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(506) 2223-1327                        Publsihed Monday, July 23, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 145                          Email us
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Mar Vista

The Federación de Surf de Costa Rica picked a day during mid-year vacation to promote the paddleboard, a water device and sport that is being recognized by the federation. The paddleboards can be raced, used in water rescues and provide the base for water exercises. The federation gave a brief clinic for newspeople where yoga and pilates were demonstrated on the water.

Paddle board
Federación de Surf de Costa Rica/ Dana Klein

As expected, mid-year vacationers favored beaches
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite promotions and special officers, hospitality operators report Costa Ricans and residents, the so-called national tourism market, only filled about 45 percent of the available rooms during the mid-year vacation that ended a week ago.

That was the result of a survey of 104 hospitality operators by the Cámera Nacional de Turismo. And the national tourists generally opted for cheaper accommodations, said a report of the survey.

Of course, locations in beach resorts fared better.

The survey also determined that occupancy by all tourists, both foreign and domestic, was about 73 percent in northern Guanacaste and the central Pacific during the period. The survey was done from June 29 to July 15, said the chamber.

Mid-year vacation is one of those periods that tourism operators count on to pay the bills. The downside is that many Costa Ricans end up staying with friends or family at vacation spots, so they would not show up in this survey.

Occupancy by national tourists ranged from 78 percent in southern Guanacaste to 14 percent in the northern Caribbean, said the survey. Only four of two regions, southern and northern Guanacaste, the Puntarenas area including the southern part of
Domestic tourism
for mid-year vacation

Southern Guanacaste
Northern Guanacaste
Puntarenas and islands
Southern Pacific
Central Pacific
Southern Caribbean
Northern zone
Central Valley
Northern Caribbean
As reported by the Cámera Nacional de Turismo

the Nicoya peninsula and the southern Pacific reported national occupancy greater than 50 percent.

The survey reported that most Costa Ricans favored one-star hotels of 200 rooms or more.

Juan Carlos Ramos, chamber president, said the survey showed the need to continue developing strategies to capture this national tourist market.

Trial to spotlight official complicity in trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trial starting today is expected to shed light on a network that smuggles illegal immigrants into the country.

Two Fuerza Pública officers and two women are the accused in the case that will open in the  Tribunal de Juicio de Corredores. The policemen were identified by the last names of  Montoya Gómez and Mora Otoya. They were working in the San Vito and Río Claro police stations in the southern part of Costa Rica.

The women were identified by the last names of  Muñoz González and Jiménez Moya. The accused are suspects in a criminal organization that aided the entry of foreigners in exchange for money. In the case before the courts, the smuggled individuals are two women from Colombia who each paid $500 to get safely across the country's southern border, said the Poder Judicial.

The women were supposed to end up at a house in  Campo Tres de Agua Buena in Coto Brus,
according to a summary of the court case. The charge is human trafficking.

The crime alleged took place March 16, 2010, in Paso Canoas on the border with Panamá.

Other officers broke up the smuggling when they stopped a vehicle with the illegal immigrants near  Buenos Aires de Puntarenas. Costa Rica requires that visitors from Colombia obtain visa from the country's consulates there.

Official complicity in bringing in foreigners to Costa Rica is nothing new. A.M. Costa Rica reported the story two years ago of two female prostitutes from the Dominican Republic who said they paid part of the bribe for visas at the Costa Rican consulate there and paid the remainder at a back door of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería once they got to San José.

Central European and Russian prostitutes have been trafficked to the country by criminal rings who characterized them as students coming here to learn Spanish and get them student visas.

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Exporters chamber planning
session against bond issue

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cámara de Exportadores de Costa Rica plans to hold a press conference today at 3 p.m. in the Asamblea Legislativa to express the organization's opposition to a proposed bond issue that is being considered by lawmakers. The title translated into English is “How will Costa Ricans pay the bill for public expenditures that grow without limit.”

The exporters group members receive their payments in dollars, so they are sensitive to the rate of exchange with the colon. Spokespersons have said in the past that a bond issue would bring many more dollars into the country and further reduce the value of the dollar against the colon. They also are concerned about unemployment.

Luis Loría, director general of the exporters chamber, said that some firms will be forced to close if the bond issue is passed.

