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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, July 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 138       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Nosara real estate agent slain by intruders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 4:15 p.m. Thursday)
A 72-year-old Nosara real estate agent was the fatal victim of intruders, investigators believe.

The man, identified as  Carl David Brainard, was found bound and suffocated in a Nosara home he was caring for. A gardener found him Wednesday, but police said he may have been dead for at least two days.

The scene was in the La Esperanza section of Playa Guiones, a section south of the town of Nosara populated by many foreigners from North America on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Stolen was a vehicle Brainard was using. The
vehicle belonged to a woman who is a frequent visitor to the area and who had left the Toyota Four Runner in his care.

Brainard worked for the Nosara Real Estate and operated The Juice Lab nearby,  where he sold various juices and smoothies.

Agents said he had been in the home where he died only 22 days.

Intruders bound him hands and feet then placed a t-shirt over his head., Agents speculate he was suffocated with the t-shirt.

A real estate employee said Brainard had worked with the firm for at least two and a half years.

'Side letter' bad news for current monopoly
Banks could sell insurance under trade treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The free trade agreement with the United States not only opens up the Costa Rican's government monopoly on insurance but it specifically authorizes banks to carry on such business.

The measure spells bad news for the government's Instituto Nacional de Seguros and its many contract agents.

Private and even national banks would be authorized to go into the insurance business. Existing banks already have established offices and administrative support that they would not have to build from scratch.

The accord on banks selling insurance is contained in a so-called side letter between the United States and Costa Rica. The May 28, 2004, letter was addressed to Roberto Trejos, then-minister de Comercio Exterior, from Robert B. Zoellick, then U.S. trade representative.

The side letters spell out agreements between two or more parties to the larger trade pact on specific issues that affect only them.

"An insurance company may supply insurance services in Costa Rica, subject to regulatory standards consistent with the agreement, through a commercial relationship with banks provided that the insurance company is the underwriter of the insurance policy," said Zoellick in the letter.

The Asamblea Legislativa would have to spell out the regulatory standards before any insurance is sold by a private firm, but aggressive private banks would seem to be the major competition to the monopoly.

A number of insurance agents from the United States have been feeling out the market here 
in anticipation that the free trade treaty would be ratified by the assembly. The lawmakers have two years since the treaty entered into force earlier this year to take action.

However, it appears that private insurance is not something that will appear overnight. There is a long regulatory road, perhaps dominated by the banking system.  Banco Nacional, for example, has offices all over the country.

The treaty came up for discussion in the assembly Wednesday, but it was an opponent complaining that the document had not been published sufficiently.

Alberto Salom of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said that only 1,500 copies of the lengthy document had been printed as part of the official La Gaceta. He said his political party had presented an appeal before the Sala IV constitutional court. His party opposes the treaty and seeks technical reasons to void it.

He said that the treaty is of major importance to the country and that the official newspaper should have at least printed more copies than it did.

However, he neglected to point out that the treaty is on line in English HERE! and in Spanish, HERE!, thanks to the Ministerio de Economia of El Salvador.

The institute that has the insurance monopoly now, known as INS, is not known for its customer service. However it does operate the fire department. And lawmakers will have to find another way of paying for that corps.

INS basically provides a one-size-fits-all insurance and is known as a slow payer. The agency has been hit with several corruption scandals recently.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 138

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Political tract disguised
as survey gets headlines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when all the election hype and statistical excesses die down, along comes the "unhappy planet index."

The report, produced by the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth is designed to catch headlines during the slow summer news flow. It is a political statement disguised as a scientific study.

Analysis on the news

The New Economics Foundation uses creative math and three borrowed indexes to show the "ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered."

The foundation takes a life satisfaction index and average life span for each nation and then relates it to the estimated consumption in that country. So a country with a high satisfaction level and a long estimated life span and a lot of consumption comes off miserably.

The foundation's plan has been a success because news stories have appeared reporting that Vanuatu, the former new Hebrides in the Pacific, is No. 1 in quality of life. The Guardian, Reuters and others reported the results uncritically.

The study also ranked Costa Rica in No. 3 position, in part because the country exports lots of products and does not consume them.

However, the math is less than straight forward. The foundation experts tried simply multiplying estimated life span and satisfaction index and dividing it by estimated consumption, expressed as a country's "footprint." But Haiti has an annoying habit of being one of the top-ranked countries because of its low consumption.

So some creative math was employed to rank the countries. The United States is 150th. Britain is 108th. Cuba is 6th (they don't consume much and Communist officials report a long average life span.)

Vietnam shows up at 12th and even Bhutan is 13th. In fact nearly all the Third World, developing countries are ranked high and the industrialized world is ranked low.

Costa Rica and the United States have nearly the same satisfaction index and nearly the same estimated life span, but Costa Rica is high because it exports more than it consumes, and the United States is low for the opposite reason. One could reason that citizens are more happy because they consume more.

Colombia, by the way, comes in at second place, despite the civil war and wholesale kidnappings. Perhaps it is because the country exports more than it uses.

Seasonal rain likely
for remainder of week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hold on to your umbrellas. The rains are likely to return toward the end of the week.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional reported almost no rainfall for two days at its Barrio Aranjuez facility. In fact, what little rain that fell came from small clouds that covered only a few blocks at a time.

The weather institute said that today's weather will be dominated by the passage of a tropical depression and the reduction in winds that kept the rain at bay.

The Caribbean coast as well as the Pacific is likely to get rain with probabilities of 80 percent or more.

Mother of four faces
drug smuggling count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This time it was a single mother of four who was grabbed as a suspected drug courier at Juan Santamaría airport, said the Policía de Control de Drogas.

