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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 171
Jo Stuart
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Arrest stats show an increase
Citizen security is an issue seeking a candidate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

No candidate has chose to stress citizen security yet, but the February election will be influenced strongly by citizen perception of safety.

The perception of insecurity continues to grow in the country. The Fuerza Pública said Monday that it had detained 27,417 persons in the first half of the year.  Some 21 percent of the arrests alleged drug crimes. But domestic violence checked in with 18.5 percent and property crimes like thefts made up 16 percent of the arrests.

In the same period in 2004 there were 23,000 arrests and 42,995 for the entire year. These do not count the arrests for more complex crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Investigating Organization or special investigations carried out by the Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecutor.

More arrests took place in the Provincia de San José (10,238, some 37 percent) than anywhere else.

Crime has complex roots, including poverty and drug use. Domestic violence is strongly influenced by family financial problems and, of course drug and alcohol use. Theft is big business in the Central Valley, part of the undergound economy. A crook can market a stolen cell telephone 24 hours a day.

The Fuerza Pública also reported that it recovered 389 stolen vehicles so far this year. Most were stolen in the capital. This number  does not include the many cars that were
successfully taken and perhaps reduced to parts in a convenient shop. Police raided one such shop in Santa Bárbara de Heredia over the weekend and found seven stolen vehicles and four missing motorcycles.

The raid came because the LoJack firm had installed a tracer transmitter on one of the cars, and employees were able to trace it to the shop.

Vehicle thefts are up, although robbery of luxury cars at gunpoint appears to have diminished, at least in the Escazú area where they were epidemic.

The Fuerza Pública in the San José area has put more officers on the street during the last two weeks. The number of officers is similar to those who usually take up key positions during the Christmas holiday shopping period. The action seems to be non-political, although Rogelio Ramos, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, once was considered a contender for president.

The Fuerza Pública, the officers who wear the blue uniforms, have tried to become more professional and new recruits have to go through a formal police school. But the image has its ups and downs. One officer went to jail over the weekend as the suspected leader of a kidnapping and car robbery gang in Puntarenas.

Security seems to be an issue in search of a candidate. As the campaign heats up during the next two months, perhaps someone of the 14 possibilities will define himself as the law-and-order candidate.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 171

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Little disruption here
due to U.S. hurricane

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Hurricane Katrina caused little disruption among tourists in Costa Rica.

A check of local hotels found only a few persons are prolonging their stay due to the  torrential rains dumped on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Air traffic to the affected area has been rerouted, but many U.S. tourists continue to return to locations near their hurricane-swept homes.

Hurricane Katrina came ashore with winds exceeding 200 kph (124 mph). Flooding and damage appears extensive in affected regions, but the full extent of the devastation, including loss of life, is not fully known.

Katrina came ashore just east of New Orleans, Louisiana, and continued northward, into the State of Mississippi. The hurricane tore roofs from buildings, including a section of roof at New Orleans’ massive domed stadium, where many people had taken refuge. The winds blew out windows, and downed trees and powerlines. Extensive flooding and massive power outages are reported from New Orleans to parts of Alabama.

Speaking in Arizona, President George Bush said those affected by the storm will not be abandoned. “Our Gulf Coast is getting hit, and hit hard. I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes,” he said.

Federal emergency officials say they have disaster-response teams in place around affected areas and will mobilize and begin work as soon as local conditions permit. Since coming ashore the storm has lost much of its power but officials say there is still potential for additional flooding.

Policemen chomped
by man with knife

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who was released on alternative punishment bit two Fuerza Pública officers and another during an incident in San Blas de Cartago Sunday evening, said officials.

Officials said they received a 911 call Sunday evening from Carlos Coto, a shop owner who said his brother-in-law was threatening him with a knife.  Police said that when they arrived at the shop, they found the suspect, identified by the last names Quesada Rivera  wielding a knife.  He threatened the officers with it, they said, and then threatened to commit suicide.

