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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 176              E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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September is Patriotic Month in Costa Rica. Sept. 14 and 15 are days when the country marks its 189 years of independence. The
highways, public buildings and many private establishments are decked out in the national colors.  And now A.M. Costa Rica is, too!

Sala IV ruling on roadblocks riles security officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry went on the offensive Monday and questioned the reasoning by which the Sala IV constitutional court forbade the routine use of police checkpoints and roadblocks.

The security minister said that such checkpoints where motorists are stopped and some vehicles are searched were fundamental to preventative police practices.

The minister, José María Tijerino, said that he and his legal advisers were waiting to see the full text of the Sala IV decision that was announced Friday. A.M. Costa Rica published a news story Monday.

There is no doubt that the checkpoints have been effective. A check of police reports showed that, for example, Aug. 15 the Fuerza Pública in 24 hours detained 64 persons who were linked to presumed crimes.

The ministry released statistics Monday showing that 16,884 vehicles were checked since June 30 through Saturday. Officers confiscated 63 vehicles and 51 firearms in that time, the statistics said. 

They made 894 arrests, the data showed. Also confiscated were 21.5 kilos of cocaine.

A parallel report listed successes at fixed control points that said 52 kilos of cocaine were confiscated Aug. 17 in Los Chiles and 10 kilos were confiscated July 27 in Río Claro, Golfito.

Tijerino said that he has instructed his officers to respect the Sala IV decision. Officials are expected to eventually file a request for clarification. The decision developed from a complaint by a motorist who was stopped in San Antonio de Escazú. The man was not accused of doing anything wrong, but he objected to the stop and filed a Sala IV appeal.

The constitutional court decision is exactly what governs police in the United States. They need a reason to stop and question someone. U.S. police have become very creative in noticing that a vehicle has a burned out bulb or that an individual is acting in a suspicious manner.

The court here said that police roadblocks may only be used when there is a suspicion or evidence that a crime has been committed. A tenet of Costa Rican law is that police generally do not act until there is a formal complaint. That may not be true
of Fuerza Pública officers. They are not supposed to be investigators but simply prevent crime.

Tijerino cited two sections of the Costa Rican Constitution that empowers the executive branch to maintain the peace and order of the nation and take steps necessary to safeguard the public liberties and security. The sections are pretty general.

The Sala IV had cited article 37 of the Costa Rican Constitution as grounds for its decision: "No one may be detained without substantiated evidence of having committed an offense or without a written order issued by the judge or the authority in charge of maintaining public order, unless the person concerned is a fugitive from justice or is caught in the act; but in all cases, he shall be placed at the disposition of a competent judge within a peremptory period of twenty-four hours."

Said Tijerino:

"With this thesis not even a traffic officer would be able to stop me nor demand that I pass through the airport controls nor make me open the trunk of my car when entering Peñas Blancas or Paso Canoas or whatever other frontier point, or the tax police cannot stop me to see if I carry contraband."

He also said that most Costa Ricans think that the court made an error. This was supported later in the day by a television station that conducted a call-in poll that showed those who responded overwhelmingly supported the use of police checkpoints.

There is a lot that is unknown about the Sala IV decision. The Poder Judicial only released a short summary Friday. The full decision likely will address in detail the police practices and where they might encroach on the Constitution, if normal procedure is followed. Officials are believed to have a slightly more detailed version.

The Sala IV specifically directed its decision at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. That ministry houses the immigration police, the Fuerza Pública and the anti-drug police. Still unknown is if the order extends to traffic police who conduct many checkpoints seeking drunk drivers and other motor vehicle violators. The Judicial Investigating Organization was not named in the order either, although logic would dictate that both the traffic police and the investigative organization also would face similar constitutional problems in running checkpoints.

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Interpol begins sweep
of Western Hemisphere

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The International Police Agency is embarking on a multi-international effort to locate and arrest criminal suspects believed to be in hiding in the United States and throughout Western Hemisphere countries.

Timothy A. Williams, the agency's Washington, D.C., director, announced the campaign Thursday. The agency is generally known by the acronym Interpol.

The initiative is called Operation Far Away. It is described as an intelligence-driven operation designed to target, locate and arrest criminal aliens believed to be in hiding in the United States and in other Western Hemisphere countries. The agency said it is partnering with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations for this initiative.

The operation is scheduled throughout September and includes more than a dozen participating Interpol member countries including: Canada, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Netherland, Antilles, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the United States.

