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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Aug. 3, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 151        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Frequently that beautiful charmer is really a witch
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
It is not news that Costa Rica is a sex destination, famous for legal prostitution and escorts virtually waiting for Gringos at the airport. Many foreigners who want to have a wild vacation choose this country specifically for that reason. There are Web sites that advertise sex tourism just like any other type of tourism.

Many others come to visit only to move here after they find out how easy it is to find nice-looking women. Most Ticas are very cute, friendly, affectionate, everything one could ever dream and never got from women back home. Whether one is paying for escorts or just found a nice girl casually, Ticas seem to always charm male foreigners.

Therefore, even though a tourist may consider Costa Rica a paradise for a playboy-like lifestyle — and while many do live like that — there is a group of male expats who have ruined their lives since getting involved with Ticas. Naturally, one would wonder how on earth can experienced, well-traveled and even wealthy men ruin their lives in the hands of nice, charming Ticas? The answer to this dilemma is not a simple one.

It is a well-known fact that many Ticas live off of the savings of foreigners who surrender to their nice, affectionate sexual charm. Although it is not considered prostitution, these women are self-proclaimed Gringo hunters, who sell their body and company for what they can get, and most aim to clean men’s bank accounts, take their properties and ideally marry, expanding their horizons and enslaving these men.

Gringo-traps are open about their intentions because of a cultural belief that foreigners are walking wallets and an easy way to get a slice of the American dream. Culturally, a Tica who marries a foreigner is considered lucky, and saying that one is fishing for Gringos is not frowned upon, but rather admired and encouraged.

The real question is how an intelligent man experienced with women can be an easy prey for Gringo Hunters? The following stories might give some clues as to the reasons why this phenomenon is so common.

A 69-year-old Gringo falls desperately in love with a 34-year-old Tica, who visibly looks and acts like an escort. After dating awhile, she convinces the man to finance two credit cards, one for $4,000 and the other for $8,000. Then, she goes further trying to convince him to give her $40,000 for a property that she is planning to steal with the help of a dishonest lawyer, claiming that it belonged to her family and she needed to get it back because someone stole it from them.  When the Gringo went to a lawyer for advice on her request, the lawyer gave him a reality check and kept him from coughing up the $40,000, but every time he takes the woman to lunch — he says — he ends up taking a trip to the bank afterwards and paying her debts.

A 58-year-old Gringo falls for a voluptuous 19-year-old Tica and decides to take care of her education. He teaches her how to drive and lends her his new luxury car after she has had her license for only five months. She destroys the car in a crash but suffers only minor scratches and bruises. If she had died, her family could have taken the Gringo to the cleaners by claiming in court that he was irresponsible in letting the woman drive.

Last but not least, a married Gringo has an affair with a much younger Tica, who openly says she decided to hunt him when she met him.  When his wife becomes fatally ill and dies, he marries the Tica almost immediately. He takes her to the States with him, and they settle down there. She obtains her citizenship and convinces him to adopt one of her children. Now she is threatening to leave him if he does not adopt and help get citizenship for the rest of her offspring and grandchildren. Before meeting her, he was retired and had a small fortune, and now he is working again despite his age because he cannot make ends meet for his new family.

The stories above share common factors: The three men were past 50 years old when they met the Ticas and they had a financial status that allowed them to treat their dates nicely. The three women are not only much younger than the men, but they also conduct themselves like escorts,
gold digger

wearing skimpy clothes and acting sexy all the  time, and they did not have a financial status that allowed them to take care of themselves when they first met the men.

The problem with these stories is that foreigners that fool around with that type of women are usually older than 50 and the only thing going for them is the cash. Most of them have not done a good job taking care of their appearance and cannot naturally attract younger women. They can only attract them monetarily. Most men know that and play according to the rules. However, they also set themselves up for losing it all . . . just for sex.

So, is it an addiction to sex that ruins those men? Can they not set a limit to how much they will finance the lives of those women and their families? What is it? It would seem unlikely that they would keep spending thousands to solve the woman's problems if she were not their girlfriend.

The definition of a sex addict is a person who uses sex to escape depression or unhappiness about their lives, just like they would use alcohol, food or work. However, defining the Fool Gringo Phenomenon as a sex addiction seems a little extreme and too coincidental.

