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(506) 223-1327               Published  Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 171            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Lawmakers want to study sluggish court system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Libertarians in the national legislature proposed Tuesday that a special commission be created to study and propose legal reforms to improve the security of citizens.

A press bulletin from the Movimiento Libertario said that the measure was met with opposition by other political parties, specifically the partidos Liberación Nacional and Unidad Social Cristiana.

Luis Antonio Barrantes, a libertarian in the Asamblea Legislativa, said that a crime wave has frightened the majority of citizens who want concrete actions and not just words. He suggested improving the judicial process and the procedures that would put criminals in jail and not families who put themselves in jail to protect their goods and loved ones. He was referring to the heavily barred homes in which many citizens live.

The libertarians cited statistics from the Poder Judicial that said that 97 percent of the burglary cases in 2005, 96 percent of the fraud cases and 95.3 of the robbery cases did not result in convictions. And many crimes here are not reported in the first place.

Crimes, including those against tourists have been major topics at the legislature in the last week. However, the Arias administration and officials of the Poder Judicial say they want a social solution.
The Arias administration has proposed an extension of a pilot program that was instituted in Quepos in which youngsters are given training and recreation to lure them away from criminal gangs.

Laura Chinchilla, the first vice president and minister of Justica y Gracia, headed the group that designed the administration plan. Casa Presidencial called the proposal ambitious.

The Arias administration plan calls for the development of community networks as preventative measures against criminality. It calls for an alliance between government and civil society.

The overall plan seeks to integrate a series of other national plans, including those against drugs, against sexual exploitation of minors, against violence and for road safety.

Vice President Chinchilla has said that stiffer criminal penalties does not seem to reduce crime. The Libertarian proposal seeks more to make the judicial system more efficient so that those charged with crimes go to trial.

Even the nation's chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall'Anese, has been critical of the way the court system functions. It is overcrowded and clogged. At the same time, many facing possible charges languish for years in preventative detention only to have their case dismissed.

Some people just prefer the freedom of the open air
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are a whole range of characters on the streets of San José.

There are hustlers, crooks, street performers, vendors of all sorts of products. At the top of the line is the small businessman. In this case, the entrepreneur is John Linki, a Turrialba native of Lithuanian parents.

Linki has put his accounting career on hold to play songs at 1,000 colons apiece  — about $2. His is distinguished by his northern European looks, a testimony to political troubles there that his parents fled.

Although he has a degree from the Universidad de Costa Rica, Linki said he prefers to discuss politics with passers-by in San José. His philosophy approaches that of a rebel. He is unhappy with governments of any form and says that they all have the same problems. One big beef is the local government's failure to support artists. Another is the free trade treaty with the United States, which he opposes.

Politics finds its way into his music repertoire.

He chooses songs of protest and discontent.  Unless, of course, if his patron of the moment wants something more conventional or folkloric.

Linki is one of about a dozen individuals and small groups who make their living playing for
John Linki. musician
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
John Linki on the boulevard

visitors to the downtown. They are not street musicians of the type who fill the air with squawks in exchange for some coins thrown in a bucket. They are true professionals with years of training and experience.

Linki even has a business card and boasts of an international music award on Spanish-language television.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 171

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Fake marriage ban advances
in legislative commission

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers have moved to close a gap in the law whereby foreigners can contract arranged marriages with Costa Ricans for the purpose of immigration.

Typically, the blushing Costa Rican bride or bashful groom is a drug addict who never sees the supposed husband or wife.

Officials have tried to crack down on the practice, but the Sala IV constitutional court backed the right of a person to be married by proxy and personally cited Mario Zamora, the immigration chief, for failing to follow the law.

The measure was sent Tuesday to special commission that has the power to pass laws. It's sponsors include Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the Asamblea Legislativa.

