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(506) 2223-1327          Published Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 178               E-mail us
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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!

Panamá minister vows to back Colombia in its war
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Colombian war with leftist drug traffickers came a little closer this week as Panama's security minster promised that his country will fight the rebels "with all severity."

The Panamá News reported Wednesday on the agreement between José Raúl Mulino of Panamá and his Colombian counterpart, Rodrigo Rivera. The newspaper said that the Martinelli administration was taking the country into Colombia's war. It also said that President Ricardo Martinelli does not have the right to declare war. That right is reserved for the legislature.

The newspaper said that the statement by Mulino followed a series of warlike moves by the government. Two members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia died in an ambush set up by Panamá frontier service.

The two men were traveling on a river in the Darian, that stretch of dense forest between populated areas of Panamá and Colombia. The rebel group is known as FARC.

Two Panamanian police officers were wounded by a land mine on a beach that Panamá officials blamed on the guerillas.
The action by Mulino drew criticism from all sides of the Panamá political spectrum, including from some who noted that the country does not have an army, said the newspaper.

Although Panamá has supported right-wing rebels in the past and provided support, according to past news reports, the concept of full-scale military confrontations along the country's eastern border is new. However, Martinelli is decidedly right-wing.

The Martinelli administration has been embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that his presidential campaign received $800,000 from a man closely linked to the Valle del Norte drug cartel and right-wing paramilitary forces in Colombia.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla just sent Fernando Berrocal to Panamá as this country's ambassador.  Berrocal, a former security minister, has said that the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias penetrated Costa Rican politics.

However, a recent expression of goodwill between President Hugo Chávez and the new Colombia president, Juan Manuel Santos, has lessened for a time concerns about a war between those two countries and the negative implications of that development for Central America.

Interviews begun for nation's chief prosecutor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has a highly structured system to select a new chief prosecutor for the nation.

The nominating committee of the Corte Suprema de Justicia has begun the work of interviewing the candidates, who are self-selected. Each candidate had to nominate him or herself for the position.

The nominating commission is headed by Zarela Villanueva, vice president of the court. Other members are Rolando Vega, Carlos Chinchilla, Ernesto Jinesta and Luis Guillermo Rivas, all supreme court magistrates.

Tuesday the committee interviewed four candidates, including two who are known to some expats. The candidates are Ewald Acuña, Jeannette Arias, Jorge Chavarría and Fernando Cubero.

Acuña represents expats who were investors in the Villalobos brothers high interest operation and also
 the defunct Savings Unlimited case. Ms. Arias was a victim's advocate when the high interest schemes went bust in 2002 and counseled many expats. Four more candidates were to be interviewed Wednesday. Other interviews are scheduled for Friday and for next week. Four of the 20 candidates are women.

Eventually it will be the entire supreme court that will pick a new fiscal general for the next four years. The individual will replace Francisco Dall'Anese, who took a job leading a United Nations anti-crime commission in Guatemala.

The Poder Judicial did not disclose the degree that magistrates would be looking into the personal and economic lives of candidates. Nor have they formally sought public input on the choice.

The job as fiscal general or chief prosecutor is key to the criminal justice system because the person holding that job has a lot of influence on how the entire Ministerio Público operates.

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March for life

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La Uruca march planned
to vent feelings on crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of the La Uruca section of San José are so fed up with crime that they are planning a march.

They plan to announce the date and time Friday.

In the meantime, they said Wednesday that they have been motivated by the murders, rapes, set fires and robberies in the area. The march is promoted by the Junta de Salud at Hospital México and the Asociación de Seguridad Uruca Oeste.

Of particular concern is the pedestrian bridge over the Autopista General Cañas that many persons take to get to the public hospital. Criminals have been working unhindered on the bridge.

The organizations expressed their frustration with public authorities, including the security ministry, the transport ministry, prosecutors and the municipality.

In addition to the pedestrian bridge, the organization said it is concerned with citizen security on the Juan Pablo II bridge and traffic circle, nearby Barrio Santísima Trinidad and the popular Parque Nacional de Diversiones. The organization also expressed concern over the deterioration of infrastructure, pollution and other problems.

Also Wednesday President Laura Chinchilla met with representatives of nine cantons who explored ways to insure personal security. The representatives are on a two-day conference sponsored by the government and the United Nations. The cantons involved are Aguirre, Desamparados, Heredia, Limón, Los Chiles, Montes de Oca, Moravia, San José and Santa Cruz.