A local psychiatrist thinks that another reason could be an addiction to neuro-transmitters that produce feelings of pleasure from sex or affection, such as serotonin, dopamine or endorphins. People who are addicted to pleasure may endure unimaginable stress in order to get that rush. It might also be an addiction to toxic relationships, an attraction to drama that makes these men get involved in such a negative love life where they are being openly used, he said.

A more feasible possibility has to do with the legendary middle-life crisis. Young men who are dumb enough to let a woman manipulate them get tired of the cycle at some point, leave and find themselves someone better. On the other hand, older men who struggle with low self-esteem due to their age, failed marriages, work problems, among other aspects, may feel lucky to find a nice-looking woman at all, and, in turn, let the woman walk all over them. Middle life crisis has many ramifications, and it can create severe depression in males, leading to unexplainable behavior like getting into toxic relationships, forming a whole new family as if they were 20 in order to feel young again, or spending all their money on women and even going back to work to keep financing their mates or new wives.

Whatever the reason may be, the ugly truth is that the Fool Gringo Phenomenon is happening more and more in this country, and although they can seek the help of lawyers for certain situations, obvious manipulation is not penalized by law. Gringos cannot go to court for foolishly emptying their bank accounts in exchange for affection. Actually, if they get involved with the really spiteful Ticas, they can end up as victims of domestic violence scams or get sucked into costly child support cases.

Expats or tourists should make sure they have a truly good and financially independent partner who is watchful of their best interest. Sensible rules to avoid becoming a prey to Gringo Hunters include not marrying impulsively, not having children and not financing more than the normal expenses during their dates.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2009, use without permission prohibited.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ousted president of Honduras has threatened violence against the interim government if he is not restored to power.

José Manuel Zelaya, in a Nicaraguan television interview, said Friday there will be "generalized violence" if the coup is not reversed.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega, who has been hosting Zelaya, warned the Honduras interim government that Nicaragua's forces are prepared to fight if attacked. He said that he thought the interim Honduran government might stage a raid into Nicaragua to distract attention from the internal problems.

Earlier Friday, the interim leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, said there is no way ousted President Zelaya will return to office, dampening hopes of a negotiated settlement to the political crisis in Honduras.

The country has been politically divided since Zelaya was forced from office and flown out of the country June 28 to Costa Rica. The military says he was illegally trying to change the constitution to extend his term.

Supporters of the ousted president took to the streets of the Honduran capital again Friday. Police fired tear gas at demonstrators who blocked the main highway out of Tegucigalpa.   At least 88 people were arrested on Thursday during similar protests.

Micheletti said Sunday that there would be no more blocked roads in Honduras and that the police and military would clear them of protestors. A curfew was lifted except for areas along the border with Nicaragua.

Zelaya is supposed to travel to México to meet with President Felipe Calderón there Tuesday. He met with Hugo Llorens, the U.S. ambassador in Nicaragua and said he urged  Washington to apply more pressure on the interim government.

Friday in Honduras a judge issued another set of arrest warrants for the ousted president. They alleged misappropriation of some $2 million in public funds.

Virgin goes on road trip
to appear before faithful

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The pilgrims were encouraged not to travel to Cartago this weekend, so the Virgen de los Ángeles came to them.

The black rock that is called La Negrita traveled in its elaborate gold case by helicopter during the weekend and was met with devotions in places as far apart as Limón, La Fortuna and San José where church aides paraded the cherished idol for veneration.

The statue that represents the nation's patroness is back home in Cartago now.

The minister of health suspended the pilgrimage this year over fears that a gathering of so many people from all over the country would spread the swine flu virus.

Bandits invade pension
and beat up U.S. citizen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Armed bandits invaded a pension in downtown San José Saturday night, but not before they cut the telephone service.

The invasion came at Marruecos on Calle 3 between avenidas 5 and 7 about 11:30 p.m. The pension is favored by U.S. expats who want to stay in the downtown at a reasonable rate.

Somehow the bandits were able to get a guard to open the gate at the door, then they forced their way in. One U.S. citizen was hit on the head after robbers broke into his room while he was sleeping. He resisted and the robbers opened a cut that required six stitches, a friend said.

