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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Friday, July 23, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 144              E-mail us
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Deslojo and child
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Not much
to save


A child clutches a plant she saved before workmen wrecked her home in Quepos Thursday. She is a member of one of the 200 families police evicted.

Other evicted persons carry lumber that eventually will become another home elsewhere.

The families moved in about nine months ago and set up a controversial community on government land.

See story HERE!



Expats organizing to stem a growing crime wave
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and their neighbors are organizing and getting training to frustrate the criminals in their midsts.

Nosara, the tourism destination on the far Pacific coast, is experiencing a crime wave, and two organizations and a local security expert will present a program there Monday and Tuesday.

In Grecia, residents have invited a self-defense expert to visit and give classes.

Nosara was said to be experiencing a wave of petty crime. But the situation escalated Wednesday night when a fleeing burglar pulled a gun on a resident. A report from the community said that happened at Color Champagne, a small complex of rental bungalows in Playa Guiones.

A man chased a burglar, caught him and hit him in the face, said the report. No weapon was fired, but the man stopped his attempt to collar the burglar in the face of the gun, the report said. Meanwhile, an accomplice ran off with stolen goods, said the report, noting that the same set of bungalows has been burglarized recently.

James Powell, who operates Rapid Response, said that he and Urban Combat Inc. will present the program Safe Community that combines local law enforcement, security forces, and community
watch program into one unit for communications and Web-based reporting. One problem is that some residents are concerned about leaving their homes to attend meetings because of the probability of a burglary.

Nosara residents already have distributed the description of the crook via the Internet.

Powell said Monday at 2 p.m. the meeting will discuss the program. It will be at the Nosara L' Aqua Viva Resort & Spa. Tuesday there will be a personal defense class.

Powell is a proponent of krav maga, the Israeli self-defense techniques. He also will be the one giving the classes in Grecia. They will be held at Adrenalin Gym in Grecia.

Classes, for which a fee will be charged, are planned for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There also is a women's self-defense program, according to an announcement.

Expats and Costa Ricans also are organizing in San Ramón where a meeting was held June 24. Dominical has an active community watch-type organization. The organizations are talking among themselves and with U.S. Embassy officials. 

There is the possibility of other communities becoming involved. As Powell said in an e-mail, the beach communities are getting hit hard.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 144

Costa Rica Expertise
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Our reader's opinion
An exciting lesson
in flexible assessments


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I went to the municipal offices in Quepos to inform the taxation department that I had transferred two relatively nondescript lots in Manuel Antonio from one of my corporations to another and to request a document proving the taxes on both properties had been paid for this year. Simple transaction, yes?

After spending close to two hours in front of a young kid while he sat there and read every one of the 30 pages in my corporation's records going back seven years, (while all the other folks in line squirmed in their back busting plastic chairs and gave me Voodoo death looks), I was informed that my least desirable, 1,672-square-meter lot with a view of a road, a lamp post and some trees, and which will need the construction of a bridge in order to access the building site, and which Banco de Costa Rica assessed at $55,000 for the purpose of a loan guarantee, would be valued by the municipalidad next year for the purpose of levying taxes at $191,472!!!

I kid you not.

I had no idea what was going on or why it was taking such an unconscionably long time to procure such a simple document, nor did I/do I understand why this future evaluation took place at that particular moment.

How did my lot skyrocket in value? Apparently the Municipalidad has a "nueva plataforma," a new computer program, for evaluating properties based on things like location, the amount of road frontage, the inclination of the lot, whether or not the utilities are available, (not installed, mind you, just available), and several other components that get fed into the program. Nobody from the Muni is actually going to inspect or evaluate the lot in person like Banco de Costa Rica did. It's all going to be done with computers, smoke and mirrors.

I, of course, protested that the new evaluation was ridiculous, (which brought an audible groan from the sufferers in the plastic chairs and caused a few torches to be lit), so the young man returned to his computer for another 15 minutes after which he smiled and presented me with a new/improved evaluation of $85,294, an increase of a mere 64 percent. While this was certainly preferable to an explosion in "value" of 349 percent, it was nonetheless ridiculous since the absolute top end, real world value of the lot in today's depressed market would be $60,000. At the best of times its value wouldn't exceed $75,000 because of the lack of an ocean or mountain view as well as the access problem.