The officers tried to talk Quesada into handing over the knife, but he grew violent and sliced officer Esteban Quesada’s right hand, according to officials.  The other six officers immediately attacked the man, but during the struggle, Quesada bit officer Nelson Romero in the left hand and officer Miguel Fernández on the right thigh. Both officers were wounded as a result, they said.

The three officers were taken to Hospital Max Peralta and Quesada was arrested, said officials. According to officials, the suspect had been convicted of a crime but had been awarded his freedom as long as he reported to officials every 15 days.

Tierra del Fuego trip
suffers a short delay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The “AIDS awareness expedition” led by German cyclist Joachim Franz was delayed going through Honduras, and the team now hopes to reach the Peñas Blancas border station this morning, said officials with the German Embassy.  The caravan should reach San José by 5 p.m. today where it will pass by Hotel Cariari.

The team of six bikers and nine support cars is riding over 14,000 miles from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and averaging 435 miles a day without stopping and without days off, said officials.  They still hope to reach Ushuaia, the southern most city on the South American continent, by Sept. 18. The team is riding with the support of the United Nations AIDS program and the PanAmerican Health Organization.

Our readers comment

Goose and golden egg
will go elsewhere

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Do the people elected or appointed to your legislature here have any common sense what so ever?  Are they really considering killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Do they not realize that most of the foreign dollars  brought into this country and invested in real estate and businesses ends up in Costa Rica’s economy.

I’m convinced they do not realize that because they seem to be so blinded by their belief that they no how to spend the money better than the citizens of Costa Rica do.  They don’t have the common sense to realize that if they start taxing, the influx of foreign capital, that  capital will simply be directed to more tax friendly economies, and then where do you go from there?

I truly hope someone in the legislature has the common sense to stop this insanity. Otherwise, my dollars will very easily find their way beyond the borders of this country.  Wake up Costa Rica, you are rapidly sliding down the path of socialism and, trust me, you aren’t going to like it.
David Treadway
Parrita, Costa Rica
He says legislation
is actually racist

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
XENOPHOBIA xe·no·pho·bia Etymology: New Latin: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.
I fear that this is the word to describe the government of Costa Rica these days, and maybe a large percentage of its citizens also. Another descriptive word that is too often appropriate is “racist.”

The new immigration law and the new tax laws are trying to put into law exactly what several States in the U.S.A. used to say to visitors: “Come and visit, enjoy, spend lots of money, and then GO AWAY.”

California, Colorado and Oregon tried this for a while. It just didn’t work, one reason being that Americans have a constitutional right to free movement. Costa Rica is about to cut off its nose to spite its face. We can only hope that some of the brighter heads in the Libertarian Party prevail and put an end to some of this self-destructive legislation.
Peter Todd
San José
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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The belly button show will be leaving the airwaves
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomorrow will be the end of an era. "A Todo Dar," the country's most popular show, will end its five-year run.

The two-hour television show is a mixture of pretty girls, games, contests. And did we mention pretty girls?

The Todo Dar girls are celebrities in Costa Rica, and some have gone on to television careers elsewhere. Most were models when they came to the show.
Several fan clubs have sprung up.

The show airs on Channel 6 Repretel and leads into the 7 p.m. news each weekday. A good translation of the show's title is "Give it everything," but jokers have nicknamed the show "A Todo Ombligo"

In true Tica fashion the willowy girls appear and dance in outfits that shows off their navels (ombligo in Spanish).

The show has not been without criticism for the lightly dressed dancers — and the appearance of scantily clad underage dancers.

No reason has been given for canceling the show, but during the fire-year run the writers and personalities have pretty well done everything that could attract an audience. The show has seen more audience participation and less dancing lately. Still, when E Entertainment's "Wild On" came to Costa Rica, interviews with the Todo Dar girls were part of the show eventually broadcast.

Like television dance shows, like Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" in the United States, there was an educational dimension in that youngsters learned how to dance by watching.

File photo
Cristina Espinoza, in blue shirt, has worked all five years of the show. Here she is with a dancer not further identified.

