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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 164       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Away goes that restrictive tariff
Richness of California wine is just a few days away

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ladies and gentlemen, start your corkscrews.

It is time to begin the countdown to the day when Costa Rica drops its 40 percent import tariff on U.S. wines. And the California wine industry is
standing by to fill the demand.

That day may come sometime in September when the United States certifies that Costa Rica has met its part of the bargain by passing a baker's dozen of legal changes that brings local law into conformity with what was promised under the free trade treaty. There are just a few loose ends to tie up.

Joseph Rollo is an expert on U.S. wine exports. He is director of the Wine Institute
wine glass
International Department in San Francisco, California. Rollo confirmed Monday that under the free trade agreement the tariff here on bottled wine will drop to zero.

In 2007 Costa Rica imported $683,000 worth of U.S. wine, already a 22 percent increase from the previous year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce via the wine institute. 

"The long-term sales trend continues to be positive. Over the last decade, U.S. and California wine exports increased 77 percent in value and were shipped to 125 countries," said Rollo, in a recent release.

Rollo said in an e-mail that he didn't expect a huge surge in growth, but other indicators would point to the contrary. “I would guess that Chile and, perhaps Argentina, also have FTAs with Costa Rica so our duty reduction may now allow us to be competitive,” said Rollo.

It is true that most wine here comes from Chile, which has a trade agreement dating to 2002, but many wine connoisseurs, especially North

Americans and Europeans are craving something better but not budget-busting.

And the producers are ready to respond. Less than a year ago, representatives from 11 Lodi, California, wineries came to the capital to show off their products.  The group was anxious for the treaty to be ratified.

California is the major wine producing area in the United States, although other states have commercial production.

Basic economics says that a more reasonable price for a product will result in greater demand that could translate into greater variety at the store. Most U.S. wine now is low end, although specialty wine shops still offer top-shelf bottles at top-shelf prices.

The tariffs on other wine categories will phase out to zero either in 5 or 15 years, according to the treaty's stipulations. That would include bulk shipments. Some wine producers ship in bulk to save the costs of shipping the bottle weight. These shipments are sent in tanks and bottled overseas. Other producers may ship a powder that can be reconstituted into wine at the destination. Several types of Italian wine were on sale several years ago at PriceSmart that had been liquefied with local water.

U.S. wine exports, reached a record high of $951 million in 2007, an 8.6 percent jump from the previous year, according to the wine institute. Volume shipments in 2007 increased 12 percent to 453 million liters, compared to 2006, said the institute release.

Currently about half of U.S. wine exports are shipped to the European Union, accounting for $474 million, followed by Canada, $234 million; Japan, $63 million; Switzerland, $26 million; and Mexico, $24 million, reported the institute.

In addition to wine about 80 percent of other U.S. exports will be duty-free when the treaty goes into effect. Other products have reducing tariffs, some for as long as 15 years.

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Rain soaks metro area
and provokes killer slide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wave of heavy rain passed over the metropolitan area between 4 and 8 p.m. Monday and left death and flooding in its wake.

More than 2 inches fell, mostly between 4 and 6 p.m. Two women died in Barrio de Corazón de Jesús de Escazú when a hillside slide into their home. In Santa Ana some residents were fighting with a stream running out of its banks.

The heavy rain came after two days of downpours.

The landslide happened about 5:30 p.m. in Escazú. The names of the two women were not available. Rescue workers will be at the home early today to search for more bodies.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the weather will be more stable in the morning today giving way to more rain in the afternoon. This was called a typical day in the rainy season.

Salvadorians visiting here
to support their soccer team

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Police and immigration officials are on the alert because the Costa Rican national soccer team plays the team from el Salvador Wednesday night, and there is a big influx of fans from that country.  The game is a preliminary to the world cup.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería has beefed up the northern entry point with 25 more agents.  They are handling bus loads of Salvadorian soccer fans.

The game will be at 8 p.m. in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás. The Fuerza Pública has said it is prohibiting nearly everything to avoid violence. For example, umbrellas are not being allowed and sticks used to hold banners also are prohibited.

Police and immigration officials are especially concerned about the entry of Salvadorian gang members in the guise of soccer fans.

Our readers' opinions
Exclusive Olympic rights
should not be allowed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Like Matthew Cook, we, too, have been very frustrated in our search for the Olympics on TV. We have three accounts with Sky and would expect to be able to see such an important international sports event.

It seems everyone else in the world can, including our relatives living in Canada and New Zealand. Even more frustrating, they told us how wonderful the opening ceremonies were but we could not see them!!

When I phoned to complain to Sky they explained that they do not have the rights. According to CNN only NBC has the exclusive rights. So even CNN, Fox Sports and BBC do not have live coverage.  This should not be. No network should have exclusive rights to such a global event.