My lawyer says that his uncle's cousin's sister knows someone who can work with the municipality on this absurdly predatory reevaluation of my land, (my other lot didn't fare much better), but I still have to question the validity of the program if it can be manipulated so easily that the value of a property can explode by 349 percent and then plummet by 285 percent just because a few data entries get massaged by a civil servant. (Thank you very much by the way, young man!)

This is obviously an insidious system with great big fangs and a monetary bloodlust that's WAY not ready for Prime Time, but I'm sure that that's not going to stop the Municipalidad de Quepos or anywhere else from putting it in play ASAP in order to pump up the city coffers.

So strap it on, you property owners, and prepare to assume the Crouching Dragon fighting position. The Tax Man cometh and he's hungry!
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

President presents wish list
of future public works


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla outlined plans Thursday to spend $6.5 billion during the next four years on public works.

The plan is linked to legislative proposals for new taxes and changes in the tax code that will be sent to the legislature soon.

Big ticket items include the hydro projects on the rios El Diquis, Reventazón and Savegre, expansion of the national petroleum refinery, construction of a new dock to handle containers at Moín, repair or replacement of up to 150 of the nation's bridges and construction of a building at Liberia's Daniel Oduber airport.

Eastertime alcohol law
could be repealed


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual ritual of covering up the store shelves containing alcohol may end if lawmakers pass a bill that is in the hopper.

The bill would end the two-day dry period on Holy Thursday and Good Friday just before Easter each year.

The law is a pain for store owners, bar owners and tourism operators, not to mention the Fuerza Pública officers who have to cover the offending store shelves on the Wednesday night before Easter each year.

The new election law eliminated the alcohol ban around presidential voting. The only ley seca left is the religious one.

Driver faces stiffer charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man sentenced to 24 years for a traffic accident with multiple deaths is going to get a new, stiffer sentence.

The man, with the last names of Quesada Fonseca, drove the vehicle that killed Natalia Trejos Sánchez, 18, Rebeca Mena Altamirano, 18, and Diego Quesada Guzmán, 19, Oct. 7, 2008. He was convicted in the Tribunal de Juicio de San José.

But on appeal the Sala III upgraded the charges against the man and ordered him to be resentenced.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica guide

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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.

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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.

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For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 144

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

Museum brings Guanacaste celebration to the city Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central Valley residents will not have to go to Guanacaste Sunday to celebrate the 187th anniversary of the decision by the Partido de Nicoya to join Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua.

The Museo Nacional is having a fiesta from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. under the title Cultura y Naturaleza. Planned are dances, music, food typical of Guanacaste, and bombas, those witty Guanacaste epigrams uttered orally.

"The objective of the festival is so that those attending live and feel the roots of the Guanacaste identity," said María Elena Masís who is coordinating the Sunday event. The museum is just east of the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José
Dancing will be by the Compañía de Danza Folclórica Huanacaxtle.  Walter Quesada is the man who will deliver the bombas. There also will be the typical cimarrona or band and mascaradas, the giant figures. At 3 p.m. the marimbas of the Centro Nacional de la Música will perform.

Most politicians will not make the museum event. They will be at the consejo de gobierno with President Laura Chinchilla in Nicoya. That will be in the Coopealianza building at 8:30 a.m.

An hour later in the Parque de Nicoya there will be the event open to the public.

The trip by the sitting president to Nicoya on July 25 is a long tradition.


Sala IV puts decision on open pit mine in laps of politicians
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court says it is up to the legislative or executive branch to cancel an existing mining concession if these branches of the government so desire.

The mine in question is the Crucitas project operated by Industrias Infinito S.A.

The court instructed its press office to provide the text of part of its decision released earlier on the mining project. In effect, the court was putting the political decision on the mine back with the politicians.

An effective public relations ploy, a march from San José to the mine site in Cutris de San Carlos has put the public focus back on the mine, which has not yet started production. Activists want President Laura Chinchilla to
 annul a decree by former president Óscar Arias Sánchez that said the mine was in the national interest.

The court said that the political branches can withdraw the concession. But the country also would be liable for claims by the mining company.

The company, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, has in place an exploitation permit which provides the rights to mine the Crucitas concession comprising 1,200 hectares.

In addition to the exploitation permit on the 1,200 hectares associated with the Crucitas project, the company holds 15 times this amount of ground, or 18,000 hectares in exploration concessions adjacent to the Crucitas concession.

Gold has more than quadrupled in price since the project began.


And we always thought that happiness is a warm puppy
 Happiness is what one feels, is, thinks, does, has, or all of the above. At least that seems to be the cautious conclusion of the various pollsters through the years.

