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(506) 2223-1327        Publsihed Thursday, July 31, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 151       E-mail us
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Who will be tomorrow's business leaders?
Nation's growing challenges mean opportunities

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They say that every challenge represents an opportunity, and Costa Rica sure has opportunities.

The nation no longer is the sleepy backwater but a player in the international markets. And it is hostage to the ups and downs of forces larger than itself. The most obvious factor now is the higher price of fuel that filters down into every commercial activity.

Also looming is the dislocation certain to come when the free trade treaty with the United States enters into force. No one really knows the consequences of this agreement. One hint might be the Midwestern United States pork processor whose representative said he can put vacuum packed U.S. pork into Costa Rican supermarkets substantially cheaper than Tico producers can. Considering that this firm kills as many pigs in a day as Costa Rica does in a year, the representative's words have weight.

What other businesses here will blown away or transformed drastically by the open door of the trade treaty?

Costa Rican farms and officials now wonder if the country can produce enough to feed its citizens. They have to balance that need with sufficient space to keep producing pineapples, bananas and the other agricultural products that bring in the foreign exchange.

In a few short years the face of Costa Rican tourism has changed. This also is a major industry but now the prime locations are international chains that operate luxury destinations like the Four Seasons in Papagayo. Smaller hotels and bed and breakfast operations are struggling. The luxury resorts cater to a richer clientèle, but the average U.S. and Canadian vacationer must know that prices have risen dramatically here and plan their holidays accordingly.

Then there is the invasion of the baby boomer generation, a phenomenon on which many Pacific real estate projects rest. The government, on the other hand, wants to levy  special taxes on so-called luxury homes, a term that encompasses most North American-style dwellings. Meanwhile, property taxes for beach concession lands are skyrocketing because their value is in the stratosphere. So are real estate prices. Many of those baby boomers will not be able to live here.

The bureaucracy continues to gnaw at the economy. As an example, health inspectors want to close down the Las Palmas hotel in Sabana Norte. Inspectors claim in one violation that the fire extinguishers are not at a correct height. Where were the inspectors when the extinguishers were being installed? As they say, in Costa Rica there always is another piece of paper or permit. Playas del Coco developers know that. They thought they had a deal to run a water line from Sardinal. They paid for it. Now they are paying for hundreds of condos that cannot be occupied while the various branches of the government toss around the concept.

Crime is perhaps the major concern of expats. With good reason. The government is trying to apply an integral solution by changing society to eliminate poverty and want. On the street the 
challenges


police face a growing drug epidemic that translates into more street crime.

One solution would be more jobs, but now the big push is to train English-speaker to fill dead end call center slots. These industries and the similar gaming operations are very vulnerable to the economic winds. And how much potential is being wasted by thousands of university-educated Costa Ricans working in telephone customer service?

At the blue collar level, the bulk of the work is being done by foreign labor, Nicaraguan, Panamanian or others. This reduces drastically the opportunity for the average young man.

The government is touting tourism as a solution to the labor problem. But who wants to grow old carrying the bags of tourists.

The opportunity exits for entrepreneurs to harness the under utilized human power with real jobs that have a future.

The government has launched a peace with nature campaign and promised to move the country toward carbon neutrality. These goals certainly are challenges, but they are opportunitites for those with vision. But don't count on the politicians.

Pollution, both water and air, continue to be serious challenges. President Óscar Arias Sánchez is in Brazil today after making some agreements there Wednesday on biofuels. Private enterprise is trying to make inroads into this field with minimal success.  Some even see garbage as a way to generate power and by products.  A private firm with vision  could kill multiple birds with a single idea.

Presidential elections here are in 18 months. The anticipated candidates so far are the usual suspects. So the government in not likely to lead the change that will be needed in a convulsing economy. That has to be the role of individuals who see challenges as opportunities.


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Our readers' opinions
Father's group founder
says evidence is discounted


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As the founder of the Asociación de padres de familia separados here in Costa Rica, I have seen literally thousands of men thrown out on the street with only the shirts on their backs because of the domestic violence laws, some with good reason, many with none.