The Alien and Fugitive Division, Interpol Washington, is the hub for the operation. One of the Division’s primary roles is to analyze and disseminate information related to the coordination of locating, arresting and removing fugitives, as well as providing immigration liaison services to the other 187 member countries, the agency said.

“No nation should be a safe haven for criminals who are wanted abroad,” said Jim Chaparro, executive associate director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations. “Operation Far Away enhances public safety in the U.S. and all of our partner nations . . . "

Tide will be highest
for the year Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the sea would be at its highest of the year Saturday on the Pacific coast. The seas will be even higher than the levels of Aug.14 that led to local flooding along the coast, the forecast said.

The institute warned of local flooding and erosion with seas above 3.29 meters or about 10 feet. It said that the highest tide would be at 4:24 a.m. Saturday.

Costa Rican sportsbook
cited as Arizona wire room

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has figured again as a wire room for an Internet gambling ring based in Phoenix, Arizona.

A federal grand jury there indicted nine Arizona men on a number of gambling charges.

The defendants used Internet-based offshore sports books located in Costa Rica for making and tracking bets on sporting events, said the U.S. Attorney's office, adding:

The defendants provided their bettors with a toll-free telephone number and a Web site. In order to place a wager on a sporting event, the bettor would call the number or access the Web site, then provide their account number and password. The defendants used a separate toll-free telephone number, or the Web site, to track their bettors’ activities and account balances. The Costa Rican sports books did not have an interest in the outcome of the wagers, but charged the illegal sports gambling operation a fee for managing each bettor’s account. The defendants paid out or collected cash in person from each bettor whenever that bettor’s threshold amount was reached. Sometimes instead of cash the defendants would accept checks or valuables. At other times the defendants would direct bettors to deposit money into specified bank accounts to pay gambling debts.

The indictment charges Daniel Meisel, 64, formerly of Paradise Valley; Christopher R. Finn, 37, of Scottsdale; Diane Beck, 52, of Scottsdale; Fred Guaragna, 58, of Scottsdale; Brad Smothermon, 49, of Cave Creek; Richard DiCapua, 68, of Scottsdale; Oscar Barden, aka Paul Barden, 36, of Scottsdale; James Baker, 41, of Peoria; and Blaine Moore, 38, of Phoenix, with conspiracy to engage in an illegal gambling business and the transmission of wagering information, engaging in an illegal gambling business, and transmission of wagering information. Meisel was also charged with transactional money laundering.

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify the sportsbook.

Our reader's opinion
Immigration view hypocritical

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Unbelievable!  To all right-minded, sensible folk this Chinchilla-sponsored friend-of-the-court brief (which failed in the U.S. courts recently) is the height of hypocrisy. Both Mexico and Chile have draconian laws for illegal immigrants when compared to the US, and, of course, Costa Rica itself also does not exactly have an open-arms approach to anyone living in this country illegally! 
Lance Wingfield
San Isidro de Grecia

Obama announced plans
to rebuild transport links

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama has unveiled a plan to boost a lackluster U.S. economy by improving and expanding America's aging transportation infrastructure.  An energetic and combative-sounding Obama spoke Monday at Labor Day holiday observances in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Like many Midwestern states that once formed the heart of America's manufacturing region, Wisconsin was hit hard by the economic recession and continues to suffer double-digit unemployment.

At an event that had the feel of a campaign rally, Obama told U.S. labor leaders and union members that tough economic times continue despite his administration's efforts at job creation.

"Eight million Americans lost their jobs in this recession," said Obama. "And while we've had eight straight months of private sector job growth, the new jobs haven't been coming fast enough.  Now, the plain truth is, there's no silver bullet or quick fix to the problem."

But Obama said there are ways to help.  The president noted that his administration already has championed financial and health care reform, and that it has worked to make higher education more affordable and to lower taxes for all but the wealthiest Americans.  The goal, he said, is to bolster an embattled and overburdened U.S. middle class.

Obama noted that the massive economic stimulus program enacted at the start of his administration has funded thousands of public works projects around the country.  Now, he said, is the time to launch an even more ambitious plan.

"Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles [240,000 kilometers] of our roads — enough to circle the world six times," said Obama. "We're going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles [6,400 kilometers] of our railways — enough to stretch coast-to-coast.  We're going to restore 150 miles [240 kilometers] of runways and advance a next generation air traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers."

Administration officials say the plan will require an initial outlay of $50 billion.  The president pledged that the cost will not add to the nation's already-staggering federal budget deficit, but he did not specify program cuts or tax increases to pay for it.

