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(506) 223-1327                      Published Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 152               E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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cartgro basilica
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Faithful line up to await entry into the basilica.
on his knees
Traditional way of going down
the center aisle is on the knees.
This is Julio Rojas Chavarría and
 son José David Rojas Fonseca of
San Pablo de Heredia.
Massages are courtesy of U.S. missionary group 180 Global.

Cartago is the center of the country this morning
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the big day for pilgrims. The day, a public holiday, is the feast of the Virgen de los Ángeles and the religious and political center will be at the basilica in Cartago this morning.

A televised morning Mass and ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., and this is the climax of the devotions that have been going on since Friday.

Because not everyone came to Cartago to pray, some 1,300 police officers, including members of the volunteer force, are on the job. Undercover members of the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas are mingling with the crowd.

Even the K-9 units are standing by with their bomb-sniffing dogs as well as the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea which makes overflights of the principal routes to Cartago. Police even have surveillance cameras in use to keep an eye on the crowd.

Traffic policemen are spread out along the route to provide security, and some major roads have been closed and turned over to hikers.

Perhaps as many as 2 million pilgrims will have made the annual trip to Cartago by late today. That's nearly half the country's population. The hikers were growing in numbers Wednesday night as more and more pilgrims made their way to Cartago. The plaza in front of the church resembled a fair.

Those not walking will find that some of the transportation rates are higher. Illegal taxi drivers who provide transportation by the seat from San José to Cartago and return were charging 2,000 colons ($3.85) Wednesday instead of the normal 1,000. Some of these so-called colectivos were using 16-passenger buses instead of the usual taxis.

Bus fares between San José and Cartago remained at the regulated 315 colons (61 U.S. cents), but the lines were long. Many pilgrims came to Cartago over the Monday holiday and have left.

Today's holiday honors the La Negrita, the black statue that is venerated as an image of the Virgin Mary at the basilica. Friday the tiny image of the Virgen de Los Ángeles will be 
holy water
Lidiethe González Araya and grandson Joel Orozco Gutierrez, 3 months, of San Diego de Tres Ríos are at the famous spring alongside the basilica.

carried in procession to the Catedral Santiago Apóstol for another traditional display.

A U.S. missionary group, 180 Global, of some 30 young Americans were providing help and massage services along the route Wednesday. The line of marchers was a spectacle with some devotees carrying giant wooden crosses or other outward signs of the faith.

At the church, the pilgrims had access to the small spring that is near where a girl found the statue of the Virgin nearly 400 years ago. The water is regarded as naturally holy and pilgrims bring home the fluid in containers, some of them being in the likeness of the Virgen de los Ángeles and her elaborate gold trappings.

Those not inclined to water will find that restaurants and other food vendors in Cartago are on 24-hour shifts this week to accommodate the needs of the crowd.

The mood of the crowd is like a holiday, and those who have experienced the more somber tone of European pilgrimages note the difference.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 152

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Acción Ciudadana says
it won right to see documents

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana said Wednesday that it has won a court fight to obtain documents relating to the financing of Juan Santamaría airport. At the same time the political group said that the government's reluctance to disclose the information was because certain interests are being protected.

The airport is run by a concessionaire, Alterra Partners, and the firm is in financial trouble and trying to renegotiate its contract. The company's creditors, which include multi-national organizations have been in discussion with the  Consejo Técnico de Aviación Civil, an arm of the Minsterio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Marvin Rojas, one of Acción Ciudadana's legislative deputies, sought a proposed budget relating to the refinancing proposals from the consejo in March but never got the information, the party said in a news release.

Now the party said that the Sala IV constitutional court has ordered that the information be delivered to Rojas. He also was interested in seeing financial projections for the project.
The consejo and the financing group have not yet made a firm deal.

The party also saw a link with the free trade treaty with the United States, which it opposes. It said that some of the shareholders of Alterra are supporters of the trade treaty. They named Luis Manuel Chacón as one. He is a financial and political figure. They said the network of political interests behind the treaty was being revealed.
Two held in Jacó robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men relieved a woman of her wallet Wednesday morning as she walked along a street in Jacó. But Fuerza Pública officers were able to detain two suspects in a few minutes.

The woman was identified as Catalina Cascante. The suspects were identified as Adrián Villarreal Granados, 18, and Dennis Brenes Arroyo, 19. Both are from Taras de Cartago, police said. The woman was not hurt and the robbers did not carry a gun or other weapon, said police.

Escazú home burglarized

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Escazú resident found a crook in his home about 9:45 a.m., the Fuerza Pública said. The home is that of Alejandro Pinto Fernández in San Miguel de Escazú.