We eventually found coverage on Channel 11, local Costa Rican cable which covers the events from midnight to 11 a.m. We settled for the early morning hours rather than stay up all night! The coverage is mediocre and not at all as professional as the North American networks but better than nothing.

Although it is a bit late in the game (no pun intended!), your readers might still be able to catch the closing ceremonies if they have local Costa Rican cable!
Tessa & Martin Borner
Grecia, Costa Rica

From Tamarindo reader, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am replying to the letter to the editor from Matthew Cook of San Pedro, who complained that Amnet is not showing the Olympic Games.  I’d switch providers, too, if they didn’t cover the Olympics.  Please tell Mr. Cook to switch to CableTica — I see tapes of the day’s games during prime time in the evening and live coverage after midnight.

I had Amnet when I first came to Costa Rica and switched the second CableTica became available and have been delighted with them ever since.
Jayne Lacombe
Playa Tamarindo

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 164

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Immigration sets six-month validity on residency documents
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department has changed the rules again on the validity of documents that foreigners may present to be accepted into one of the residency categories.

The head of the immigration department issued a memo July 25 that says none of the documents that are presented by an applicant can be older than six months.

The change was brought to a reporter's attention by Residency in Costa Rica. Of the memo, the residency experts said:

"It means that if you have a birth certificate that was issued to you last year, for example, that you will need to get a brand new birth certificate, or marriage certificate, or income letter or pension letter, with a more recent issue date."

The memo was circulated to workers in the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and to Costa Rican consulates abroad, said Residency in Costa Rica, which obtained a copy informally. However, despite having a full-time press relations employee, no mention of the important change was made to the public.

The change appears to mean that even if a person has a valid birth certificate issued at the time of his or her birth, he or she must apply for a new one from the appropriate vital statistics bureau to comply with the immigration rules.
The documents also must go up the chain from notary to secretary of state and received certification, called apostille, from the appropriate Costa Rican consulate and stamps from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here. This usually takes a month or more.

In the past applicants had a deadline in presenting the documents to either immigration officials or to a Costa Rica lawyer.

Residency in Costa Rica posted a summary of the change on its Web site and said that the new rules apply to birth certificates, police criminal background record checks, certified copies of passports, or any other type of document that must be attached to any visa application or application for residency.

In another change, the immigration department published a small notice in a local Spanish-language newspaper saying that foreign residents can obtain a renewed cédula via the postal service. After the resident makes an initial visit to the immigration office to renew the residency, the notice says that the option exists to specify a post office where the new cédula will be sent. The department provides this service now for Costa Ricans who seek passports, and there is a small fee.

This notice conflicts with current operations which require someone seeking to renew a residency to visit the immigration offices at least twice, the last time to enter a signature and a thumb print into the computer system.

Drag queen
goes bye-bye

What may be many viewers favorite cow, Drag Queen Vaca, is carted off to be cleaned, repaired and then auctioned for charity.

The remodeled fiberglass cow was appropriately located in Parque Morazán and outfitted as a drag cow with high boots and excessive makeup.

Most of the Cow Parade entries are getting spiffed up, including another favorite, Pole Dancing Cow, who looked like she belonged in a strip club. This entry was on the pedestrian boulevard.
drag queen cow
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Tico-Ecuadorian money exhibit to open be at Museos del Banco Central
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museos del Banco Central open an exhibit showing the similarities between the 19th century coins and paper money of Ecuador and those of Costa Rica Friday.

The exhibit, entitled "Las monedas y billetes de Ecuador y Costa Rica en el siglo XIX: lo que nos une,” will contain 80 specimens. It is a joint production by the Banco Central here and the Museo Numismático de Quito and the Banco Central in Ecuador.

Among the coins being exhibited is the so-called Moby Dick coin, termed the onza quiteña in Spanish. In the Herman Melville novel, Captain Ahab nails a gold coin to the mask of the doomed Pequod and promises that he will give it to the first member of the crew who sights the white whale Moby Dick.

The coin, more specifically a doubloon, was minted in Quito about 1840.

A summary from the Banco Central said that also on display is Costa Rican Series A two peso note issued by the Banco Nacional. The Costa Rican paper money was said to have been used as currency in 1871 in Guayaquil.
coins exhibit
Two  coins that are being displayed. The gold Moby Dick coin is at right.

The Costa Rican currency used to be called a peso, and some residents still refer to the colon as a peso.

A release from the central bank said that there were a series of historical circumstances that resulted in many similarities between the currency of both countries.