The show has had its share of scandals, and whenever a well-known dancer leaves, the event makes headlines in the local press. 

A group of A Todo Dar girls just won a court case against El Diaro Extra. Some unknown individual obtained a group photo of the cast and used electronic techniques to remove the girls' already tiny swim suits. The doctored photo was circulated on the Internet.

El Diario Extra published the fake nude shot in the daily newspaper on the pretext it was telling the world what was going on in the Internet.

Peace Army of Costa Rica is looking for a few good votes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Peace Army of Costa Rica is soliciting the help of the public to win an ethics contest.  To win the $5,000 grand prize, the organization needs people to vote for its project over 10 others, said Rita Marie Johnson, the group's founder.  For instructions on how to vote, readers may go to www.peacearmyofcostarica.info

The “How to Build a More Ethical Society” competition is a contest held by changemakers.net.  The Peace Army is one of 11 finalists from an original field of 79.

The Peace Army of Costa Rica is a group that offers an emotional- and skills-based program which trains teachers to give students the skills of “feeling peace,” and “speaking peace.”  The methods use a system that monitors heart rhythms and determines when a
person's heart rhythms and brain waves say they have reached what the group calls a state of  "coherence."

This state produces a sine wave-like pattern in heart rhythms, the synchronization of alpha brain wave patterns to that of the heart, rhythmic patterns, respiration, blood pressure rhythms and other physiological systems, according to organization.  This state is a natural one and can happen spontaneously and during sleep, prolonged periods are rare, said the organization. The idea is to train the subject to reach that state.

Coherence allows people to improve their emotional stability, quality of emotional experience, health and cognitive performance, according to the organization.
Óscar Arias, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, is a supporter of the project, said its Web page.

A report from CR-Home Realty
If you are frustrated by literally thousands of so called "realtors," insane pricing and confusing Web sites as you endlessly search for the perfect property in Costa Rica . . . . STOP!!
We believe that the area of GRECIA offers far more than almost any other area of the country for retirees and those seeking a beautiful and peaceful home in which to enjoy life while enjoying the beauty and security which Costa Rica has to offer.
WHY?  ..... read on....

Grecia is Central . . . 50 minutes from San Jose, CIMA hospital, the Multiplaza, sports and cultural events. . . . one half hour from Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela . . . and a little over an hour to the Central Pacific beaches!

Real estate properties in Grecia are still reasonably priced . . . prices here are about 10% of what they are in Escazú and about half of what they are in neighboring Atenas. Grecia is affordable.

The mountains of Grecia offer the perfect climate: 68-82 degrees all year round.

Grecia has its own hospital with excellent professional services and great shopping.  Every Saturday the town is host to one of the best open air markets in the country.  Fruits and vegetables galore.

Grecia is known as the "cleanest city in Latin America"

No howler monkeys or sloths here, but the area is home to countless flocks of parrots and literally thousands of species of birds and butterflies.

Coffee bushes

Fantastic views

 Bustling downtown Grecia

Because of its location and agricultural base (coffee and sugar cane) Grecia is green ALL YEAR ROUND.  

Crime is extremely low here.  No one worries about walking around town at night here.  There are still petty thefts, but neighbors here watch out for each other.

Everyone who visits Grecia and the area comments on the simplicity of life here.  Life here does proceed at a different pace and the lifestyle here takes us back to a simpler time that nearly all of us wish for but cannot have.  Family is still valued here, and Sunday is family day when extended families get together without fail. 

The builders, contractors and craftsmen here are old fashioned. They keep their word, they are excellent craftsmen who take pride in their work AND they honor their contracts. Most importantly, the properties we have available are drop dead gorgeous! Views, rivers, waterfalls, coffee, sugar cane, privacy.  We most likely have exactly what you thought you could never find. 

If this sounds like Paradise (or maybe that we are exaggerating . . .) come and see for yourselves before everyone discovers Grecia.