Only four of the 30-plus rooms were occupied at the time of the invasion by the five men who may have been Colombians based on their accents. They went room-to-room seeking victims. One may have spoken perfect English, said someone who was there.

These types of invasions are becoming more frequent. Usually bandits target restaurants and take money and jewelry from all the customers as well as helping themselves to the cash kept by the business. Another pension in the same area was invaded two months ago. In rural areas, hotels have been targets, too, particularly when they are guarded lightly.

Police sweep targets
entire Caribbean coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública conducted an intensive sweep on the area from Limón north and south over the full length of the Caribbean coast over the weekend. The goal was to identify undocumented foreigners and block the shipment of drugs and arms, said Rodrigo Araya, regional director of the police agency in Limón.

In addition, police officials were on the alert as two murder suspects were transported out of the Provincia de Limón to another prison.  They were identified by the last names of López and McLord. They are being held in the murder of two persons in a shootout a week ago. A third suspect, identified by the last name of Cole, is awaiting court action in Limón, officials said.

The province has experienced 47 murders, mostly in the vicinity of Limón centro, already this year. Gang wars are blamed. In the current sweep launches of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta and aircraft of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea were utilized to conduct surveillance from Limón north to nearly the Nicaraguan border and south to the Panamá border on both the sea and in the air.

Our readers' opinions
Buyer has responsibility, too,
in purchasing property here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As someone who has been involved in the real estate business in Costa Rica for 23 years, I felt obligated to comment on the recent wave of questionable real estate projects only now coming to light that A.M. Costa Rica has been doing stories on. Everyone in the business here knew it was only a matter of time before this type of projects would fail.

It is amazing to me that people part with large sums of money without properly researching their purchase. They should always have a third-party lawyer or other verification of the proposed transaction before sending money. I often buy and sell property in Florida and other remote parts of the world but will always have people check out the deal before proceeding.  It is just common sense.

I am not defending any questionable practice by sham developers, but responsibilityy also rests with buyers — Caveat Emptor prevails in Costa Rica, as there are no disclosure requirements on any purchase. We always recommend people choose their own attorney to proceed with any deal we offer, so they will be given impartial advice. It works well.
Mark Jackson, president
Isthmus Realty S.A.

Shrimp harvesting kills
any number of creatures

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Sala IV orders oversight for turtle-killing trawlers.

The article talked about the U.S. has stopped importing shrimp from the shrimp industry in Costa Rica.  It is time that people living in Costa Rica also ban the shrimp industry.  It is one of the most detrimental industries, to the environment, in Costa Rica.

Ninety percent of the shrimp served in the U.S. and in other countries comes from the tropics.  It is harvested in non-sustainable ways.  I have witnessed over 190 sea turtles wash up on shore with their fins cut off or dead from drowning, from shrimpers in Cost Rica in a one month period in the Osa Peninsula.  Along with that, for every pound of shrimp harvested, about ten pounds of other baby fish (fry) and aquatic wildlife are killed and thrown overboard.  Many of the fish humans eat are caught in these nets and die as babies and never reach adulthood.  Many baby fish like marlin, sailfish, dorado and other game fish are also caught and thrown overboard after they are dead. 

Some of the shrimp are farmed.  The farms are generally constructed where mangrove swamps, another very important and fragile ecosystem for many fish, have been cut down for this purpose and ponds are made to raise the shrimp.  After the shrimp are harvested from these ponds the water, in the ponds, is released into the mangroves.  Unfortunately the nitrate level is so high that many of the mangrove fish and other aquatic animals are affected.  So eating shrimp is not sustainable for the the oceans ecosystems, especially in the tropics.  Eat to live, don't live to eat.  Make a statement and refrain from eating shrimp.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 151

Chlor free
Your Costa Rica

Mother of young accident victim demands accountability
By Jennifer Scalise
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

