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(506) 2223-1327          Published Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 172              E-mail us
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Labor Day is a key time for tourism operators here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is Labor Day in the United States, the unofficial end of summer in the north. For Costa Rican tourism operators, the day also means the unofficial beginning of preparation for high season.

December through early April is generally regarded as high season here. That is when the well-heeled tourists visit. By contrast, June through August is a time when most tourists are operating on a budget.

A major downtown hotel reports that sales are down 40 percent when compared to 2009, which was not a banner year. That estimate applies to the lodging and the restaurant associated with the facility. This is an upscale facility, perhaps one of the best in the city.

During the next two months reservations will be coming in, and tourism operators will be able to assess how successful the 2010-2011 high season will be. The general opinion is that there still are high rollers but they are more picky.

The Cámera Nacional de Turismo reported that a survey showed greater confidence among tourism operators in the first half of this year compared to  2009. But it also warned that this confidence is
 likely to diminish during September, October and November, a time that traditionally has brought fewer tourists to the country.

To boost sales during this low period, a coalition of hotels put together a Labor Day weekend set of travel deals, which run until November. The campaign was announced Tuesday. There are 25 special promotions the promoters say range from a free night to cut-rate 10-day tours. The promotions are mainly being advertised to the trade.

Many tourism operations adopted a bunker mentality over the last 18 months. Meanwhile, adjacent competitors have been busy. Panamá eliminated immigration checks for outward bound travelers, and instituted a $5 airline fee to replace tourism cards. The country also has added more immigration agents to handle incoming passengers. The country also has earmarked millions for promotion.

On the other hand, the continuing bloodshed in México is bound to have an effect on its tourism. That may translate to more visitors to Costa Rica.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo's latest effort is to create a presence on Facebook and Twitter and a YouTube channel.


Controversial women's violence bill gets first OK
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature approved on first reading Tuesday a revised law against violence toward women. The proposal, which must be voted on one more time, moves mistreatment from a contravención or misdemeanor, to a delito, a felony.
 
This is the same law that was swatted down by the Sala IV constitutional court because it singles out women for special treatment. A number of lawmakers, judicial employees and others think that should be the case, so they worked extensively for two years to craft a law that would withstand constitutional review. Lawmakers will send the proposal to the court for such a review before taking a second vote.

The controversial law penalized violence, either
 physical or mental in either public or private circumstances.

Expats are leery of this law because of experiences with the current domestic violence legislation that can put a man out of his house simply based on an unsupported statement from the spouse.

Many times women use domestic violence as a ploy to take control of a man's property.

Someone who insults a women under the proposed law faces up to two years in jail.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana said after the vote Tuesday that the revised law was a legislative priority. The bill was one of those designed for action by Casa Presidencial during August, a time when the executive branch controls the agenda.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Sept. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 172

Costa Rica Expertise
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  Our readers' opinions
A short brief in defense
of those computer cookies

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While your article concerning web privacy may have some value, it has very little to do with cookies.  Cookies is not a “technology” where programs are running amuck in the browser’s background.  Cookies are nothing more than note cards stored on your computer to house notes pertaining to a particular Web site that created them.  Nothing "super" or intelligent about them.

Sure as a Web programmer, I could write code to track your movements within only our Web site and write it to a cookie on your computer.  But I would only do so to help make your Web experience within our site more pleasant.  That information is of no value to me.   Disabling cookies in your browser is a false sense of security.  If I wanted to compile that same information, I could write code to save that data to my own remote database where I could begin to data mine it for trends, etc. — with or without cookies enabled.

Surf reputable Web sites and read their privacy statement. Be aware, ads on any Web site are often authored by third-parties and may not abide by the parent Web site's privacy statement.  Worst case, they may create a cookie storing a nondescript unique computer ID for whatever purpose. Don’t contribute to the slandering of cookies – for they are truly yummy!
Steve Clark
Curridabat


We're called unprofessional
in failing to quote Republicans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the Aug.31 staff article on U.S. congressional elections, it is obvious your staff is not personally or professionally acquainted with any Republicans.

Since that group was mentioned several times, it would have been appropriate to have quoted one of their spokesman regarding the assertions made by Tom Fina, the former director of some supposedly Democratic group, in speculating on the outcome of these elections. Maybe Mr. Fina can speak for Democrats, but he certainly can not speak for Republicans, and to quote him about such is more than a gross miss-justice. Beside the point of his claim that there is a group of "irrationals" that could control the election being irrational itself, he is obviously biased in his viewpoints about the war, and the general direction of the country at present.

He is entitled to his viewpoints, however screwy they may be, but he certainly has mis-characterized the current movement that is trending back to the right and is associated with the tea party movement. Your staff would do well to find a source to gain another observation point, and look more professional.