Even if Congress moved quickly to pass the plan, administration officials concede that new jobs would not be created until next year — well after this year's congressional elections.  Analysts say that weak economic growth and stubbornly-high unemployment rates are fueling growing expectations that the president's Democratic Party could suffer massive losses in November's midterm vote.

Republicans have branded Obama's economic stewardship a fiasco. They criticized the president's infrastructure initiative hours before he formally announced it. House Republican leader John Boehner said the plan provides more government stimulus spending that has already proven to be a failure, and that less government intrusion in the economy is needed, not more.

But a smiling and self-confident-sounding Obama said it is Republicans who want to resurrect policies that led to the financial crisis and the deepest recession of the post-World War II era.

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.

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.

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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 176

election parties
This document came from the Tribunal Supremo de Eleciones. Click HERE for larger view

December election will feature a number of local parties
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Costa Ricans vote for municipal offices in Dec. 5, they will have many colorful choices. The graphic above shows the emblem of each party in the election and the place in which it will be on the ballot.

Since many of the parties are restricted to one canton, not all the parties will be represented on each ballot.

There are 47 total parties.

There are parties such as Transparencia Cartaginés, Yunta Progresista Escazuceña and Acción Quepeña, which will
only be on the ballot in their towns: Cartago, Escazú and Quepos. Of course, the national political parties will have their slates, too.

The ballot positions were determined Monday with drawings from a roulette-style metal basket. Acción Goicoechea won first place. The Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusión, a national party, was second, so its slate will appear in first place on every ballot except the one in  Goicoechea where it will be in second position.

Local parties have had success in local elections because they seem to be able to address local concerns. Elections in December are for mayor and regidores or council members.

Evil stalks the stage at Teatro Nacional Sept. 22 and 23
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Take an interracial marriage, add in doses of greed, pride and envy, and the result is a made for television novella. Or maybe a 16th century drama.

William  Shakespeare knew human nature, and not much has changed over the years. That will be demonstrated Sept. 22 and 23 at the Teatro Nacional when "Othello" is presented by the TNT Theater Britain. The play is subtitled "the Moor of Venice." 
Othello is the successful leader of the military in Venice, and he also is black. 

Desdomona is the doomed heroine who marries Othello.

Iago, perhaps the most sinister character in English drama, manipulates the relationships with the perceptive psychology of a modern politician. The end is tragic, but the experience is instructive.

The drama will be in English. Both shows are at 8 p.m

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 176

Carbon labels seen as challenge to developing countries

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Measuring the amount of greenhouse gas emissions through the carbon footprint would have a strong impact on production and consumption patterns all over the world, particularly in developing countries.

That was the view of  Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. She expressed her opinion during the inauguration of an international seminar at commission headquarters in Santiago, Chile

The two-day seminar The Vulnerability of International Trade in Light of the Carbon Footprint was organized by the commission with the support of the Government of France and the European Union.

During the event, experts from Latin America, the United States, Europe and Oceania exchanged views on the use of the carbon footprint in trade, the perspective of the region on this issue and its possible impacts and opportunities.

The carbon footprint is an indicator of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated during the production and consumption of goods and services and it has increasingly become a factor of competitiveness of internationally traded products.

Some developed countries have announced unilateral initiatives to distinguish the trade of goods and services according to how much they contaminate, such as the carbon label. This label, to come into effect in France in January, indicates the carbon dioxide emissions created during manufacturing, transportation or disposal.

The European Union will demand carbon labeling in 2012, with an even greater scope than the French law. European airlines are in the process of reporting their emissions and will be obligated by law to do so in 2012. The U. S.
Congress is still debating the Clean Energy and Security
Act 2009, which will also limit the trade of goods and services based on the carbon footprint.

The implementation of these unilateral measures, although they aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could have repercussions on the economies and trade of developing countries.

In opening the seminar, Ms. Bárcena said that climate change is an irrefutable fact and the world is at a historic juncture in international negotiations to try to control contaminating emissions.

"In this context, the carbon footprint poses a much deeper dilemma, because it could mean leveling the playing field among players with very different capabilities," she said.

José Luis Samaniego, director of the commission's Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, offered a presentation on the current state of emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean and the challenges posed by the adoption of carbon footprint measurements.

"Today the carbon footprint applies to final products. However, domestic competition could lead to its gradual expansion to cover intermediate products and prime materials as well, which would be a greater menace for Latin America and the Caribbean," he warned.

"In addition to the impact of the carbon footprint, there are other footprints, such as water, which is also becoming increasingly important and should be taken into account," added Samaniego. "That is why more policy initiatives from the region are essential."