Lawyers and notaries have had successful businesses in arranging fake marriages for foreigners.  Evita Arguedas Maklouf, another legislative sponsor, said that frequently those who immigrate to Costa Rica using this technique are involved in crimes or other unsavory activities.

Zamora and others have brought some of the individuals who have been brought into the scam to the legislative chambers. Some drug addicts agree to contract marriage for 5,000 or 10,000 colons, they said. That's less that $10 to $20. Some have been married that way more than once.

Notaries connected to organized crime groups make up to 5 million colons (nearly $10,000) for arranging the marriage.

Under the proposal, those promoting such marriages will face five to seven years in prison and those who simply participate in a fake marriage may face sentences up to five years.

Yoga for children program
planned for Osa Peninsula

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Author and children’s yoga practitioner Sydney Solis of Boulder, Colorado, will take her acclaimed Storytime Yoga teachings to Costa Rica for a spring break holiday. Targeted at parents with children ages 4-12, World Family Yoga is presenting a beach and rain forest retreat March 22 to 29 at Guaria de Osa on the Osa Peninsula.

Ms. Solis and teaching partner for the week Christine McArdle Oquendo are pioneers in the world of teaching children yoga. They also both work intensively with parents, teachers and all adults. The two said they will work to weave together Anusara-inspired yoga classes for the adults and children plus Latin American culture and myth, rain forest stories and Spanish lessons, nature, beach, and fun.

Guaria de Osa is a family owned and operated destination that is about 90 minutes by motorboat ride from the town of Sierpe or 20 minutes by boat from the Drake Bay Airport.

Ms. Solis started teaching peace, health and literacy to children and families. She is the author of the award-nominated book "Storytime Yoga: Teaching Yoga to Children Through Story" and the upcoming book "The Treasure in Your Heart: Stories and Yoga for Peaceful Children," as well as numerous audios.

Ms. Solis is the mother of two children, and created Storytime Yoga after the death of her husband four-and-a-half years ago. She has more than 300 hours of Anusara yoga training, and is a member of the National Storytelling Network and its Interfaith and Healing Story Alliances. An associate of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, she has produced three World Peace Interfaith Storytelling gatherings.

Buy, don't rent properties,
Acción Ciudadana says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican government officials spend 3 billion colons ($57.7 million) in rent each year, according to the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Party lawmakers have presented a proposed law that would allow government agencies to finance purchases instead of continually paying rent. They are Alberto Salom Echeverría, Marvin Rojas Rodríguez and José Rosales Obando.

The measure would seem to allow agencies to purchase land and build structures, too. And there would be a grace period on doing that. The government rents 10,101 buildings or properties, the party announcement said.

Our reader's opinion
He hopes Arias crime plan
is supported by infrastructure

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The economic cost of criminals running amok is astronomical.The $3,000 worth of stolen merchandise a reader mentioned in his letter to the editor is probably now worth less than $300 on the streets.  
President Arias' plan to hire more police is excellent, as long as it is supported with the construction of prison cells and courtrooms. Police, corrections and the judicial process make up a triangle that rests on an equally important foundation of education and job opportunities.
Costa Rica can regain its "Switzerland of Central America" status, but only if complex problems are faced in their totality.  I have personally met with many professional and dedicated Costa Rican police officers. I wish the reader would have had that experience. What a horrifying situation for everyone that the man was victimized twice. 
Frank Gayaldo, Jr.
Lodi, California

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 171

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$346,000 campaign will target 'national' tourists with deals
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute is embarking on a green season promotional campaign together with hotels and other tourism providers who offer cut-rate deals for Costa Ricans and residents.

The institute plans to spend some 180 million colons on a promotional spree for three months to tap what is called the national market. Ads will be aired on radio and television and placed in the Spanish-language press.

The 11-week campaign will be through the height of the rainy or green season when tourism businesses need a boost.

Tourism providers are offering 10 to 40 percent discounts. Others, like Villa Caletas Hotel in Jacó, are offering two-for-one deals, according to literature provided by the institute.