I am the mother of Brooke Scalise.
This tragic death has taken a toll on my family beyond what you can imagine.  In addition, our entire community is saddened by this loss.  Last week we had services to celebrate her life and had close to 1,000 people attend over the two-day period.  This unnessary death broke the hearts of so many loved ones and the foundation that has been established in her honor has been on the news and in newspapers nationwide.  We are struggling to survive this and praying the Lord is going to give us the strength to get through this challenging time.
No one can understand the pain a mother feels when she loses a child.  The hurt is beyond anyone's comprehension.  What makes this tragedy worse is the difficulty in getting answers from a foreign country.  I was never allowed to go to my daughter after the accident, and the police held me back the entire time.  The police report is not complete. I don't know the official cause of death, and as a grieving mother I need this closure to start to heal. 
Brooke's father had a breakdown and was hospitalized after Brooke's death and, in all honesty, I pray he is eventually going to be able to be strong enough to live his life again, but at this point I am not sure.
As Craig Salmond says, your country needs change and regulations to prevent future tragic deaths such as this.  The tour company does need to be held accountable for this death. Tourism is a key economic factor for your country and many U.S. citizens are watching this tragedy and how your government reacts to it.  Citizens in Costa Rica are outraged and reaching out to me as well.  The article about enforcing "responsible tourism" instead of "sustainable tourism" is something the government in Costa Rica needs to take serious.  

I am an extremely responsible mother, and had I thought there was serious risk of danger I would have never permitted my family to participate in this tour.  We were never warned of any dangers, never signed a waiver, and the owner of the tour knew we had two 6 year olds and a 7 year old with us. 

To place our lives in the hands of such irresponsible guides that I now understand were underage is beyond me. 

Most of the tour had been on beaches and dirt roads, why the front guide would have decided to take such a dangerous route at such high speeds is beyond me.  Our group of eight ATV's, four adults, and seven children was often spread out quite a bit due to the high speeds the
guide was going at.  My 14-year-old son was at the front most of the time, he told me things that I had not seen since I was almost always at the back of the group.  My son told me at one point he was driving 87 kph [54 mph]  to keep up.  He also told me that at a turn on a main road that the guide went up on one wheel kind of showing off.

To promote this type of behavior is unacceptable.  The guide behind me drove off and left our group a few times.  When we started to climb the road with the cliff that claimed my daughter's life, I turned around to look for the back guide  
Miss Scalise
Brooke Scallise
since I was at the rear, to express concerns, and he was gone.  Brooke was in front of me also towards the back of our group (third from the back) and my boyfriend was last with my 6 year old with him.  Had I known what was ahead or if I had been further up in the group, I would have slowed down to make sure all the passengers knew the danger ahead.  Their were no warnings from the front guide to slow down or that this was a dangerous road.  He just
continued to drive at high speeds up a route we should have never been on.

My 14 year old son was behind the guide with my boyfriend's 6 year old son on his four wheeler. Is this how a guide should be driving with young children?? 

Yes we all wore helmets, but they weren't helmets that would provide any protection on roads like this at speeds like we were going.
This insanely dangerous site had no warnings, no signage indicating caution, no guard rail — nothing.  How can an area that is so dangerous on a road that leads by a police station be driven by ATV tours all the time and the police never do anything about it?  We had a witness to the accident that has reached out to me and shared with me the details of what they saw (they own a condo on the road of the accident).  They told me it is not uncommon to see ATV's go up this road.  How can this be allowed when there is a police station on this route.  Why haven't the police stopped tour companies from doing this and focused on safety and saving the lives of innocent children?
It is apparent to me that I have a challenge on my hands in trying to ensure there are consequences for these actions.  Having the assistance of Craig Salmond would be helpful and I will accept any offer of help and I am committed to doing all I can to drive change.  If it saves the lives of others, then it is certainly worth our efforts.

Please continue to pray for my family.   

Paragon chief says he still seeks cash to complete projects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man in charge of Paragon Properties of Costa Rica, S.A. said he will continue his efforts to complete the company's projects and not become a blight on this country.

He is Bill Gale, a Florida real estate broker. Gale was responding to an e-mail message asking about the status of his 17 projects in Costa Rica. Last February he said in a telephone interview that his firm had sold 2,509 lots.

Some purchasers are concerned that infrastructure has not been installed. These are such things as electricity, drinking water, and roads. But Gale also has said his firm is committed to putting in clubhouses and even pitch and putt golf courses. Two projects are believed to have water systems although there has been little construction.