"Countries in the region should include the carbon footprint in their innovation agenda not only to strengthen their competitiveness, but also in anticipation of eventual protectionist-tending policies discussed in industrialized countries," said Osvaldo Rosales, director of the commission's International Trade and Integration Division.

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Brazil-Chinese trade faces
fundamental changes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Unlike many other nations that saw their economies shrink during the global recession, Brazil emerged relatively unscathed.  And according to government figures there, Brazil will see a 7 percent increase this year.  Some analysts say this growth has been fueled by increased exports to China, now Brazil's largest trading partner.  But other observers say the current exports will not empower Brazil in the long run. 

Brazil made it through the global economic crisis relatively unaffected for two reasons, says Sergio Amaral, a long-time official in Brazil's foreign ministry. He says one is because of government loans that kept domestic production levels up.

"And the second point is that I think China played an important role because China is now our first trading partner, and China has been expanding its imports from Brazil," Amaral said.

In 2009, China replaced the United States as Brazil's top trading partner.

But Amaral, who is also the president of the China Brazil Business Council, says China took the top spot due to the damage caused by the global recession on the U.S. economy.

"The exports to the US declined not because of China, but because of decline in demand from the US," Amaral explained. "I think as soon as the US economy recovers we'll increase our exports to the U.S. too, because these are different types of products that we sell to the United States and China."

Amaral explains that markets in North America and Europe import more expensive, industrialized goods, including steel and airplane parts.  Whereas trade with China revolves mainly around the export of raw materials, like iron ore and agricultural products such as soybeans.   

But some analysts say while Brazil's reliance on exporting these primary commodities to China has given a boost to the economy in recent years, it will not sustain growth in the long run.

Gilmar Masiero lectures in economics at the University of Sao Paulo. He says exporting soybeans and iron ore does not create enough jobs to really impact Brazil's economy. Masiero says if trade with China is to provide Brazil with continued economic growth and create jobs for Brazilians, then it must broaden beyond commodities.

"If we build more technological partnerships with countries who are more or less in the same level of development that we are then we can grow together and we can be competitive in specific sectors that must be new emerging technological sectors and not put our efforts in old industries," Masiero said.

Sergio Amaral at the China Brazil Business Council agrees the type of exports must change.  But he says he sees a change in Sino-Brazilian relations taking place already.

"I think there is an evolution, recently, I think this year, the outstanding point is not trade, its investment," Amaral said.  "Chinese companies are expected to invest $10 billion in Brazil this year and this year China will be the largest investor in Brazil."

Amaral says Chinese companies will invest in telecommunications and infrastructure projects.  And that includes a bid to construct a high-speed train line between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro ahead of Brazil's hosting of the 2014 World Cup.
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Texas and México struggle
with tropical storm

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tropical Storm Hermine has come aground around Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, where the border meets the Gulf of Mexico.  People on both sides of the border are prepared for a possible meter-high surge of water, heavy winds and torrential rain. 

For the second time in three months, people in the Brownsville-Matamoros region face a major storm, and the mudslides and flooding it could bring.  On June 30, the region was slammed by Hurricane Alex, which was the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2010 season.

Officials in Mexico are especially concerned about the impact Hermine could have on residents in low-lying areas or in areas near hillsides that could collapse if soaked by heavy rain.

Tropical weather systems in both the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico have left hillsides throughout Guatemala and southern Mexico saturated with water.

This already is a bad year for flooding in Mexico.  Thousands of people have been forced from their homes in central and southern states like Tabasco and Veracruz.  Flooding has also caused displacements in Guerrero state on the country's west coast.

Meanwhile, forecasters are keeping a wary eye on the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston, which dissipated within a day after forming on Sept. 1 in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.  Now experts say the storm could strengthen as it enters the warm waters of the western Atlantic and that it could threaten the Caribbean region.  Gaston is one of four named storm systems that have developed in the Atlantic Ocean within the past two weeks. 

Death toll in Guatemala
now reported to be 45

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Guatemala say mudslides triggered by a series of torrential rains have killed at least 45 people and caused half a billion dollars in damage.

The death toll climbed Monday as Guatemalans held a national day of mourning to remember the dead, and President Alvaro Colom declared the situation a "national tragedy."

Officials fear the death toll could go higher as rescuers search for additional victims.  At least 15 people are believed to be missing.

Heavy flooding in the Mexican Gulf Coast state of Tabasco also forced thousands of people from their homes.  Authorities in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz reported serious flooding as well.

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