International tourists need not apply. The discounts are only for Costa Ricans and residents in most cases. However, savvy foreign tourists should be able to negotiate the same kind of deals based on the published offers of the various providers. Deep discounts are typical in green season.

The tourism institute will be advertising the deals on its Web page. Most of the participants are second tier tourism providers who need their extra boost during the
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rainy months. There did not appear to be any five-star accommodations on the discount list.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the tourism minister, said that the promotion was primarily for the Costa Rican middle class. He said that the national market has about 1.2 million tourists each year.

The money allocated to the project comes out to be about $346,000.

Arias gets green light to campaign but then is sidelined
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said Tuesday that President Óscar Arias Sánchez may continue promoting the free trade treaty with the United States during his official functions and visits.

But it all may be in vane. Arias was sidelined Tuesday by what Casa Presidencial said was a severe inflammation of his Achilles tendon in his right foot.  He has been ordered to stay in his Rohrmoser home for complete rest, the Casa Presidencial report said.

The announcement suggested that Arias would be out of action for at least several weeks. Arias has been suffering from the painful tendon and has completed his duties up until now, said the announcement.

His brother, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, will fill in for him next week by flying to Panamá where the new third lane of the Panama Canal will be inaugurated.
The rest of his schedule has been shuffled and alternate representatives tapped.

The president's physical problem removed the heaviest hitter from the campaign favoring the free trade treaty.

The election tribunal's decision came on complaints from three members of the opposition campaign. Arias has been promoting the benefits of the treaty on trips he has taken around the country.

The tribunal said it was not unusual for a president to take an active role on an important issue on the national agenda.

Arias ran on a pro-treaty platform and has backed approval of the measure during his time in office.

Costa Ricans will got to the polls Oct. 7 to vote on the treaty.

Arias has also called for calm from proponents of both sides.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 171

Urbanization is blamed for crime and violence worldwide
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new report shows rapid urbanization is leading to more crime and armed violence. The Small Arms Survey says the consequences of urbanization are especially dramatic in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. The report finds that murder rates in some cities surpass that of some countries at war.

For the first time in history, the United Nations reports more than half of the world's population live in cities. The Small Arms Survey says rapid urban growth and escalating migration to the cities is causing large-scale social displacement and increased trade in drugs, people and goods. All of this, it says is contributing to armed crime and violence.

It reports Latin America has some of the highest violence in the world. It notes Brazil's yearly murder rate of 45,000 surpasses that of some countries at war.

The survey says civilians own approximately 650 million of
the total 875 million firearms in the world today. It finds the United States has the highest distribution of weapons with 90 per 100 people. Britain and Wales have the lowest with five weapons per 100 people.

The program director of the Small Arms Survey, Keith Krause, says firearms are very unevenly distributed.

"The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons, these images are certainly misleading," he explained. "It also, of course, points out there is no clear relationship between more guns and higher levels of violence, as is demonstrated from some of the cases in Latin America where relatively low levels of weapons ownership are associated with relatively high levels of armed violence."

The survey reports the global trade in small arms and light weapons is worth around $4 billion a year. It says the United States, followed by France and Italy are the most transparent major exporters of small arms. It says the least transparent are Bulgaria, North Korea and South Africa.

Honduras and Zelaya administration facing protests by thousands over poverty
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tens of thousands of Hondurans have blocked highways across the country, saying President Manuel Zelaya has not done enough to address poverty.

Teachers, laborers, Indians and farmers were among the protesters who massed in the streets Monday for the anti-government demonstrations.
One teacher was reported killed during the protest. Authorities say Wilfredo Lara was gunned down when a business owner fired on demonstrators west of the capital, Tegucigalpa. The businessman was arrested.

A group calling itself the national council of popular resistance organized the protests. The group also opposes the government's plans to privatize certain sectors. Officials said they hope to resolve the dispute peacefully.

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