Robbers seeking fertilizer
kill elderly security guard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 71-year-old security guard died early Sunday when robbers gunned him down on the banana plantation where he worked. The dead man was identified by the last name of Maltes.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that men in a truck came to the plantation storage shed in Saborio in Matina, presumably in search of chemical fertilizer. During the subsequent confrontation, the guard suffered three bullet wounds. The robbers took his cell telephone and his money but did not take any fertilizer, said agents.

Fire produces plume
seen all over valley

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A late morning fire in a pulpería in San Antonio de Escazú destroyed the small store and also three adjacent homes Sunday. The plume from the fire was visible in much of the Central Valley.

Fire fighters got the call shortly before 11 a.m., but the wooden structures were enveloped in flames when trucks arrived, they said.

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Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

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When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

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Third News Page
Pacifico Radio
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 145
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Stolen cell phone blacklist expanding to cover Latin America
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican cell telephone providers block an average of 285 mobile devices a day, mostly at the request of their owners after the phone has been lost or stolen.

Since April, cell telephone companies here have been creating a blacklist of telephones that may not be reconnected, and now the concept is being formalized in other Latin American countries.

That was the report from the government's Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones after a meeting of cell telephone executives in Panamá last week. Thirteen Latin American mobile operator groups pledge to work together across the region to block the use of stolen devices, according to  GSMA Latin America, which represents 800 mobil communication operators in the world.

Cell telephone thefts or robberies are big business, and there are firms in San José that stay open 24 hours a day in order to handle the purchase of the devices from crooks. These operations have ways of fixing the telephones so they can be put in the marketplace for buyers who are not bothered by their possible history.

In fact, Fuerza Public officers detained a man over the weekend who was selling cell telephones to passers-by on the downtown pedestrian mall.

Cell phones have unique identification numbers that make them easy to track. Although participation in the blacklist is optional for phone companies, all of those approved for service in Costa Rica have agreed to check the numbers on phones before hooking them up. Most of the major service providers are expected to do likewise elsewhere.

GSMA said its member operators are committed to connect to the stolen handset database and to implement measures to block stolen terminals in all countries where they operate in Latin America. They are: América Móvil, Antel, Cable & Wireless Panama, Corporacion Digitel, Entel Bolivia, Entel Chile, The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Tigo Colombia,
Nextel/NII Holdings, Nuevatel PCS Bolivia, Orange Dominican Republic, Telecom Italia and Telefónica.

The agreement, full implementation of which is expected to conclude in March 2013, covers more than 500 million mobile connections throughout the region, said the agency. GSMA said it will continue working to promote the adoption of these guidelines to all GSMA member companies in Latin America through the signing of memorandum of understandings among operators on a country-by-country basis.

Javier Delgado said that: “This joint effort by all regional operators to be part of this initiative will help regulators in our countries to face and address this scourge.”  He is chairman of the Chief Regulatory Officers Group for Latin America, which held the Panamá meeting.

This coordinated action by mobile operators is already showing results in Central America, where industry and telecommunications regulators in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panamá are aligning their efforts to facilitate the identification and blocking of stolen devices, he said. “The idea is to build upon the experience of collaboration between telecom operators and governments carried out in Central America and expand it country-by-country throughout the region over the next six months,” said Delgado.

The creation by the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission of the Regional Front to Fight against the Theft of Mobile Terminal Devices was a key element of the resolution approved in 2011 by the commission's advisory committee . Among the proposals of this resolution, it recommended regulating at the regional level the exchange of blacklisting databases and blocking their unique identification codes to prevent the activation and use of cell phones stolen in other markets and helping to control illegal trafficking of devices among the region’s countries.

In many cases, local telephone service providers have their own blacklist data base that automatically sends the numbers to the regional lists. The blacklist is updated every 24 hours, said the Superintendencia.

Caja official pleased at results of anti-dengue old tire campaign
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's public health system is backing a campaign to eliminate old tires because they can be breeding grounds for the mosquito that carries dengue.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social reported last week that already there have been  3,711 persons diagnosed with dengue this year. The bulk of the infections are on the Atlantic coast and the central Pacific and Guanacaste.