Carlos Iza of the Museo Numismático de Quito, and Manuel Chacón, the local expert, are co-curators of the exhibit. The museums are open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are located under the Plaza de la Cultura in the heart of San José.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 164

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Can you
believe it?
One of our sharp-eyed photographers grabbed this shot Friday of a major merchandiser (who shall remain nameless).

The store has the Christmas decorations out already, thereby breaking the Costa Rican record for jumping the season.

Or perhaps the display was in honor of the Olympics because nearly all the Christmas goodies are made in the host country, China.

Some Costa Ricans still have chance at a medal in Olympics
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nery Brenes, a 22-year-old sprinter from Limón, Costa Rica, has survived the first round of the 2008 Olympics.  Brenes ran the 400 meter in a time of 45.36 seconds to finish first in his heat, followed by Godday James of Nigeria who ran it in 45.49.  Brenes sits 18th overall in the 400 meter trailing leader Christopher Brown of the Bahamas by .57 of a second. Brown ran his heat in 44.79.

The second round of the men's 400 meter is scheduled for today.  The final round will be Thursday.

Brenes is competing for his first Olympic gold medal and Costa Rica's fifth medal ever.  He is slightly undersized, coming in at only 5'8'' and weighing just 145 pounds.

Overall, Costa Rica had eight athletes competing in the games for their chance to take home a medal this year.  Out of the eight Costa Ricans who were competing in the games, there are only three left who have a shot at a medal.

One of those still awaiting competition is Kristopher Moitland, who competed in the over 70 kilogram taekwondo in the 2004 Summer Olympics but failed to place.  He fell to France's Pascal Gentil by a score of 4-1.  He is scheduled to compete against Cha Dongmin of Korea Saturday,  in the preliminary round of the men's 80+ kilogram
Also waiting to compete is Federico Ramírez who will be competing in cycling mountain bike Saturday.

The remaining five Costa Rican athletes have already competed and their results are as follows.

Marianela Quesada placed 57th in the women's 50-meter freestyle swimming with a time of 28.11 seconds. Taking home the gold was Germany's Britta Steffen with a time of 24.06, setting a world record. Dara Torres, a 41-year-old from the United States, trailed Steffen by just .01, taking home the silver with a time of 24.07.  

Gabriela Traña ran the women's 26.2-mile marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes and 45 seconds to finish 68th in the race.   Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita finished in first place with 2 hours, 26 minutes and 44 seconds.

Allan Segura finished 39th in the men's 20-kilometer walk, completing the race in 1 hour, 27 minutes and 10 seconds.  Winner Valeriy Borchin of Russia finished the race in 1 hour, 19 minutes and 1 second.

Mario Montoya placed third in his heat, 50th overall, in the 200-meter freestyle qualifier with a time of 1:52.19, 1.78 seconds behind the leader.

Henry Raabe who was competing in the men's road race, did not finish the race, along with 53 other competitors.

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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.


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.


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.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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washing truck
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo
Container truck gets a washing outside new lab to eliminate any diseases before hitting the highway.

New lab in Caldera cuts
down testing time for boats

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every product of vegetable or animal origin that enters the country must be checked to make sure there are no diseases or insects. Until recently the only government lab capable of doing those tests was at Juan Santamaría airport.

Now the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería has opened a lab in Caldera where most of the grain carriers and other ships dock. In the past, the unloading was delayed 24 hours until samples could be taken to the lab near the airport. That could cost boat operators up to $80,000 a day, said the ministry.

The ministry reported Monday that the new lab has had a test run since January and has handled 800 samples of beans, corn, wheat and other products. During that time technicians have discovered 12 suspect shipments, they said. The lab was put together with the help of the various organizations that use the port, the ministry said.

Now technicians are gearing up for heavy shipments of fruits that is typical of the upcoming holiday season, they said.

Piano students show skills

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Piano students of Carol Wunderle performed in a recital Thursday at the Wunderle Studio. Featured was Couloir Hanson, 9, of Escazú, daughter of Isaac Shisler and Cornelia Weiss, who performed the Suzuki Piano School, Volume I, in its entirety.  She received a certificate of outstanding achievement in the piano program.  

Other students presenting selections from the Suzuki Piano School were Michelle Beck, 5, of Rohrmoser, daughter of Eberhard Beck and Magaly Vega; Scarlet Weidig, 6, of San Antonio de Belén, daughter of Randal Weidig and Andrea Velazquez; Daniel Jop, 7, and Nicole Jop, 9, of Rohrmoser, children of Gustavo Jop and Carolina Aguilar; José Leonardo Brenes, 7, of Escazú, son of Roger Brenes and Maria Auziliadora; Tania Montoya, 9, of Escazú, daughter of Felipe Montoya and Alejandra Garcia; and Alejandro Faerron, 10, of Escazú, son of Rogelia Faerron and Loren Matamoros. 

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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