The domestic violence laws here in Costa Rica are largely the product of teachings by the United Nations. For more than 15 years they have been here holding workshops instructing lawyers and judges how to evaluate a case according to gender, and largely because of this, the laws exclusively protect the woman. For example, the woman (by virtue of her gender) can say anything she wants to and cannot be held accountable for the facts. The second key clause says that when there is any doubt, the decision goes with the woman. It’s as simple as that.

Thus in the case of Chere Tomayko, they were only following the will of God and the law as they see it. My experiences have been that, despite appearances, the actual facts bear little, if any, weight in these cases of domestic violence.

I only hope that this case may serve to throw some light on this incredible distortion of justice, decency, and common sense. I hope that the United States will pursue this case until it is properly resolved, with guilt and blame placed where they belong, or at least take serious measures that may serve to alert all concerned (including the American Embassy) in Costa Rica that this is not the way in which true justice is done.         
James  Marshall
Santa Ana

Fleeing women get help
quickly in Costa Rica


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am compelled to write about a couple of things recently in the news.

First on the Ms. Tomakyo saga, I want to mention this is not the first mother to take her child or children out of the U.S.A. without the father’s permission and come to Costa Rica. The other case I am familiar with happened few years ago, and the mother was eventually returned and given a slap on the wrist after a lot of wrangling by expensive Costa Rican legal help to prevent her extradition.

Readers may believe these women take a pin and by chance find Costa Rica on a map. In the Tomayko case and the other the women came as tourist were immediately able to find a comfortable place to live, work and send their children to a private school (most private school like the one  these children attended can cost $500 or more a month per student). Can you believe all this help is possible for any other tourist when they come to Costa Rica ?

By coincidence both were able receive these privileges in the Heredia area?

The other thing, an article in the July 29  edition of La Nación, says for lack of funds the Costa Rican refinery Recope cannot pay for crude oil.

The article says 90 percent of Costa Rica’s crude comes from Venezuela. Hugo Chávez, out of the kindness of his heart, has established a program called Petrocribe and any of the 17 countries in the Caribbean and Central American area may participate. The program lets participants finance 60 percent of the crude oil invoiced by Venezuela for up to 25 years with 2 years of grace and a fixed rate of interest of 1 percent when a barrel of oil goes over $100. 

At present Costa Rica is paying every eight days with 5 percent interest borrowed money. Costa Rica wants in the program, but its petition has not yet been accepted.

One cannot blame Costa Rica for wanting to participate in the program. However this looks like a very clever constructed program by Chávez to obligate participating country to be obligated to him and his political policies.
Bobby Ruffín
Guadalupe
 

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Inflation for first six months of year put at 6.5 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco Central said Wednesday that inflation in the first half of the year was equivalent to an annual rate of 12.8. The central bank said that actual inflation from January to June was 6.5 percent.

The index of basic goods and services showed a much higher increase. The bank said that the annual rate based on increases during the first half of the year was 21.7 percent. This includes basic foodstuffs.

Bread, for example, following the hikes in the world price of wheat, showed an annualized increase of  33.8 percent, according to the bank's report.  Milk and eggs went up 31 percent, and cooking oils were up 55.4 percent, the bank said.
Vegetables and fruit were up 26 percent, in part due to bad weather, according to the report.

The world price of rice also showed a sharp increase, but these increases are not reflected in the shelf price of all goods here because the sales price of many products are controlled by the government.

The inflation rate also reflects the devaluation of the colon when compared with the U.S. dollar. The bank noted that countries with dollarized economies had lower inflation.

The bank published its report, Revisión del Programa Macroeconómico 2008-09, Wednesday.  The skyrocketing petroleum costs also will figure more heavily in the second half of the year, although the bank noted that world prices had gone up some 90 percent through June.


Nine juveniles sentenced for murder in separate cases
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M Costa Rica staff

Investigations by agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization's juvenile crime division have led to the sentencing of nine youths so far this year for murder.

A 14-year-old was sentenced to a total of eight years Tuesday by the Juzgado Penal Juvenil of San José. The young man was convicted for his part in the robbery and murder of a 17-year-old named Josué Andres Rojas Morales in Llorente, Tibás, last April, according to court press releases.