The old tire campaign is being conducted by the vehicle inspection firm, Riteve SyC S.A. and  Geocycle of the Grupo Holcim. The vehicle inspection stations are accepting the tires 
in  Lagunilla de Heredia, Alajuelita and in San Luis de SantoDomingo de Heredia. There are plans to extend the campaign to Cartago.

The large containers that were set up to hold the tires have had to be replaced because there have been so many brought to the stations. Marylene Quesada Quesada, coordinator of the campaign for the Caja said that this proves that people will act if given options with solid wastes.

The Caja with its clinics and hospitals spends millions of dollars each year to treat dengue cases. The disease causes severe pains and causes a rash on the body of a sufferer. A second infection with a related virus can be fatal.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 145
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Yet another
big wall

Construction is under way at Paquera on the Nicoya peninsula of a 90-meter (295-foot) retention wall along Ruta 160.

The 80 million-colon ($160,000) project  is expected to be finished in the first week of August. The road that also services Tambor and Cóbano is an important tourist route.
another retaning wall
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo

Consumer agency says it won case backing Banco Nacional fine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The consumer protection agency says that Banco Nacional has lost its legal fight to avoid being fined for stonewalling a monopoly investigation.

The agency, the  Comisión para Promover la Competencia, said it fined Banco Nacional 10 million colons, about $20,000 because the bank officials would not provide the data the agency sought.

The commission is part of the  Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

Banco Nacional officials challenged the fine in court and raised a number of issues, including that providing the information would violate bank secrecy.
The commission said Friday that the bank lost as have other entities that raised many of the same issues before the Sala IV constitutional court. Banco Nacional took the 2010 fine to the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo and later to the Sala Primera of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

The commission was investigating bank practices of tie-in loans where a customer only could receive a loan if there was an agreement to use other bank services.

There was no statement in the release from the commission that Banco Nacional actually was guilty of such practices, just that bank officials did not want to surrender documents.

The legal appeal centered on the commission's right to seek such information. The right to impose a fine is contained in the law that created the agency.

Quake experts differ on magnitudes of Sunday shakers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica reported a 4.0 magnitude earthquake took place 12.4 kilometers southeast of Pavon de Golfito at 4:46 p.m. Sunday.

It was the largest of four quakes that took place Sunday.

The Laboratorio estimated the epicenter a few miles inland on the border with Panamá. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, also based at the Universidad de Costa Rica, estimated the quake at a 4.4 magnitude and placed the estimated epicenter offshore in the Pacific. 
There also was a 3.5 magnitude quake Sunday at 12:02 p.m. 24 kilometers northwest of Zapotillal de Santa Cruz in northwest Costa Rica, said the Obervatorio. Other Sunday quakes were less than 3.0, according to the Observatorio. However, the Laboratorio estimated one at 5:01 a.m. about 11 kilometers (about 7 miles) south southeast of Orosi de Paraiso at 3.0 and one at 4:13 a.m. in Santo Domingio de Heredia at 3.2 magnitude.

Both agencies have revised their reporting policies, and the Laboratorio now provides real time emails of earthquakes that appear to have been felt by humans. The Observatorio  has updated its Web page with running information on quakes.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 145
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Arkansas farmers seek
days of slow, steady rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One of the worst hit drought zones in North America is Arkansas, where lack of rain threatens livestock and crops in almost every corner of the southern state.  Farmers are selling off cattle and desperately hoping for a sustained period of rain to undo the damage that has been done.

Arkansas still looks very green. But the grass is short and there is not much good for animal feed.

Even as temperatures soar over 40 degrees C (104 F), big white clouds float in the sky.  Occasionally they produce a downpour.

 A burst of rain is very welcome here, but experts say it is not enough. Meteorologists say more than 38 centimeters (about 15 inches) of slow, steady rain would be needed in some areas to bring them up to normal.

Lack of grass has forced cattle producers like Karen Haralson to spend more on expensive feed, and she says a recent rain has not helped. "It put just a little bit of green in the grass, but all it gave it was color, it didn't give it any growth," she said.

