishing of Costa Rican waters appears to be quite devastating to the local sports fishing industry here.  The sports fishing industry does, of course, benefit Costa Rica greatly, bringing in substantial dollars from sports fishing tourists,  hotels, restaurants, the Blue Marlin bar, etc.

I have also been reading the controversy over shark fin harvesting in Costa Rica.  I think the rules for shark fin harvesting here are ridiculous and the practice should simply be banned.  Why do they allow it?  Are there substantial tax dollars involved?  I suspect Costa Rica is gaining little and losing a lot.

If the government of Costa Rica is not gaining substantial tax benefits from allowing commercial fishing by foreign companies, why don’t they simply prohibit them from fishing here?  It appears from your article that these boats feel like they “own” these Costa Rican waters and are becoming more aggressive defending their “piece” of Costa Rica.

I am glad to see these things happening and grateful A.M. Costa Rica is making people aware of what is going on.  This is the first step to generating interest to make a change here.  I hope the government is listening.
Edward Bridges

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 7, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 133

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A tiny picnic goer considers her options carefully at the top of an inflatable slide while other youngsters enjoy a sack race and U.S. Marines down what appears to be a grain-based health drink.
july Fourth snapshots
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias

Lone protester adds spirit of dissent to July Fourth picnic
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the most part, the American Colony's July Fourth picnic was a politically neutral, family-oriented celebration of one nation's independence, with liberty and justice for all. Then there was Jock Mitchell.

Standing tall and drawing on his memories of the anti-government dissent of the 1960s and 1970s, Mitchell bided his time during U.S. Ambassador Peter Cianchette's speech, and, during a lull, promptly shouted several vulgarities in response to the ambassador's mention of President George Bush.

Following the awkward silence in the wake of Mitchell's outburst of anti-administration rhetoric, Cianchette resumed his speech as the tall, lanky protester quickly ducked away from the searching eyes around the back of the crowd. He didn't evade notice for long.

A group of up to three men quickly located the lone protester, possibly aided by the upside-down American flag Mitchell wore sticking out of his collar. Following a tense confrontation that almost came to blows, the two parties parted ways, one of the offended men loudly voicing his opinion of Mitchell's attempt to charge the event.

“It's inappropriate!” shouted the man as his companions drew him away, “He should leave.” Eventually Mitchell did.

Political dissent aside, the 46th July 4th celebration at the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds was a cheerful event full of games and activities for the kids and plenty of beer and hot dogs for the adults.

Classic rock poured out of the speakers on the sound-stage up front and periodic John Philip Sousa marches from the band in the back set the tone following the speeches as children ran from the sack races to the inflatable slides and merry-go-rounds. Adults sauntered down the hill
confrontation at picni
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
A friend restrains a man who did not like the vulgarities uttered by Jock Mitchell (wearing hat).

from the beer stands to the hot dog tents past the political party registration areas.

American citizens (passport required) and their Costa Rican family members appeared energetic and festive as the Costa Rican culture was, at least momentarily, forgotten in favor of a good old U.S. barbecue-style cookout.

The celebration, in keeping with local weather conditions, drew to a close around noon.

The rock music slowly faded, the inflatable children's attractions slumped and collapsed, and an announcer grudgingly directed the guests, embassy officials and expatriates alike, to the parking lot as Costa Rica took over once more and the dark, ominous clouds of the rainy season closed in and sprinkled the event cleaning crews with the first hints of rain.

The fireworks typically displayed in the States were substituted for the distant rolling thunder across the Costa Rican sky.

Many in the metro area experience a prolonged dry spell
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This was the weekend when many Costa Ricans made do with whatever water they may have been handy.

Thursday a landslide broke a three-foot pipe in  Coris de Cartago, and not until early Sunday did the employees of the Instituto Costarricense de  Acueductos y Alcantarillados get it welded. They had the technical help of experts from the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo  S.A. who are skilled in welding pipelines.

Those affected began losing their good humor about Friday evening. Supermarkets were sold out of bottled water in the affected areas, which pretty well duplicated the area that went dry in a planned outage the week before.

In downtown San José, businesses like the McDonald's fast food hamburger store and the Gran Hotel Costa Rica received water from private tank truck companies. Many businesses have water tanks on their system, so the loss of water from the main is not quickly seen.
 Several hotels had cautionary signs in rests rooms asking patrons not to be too generous with water.

Much of Desamparados had service restored by 7 p.m. Saturday.

San Pedro, Curridabat and Hatillo are other areas with dense populations that were affected. In all, the utility company estimated that 400,000 users did not have water for nearly three days. In some case, the water did not flow from the tap until Sunday afternoon due to the configuration of the pipes and the altitude of the user. In other cases the water began flowing only to be cut off again.

Acueductos y Alcantarillados is investigating the circumstances leading up to the slide that damaged the pipe. Initially residents were told that a digging machine had hit the pipe. The area around the outage has been shaped and leveled by earth-moving equipment. Water company officials will try to determine if this caused the slippage of the earth.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 7, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 133

Nervous neighbors win court appeal to eliminate big tree
By the A.M. Costa Rica a staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has issued a death sentence against the historic ceiba tree that stand in the southeast corner of the foreign ministry grounds.