Bob Lawrence
Houston, Texas


Reaction to Limón buyoff
lacks common sense

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

To the outside observer, this seems to be a no-brainer! Well, welcome to Costa Rica!

Which is what often the unwary new arrival hears when they go to claim their container contents when moving things here from abroad via the port of Limón, only to find it devoid of many key items.

One wonders why there should be so much resistance to what amounts to urban renewal for the downtown crime ridden area of Limón, plus many new jobs, and increased commerce and productivity for that area, and the country as a whole, in both more cruise ship dockings, and a modern competitive dock facility for freight, especially since much of it is to be paid for by outside low-interest loans. Good question.

The earlier example is only the tip of the iceberg. There seems to be renewed strength from opposition forces in the legislature as skyrocketing prices have put the squeeze on their constituents leading to increased xenophobia, in large part due to rising food staple prices on the global commodities market, translating into a backlash against CAFTA.

Add this to Limón being long suspected as a major transhipment point for cash and drugs going north-south, where influence presumably has reached into key positions in the judiciary, and legislature, and it all adds up to a Mexican standoff Costa Rican style, where even cash payoffs to the previous main opposition — the now on-board dock workers — can't get it done.

When it comes to Limón, progress is a dirty word, it seems. Welcome to Costa Rica indeed!
Hari Khalsa
Cóbano

Berrocal going to Panamá

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fernando Berrocal Soto, the former security minister who was fired by former president Óscar Aris Sánchez, has been named Costa Rican ambassador to Panamá. Berrocal was fired by Arias  just before he was to testify at the legislature about terrorism.

Berrocal said he had evidence that certain Costa Rican politicians had been secretly involved with terrorists in Colombia. Later Berrocal said his statement was misinterpreted and he didn't have an actual list of names.

The evidence that Costa Ricans were involved with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia came from the computers of Raúl Reyes, a Fuerzas Armadas leader who was killed in a raid by Colombian soldiers March 1, 2008. Berrocal helped uncover $480,000 from the terrorist group hidden in a Santa Bárbara de Heredia home March 14 of that year. He was fired March 30.

Technology changes life
of being in Peace Corps


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the early 1980s, Gordy Mengel served as a Peace Corps volunteer in an isolated community in what was then called Zaire, now Congo. 

"I was placed somewhere in the middle part of the country," said Mengel. "And in the small community where I lived there was no post office, so getting letters out, which was basically the only means of communication, was very challenging.

Letters would take weeks, or months, to arrive.

But now, thanks to technology, that is no longer the case. Computers, cells phones and the Internet have changed the way Peace Corps volunteers do their work and stay in touch.

Now a Peace Corps programming and training officer in Rwanda, Mengel says improved communication technology has changed how people serve in the Peace Corps.

Back when he was a volunteer, he lost track of friends and family back in the United States so he had no choice but to integrate into the community.

"These days, with the advent of the internet and cell phone service and so forth, I still see volunteers having some of that experience but again, when they go back to their homes, instead of turning out the kerosene light and going to bed," says Mengel, "they can get on Skype and they give a quick call to mom and dad back at home. And that part of the experience has changed."


Sonia Morhange is one of about 100 Peace Corps volunteers now serving in Rwanda. The San Diego native works at an organization in Kigali called Never Again Rwanda, organizing plays about the country's 1994 genocide that left 800,000 dead. 

She catches up with friends in California over Skype, talks on the phone with her mom and e-mails her dad. She hasn't mailed a single letter through the postal system and can't imagine waiting months for one to arrive. 

"I know, I can't believe it. I can't imagine having been a Peace Corps volunteer in the 70s or the 80s or even the early 90s," said Ms. Morhange. "I'm just so used to everyone having a cell phone that works internationally. I'm very, very lucky in the fact that where I live I have wireless internet and that makes it a lot easier."


A.M. Costa Rica guide

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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

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

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
News of Colombia    
News of Panamá
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Sept. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 172

Investment ad

Study confirms greenhouse workers exposed to bug spray
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A study by the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica for the Instituto Nacional de Seguros has documented exposure levels to insecticides used by greenhouse workers.

Despite the loss of its monopoly over the general insurance market as part of the free trade treaty with the United States, the insurance institute still is the sole provider of workman’s compensation insurance. The Instituto Tecnológico is part of the public university system.

The study looked at exposure to the insecticides bifenthrin and deltamethrin used in the production of ferns and flowers for export. The main method was a simple florescent tracer added to the spray.
The tracer showed exposure on all uncovered skin. Workers who didn’t use gloves were found to have traces of the chemical on 84 percent of their hand surface, while those that did use gloves still had 36 percent exposure.