A summary released by Casa Presidencial said that the individuals discussed anti-crime strategies mainly in abstract terms. Ms. Chinchilla praised the participants attitude and determination.

She ran on a citizen security platform but has yet to propose anything more than taxing casinos and sportsbooks to support undefined security measures. She asked the United Nations Development Programme to survey the country to get ideas from citizens. That report has yet to be made.

President Chinchilla gets
nod from Time Magazine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. news magazine Time has listed Laura Chinchilla as one of 10 female world leaders.

"In honor of female politicians kicking through glass ceilings, Time takes a look at 10 women who have made it to the top," the magazine said on its Web site. The magazine also asked the question can Ms. Chinchilla revitalize Costa Rica.

The magazine said that the listing of 10 women world leaders was prompted by Julia Gillard becoming the first woman elected prime minister of Australia Saturday.

Also listed were Johanna Sigurdardottir, prime minister of Iceland; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina; Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; Sheik Hasina Wajed, prime minister of Bangladesh; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; Tarja Halonen, president of Finland; and Kamla Persad-Bissessar, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Time accompanied a brief biography of Ms. Chinchilla with a more detailed article written before she took office May 8. That article listed some of the enduring problems of Costa Rica. "Being the first Tica President is definitely important — but taking Costa Rica back to the future will matter even more," it said.

In case any of the world leaders gets a swelled head from the Time listing, the magazine in the same Web site lists the top 10 famous toilets.

Humanitarian mission
treats 5,769 individuals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The humanitarian mission by U.S. military and private organizations treated 5,769 persons aboard the USS Iwo Jima during its 10 days in Limón, said the U.S. Southern Command.

There were  2,537 dental procedures and optometry services were provided to 3,750 persons, the command said. In addition there were 3,210 veterinarian services provided in the Limón region. 1,268 pairs of glasses were distributed along with 472 pairs of sunglasses, the command added. Some 54 surgeries were performed.

A Navy construction unit built a playground, upgraded a bathroom and renovated two school sites in Westafalia and Hone Creek, the command said.

Non-government organizations also were involved. They distributed $290,000 in goods: 35 pallets of wheelchairs; a pallet of water filters; six pallets of medical consumables; $232,750 in Project Handclasp donations; 12 pallets of goods from the Latter Day Saints and three pallets of disinfectant.
In addition, the effort known as Continuing Promise had a float in the Dia de Negro parade in Limón, according to the command.

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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, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 178

Rising crime is making personal liberty one of its victims
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is experiencing a reassessment of human rights in much the same way that the United States did after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

Rising crime and the apparent inability of the central government to do anything about it has the citizenry searching for possible solutions. So most were stunned Friday with the Sala IV constitutional court decreed that indiscriminate stops by police were not constitutional. The court said some sort of reason is required.

Quickly Laura Chinchilla and her cabinet constructed ways around the Sala IV decision and sought a court clarification. Police checkpoints were eliminated for less than a day. Now officers are back in business stopped and searching vehicles and passengers on the Interamericana, in the province of Limón and in the center of San José.

An analysis of the news

The supportive sentiment of the public, expressed in a number of informal polls, and the actions of politicians raise the age-old question:

To what extent are people prepared to give up their liberties when confronted with a physical threat.

As history shows, the United States was quick to diminish liberties. Interrogation torture, no-fly lists, telephone eavesdropping and stricter passport regulations are just some of the measures instituted and accepted by the public. Many of those on the no-fly list are individuals who have objected to the loss of liberties and criticized the Patriot Act.

Costa Rica supports a more paternalistic government, so it is not unexpected that the public might have more trust in officialdom. The practice of indiscriminate police stops endured for years and even survived two previous Sala IV appeals.

The country is in the middle of the hemispheric drug war. Much of the rising violence is due to conflicts among drug gangs, and these disputes frequently spill over into the public domain. A struggling economy generates street crime and other violations.

The question is how far would the citizenry go to catch criminals and where to draw the line.  Some possible actions include:

• warrantless searches of the home and business.

• an order to carry an identity card at all times

• detention without a judicial order

• excessive pre-trial detention without a judicial appearance.

• creation of computerized systems to maintain electronic files on citizens.

• access to banking information by tax and judicial authorities without a warrant.

It turns out that these actions already exist in Costa Rica, 
Traffic stop

although they seldom are characterized as loss of rights.