The ministry officials had trouble getting the tree cut down. They pronounced it sick and in failing health in mid-May, but work stopped inexplicably a few days after it started. The roots are damaged.

That made residents of a neighboring building, the national heritage structure Apartamentos Jiménez, nervous. They noticed that the dying tree was leaning in their direction and showed a vulnerability to any strong wind. The tree is nearly 100 feet high. The residents filed a court case asking magistrates to order that the tree be cut down, and the court did just that last week.

The neighbors said some that giant branches of the tree already had fallen. The court said that the  Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto should immediately get the tree cut. Workmen were on the scene by Friday. They worked all weekend, and they are expected to work at least three more days. Work is slow because each branch at the top of the tree has to be cut off an lowered by crane to the ground.

Motor vehicle traffic will be restricted along Avenida 7 that passes in front of the ministry, also known as Casa Amarilla.

The tree is historic because it was a gift from former president of Guatemala, Ydígoras Miguel Fuentes, during the visit of John F. Kennedy and other presidents in 1963.
big tree
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Workman collect debris from tree trimming

Ex-hostage Ms. Betancourt says she will return to Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt says she plans to return in a few days to Colombia, where she was held by rebels for six years before her rescue last week.

Ms. Betancourt, a citizen of both France and Colombia, discussed her plans in an interview published Sunday in France by the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. She said she wants to write a play about her experiences while in captivity.

She also sent a radio message from Paris to hostages still in rebel hands, urging them not to lose hope.  Radio France International said Ms. Betancourt would send another message to the hostages today.

A report in Chile's La Nación newspaper says that country's president, Michelle Bachelet, plans to nominate Ms. Betancourt for the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Betancourt is a former Colombian presidential candidate.
Friday, the U.S. national Independence Day holiday, three American men freed at the same time as Ms. Betancourt issued a statement of thanks to the Colombian and American governments. 

The former hostages called the 40-year struggle with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias rebels a shining testament to the great spirit of the Colombian people.

Colombian military officials discovered a ton of explosives Saturday at a residence in a rural area outside the capital, Bogota. Military authorities say the explosives were hidden there by the rebels.

Officials in Bogota said Saturday the rebels may have been planning a massive bombing as a reprisal attack following Wednesday's rescue of 15 hostages — 11 Colombians as well as Ms. Betancourt and the three Americans.

The rebelsare listed as a terrorist group by the United States, Colombia and the European Union.

Plan to tax Argentine grain exports advances in legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina's lower house of congress has approved new grain export taxes that farmers have been protesting for months.

House members voted Saturday, 128 to 122, in favor of the legislation, after many hours of debate. The bill still requires Senate approval.

The head of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, Eduardo Buzzi, vowed to resist the measure in the Senate and in the courts, if necessary.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had asked Congress to debate the measure, in an effort to defuse tension exemplified by the outraged farmers.

A series of farm strikes since March, when the government put the new tax system in place, has caused food shortages in Argentina and has disrupted the country's exports. President Fernández has defended the tax increase, saying it will be used to help the poor.

The ongoing dispute has eroded the president's popularity and has pushed Argentina's economy into its deepest crisis in years.

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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 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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Security minister kicks off
100-day anti-crime push

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security minister Janina Del Vecchio, toured the Provincia de Limón Friday as the 100-day initiative aimed at reducing crime in the province officially began.

Ms. Del Vecchio met with local and Panamanian border officials, spoke to school children in Sixaola and delivered speeches encouraging the ministry's efforts to rid Limón of its bad reputation as a province plagued by crime and drugs, according to a release from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública..

Ms. Del Vecchio took a zero tolerance stance on crime in her speeches while evaluating area border units and police forces. The minister singled out crack cocaine as a major problem in Limón as well as the country itself, the release said.

In related news, a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization said Friday that officials had destroyed a total of about 5 tons and 700 kilograms of confiscated cocaine (more than 11,500 pounds) from June 27 through Friday.

Four missing Limón sailors
are found near Panama

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 170 hours following their disappearance off Limón, four Costa Rican fishermen were awaiting a transport back to the country from Panamá Sunday.

The four fishermen aboard the Costa Rican boat the Chamira were rescued Saturday about 45 nautical miles west of Punta San Blas, Panamá according to a Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública press release. They were last seen on June 28.

Alberto Marín López, 54, Orlando López, 26, and Alejandro Cris Márquez, Nicaraguans, and Erick Gómez Sáenz, 29, a Costa Rican, were all undergoing medical examination in Panamá as of Sunday, the release said. Their boat is believed to have suffered mechanical trouble.

The families of the fishermen have been notified of the good news, and Costa Rica has made the necessary preparations for their safe return. A number of coast guard agencies participated in the search, including the United States, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama the release said.

Curridabat shop explodes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A store in the Plaza Cristal shopping center in Curridabat exploded Sunday evening about 6 p.m., and two persons were burned, one serious, firemen said. Both were hospitalized.

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