The company's properties are spread along the Pacific coast from Quepos to north of the city of Puntarenas.

In February Gale said he was seeking money from some U.S. pension funds and promised a report on progress in 60 days. Now, six months later, he said that he still is working with two lenders to finance the completion of the properties. One property owner said she was told the company was seeking money in Europe.

"Capital markets are tough as you know," said Gale in the Friday e-mail. "We are working with two lenders currently and expect funding within a short period."
Paragon sold mostly to North Americans and used a telephone and e-mail blitz to attract customers to Costa Rica. Many were asked to put money in an escrow account to qualify for a free trip here. At one point Paragon was sending out 30 million e-mails a month.

If Paragon collected just $10,000 per lot from purchasers, the total income would have been $25 million. Some  one-hectare (2.47-acre) properties sold for $60,000 with perhaps a third required as a down payment. One Paragon insider bragged that the company took in $140 million, but that amount could not be verified. However, there would be substantial costs for the marketing and sales efforts as well as for the purchase of properties.

Unlike some projects, Paragon purchasers actually own their lots and will continue to keep them if they do not default on subsequent payments. Some contracts said they had to begin construction within five years.  Gale has said he hoped to make money building custom homes.

"We try to keep in touch with all of our customers," Gale said in the latest e-mail. "Most are concerned, and, believe me, I fully understand. Everyone has taken a big hit in the last 18 months. Nothing would make me happier then to complete all of the infrastructure and start home construction."

Gale is not the only one to be affected by the economic downturn. Many of his purchasers lost money and may not be able to follow through on retirement plans as quickly as they thought.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 151

Playa Hermosa attracted the biggest crowd yet Sunday and the weather cooperated.

Playa Hermosa Sunday
International Surfing Association/Fabián Sanchez

Costa Rica continues to do well at World Surfing Games
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica had two big wins and two seconds Sunday and looks like it will be a contender until the end of the World Surfing Games in Playa Hermosa.

Costa Rica's Gilbert Brown's win was easily the crowd favorite earlier in the day bringing standing ovations and a flurry of flag waving in a typically flamboyant performance.

France, who shared a perfect record by winning all six heat wins Saturday along with the Americans, had to step up the game to continue the run at the title. While still maintaining a formidable record of four wins and a second Sunday, French contender Jeremy Flores was pushed into a second place.  Costa Rican Jason Torres
Flores squeaked through to advance on a last minute deep tube ride.

Hank Gaskell from Hawaii achieved one of the highest combined scores of the event, 17.17 out of possible 20.

Venezuela, Austria, Brazil, Hawaii, Argentina, New Zealand and Puerto Rico all posted wins Sunday, but nobody is feeling indomitable. Even the USA, who continued the march up the ladder remaining five wins for six, was quiet.  “We are not making any claims here,” said a subdued Ian Cairns. ‘We can celebrate if we get to the finals.”

On the opening day, Saturday, of the competition, participants from Colombia, Switzerland, Ecuador, Germany and Austria advanced, sometimes besting the big surfing nations in the process.

With thousands of spectators packing the thin line of fine black sand, Paul Grey from Germany won his heat against powerhouse surf nation of Brazil, Carlos Goncalves of Ecuador advanced over Tahiti and tiny landlocked Switzerland took a second to move into Round Two.
“We are so happy to be here,” said Tino Staheli, a Swiss team member. “The international level of surfing just keeps going up and up and up. Sometimes it is a bit intimidating!”

Ecuador, not exactly a top rated favorite in the event, had three major wins, taking advantage of the 3- to 4-foot changeable beachbreak waves.

Host nation Costa Rica made it through each of the six contested heats in the opening round, matched by Australia, South Africa and Brazil.
Costa Rican team and fans
International Surfing Association/Fabián Sanchez
Costa Rican team and fans cheer on a participant.

Munoz in the surf
International Surfing Association/Fabián Sanchez
Carlos Muñoz started strong on first day of event.

Organization that aids former prostitutes opens new center
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Rahab has opened its new center dedicated to providing training for former sex workers.

The downtown building also will house a beauty salon, a bakery and a pastry shop.

The facility had been announced two years ago by Mariliana Morales, the director of the foundation. The construction was adjacent to the foundations current headquarters at Avenida 12 between calles 11 and 13.