The youth and an adult robbed Morales of his cell phone and shot him in the abdomen with a pellet gun. Morales later died in Hospital Calderón Guardia. The youth received seven years in prison for murder and an additional year for robbery, according to organization and court releases. An adult suspect still faces trial.

Another 17 year-old, identified by the last name Corrales, was sentenced to eight years by the youth criminal court of San José for the murder of a man identified by the name Zúñiga on March 16 in Hatillo 6, according to an organization release.

Two men, identified only by the last names Villareal and Prado because they are under 17 years-old, were sentenced
to four and three months respectively for assaulting and killing another man with the intent of robbing his bike in Bajo de los Ledezma April 1.

A 16 -ear-old identified by the last name of Oliveira was identified as a key suspect in a fight that occurred January 4 in Hatillo, the organization's release said.

A youth identified by the name Villegas is also a key suspect in a murder that occurred in Barrio Los Ángeles. Villegas is 15 years-old, the release noted.

A young man was killed Feb. 14 in Cuatro Reinas, Tibás. A 16-year-old of the last name Ramírez was sentenced to seven years for the murder. Another 16-year-old is being held in Léon XIII as a suspect in the murder of his stepfather, according to the release.

Finally a 16-year-old is a key suspect in an assault involving a firearm in Pavas which occurred June 9. The young man was given two months in preventative detention June 20. The youth, identified by the last name Aguilar, was also suspected of causing grave injury to a 7-year-old in a previous case that ended in conciliation, the release said.

The juvenile crime division is still investigating an additional three homicides with minors identified as suspects, the release concluded.


Man from Poland who is suspect in child abductions given conditional freedom
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican judge ruled that a Polish man accused of kidnapping children would not be held in prison, said a judicial spokesperson Wednesday.

The criminal court in Alajuela ruled that the man, wanted by the international police agency, will have to sign into the court and not be allowed to leave the country for three months, said a release from Ministerío Público.

During those three months the court will investigate the situation, said the release.
Airport police in Guatemala detained the man Monday, according to the ministry.

Authorities there sent the man, with the last name Marek, back to Costa Rica, where his flight originated from Monday, according to the ministry. Immigration police then arrested Marek at the Juan Santamaría airport, according to the ministry.

Prosecutors in the case submitted an appeal asking for Marek to be kept inside a prison for three months while the prosecutor investigates. Marek is wanted for other crimes also, reported the ministry.


Seven men held as suspects in running an international cocaine smuggling ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Narcotics agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization arrested six Costa Ricans and a Colombian Wednesday under suspicion of operating an international drug trafficking operation.

The arrests followed simultaneous raids in a house in Paso Canoas, Ciudad Neilly, and a parking lot on San José.

A total of 74 kilos of cocaine was found hidden in two trucks in the parking lot, a release said.

The house in Paso Canoas is owned by Eddy Ortega 
Salazar, 37. Agents believe Salazar, a Costa Rican, received shipments of cocaine originally from Colombia through Panamá which he sent north to Guatemala, according to the organization's release.

Five more Costa Ricans were arrested in San José: Jonathan Alvarez Alfaro, Manuel Emiliano Granados Gutiérrez, Ever Javier Villareal Concepción, Alexander Alvarez Alfaro and Jairo Jimenez Sanchez, according to the release.

A Colombian, Edwin Bedoya Higuita, also was arrested in connection with the ring. Higuita was listed by the International Police Agency as wanted for murder in Colombia, the release said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 31, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 151


Arias says failed banana deal will cost $30 million a year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez suggested Wednesday that Latin American countries might bring a case against the European Union to eliminate the import duties on bananas.
Arias was speaking in Brazil where he was accompanied by a like-minded  Luiz Inácio da Silva, the president there.

Arias said that the failure of free trade talks this week would cost Costa Rica $30 million a year. Costa Rican exporters pay 176 euros in duty per ton of bananas. That's about $273.

The deal reached Sunday between the European Union and Latin countries was that the banana import duties would be reduced gradually starting next year so that the duty would be 114 euros or $177 a ton in eight years. That deal went up in smoke when the larger trade talks failed Tuesday.
Both Arias and da Silva said that the talks in Geneva hinged more on politics than trade. Arias said he would seek the help of Brazil in rescuing negotiations and did not discard the possibility of bringing a case before a panel of the World Trade Organization.