The woman, 38 and with the last names of Martínez Martínez, was about to board a flight to México when officials decided to search her, they said. She lives in the working class neighborhood of Alajuelita. Officials said that police found 2.6 kilos of heroin taped to her legs.

Officials said that the woman lives with her four minor children and in difficult economic circumstances. They said that unscrupulous persons had talked her into transporting the material.

She faces an allegation of international drug trafficking.

Arrest made in Malpais death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have detained a 26-year-old Nicoya man in the murder of a woman June 14 in Malpais, a surfing community at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Agents have been seeking the man since the woman's body was found in her home, they said.  She was identified by the last name of Cossentino and she was 48 years old.

The suspect was identified as Marin Danilo Guzmán Ulloa, officials said.

Uribe's man in D.C. quits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's ambassador to the United States has resigned over the nomination of a disgraced former president as ambassador to France. The ambassador, Andres Pastrana, himself a former president, stepped down Tuesday, saying he had little choice after President Alvaro Uribe appointed Ernesto Samper to the post.

The government later announced that Samper had turned down the post.

Samper's four-year presidency, which began in 1994, was overshadowed by allegations that his campaign accepted $5 million in contributions from the notorious Cali cocaine cartel. He was later cleared by the Colombian legislature.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 138

When is a restaurant tip considered part of a salary?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There always are little twists in the law that seldom are aired in public.

This one involves the 10 percent that is added to the bill of restaurant meals as an obligatory tip for the waiters, cooks, bartenders and others. The tip is required by law.

Does this represent a part of a salary?

Some restaurant owners cheat and grab part or all of these tips for themselves. But others simply distribute the money to the employees, who might earn three or four times their official salary in tips.

If this money is considered a salary, the appropriate governmental deductions should apply. The
deductions go to the cash-strapped Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which runs the pension plans and hospitals.

And if the money is a salary, the employer should pay the company share, which can be as much as 35 percent.

Evita Arguedas Maklouf of Movimiento Libertario said that confusion reigns on this issue. She said that a ruling of the Sala II states that the tips should be considered salary. But she and her party do not agree with that interpretation because it runs counter to the original intent of the legislature in 1972 when the measure was passed, she said.

A bill before the legislature now would clarify the existing law so that such tips would not be considered part of a salary.

Rat trap device causes a flap among Heredia police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can you make a bomb out of a rat trap? If not, you can at least make something that causes a stir in police circles.

That's what happened in Heredia Wednesday when investigators checked out a strange device that a man had found under the back part of his car.

The device was installed in a spray paint can. Three .22-caliber bullets were to be fired by the spring action of the rat trap. And there was additional
powder to create an explosion, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The operator of the car, identified as a Fuerza Pública officer, said he was a witness in a major court case and that the device was placed under his car as it was parked near his home at La Milpa de Guararí in Heredia.

Because of the strange nature of the device, he took it to police officials in Heredia. There was no report if the device actually would have functioned as a bomb or if someone was playing a practical joke.

New chamber of commerce in Brazil has a goal of increasing trade
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the new location for a Costa Rican chamber of commerce, according to the foreign ministry.

Costa Rica exported $11.3 million to Brazil last year, but imported $414.8 million, primarily in vehicles and petroleum, said the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.
The chamber, encouraged by the Consul General of Costa Rica in Sao Pablo, will try to develop more commercial and investment opportunities for private businesses in both countries.

It also is a source of information for companies here that seek to do business in Brazil.

The official name of the new entity is the Cámara de Comercio Brasil – Costa Rica.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 138

Venezuela joins Cuba to denounce U.S. transition plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States has highlighted its new effort to support an eventual transition to democracy in Cuba, while again accusing Venezuela of trying to block efforts for political change. Havana and Caracas have rejected the latest U.S. push.

Cuba and Venezuela reacted angrily to the new $80-million U.S. program that supports a transition to democracy in Cuba. The president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, has told reporters he thinks the U.S. effort is a provocation that will intensify the decades-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, hurting those who need aid and medical attention.

The U.S. effort was announced Monday with the release of a report by the bipartisan Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The program includes funds to strengthen democratic efforts for Cuba and
bring information to the island via broadcasts and the Internet.

But the commission's report also accuses Venezuela of trying to block efforts toward democracy on the island.

The U.S. Cuba transition coordinator, Caleb McCarry, briefed reporters in Miami Wednesday and repeated the charge.

"The current regime in Havana is working with like-minded governments, particularly Venezuela, to build a network of political and financial support designed to forestall any external pressure for change," said Caleb McCarry.

But Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez describes the report, in his words, as a new imperialist threat and says Venezuela will further support Cuban Communist leader Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959.

Demand grows for a ballot-by-ballot recount of vote in Mexican election
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MÉXICO CITY, México — Supporters of leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador are marching on this capital, demanding a ballot-by-ballot recount.

Hundreds of demonstrators began arriving Wednesday, gathering for a mass protest in Mexico City's Zocalo Square this Sunday. Meanwhile, the election's declared winner, Felipe Calderón, called for calm as demonstrators continue to challenge the results of the July 2 election.

Lopez Obrador's supporters say widespread irregularities in the vote allowed Calderon to win the initial count by a slim margin.
Protesters say they have evidence of fraud, including videos showing a person stuffing ballots into a ballot box in the state of Guanajuato.

López Obrador's staff has said street protests would continue indefinitely.  On Saturday, more than 100.000 demonstrators gathered in the capital.

Mexico's electoral tribunal has until Sept. 6 to rule on López Obrador's challenge and officially announce Mexico's next president.

Calderón has already begun to assemble his transition staff.  Tuesday, he named his campaign adviser, Juan Camilo Mourino, to head the team, and put Josefina Vázquez Mota in charge of relations with other parties.

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