Someone broke into the home through a back window and grabbed some $5,000 worth of jewelry, said police. Pinto, who was home with his wife, realized someone was in the home and confronted the man who fled quickly, said police.

Our readers' opinions
He, too, believes that we
have lost our zip for news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding John Holtz's letter and a couple of letters in today's edition of A.M. Costa Rica, I do think you have lost your ZIP!

I have been a faithful and loyal reader since you started, but now I find that instead of an online newspaper it has become an online advertisement sheet, interspersed with fillers such as "Have you seen these stories?," "How to use A.M. .." and some self-serving articles by Garland Baker promoting his business and spreading fear in the ex-pat community that unless you use his type of services when buying property or doing business in Costa Rica. the sky will fall and unspeakable thing will befall you.

This week we have learned about the Romeros' feet, how to identify recyclable plastic bottles, drunken bull fights of the 60s, and reforestation, that Chile and Mexico have signed an agreement and that the bounty hunters that grabbed a U.S. con man got off with a "slap on the wrist."

Anyway, you get the point, more new, less fluff and fillers !
Doug Gesler
Sabana Oeste

We should investigate gangs
who steal expat property

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
As both an avid AMCR reader and an expat property owner here in C.R., I am alarmed by your recent articles regarding the spike in property fraud and the tenuous state of affairs property owners face in protecting their investments here. That you are touting a new company which monitors  the registry on a daily basis is a newsworthy item, if somewhat lacking in "zip"
I find I mostly disagree with those of your readers who see fit to take the time to criticize you folks for falling behind in the journalistic "zip" department. After all, how much are they being charged to read it!!?? Be that as it may, here's an idea that may appease some of these critics for you.

As per the article today on the private registry service Mr. Tatelbaum owns and his claim that there are 10 gangs roving the country stealing property by employing notaries who fraudulently manage to obtain property with ease, why not have AMCR spearhead an investigation into these gangs? I suggest Mr. Tatelbaum would be a logical place to start the investigation.
At the same time, add some more "zip" by addressing the legislature. First by explaining what a serious, and growing threat to the economy this is, and secondly suggesting they strengthen the legal system to protect owners rights.

Simply changing the law to require a sellers signature on a transaction instead of the current law which allows only a notary's signature to effect a transference of ownership,  would be a major first step, and can be done with relative ease.
As an enterprising businessman, Mr. Tatelbaum has found a niche to exploit, and for the time being, sad to say, it's better than nothing. However, simply by catching fraud early in the process, doesn't mean your troubles are over, more than likely, they've only just begun!

Thanks for shedding light on a daily basis on news we might otherwise have missed. Keep up the good work, and dare to be great!
Hari Singh Khalsa
Santa Teresa

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 152

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Legal complexities will cloud free trade treaty, if passed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even if the free trade treaty with the United States is ratified in the referendum Oct. 7, the question remains open if Costa Ricans will live up to the obligations.

A.M. Costa Rica disclosed more than a year ago that the country plans on continuing to impose heavy surcharges on imported automobiles. The country considers this an internal tax and not an import tariff, officials said at the time.

U.S. Embassy officials, reluctant to oppose their Costa Rican counterparts, said only that discussions would be initiated to perhaps reduce the surcharge somewhat.

Now from Miami comes word of another legal complexity that is related directly to the Costa Rican tradition of not accepting a contract at face value.

The Daily Business Review of said that a U.S. federal judge has permanently blocked a law suit here against Canon Latin America brought by Lantech (CR) S.A., a local distributor of Canon products.

Canon was going to sue Lantech in the United States over a $250,000 debt. But Lantech initiated suit in Costa Rica first, according to the account.

The contract between the two firms specified that Florida was the jurisdiction for any legal actions, and it said that
Lantech did not have exclusivity for the Canon products, said the account.

In the U.S. court Lantech offered a Costa Rican law that seems to say that all such business disputes must be settled in Costa Rican courts and that Canon breached the company's exclusivity rights by seeking another local vendor. Lantech wants $6.3 million, the account said.

A Costa Rican court ordered Canon to put up a $1 million bond, which the company did, said the account.

The case probably will be appealed because the aspect of jurisdiction with a foreign contract has never been fully defined in the United States, according to the report. And there is no guarantee that Costa Rican courts will accept the ruling from the United States anyway.

The Costa Rican law would seem to target foreign manufacturers directly and says that Costa Rican jurisdiction cannot be waived, said the account.

The free trade treaty sets up its own mechanisms for settling disputes between parties and countries. The treaty, if ratified, would seem to have more legal weight than a law, however there is no guarantee how Costa Rican courts will interpret jurisdiction.