High dosages of these chemicals are considered toxic to mammals, with long-term health hazards low, according to a summary of research by the California Environmental Protection Agency. No carcinogenic effect is known.

Pyrethroid chemicals like these are also the main ingredients of common household pest sprays like Raid.

They are highly toxic to fresh water invertebrates, and a study in California found residential sewage more toxic than farm runoff for these organisms, many low but important members of the aquatic food chain.


Employer group expresses concern over rising job loss
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican workforce dropped 4,189 persons since March, according to the employers chamber.

The organization, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said it based the figures on those supplied by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The Caja collects social security payments each month from employers.

Manuel H. Rodríguez, the chamber's president, noted that the workforce decline here mirrors what is happening in the world. The U.S. labor market has seen the number of people receiving unemployment payments quadruple in the last three years, up to the current 10 million, he said.
The chamber put forth a series of ideas to reduce the firings in the workplace. They involved modifications of the country's labor laws. They have not been put into effect.

Basically the proposals would give employers more control over the hours employees work, when they take their vacations and provide for pay cuts for the highest paid workers. Employers also could provide a work schedule of less than full time.

Costa Rican employers pay about a third of their employees' monthly salaries to the Caja. The exact amount varies based on the size of the company. In addition, employees receive substantial payoffs when they are let go. There also is a higher hourly wage for employees who work nights.


An overpass by any other name is still a sweet route
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic is flowing on the new overpass at the Alajuelita traffic circle, but the project has not yet been accepted by the government, the ministry involved said Tuesday.

Meanwhile a writer for the Municipalidad de San José issued a statement wondering why the traffic circle and now the bridge is called Alajuelita when it is really in Hatillo 4. He sent out a press release with an air photo.

The company doing the job, Meco Constructores, opened up the bridge overpass Monday so that workers could concentrate on the ground level access roads that traffic had been using since the project started, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.
The project on the Circunvalación in southern San José eliminates yet another traffic circle. The circle still will exist, but only local traffic will use it. Through traffic passes overhead on the new bridge. The ministry said that a pedestrian overpass would be ready in about two months. It will be a metal span.

The man who questions the name of the location is Gilberto Luna Montero. He said in an e-mail that the traffic circle should be called the rotonda de Hatillo. He chided news people for failing to verify the information that they provide to the public. Luna also pointed out that the Y-Griega-Desamparados traffic circle further to the east actually is in San Francisco de Dos Rios. Both of the names he opposes are traditional. Alajuelita is actually a separate canton south of the construction site.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Sept. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 172


Acuña and former victim advocate seeking prosecutor job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Of the 20 persons who hope to be fiscal general or chief prosecutor of Costa Rica, only two probably are known by many expats.

One is Ewald Acuña Blanco, the lawyer who got $2 million for negotiating a reduced settlement between Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho and those who won a court award in the Villalobos high-interest scheme. He also is representing victims of the Savings Unlimited high-interest operation.

Both businesses, which paid up to 3 percent interest a month in cash, collapsed in 2002.

The other person is Jeannette Arias Meza, who was director of the victims office at the time of the Villalobos collapse. Many expats contacted her for help.
The deadline for applications was Friday. The appointment will be made by the Corte Suprema de Justicia and the term will be for four years, said the Poder Judicial, which confirmed the names Tuesday. In the meantime a committee will go over the submissions of the applicants and check their backgrounds.

The new chief prosecutor will replace Francisco Dall'Anese, who took a job with the United Nations directing an anti-crime commission in Guatemala.

Others on the list are regional prosecutors, lawyers and politicians.

Ms. Arias speaks English fluently. Acuña is not known to be an English speaker.

The chief prosecutor heads the Ministerio Público, the independent agency that prosecutes crimes.



Costa Rican guidebook transformed into iPhone file

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The same technology that has relegated printed newspapers to marginal profitability and occasional bankruptcy is now setting its signs on travel guides.

A San Francisco, California, firm said Tuesday that it has created a travel application for Costa Rica. The device "condenses the country's overwhelming opportunities into more than 250 top activities, wildlife experiences, sites, hotels and dining options," said the firm, Sutro Media.

The application runs on iPhone, iPad, and iPhone Touch and sells for $2.99.
The application was created by Christopher P. Baker, who is the author of the Moon Costa Rica and National Geographic Traveler Costa Rica guidebooks, the company said.

The application contains a photo slide-show feature almost 2,300 colorful photographs displayed in stunning high definition, said the company.

The software also appears to be interactive in that it can respond to searches and sorts by the user.

The application is available via the iTunes store. It is called "Costa Rica ¡Pura Vida!"


