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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 165       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Expats say some motorcycle policemen are stealing
By Melissa Hinkley
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least a half-dozen North American tourists say they have been stopped and frisked by motorcycle police officers in the Parque España-Parque Morazán area in north San José. In most cases, the police officers either accepted money or took money from the men's pockets, the tourists said.

One North American reported he had been stopped six times in two months by different pairs of motorcycle officers. A likely victim is a man walking alone or in a small group in a spot where there is little evening foot traffic, such as Avenida 7.

The incidents have been reported informally to reporters, but none of the victims are known to have filed a formal law enforcement complaint.

Although the shakedowns usually happen in the evenings, one incident was at 4 p.m. This is the case of a North American resident here who gave his name as Alberto. He did not want to be identified further for fear of retribution.

Alberto lives in Barrio Otoya north of the park area.  He gave this account:

About three weeks ago, two friends from the United States were visiting Alberto and they were walking toward a casino around 4 p.m.  As they passed Parque España and went under the bridge at Calle 11 and Avenida 3, they were stopped by two policemen on motorcycles. 

“It was sort of the good cop, bad cop role.  The good cop spoke some Spanish, but the bad cop just stood there with a frown on his face.”

The good cop started demanding identification from all three of them, which was clearly a bribe according to Alberto, who added that the other two men did not speak any Spanish and also did not have their identifications.  Alberto gave the policemen 5,000 colons (about $10) and the officers finally left them alone.  The occurrence lasted only five minutes, and nobody else was around, he said.

The victims saw badges but did not see individual nametags. There is no guarantee that the men really were police officers.

One U.S. citizen reported he had been stopped and extorted while he was driving his car in the area.

In some cases the policemen conduct a search of the individual, take some money and give back a
little money and personal items. The tourists frequently do not know exactly how much was taken.

Others say they were pressured by motorcycle policemen because they showed a photocopy of their passport and not the genuine document. A photocopy is supposed to be acceptable as long as the page with the date stamp is copied, too, according to officials
to protect
To protect and shake down

Patricia Meléndez, a security ministry press spokesperson, said it is normal for Fuerza Pública officers to ask tourists for identification.  A copy of the passport should be sufficient, because she added, someone could steal a genuine passport so that would be dangerous to carry. 

She also advised tourists/visitors to carry a copy of the passport page with their most recent stamp so they do not have problems with police officers.  If officers have a doubt about a specific person they can call immigration to verify that person's status in the country. If there is something questionable, the tourist could be sent to the Hatillo immigration holding center.

Alberto has lived in Costa Rica for six years and has never had any problems with the police.  Just a
week ago, he was once again stopped by two policemen on motorcycles.  It was around 5:30 p.m. on Friday when the two officers attempted to stop Alberto, he said.  Alberto said he kept walking until he was in a more populated place, and the two officers left him alone. 

“I can understand their desperation.  They are paid about $300 or $350 a month.  But there is a big problem because they are not arresting real street crime around here.  There was just a civilian tourist held up at gun point by the police.  They took all his money.  They are just picking on the frail and old,” said Alberto. 

According to Alberto, an estimated 10 other cases, all involving policemen on motorcycles, have taken place recently.  “It happens in not visible areas.  They are very good at minimizing the actual exchange of money.  It just leaves tourists with a bad taste in their mouths and a bad experience,” said Alberto. 

To file complaints about Fuerza Pública officers, people can call the Contraloría de Servicios or the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policías y Seguridad Pública at 2586-4022, said Ms. Meléndez.  Another possibility is to file a formal complaint with the Judicial Investigating Organization, which sometimes handles police corruption cases.

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Emergency officials blame
cities for poor urban planning

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's emergency commission blamed municipalities Tuesday for the deadly results of a heavy storm that hit the metro area Monday evening.

The emergency commission said that the municipalities should not give permission for construction when the property involved is in a high-risk zone. Maps of such zones exist.

A housewife and a domestic servant died about 5:30 p.m. Monday when a hillside gave way and dumped hundreds of tons of mud and debris into the home. The upscale home in Barrio Corazón de Jesús in Escazú was built against the towering hillside.

The  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is the primary response agency when flooding and such disasters happen, and its summary of the effect of flooding released Tuesday contained a note of frustration.

The release said that overworked storm sewers, inadequate draining ditches and poor urban planning conspired to produce the damage. In addition to the landslide that killed the two women, the commission said that some 80 homes were flooded in Limón, Alajuela, Heredia and San José.

In Carrandí in Matina in Limón province heavy winds destroyed a home, the commission said.

Some 30 homes were flooded in parts of Escazú, including San Rafael, San Antonio and the central part of the canton. The flooding was blamed on the La Cruz, Quebrada González and Río Agres waterways which ran out of their banks.

In the Canton de Mora, the school at Quitirrisí was endangered by a slide, the commission reported.