The foundation operates a program with a Christian emphasis, and the women are trained in computing, quilt
making and crafts so they can make a living after leaving the foundation shelter. Rahab has been doing this for 12 years. The name is that of a female biblical figure who left prostitution and became the ancestor of King David of Israel and Jesus Christ.

Security ministry officials were quick to link the foundation to the fight against forced prostitution. Ana Durán, a vice minister, said that this is the first center in the country dedicated exclusively to victims of trafficking.

The ministry coordinated the Coalición Nacional Contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y la Trata de Personas ministry blames organized crime for trafficking individuals.

Escazú Christian Fellowship
Another great month

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 151

Casa Alfi Hotel

New distributorship offers
method to purify water

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former Long Island man is on a crusade to clean up America's drinking water.

The man, Sheldon Kostner, has opened a distribution operation for ChlorFree and seeks to sell the product "from Canada to Perú," he said. He is based in Costa Rica.

The product is a replacement for chemicals like chlorine in purifying water. An egg-shaped device releases ions that kill bacteria and other pollutants, according to the distributor.

ChlorFree is used to purify the Flamingo water system and an independent lab test showed that even polluted San José river water can be treated to bring the E. coli bacterial contact from 11,000 per 100 milliliters to zero in just three hours, according to the company, ChlorFree Water Store of the Americas. Larger devices can be used to keep swimming pools purified, Kostner said.

Kostner said that individuals using this product can save money that they normally would spend on bottled water.

He said a five-gallon container of city tap water would lose its chlorine content by evaporation and that the ChlorFree device would purify the remaining water in 24 hours. He said household users of bottled water can save up to $1,000 a year.

The company's Web site shows a testimonial from Africa where the ChlorFree eggs are used in a village to bring water to drinking quality.

The device emits silver and copper ions to zap bacteria by changing the chemistry of the cell wall and metabolism.

A U.S. lawyer was so impressed with the product that he joined Kostner as a partner, Kostner said.

Telecom agency awarded
5 billion to supervise firms

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República, the financial watchdog, has approved nearly 5 billion colons for the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones to regulate the marketplace in 2010.

The agency will collect the money from telecom providers starting in January. The amount is about $8.6 million.

The money eventually will be paid by telecom customers because the costs will be passed on in the rate structure.

The Superintendencia said that the payments will promote competition and promote the allocation of the radio spectrum in bidding for mobil telephones, The money also will support efforts to consolidate the national registry of telecommunications which seeks to list all who have rights to the spectrum.

So far the only firm that has had to pay this money is the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad because it is the only firm in the telephone and telecom business.

Other companies have been approved to provide various aspects of telecom services, and they will be assessed an amount when they begin oprations.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 151

Latin American news digest
Venezuelan radio stations
close down in license flap

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

Radio stations in Venezuela have begun to fall silent in the wake of government orders to some broadcasters to cease operations.

The Circuito Nacional Belfort Network, CNB, station in Caracas was among the first to stop broadcasting Saturday morning. At least four other CNB stations also went off the air. Friday Venezuela's telecommunications agency said it would close 32 radio stations and two television stations for failing to meet legal requirements to stay on the air.

Media rights organizations have criticized the shutdown orders. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Saturday the Venezuelan government is using the regulation of broadcast licenses as a pretext to silence independent and critical voices. The group says the action is part of a wider crackdown on private media which is jeopardizing Venezuelan democracy.

In what some say is a related action, public prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz introduced draft legislation last week under which journalists and any citizen could be imprisoned for up to four years for using media outlets to provide "false information" that could "harm the interests of the state." If passed, the law would violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention, as well as article 52 of the Venezuelan Constitution which guarantees freedom of opinion, expression and the right to disseminate information without censorship.

“This restrictive draft law shows an unjustified need on the part of the Venezuelan state to defend itself from its own citizens and their opinions,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "This represents a new low for Venezuela, which is already one of Latin America's most restrictive environments for the press, second only to Cuba."

If approved, the law would allow the government to penalize anyone who distributes information that the government deems to be factually incorrect or biased, as well as any media outlet that fails to report on topics regarded as vital to the public interest. 

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