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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details



A.M.
Costa Rica
fifth news page
For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
News of Colombia    
News of Panamá
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Sept. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 172

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

México may first try
captured cartel leader


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican authorities on Monday arrested a U.S.-born drug trafficker who had become the leader of one of that country's largest drug cartels. The man nicknamed Barbie may face extradition to the United States after being tried in Mexico.

The man who Mexican authorities say ran the Beltran-Leyva drug trafficking organization until he was arrested Monday is Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known in the criminal underworld as La Barbie, a reference to the popular children's doll, Barbie. The 37-year-old defendant was born and raised in the Texas border city of Laredo, where he played football. But Valdez made his fortune and established his gruesome reputation for violence in Mexico.

Valdez has a $2 million price on his head in the United States. A federal grand jury in Atlanta recently indicted him for smuggling tons of cocaine from South America through Mexico and across the U.S. border. Mexico has extradited some top drug smuggling suspects to the United States in the past, and there is a possibility of that in this case as well. But Gary Hale, former chief of intelligence for the Houston office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who now runs the private consulting firm Grupo Savant, says Mexico may hold off on that for now.

"Traditionally, Mexico subjects defendants to their judicial system first before they extradite anyone, anywhere. So it would make sense that they will follow the same processes that they have in the past and that is that they will look at the strength of their case against him and see if they have witnesses who can testify against him and things of that nature," he said.

Valdez is thought to have risen to the leadership of the Beltran Leyva organization after Mexican marines killed its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in Cuernavaca last December. But authorities say he was being challenged by the deceased cartel leader's brother, Héctor Beltran Leyva, and by the Sinoloa cartel, allegedly run by Joaquin Chapo Guzmán.

Critics of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war on drug traffickers have accused the government of going after lesser cartels, like the Beltran Leyva organization and the Juarez cartel, more than the Sinoloa gang. But Gary Hale says his long years of working in cooperation with Mexican law enforcement officials gives him a different perspective.

"With regard to the allegation that the Mexican government favors one cartel over the other, I do not believe that that is true. It is probably more related to accessibility. They probably have penetration, that is organizational penetration, better with other cartels than they have had with the Sinaloa cartel," he said.

Last month, Mexican troops killed a top member of the Sinaloa organization, Ignacio Coronel, in a gunfight in the western state of Jalisco. In the past few years, 28,000 people have died in Mexico in drug-related incidents.

The latest crime to make headlines worldwide occurred at a bar in the resort city of Cancun, where gunmen attacked a bar with fire bombs, killing at least eight people. Although the incident occurred outside the main tourist zone, it could further damage Mexico's tourist industry, which has been put under pressure by frequent news reports of violence in the country.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Sept. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 172


Latin American news
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Iran makes $250 million
investment in Bolivia


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Iran has extended a credit line of more than $250 million to Bolivia as development aid. 

Ali Akbar Mehrabian, Iranian minister of industries and mining, announced this week in a press conference that he signed the deal with Bolivian officials while on a visit to the capital city of La Paz.

The loan has no use restrictions. But Mehrabian says it could fund mineral exploration and the development of the textile industry.

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that Viviana Caro, the development and planning minister, will travel to Iran at the end of September to thank the Islamic republic for its assistance.

Morales spoke with the Iranian minister Monday to discuss expanding bilateral ties.

In the meeting, Morales called on Iran and Venezuela to join together in ending the unilaterialism of the world powers. Iran is under four sets of U.N. sanctions for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are solely peaceful.

Morales also condemned the U.N. sanctions on Iran during the press conference.

Separately, the United States and the European Union have imposed penalties that target exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, cutting off many potential suppliers.

Australian drilling device
put to work to save miners


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Engineers in Chile are continuing to drill an escape route to save 33 miners who have been trapped more than 600 meters underground in a gold and copper mine since a cave-in early this month. 

Officials say the Australian-made drilling machine, known as a Strata 950, will excavate at a rate of about six meters per day.  The drill will first create a narrow pilot hole, then a larger drill bit will be used to make the hole wide enough for a rescue capsule that will pull the miners to the surface.

The drilling process, which began Monday, will send up to 4,000 tons of rock and debris into the mine shaft.  Officials say the miners will have to help in their rescue by clearing the rock as it falls.  The work is taking place as relatives of the men camp out at the entrance to the mine.

Chile's mining minister, Laurence Golborne, has cautioned that the rescue could take up to four months, despite estimates by some engineers that the evacuations could occur in about half that time.

Chile has also asked the U.S. space agency for help.  A top NASA official says the agency will assist Chile with ways to keep the men healthy while they are confined.

The men became trapped when part of the mine collapsed Aug. 5.  Rescuers first made contact with them more than one week ago.  Officials say some of the men have begun showing signs of depression and that some have developed fungal infections and body sores from the hot conditions underground.

The mine has a history of accidents and was shut down in recent years for safety reasons before being reopened.






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