Arias also said he was unhappy with the system of consensus under which the trade organization works. He said the organization was born with an original sin in that any country can veto an agreement.

What is clear, said Arias, is the hypocrisy of the rich countries because their agricultural sector are as powerful as the military. He said the main engine for countries in development is free import and free exports.

The European countries seek to give preference to their former tropical colonies in the importation of bananas.


Japan and china begin pointing the finger on trade collapse
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Japan and China are expressing bitter disappointment over the collapse of Word Trade Organization talks in Geneva.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called the breakdown in negotiations "extremely regrettable" in a statement released Wednesday from Tokyo. 

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming described the collapse as a tragic failure. He blamed the impasse on the inability of two countries to compromise over a mechanism he says would have protected poor farmers. He did not specify the two countries.

The talks broke down Tuesday when negotiators were unable to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules. 

Delegates say the United States and developing nations such as China and India were unable to agree on measures to protect farmers in emerging economies.
The measures would have imposed tariffs to protect farmers in case of a sudden surge in goods on the market or a drop in prices.

Earlier, China and India had accused the United States of refusing to negotiate on the issue, while U.S. officials accused them of backing out of an earlier agreement.

French Agricultural Minister Michel Fournier says large emerging nations, including China and India, stood in the way of reaching a balanced accord. And Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura called on the two developing economies to live up to their responsibilities to the overall global economy. 

The current negotiations, known as the Doha Round, have made little progress towards a world trade pact since they were launched in 2001. Emerging nations have demanded wealthy countries reduce agricultural subsidies which they say give farmers in developed countries an unfair advantage in an open market.

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users 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 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.


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.


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Uribe says that terrorism
generates press violence


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe classified the problem of terrorism as the main source of violence against the press in his country and acclaimed press freedom as the essential pillar of democratic government. He was speaking Tuesday at a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the local newspaper Hoy Diario del Magdalena in Santa Marta, Colombia.

“Colombia’s administrations have traditionally held broad views on the freedoms, and there are no arguments surrounding press freedom,” Uribe declared. He acknowledged that not all violence against journalists, labor union leaders and teachers has been eliminated, adding “but we are making progress.” He said as an example “we had years when 15 journalists were murdered,” while in the last 12 months there were just two incidents and neither was linked to the victims’ work as journalists.

“We finally have a more stress-free, less threatened regional press,” he said. “We have a duty to safeguard freedom of the press and the lives of journalists. Our goal is to reach zero threats and murders of journalists, labor union leaders and teachers.”

He credited the increased peace seen throughout the country, especially in the Sierra Nevada region, to his governing policy. “We set out to create trust between the democratic institutions and the communities,” he explained. “Trust is what we proposed and we uphold it with three mainstays — safeguarding democracy, socially responsible investment, and social unity. Without safeguards and without investment there can be no social unity.”

The editor of the Hoy Diario del Magdelena, Ulilo Acevedo, addressed the audience of special guests, newspaper readers and federal officials, among them government ministers and representatives of the judiciary, state and city officials from Magdelena and Santa Marta, by stressing the importance of the regional press “in a sustainable democracy.” He added that “despite being an unprotected press and a dangerous profession we continue waging war on behalf of our society and our community.”

Earl Maucker, president of the InterAmerican Press Association,  praised Uribe, declaring that “we cannot fail to congratulate him for bringing peace and fortifying South America’s oldest democracy.” He added, “Recent events concerning Ingrid Betancourt and the release of the kidnap victims speak to the strength of that leadership and Colombians’ love of peace.”

Nonetheless, Maucker stressed his organization's concern at the use of the Telesur TV logo by Colombian soldiers during the operation to rescue Ms. Betancourt and 14 others being held by guerrillas July 2. “Our concern, Mr. President, is that the deceptive use of the Telesur logo is a dangerous action that brings discredit and a lack of confidence in the press.”

On another matter Maucker, editor and senior vice president of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, newspaper Sun-Sentinel, said that while the number of murders of journalists in Colombia has decreased considerably, in recent months there have been 35 incidents of violence against the press and five reporters have been forced to flee the country in fear for their lives.


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