There also was flooding in Santa Ana and the nearby community of Pozos. Additional flooding was reported in Aserrí and San Miguel de Desamparados, said the commission.

In Alajuela 20 homes were reported flooded and in Santa Bárbara de Heredia, a bridge failed, the commission said.

The commission report noted that this is just the beginning of the heaviest part of the rainy season.

In Barrio Corazón de Jesús rescue workers managed to find the body of the missing domestic employee Tuesday. She was identified as Isabel Chavarría, 49, the mother of seven. The dead housewife was Haydé Cerutti, officials said.

Counterfeit DVDs found
in Cantón de Nicoya raids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Raids in the Cantón de Nicoya, Guanacaste, have resulted in police confiscating thousands of what they say were pirated DVDs.

The raids were by the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y
Seguridad Pública.

At the same time as the raids were being announced, a spokesperson for the Poder Judicial said that José Merino de Río, a legislative deputy, and others had sought a constitutional opinion by the Sala IV on a new law that governs intellectual property. The new law is part of the
pirated stuff
Officer surveys haul
package that implements the free trade treaty with the United States here.

Merino of Frente Amplio is a long-time opponent to the treaty. The new law tightens intellectual property rights. The agreement covers intellectual property such as DVDs, although Costa Rica has an existing law prohibiting such thefts.

The ministry said that the most recent raids stemmed from other raids. In one place in Santa Cruz investigators confiscated 20,600 movie DVDs, and disks for computers.

At four video clubs, investigators said they found 13,240 movie DVDs as well as VHS and devices for reproducing the copyrighted originals.

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U.S. ambassador meets with foreign minister on Caja debt
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. ambassador, Peter Cianchette, met Tuesday with the Costa Rica foreign minister, in part, to try to find a solution to the embarrassing deficit run up by the American embassy for pensions of its Tico employees.

The meeting was reported by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriors y Culto. The U.S. Embassy made no mention of the afternoon meeting.

The U.S. Embassy has been getting negative coverage in the Spanish-language press, in part because the public relations staff at the Pavas facility has failed to address adequately the publicity crisis.

As A.M. Costa Rica reported Friday, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social lists the embassy as being in default by some $1.2 million.

This news upset some U.S. citizens living here, and one pointed out the United States recently forgave some $26 million in Costa Rican debt.

Although the embassy response to questions about the debt were contradictory, the Costa Rican foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the matter has been brewing since a new Costa Rica pension law went into effect Feb. 16, 2000.

The embassy and Costa Rica had an agreement since 1970 that cover most of the social costs of Tico employees at the facility, said the ministry. But the money being disputed is for employee pensions.

The ministry said that a meeting between the embassy and Costa Rican pension officials took place July 5, 2007.

At that time, the foreign ministry said, the embassy administrative official, identified as Scott D. McAdoo,
ambassador meets with miniser
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
U.S. Ambassador Peter Cianchette sits with Bruno Stagno, the Costa Rican foreign minister, Tuesday.

said the embassy would pay the money.

The matter has been up in the air since at least 2003 when the nation's lawyer, the Procuraduría General de la República, said that embassy workers who were Costa Ricans or permanent residents here were covered by the pension law, the ministry said. To complicate matters, the matter also is covered by an international treaty.

The foreign ministry has been asked to mediate the situation, it said.

The 2000 law revised the way pension funds were administered. Prior to the law, the monies went into one fund. Under the new law, each worker has some responsibilities as to where the pension money will be placed.

Despite dangers, not much is happening to get new hydrants
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What happened to all the new fire hydrants the government promised?

That's what some citizens are wondering after fire fighters crowded the streets in front of the legislature in celebration of their victory in April.

Four months after the Asamblea Legislativa passed the Ley de Hidrantes, the process has hardly begun, said Rafael Fernandez, assistant to the Dirección del Cuerpo de Bomberos Tuesday. Experts have not even started the study of the country's underground infrastructure, said Fernández.

The country needs at least 10,000 hydrants, but as of now there are only 5,000, half of which do not work, said a presidential spokesperson in April after the law was passed.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed the new law June 11, according to a release from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. The law was published June 24 in the official government newspaper, La Gaceta, said Fernández.

The first areas to receive hydrant will most likely be hospitals, schools, and industrial businesses, said Fernández.

But first the firefighter institution must work with the national water company and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to create a set of regulations for the project, said Fernández. “To talk about dates is a little premature,” said Fernández, when asked when construction might start on the new hydrants. He added that the project would be long and time consuming.

After the regulations are put into place experts will study the infrastructure and underground tubes to see how to go about with construction, said Fernández. Firefighters  already know there are a number of problems with outdated underground pipes and other details, he added. Héctor Chávez, the director of the Bomberos, mentioned in recent reports that in many areas the underground pipes are not down deep enough or don't supply sufficient water for hydrants. 