• The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social can conduct searches of business records and demand records without any judicial order or evidence of wrongdoing. Caja inspectors also can access records in other branches of government. Fuerza Pública officers and immigration agents often enter places of public accommodation and grill those there.

• All Costa Ricans and legal foreigners are required to carry identity documents at all times

• Spouses who are accused of domestic violence can be ordered from the home and sometimes detained simply on the word of another spouse. The first judicial appearance is frequently months away.

• The Poder Judicial is putting together a platform of police information that will have detailed records. The extent of these records are not known, but investigators seem to really want this system. If local credit agency information is any guide, agents will know nearly everything about anyone. The individual cédula numbers each resident has makes checking easy.

• The government is caving in to requests from foreign entities to make local bank information open to investigating and taxing agencies without any kind of warrant or showing of wrongdoing.

There are similar efforts in the United States to accomplish many of the same fundamental changes. An identity card is one possibility, although a driver's license or Social Security card are used for that purpose now.

Costa Ricans could argue that the length of pretrial detention constitutes a violation of rights. Some individuals are held for more than a year under the guise of investigation. In fact, prosecutors have just not gotten around to their file.

The ineffectiveness of the Costa Rican judiciary also appears to be a violation of rights. At least this might be the opinion of Ticos and foreigners alike who have lost valuable properties to squatters and other land invaders.

Those who favor a more aggressive approach by police can point to the effectiveness of police checkpoints. A man with a pistol came into police hands in La Uruca Wednesday at a police checkpoint. A little while later, police encountered a motorist in possession of crack cocaine.

U.S. investigators said that waterboarding also is an effective approach.

Children have their day today . . . and several days more
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children are lucky this year. Because el Día del Niño is today, a Thursday, celebrations are spread out into the weekend.

Police, firemen and the Cruz Roja will be in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, Heredia, at 8 a.m. There will be games, clowns, music and lunch. There also is a contest for which prizes will be awarded.

In the Polideportivo de Hatillo, President Laura Chinchilla will be host to some 600 youngsters from the Hatilo 2 schools. The K-9 police dogs will demonstrate and both the
Fuerza Pública and the Policía Municipal will be present.
The principal theme is to eliminate violence of all forms that youngsters may confront.

Official programs seem to be directed at lower-income areas where the crime rate is higher. Other youngsters will be enjoying the day in private locations Friday and Saturday. For example, the Costa Rica Tennis Club has invited children of members to the La Sabana facilities for a blessing of pets Saturday at 9 a.m. There also will be games, sports and other activities. Other private clubs also have similar plans.

Note to the uninitiated: Children expect a present today!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 178

Inequality seen as a major obstacle to development

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

High-ranking officials of international and multilateral organizations agreed that inequality is one of the main obstacles for Latin America and the Caribbean to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015 during a round table held Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The Organization of American States event discussed the document "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals with equality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress and challenges." The text examines the current state of progress in the region towards the fulfillment of the development goals. The report was prepared within the framework of the United Nations Regional Coordination Mechanism by 18 U.N. agencies.

The document, presented last July in New York, states that Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved significant progress towards fulfillment of the development targets and that an important part of those advances in the region as a whole — particularly in terms of extreme poverty reduction — was attained during the six years prior to the global crisis (2003-2008). During that time, Latin America and the Caribbean enjoyed relatively high growth rates and several countries improved income distribution, raised per capita social public expenditures and applied macroeconomic policies that prevented a harsher impact of the crisis.

In his welcoming words, José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, highlighted the enormous value of the interagency report on the goals "which is a clear example of what can be achieved through joint United Nations work in the region." Insulza called for "uniting positions to channel our resources, in this particular case, public policies, in the most effective way possible in order to meet the goals and ensure that the most vulnerable participate in the benefits of democracy."
Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, also presented a report. She stressed that the region has advanced greatly in reducing extreme poverty and poverty in general, which is very important, "because poverty reduction is the mother of all of the targets." She underscored the advances made in Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia.

"With adequate efforts, the region can come closer to meeting the goals, especially through public policies aimed at the most vulnerable population, because poverty has the face of children, women, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants," she said.

Ms. Bárcena added that employment is the key to overcoming poverty and attaining equality, as the commission states in its document "Time for Equality: Closing Gaps, Opening Trails." The commission supports the value of equality as the basic foundation to achieve the economic and social progress of countries in our region."