Whatever the criteria, in all polls Costa Rica turns up among the first 10. (Except for one I came across that found Nigeria No. 1 in happiness).  So just trying to figure out what makes for happiness that qualifies a whole country to rank high or low, can make one pretty unhappy.   

The latest results, which were sent to me from a friend, is by Gallup Global Pollsters, the results of which, according to them show that the happiest countries in Europe are Denmark, Finland and Norway.  In the Americas, Costa Rica ranks the first followed by Canada and Panamá.  Their study also found that money does contribute to happiness. In Denmark the per capita income is $36,000 a year. The pollsters also found that those with money said that spending it on others made them happier than spending it on themselves did.

All of the Scandinavian countries have healthy incomes, as well as do their people, but the latter also pay the highest taxes in the world.  In fact, a family of four in the U.S. has the lowest income taxes after families in México.  It is hard to figure where Costa Rican taxes rank, but besides personal and corporate taxes, there is a consumption tax.  The income level of Costa Ricans is not high but the government does provide safety nets as do the wealthier countries.

The difference between happy and not so happy seems to be partly dependent upon what you get for your taxes.  The so-called happiest countries help provide some form of guaranteed affordable medical coverage so that people do not have to worry that a catastrophic medical condition can wipe them out.  The higher taxes also insure security (an important ingredient in happiness) like generous pensions and humane working conditions.  Somewhere in there one should mention the long vacations.
 
One reason Costa Rica consistently ranks high in the happiness index is something expats and visitors both admire and complain about: the strong social networks and family ties.  It can be irritating to newcomers used to 
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


getting fast service (or think that service was more efficient in their native countries) and then have to wait to be attended to while employees are greeting one another with air kisses and catching up with news of their families or just what happened on the way to work.  Close ties with family and friends is important to the Tico sense of well being.

In the final analysis, I think happiness is subjective, and fleeting. Moments of happiness can be sharing a belly laugh with a family member, enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation in the middle of the morning with family or friends, hitting a hole in one on the golf course, finding the perfect blouse you can afford that goes perfectly with a pair of slacks, or mastering some skills you didn’t know you had, or getting curtain calls for a performance.  Or coming away from the gym having done your personal best on the treadmill, or having a good hair day.  These moments may not last but a string of them can add up to contentment.  A general satisfaction with the way life is going, and of course, the freedom to enjoy that life is, in short, what pollsters call happiness. 

So, back to the first word — how one feels.  And that really is how one feels about oneself.  If you like the way you look, how much or little you weigh, etc. etc., what you have achieved or are trying to.  How unworried you are about your health,  how people treat you and how you treat others…then, well… Happiness is truly a subjective thing, and insofar as society and a system of government or money and possessions, or even the climate help to further enhance how we feel about ourselves, then we are happy.   

And that is probably what it’s all about, Alfie, or whomever. It’s pretty hard to get firm statistics on that.  But pollsters will continue to try.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 144

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


A child contemplates what is being left behind as his family is forced to move.
kid in deslojo
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers


Police oust 200 families who invaded Quepos property

By Dennis Rogers
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police moved in Thursday and evicted about 200 families that had created a community in La Managua de Quepos not far from the Escuela El Estadio.

The event was sad but peaceful. Police had conferred earlier with members of the community and told them what was coming.

Still some 60 members of the Fuerza Pública, officers of the local municipal police and even the security ministry's canine unit and tactical squad showed up to evict the residents and provide security for workmen who began to demolish the homes. Also there were immigration agents. The total was close to 100 law enforcement personnel, the security ministry said later.

Former residents salvaged whatever they could with the intention of constructing another dwelling somewhere. Some items were left behind to be crushed and destroyed by heavy equipment. Abandoned goods included a teddy bear and a smiling Barney toy.

Police were responding to a court order. The land belongs to the Consejo Nacional de Producción. The community members, called  precaristas in Spanish or simply squatters in English, had hoped to gain possession rights by setting up homes on public property.

The security ministry said that the squatter community was a source of criminality, including robberies and drug sales, and untreated sewage. 

The ministry said that members of a local gang were identified as some of those living on the site.

Displaced resident Elvin López said the squatters had been there about nine months. Others suggested the camp was about half Costa Ricans and half foreigners, mostly Nicaraguans. Immigration police on the scene would not comment, except to say that there were lots of immigrants. Many probably are legal now given the many children
First deslojo pohoto
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
As soon as occupants left, workers with machinery moved in to destroy the roughly-built houses.

present probably born in Costa Rica.