CR-HOME REALTY     www.cr-home.com     011-506-444-1695   randy@cr-home.com

An analysis of the news
Tenure of Vicente Fox in México is disappointing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

When he was elected Mexico's president five years ago, Vicente Fox ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party's seven-decade grip on power. But many observers say his ambitious programs to reform the country's politics and economy have been disappointing at best.

It was an event, the likes of which Mexico had not experienced in seven decades. In 2000, Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, rode to power on a wave of enthusiasm fostered by his promise to overhaul the political and economic life of a country racked by corruption. In winning the presidential election, the 58 year-old Fox ousted the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had held power since 1929.

The Mexican Constitution limits presidents to one six-year term. Thus, in 2000, Fox did not face an entrenched and long-serving incumbent, but rather the PRI's nationwide and well-organized political machine, which observers said controlled the media and had turned keeping itself in power into an art form.

Enter Vicente Fox, the former governor of the central state of Guanajuato, with his well-trimmed mustache and trademark cowboy boots. His victory caused a sensation in a country longing for change and where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Sidney Weintraub is an expert on Mexico at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says Fox's election fostered a significant change in Mexico's political culture. "I think his major domestic achievement was the fact that he was elected, because it changed quite dramatically the nature of the Mexican process in that a party could win and lose, be turned out of power, come in to power. And that's an important change."

Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, who runs the Mexico Program at the center, gives the Fox administration credit for some significant achievements. Peschard adds, "I think at the end of the day, Mexico now no longer has the all-powerful president that had the rubber-stamp Congress. It definitely represents progress for Mexico in that you have congressional oversight, and you have more checks and balances. They have been able to get some pieces of legislation. For example, there is a Mexican transparency law that forces the executive branch to be more transparent."

But experts on Mexico agree that the weakness of President Fox's PAN party in Congress and other political constraints have severely limited his ability to push through other significant reforms. According to Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, "Whenever you have a government that doesn't control the legislature, you have difficulties. The fact is that Fox was unable to resolve that. It was on his watch that a whole series of reforms did not get done and that he has to accept the blame as the president."

One of the most frequently cited criticisms of Fox's tenure in office is his inability to reform the country's energy sector. The state-owned PEMEX company dominates the country's oil production. But Hakim says it needs outside help to boost production and modernize Mexico's energy infrastructure.

"Mexico, as you know is a large producer of oil and changes that would allow for greater private investment even in some of the related industries should have helped Mexico a great deal  economically, would have helped the United States,

White House file photo by Paul Morse.
After a short press conference on the South Lawn, Presidents George Bush and Vicente Fox board Marine One to visit Toledo, Ohio. This photo was taken Sept. 6, 2001, just five days before terrorist attacks dramatically changed U.S. policy priorities.

 would have helped the relationship between the two countries."

Weintraub says another problem stems from the weakness of the Mexican state. He says the Fox administration has not been able to modernize the country in the way it would like in part because the government cannot collect all of the taxes it needs in order to implement its policies.

"If we are talking about the ability to actually collect taxes that are on the books, there are some difficulties there," said Weintraub. "The underground economy is about 40 percent of the total economy and most of these people don't pay taxes. With the value-added tax, Mexico collects about 40 percent of what the potential is under the tax structure. In other words, that really runs into ingrained habits of Mexicans not paying their taxes when they don't have to."

In foreign policy, President Fox has also been unable to accomplish his goal of a far-reaching immigration agreement with the United States. He and President Bush, whose home state of Texas has a large Mexican-American minority, established a cordial working relationship in early 2001, as the two leaders took office less than two months apart. However, the United States dramatically reordered its foreign policy priorities toward the Middle East and South Asia and away from Latin America after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Next year, Mexico will elect a new president. No one knows whether the new head of state will come from Fox's National Action Party, the PRI, or the left-wing Revolutionary Democratic Party. But most experts agree that Fox's victory five years ago has ushered in a culture of democratic dissent and media freedom that will push Mexico toward greater democracy, no matter who wins next year's election.

Jo Stuart
About us
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