She has had to reduce her herd from more than 250 to around 150, leaving her with too few cattle to operate effectively in the year to come. "To run the farm, I am going to have to have more cows than I have, so when I go to replace them there will be limited replacement, so the price will be much higher.  So it is kind of a vicious circle," she said.

In nearby Atkins, farmers gather in the Atkins International Cafe at lunchtime and reveal their woes to waitress Cindy Johnson. "The early crops that went in, they spent on the fertilizer and all, the yields were low.  There is no moisture to put anything back in on the second round, everything is just dry and drought," she said.

In Faulkner County, extension agent Hank Chaney says yields on most row crops, like soy beans, rice and corn, are going to be well below 50 percent this year unless rain comes soon. "We need at least three or four days of good, slow, steady rainfall.  It would be nice, of course, if we could get a week of it, but at least that to help us soak up and for the ground to recharge," he said.

Chaney says around 30 percent of the farmers in his area have an edge on Mother Nature because they have ground water they can tap for irrigation.

These center-pivot irrigation systems are expensive to buy and operate.

But Chris Schaefers, whose family owns eight of them, says they get their money back in better yields and better credit at the bank. "It sure does make them feel better, when you go to your lending officer to know that you have irrigation behind you, especially in years like this," he said.

The Schaefers will benefit from the high commodity prices that are bound to result from this year's dry conditions.

For farmers who can count on their own irrigation system, it will be a little easier to get through this drought, but everyone else is going to have to rely on Mother Nature.

U.N. agency issues bulletin
on soaring price of food

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 20-percent spike in maize and wheat prices in just the past three weeks is raising concerns with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Agency economist Shukri Ahmed said the increase in price was sharp and sudden. He said that until May, experts were hoping for a huge increase in worldwide maize production.

The Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Information and Early Warning System issued a bulletin Friday saying that drought in the United States is helping push up prices, while hot, dry weather in the Black Sea region is affecting wheat.

Ahmed says the price increase will put pressure on national budgets in countries that depend on imports for their domestic food needs.

"Northern African countries, Middle Eastern countries, some countries even in Asia and Africa, who actually depend for more than 30 to 70 percent of their consumption needs on imports," said Ahmed.

Add the threat of rising food prices to the list of troubles in Syria.

"Near Eastern countries, whether it is Iraq or Syria or others, actually import from the international market. So, if these prices persist as they are, it will have implications on the countries that import much," said Ahmed.

Ahmed said that price increases will strain national budgets in countries that depend on imported grain, forcing them to make difficult choices.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 145
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Astrologer plans encounter
based on stone spheres

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canton of Osa, the home of the pre-Columbian stone spheres, is getting world class promotion from a Spanish astrologer. The Spaniard plans a six-day event in October centered on the spheres, which he calls the greatest archaeological enigma in the world.

“It will be a magical and unforgettable event,” he said on a Web site. Archaeologists are uncertain about why the spheres were made. The current best guess is that they were symbols of power placed near the homes of leaders.

The astrologer, Vicente Cassanya, says the stones are symbols of unity, eternity and perfection.

Although archaeologists at the Museo Nacional might be a bit uncertain about the project, called "Proyecto Esferas. Osa, lugar de encuentro,"  Cassanya is so taken with the area and Costa Rica that he writes extensively on his own Web site about the natural beauty, the animals and the climate.

The museum is developing a companion museum in Palmar Norte on land it owns there, and the spheres are being considered for inclusion in the U.N. world heritage list.

The spheres have been the subject of many bizarre theories, including that they were made by residents of Atlantis and/or space aliens.  Cassanya stops short of such concepts and says one of the goals of the session here will be to increase the visibility of the spheres in the world.

Among those coming, according to Cassanya, are Carmen Thyssen, widow of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Fernando Berrocal, the former security minister who is identified as the encounter's legal director.

Also on the list of invitees is Ivar Zapp, the academic who authored "Atlantis in América.”

Death of woman in Tibás
considered to be murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents consider the death of a 30-year-old woman in Tibás to be murder.

The women, identified by the last name of Herrera, was found by a boyfriend in a pool of blood in her rented apartment. She appeared to have been stabbed in the neck.

She was found at mid-morniing Sunday, but police theorize that she had been dead for at least six hours.

The woman was separated from her husband, and was reported to be two months pregnant.

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