Once the hydrants are put in, the municipalities and businesses which administer water in the country will charge a monthly fee to all users. That means citizens' water bills will be higher. The fee will be approved by Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, according to a April presidential release.
hydrant celebration
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Firemen on a snorkel platform wave the nation's flag after a law providing financial support for hydrants won legislative approval in April. The Bella Vista fortress is in the background.

Each new hydrant will cost a million and a half colons ($3,000), said Luis Salas, subdirector of the Cuerpo de Bomberos, when explaining the law in April. The hydrants are made of steel and are installed in a process which involves digging up the ground and laying tubes, said Salas.

The entire installation will take some time, he added. There are two processes involved, repairing the old hydrants and then installing the new ones,” said Salas.

Data from the Cuerpo de Bomberos revealed that only a small percentage of hydrants in Costa Rica have the capacity to extinguish an actual fire, said a presidential spokesperson in April. Some hydrants were installed as much as 70 years ago, said the spokesperson.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 165

Columbus Network's ARCOS cable services Costa Rica but the faster express route of some 2,500 kms. between Florida and Colombia (the darker red lines) is not yet available for Costa Rican data transmissions.
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New and faster undersea Internet hookup with ARCOS cable is topic today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is expected to announce today plans to set up a so-called express route with the ARCOS undersea cable network.

The government agency said that the ARCOS CFX-1 service is entering into operation and that Costa Rica will be able to count on another international communications route.

At a morning news conference will be Claudio Bermúdez, deputy manager of the telecommunications section of the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Also there will be Eduardo Gandarilla, vice president of the cable company.

The ARCOS cable is one of three connecting the country to
the United States and the rest of the world. The Maya cable also is in the Caribbean.

The country hooked up to the Global Crossings Pacific cable this year.

The ARCOS (the Americas Region Caribbean Optical-ring System) is owned by Columbus Networks, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bridgetown Barbados-based Columbus International Inc.  In addition to the Internet, such cables carry television, telephone and other data transmissions.

ARCOS connects with Costa Rica at Limón. The major express route is between Miami and Colombia. The company said that the express route can carry 80 gigabits per second, upgradeable to over 2 terabits.

Midnight quake stirs up waters off the central Pacific coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake rated preliminarily at 5.3 magnitude struck at 12:21 a.m. today.  The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was about 26 kms, or 16.2 miles off the Costa Rican Pacific coast. That would put it west of a point between Quepos and Dominical.

After review, the Geological Survey downgraded the estimated intensity to 4.8 magnitude.
The quake was barely felt in San José. Curiously the locations of most intensity were in Heredia and Ochomogo, based on the real time seismographs of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica in Heredia.

The duration of the quake was about 150 seconds, according to the online printouts.

No alert was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which first reported the quake.

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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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trash fashions
Part of a poster advertising the trash fashion event
Tamarindo turns to trash
to promote its recycling

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Trash bag swimsuits.  Toilet paper hair-ties.  Egg carton skirts.  Those are just a few of the outfits that could be featured in this year's Trashion Fashion, a show scheduled for Sept. 11, in Tamarindo. 

All the clothes for the fashion show will be made out of recycled materials, giving Trashion Fashion a slightly different twist then most such shows.  Some of the clothing designs will be extravagant and over the top, while others are items that anybody can use or wear, according to Tamarindo Recycles. 

The show is being put on by Tamarindo Recycles, a committee dedicated to addressing the solid waste problems that face the Pacific beach town.  The goal is to provide a permanent recycling program that will educate Tamarindo residents, businesses and organizations on the importance of recycling.  The program will implement the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle, organizers said.  Trashion Fashion was created to raise money for their recycling effort, as well as create awareness in the Tamarindo community, they added. 

The fashion show will be held at Bar 1 at Tamarindo beach and will feature local designers including Kata Kis from Papaya con Leche and Petra Beuthner of Uno Solo.  The designers have created fashionable clothing using all recycled materials.  Artistic decorations at Bar 1 are being done by Jaguart and music is by Fabrice Vanegas. The entrance fee is 5,000 colons with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the fashion show beginning at 9 p.m.

Entrance fee will include a drink and raffle tickets will be sold at the door and during the show. All money raised will be used to improve and expand the recycling program in Tamarindo, said organizers.   

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 165

Costa Rican 400-meter runner fails to win Olympic medal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nery Brenes, the Costa Rican runner, failed to make the cut Tuesday in a semifinal for the 400-meter race in the Olympics.

The Costa Rican runner ended up fourth with a personal best time of 44:94 seconds. U.S. runner Jeremy Wairner,
who was a fifth of a second faster, will be in the finals, according to reports from the Chinese capital.

Local television made much of his finish and noted that he was among the 11 fastest men in the world.

They also praised him for setting a new record for Latin American runners.

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