Arturo Valenzuela stressed the need to address the institutional deficits in the region, "because for adequate economic and social policies to work, they need strong institutions, a State with capacity for governance, management and efficiency, a rule of law and transparency in the game rules," he said. He is U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Juan Manuel Sotelo underscored the need to promote greater public financing for health in order to strengthen social protection in this area, as well as to strengthen social institutions so as to attain the MDGs with equality. He is director of external relations of the Pan American Health Organization.

"Without advances in health-related goals, there will be no progress in the rest of the objectives," he said.

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Obama proposes tax cuts
but not for overseas work

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama is proposing new tax breaks in hopes of boosting the slumping U.S. economy.  The president is campaigning for his economic plan, as experts predict big losses for his Democratic Party in November's congressional elections.

Obama said he wants to restrict tax cuts for companies that do the work inside the United States.

President Obama Wednesday took the case for his economic reform ideas to the recession-battered central U.S. city of Cleveland, Ohio. 

The president wants $180 billion in new tax cuts for businesses and spending on infrastructure projects.  He says much of that would spur American companies to hire more workers.

"Instead of tax loopholes that incentivize investment in overseas jobs, I am proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America," said President Obama.

The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, and Ohio's jobless rate is above 10 percent.

Obama also said he opposes extending former President George W. Bush's tax cuts for high-income Americans beyond this year.  Instead, he wants to cut taxes for lower- and middle-income taxpayers.

He lashed out at the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, who blasted Obama's economic policies during a speech in Cleveland two weeks ago.

"There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner," said Obama. "There were no new ideas.  There was just the same philosophy that we had already tried during the decade that they were in power-the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place:  cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations."

In an interview on ABC television earlier Wednesday, Boehner said ending the upper-income tax cuts would hurt the economy.

"We cannot deal with the deficit until we are willing to get our arms around spending and have a strong economy," said Boehner. "And you cannot have a strong economy if you are raising taxes on the very people that you expect to invest in our economy to begin hiring people again."

Boehner has led the minority Republicans' efforts to stop the president's economic agenda, and Obama again accused Republicans of obstruction.

"They are making the same calculation they made just before my inauguration:  If I fail, they win," said President Obama. "Well, they might think that this will get them to where they want to go in November.  But it will not get our country where it needs to go in the long run." 

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 57 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the economy.  Other polls show that a growing percentage of voters plan to support Republican candidates for Congress in the November elections. 
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Strikes create chaos
in European countries

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Strikes taking place across France and London have closed down major transport routes and turned transport links into chaos. London's Tube workers went on a 24-hour strike starting Monday evening that left commuters struggling to make it to work Tuesday morning.

Buses were diverted from central London because streets were at a standstill. Many people were on foot.  This London worker didn't arrive at work until 2 in the afternoon.

London wasn't the only European city to be hit by workers' strikes on Tuesday. In Paris and across France unions mounted major strikes in protest against planned pension reforms. Train and air travel, as well as schools and hospitals were disrupted by the strikes.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he'll raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, a plan that has met with virulent protest from many French workers. Union leaders said they hoped up to two million people would take to the streets.

Across Europe, 65 is a common retirement age. Germany and Britain have plans to raise that threshold to 67 or beyond.

Castro tells Ahmadinejad
to recognize Holocaust

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In an interview with a U.S. magazine, former Cuban Leader Fidel Castro has called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to, in his words, "stop slandering the Jews."

A report for The Atlantic that was posted online Tuesday says Castro criticized President Ahmadinejad for denying that the Holocaust occurred. He said the interests of peace would be better served if the Iranian president acknowledged the unique history and theology of anti-Semitism.

The former Cuban leader said Ahmadinejad should try to understand why the Israelis fear for their existence. Castro said no group has been more slandered and blamed for things throughout history than the Jews.

Castro made the comments after being asked about recent speeches in which he warned that tensions between the United States, its ally Israel and Iran are leading to a nuclear confrontation. The former Cuban president, who recently turned 84, has been seen publicly several times in the past month, after years of seclusion following intestinal surgery and ceding power to his brother, Raul, in 2006.

In The Atlantic interview, Mr. Castro was asked about his fears concerning a U.S.–Israel–Iran nuclear confrontation and his own experiences during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. At that time, Castro had recommended the Soviet Union launch a nuclear attack against the United States if the U.S. ever attacked Cuba.

The former Cuban leader told the interviewer that after what he has seen and what he knows now, he regrets those comments.

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