Marlon Cubillo, head of the Puntarenas region for the Fuerza Pública, said no resistance was offered. Cubillo said that many of these people "dedicate themselves to delinquency and have some sort of legal process" underway against them. He said that there were all sorts of people there, saying "some work and the ones who don´t work do other things like deal drugs" and that the squatter settlement lowers property values around it.

Cubillo said some of those evicted went directly to the Instituto Mixta de Ayuda Social, the country's main welfare agency, asking what they could expect.

One evicted resident, Rodrigo Jiménez, said he works as a gardener at a Quepos hotel.

Young Yaimi Sandoval viewed the proceedings from the arms of her mother Yaimy Madrigal. The family will go "where ever destiny takes us," according to the baby´s father, Luis Alberto Sandoval.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 144

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Venezuela breaks relations
with Colombia over rebels


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has severed diplomatic relations with neighboring Colombia after Bogota accused his country of harboring leftist guerrillas.

Chávez made the announcement on national television Thursday, saying he was forced to sever all relations because Colombia claims he has failed to act against rebels who allegedly have taken shelter in Venezuelan territory.  Chávez said he has ordered Venezuelan military forces to be on "maximum alert" along the border.

Chávez acted after Colombia went before the Organization of American States' permanent council in Washington to present photographs, maps, coordinates and videos it said show 1,500 leftist rebels hiding in Venezuela. 

Colombia's ambassador to the organization, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, said the documents show what he called "the consolidated, active and growing presence of these terrorist bands" in Venezuela. 

Hoyos said Venezuela had not attacked the guerrilla groups as it should.  He challenged Venezuelan officials to let independent observers inspect the sites where he said Colombian rebels were taking shelter.

Venezuela's envoy, Roy Chaderton, said the documents that Hoyos presented did not provide any solid evidence of a guerrilla presence in Venezuela.

Later, Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro announced that the Chávez government had ordered its embassy in Bogota closed and had given Colombian diplomats in Venezuela 72 hours to leave the country.

Both Colombia and Venezuela had already recalled their respective ambassadors as the dispute intensified.

Thursday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Venezuela's rupture of relations with Colombia is not a proper way to address concerns in the region.

Colombia requested the Organization of American States session after charging last week that leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, known as the FARC, and the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, or ELN, are hiding in Venezuela.

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who has had tense relations with Chávez, steps down next month after two terms in office.  Bogota previously has accused Venezuela of financing and supporting Colombian rebels, a charge Venezuela has denied.

In 2008, Venezuela and Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after Colombian troops raided a Fuerzas Armadas rebel camp in Ecuador and killed commander Raul Reyes and at least 20 other people.

Venezuela and Colombia also have been at odds over a 2009 agreement allowing the United States to use seven Colombian military bases for anti-drug operations.

Chávez has called the deal a threat to his country, but the U.S. and Colombia say their agreement does not pertain to other nations.

Colombia's new leader plans
a visit here this evening

 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Manuel Santos, the president-elect of Colombia will meet with President Laura Chinchilla and two of her ministers this evening. Santos will arrive from Panamá at 5:30 p.m. and meet with Ms. Chinchilla about 6 p.m.

With Ms. Chinchilla will be René Castro, foreign minister, José María Tijerino, security minister, and  Edgar Ugalde, ambassador designate to Colombia.
 
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 144


Latin American news
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Sierpe sign
Photo by Michael Fair
This is one of the signs parents posted on the school fence. It says they do not want the director.

Sierpe parents protest
against school director

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Parents of children at the elementary school in Sierpe de Osa have been blocking access for the school director. They want her to be removed.

The parents accuse the director of poor management. The protest has been going on all week, according to residents in that community. The director has been at the school for eight years.

Parents say that the physical condition of the school has deteriorated during that time. Education ministry officials are aware of the case but have not yet taken action.

Annexation fiesta at art gallery

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Hidden Garden Art Gallery is hosting the Guanacaste Annexation Fiesta: A Celebration of Art and Culture, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday with performances from Folk Dance Jaguarandi Group at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Numerous artists, both national and international, will be presenting original new pieces portraying their love of Guanacaste, and through various mediums tell stories about human origins and relationships with nature. The gallery is located 5 kilometers west of the Liberia international airport.


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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details