In the meantime, foreign importers and distributors might find that their contracts are not interpreted here the way they thought they would be.

Tourism chamber says that 2007 air visitors have increased
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unofficial figures say that the number of tourists who visited by air increased in Costa Rica by about 6.4 percent in the first half of 2007. In all, 832,604 tourists passed through Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia.

The numbers were released by the Camera Nacional de Turismo.

Official figures come from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and are released through the Instituto Cosarricense de Turismo. The detailed final figures for 2006 still are unavailable.
The figures from the tourism chamber say that 50,258 more tourist arrived by air in the first half of 2007 than in 2006.

Juan Santamaría arrivals were up 3.14 percent, some  18,142, for a total of 595,405 arrivals in 2007.

Daniel Oduber had a 15.66 increase or a total of 237,199 tourists in 2007. That's 32,116 more than in 2006. Arrivals in Liberia are mostly U.S. tourists seeking vacations in the north Pacific.

Not everyone who enters on a tourist visa is a tourist, and the current immigraiton law would establish more categories, although the measure has not been fully implemented.

Fuerza Pública officers get small raise in their base salaries
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An agreement between the security and financial arms of the government will give Fuerza Pública police officers, regardless of grade, 8,000 colons more per month in their base pay. That's $15.39.

The raise also points out the low pay that police receive.  A teniente de policía will get 172,500 colons, about $332 a month. All other lower ranks make less.

Some 10,939 policemen are benefiting by the pay raise.
The pay raise puts police in the financial neighborhood of receptionists and similar civilian workers, according to the minimum salaries published by the Ministerio de Trabajo. Both types of workers can make more with overtime.

Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Securidad Pública, said the raises were made possible by tightening the budget in his ministry.

The Ministerio de Hacienda, the budget agency, will give  the security ministry a 17 percent raise for 2008 allowing the hiring of 700 police officers more, officials said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 152

Embattled Caracas station told it must carry Chavez speeches
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Venezuelan government has given an opposition-aligned television station a midnight deadline to agree to carry speeches by President Hugo Chavez or face shutdown for a second time.

Venezuela's telecommunications commission issued the deadline, saying Radio Caracas Television International, or RCTV, must follow regulations that would require it to interrupt regular programming to broadcast the speeches. This is required of firms that produce their signals in Venezuela, according to the country's laws.

RCTV says it intends to be an international channel and has
asked the commission to clarify its rules. As an international channel it would not be covered by the rule.

Chavez is known for his long-winded speeches.

Last month, RCTV began airing its programs via cable and satellite after being forced off the air by Chavez in May.

Chavez refused to renew RCTV's license to broadcast on a public frequency for allegedly backing a failed coup against him in 2002. RCTV denies the accusations.

Other national private networks also opposed Chavez, but their criticism of the government is now softer and they have kept their licenses.

Colombian father nears end of long march to liberate son
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Colombian man whose son was kidnapped a decade ago by rebels is set to reach the capital, Bogota, this week, ending an almost 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) walk to urge the captive's release.

The father, Gustavo Moncayo, has hiked across half of Colombia since June to gain support for a prisoner exchange between the government and leftist rebel forces.

Guerrillas of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia captured Moncayo's son, Pablo Emilio, during a 1997 attack on an army post. He was about 19 at the time.
Moncayo has become a fixture on the national news and is a hero to thousands of families of kidnap victims since starting his crusade in June. He says he will camp in Bogota's central plaza until the government agrees to exchange imprisoned rebels for his son and other high-value hostages kept by the rebels.

Colombia has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates. Currently more than 3,000 people are believed to be in captivity in the Andean nation.

Earlier this month, thousands of Colombians took to the streets to protest the killing of 11 local provincial lawmakers in a rebel prison.

Venezuelan state petroleum company will explore for oil in Cuban waters
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's state-owned oil company says it is beginning to explore for oil in Cuban waters as part of a joint venture with the island's state-owned Cubapetroleo.

Petroleos de Venezuela said in a statement that the project would cover a 10,000-square-kilometer (2.47 million-acre) area.  The Venezuelan company says it expects to confirm the presence of light crude oil after conducting a seismic study.
Earlier this year, Venezuela offered discounted oil to Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti in exchange for becoming the sole provider to those countries.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country's oil will help with both economic and social development in the area.  The proposal called for Venezuela to offer oil at a 50 percent discount.

Venezuela sells about 98,000 barrels of crude oil daily to Cuba.  In return, Cuba provides Venezuela with medical personnel.

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