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(506) 223-1327               Published Monday, Sept. 10, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 179            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Both sides of treaty vote could use a little Daisy help
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-trade treaty legislators are wringing their hands over suggestions by Kevin Casas, the second vice president, to use fear appeals to sway the vote in the Oct. 7 referendum.

The anti-treaty forces are no foreigners to fear appeals, They have used such propaganda to claim Raytheon was going to build missiles in the Nicoya Peninsula and that big U.S. yellow cab companies were going to move in to force Tico taxistas out of business.

Still a look at the tone of the current advertising for and against the free trade treaty shows it continues to be mostly Costa Rican without the bite of advertising elsewhere.

An election critique

It seems that the Costa Rican virtue of moderation extends to advertising. During the presidential campaign, handlers of Ottón Solís had a dynamite television ad of a boxer wearing a Sollís mask pounding a man wearing an Óscar Arias Sánchez mask into the ropes. The question was "Are you sure Arias is going to win?"

The Sollís campaign pulled the ad after a few airings. The suggestion was that the ad was too graphic for a Costa Rican campaign. He lost by a slim margin.

Arias hired a television producer as a media spokesperson, and from Casa Presidencial comes weekly shows that air after the Sunday night news. They are reminiscent of the old Soviet tractor documentaries that even bored the Politburo: Arias gives deed to a house. Aris talks to some convention. Woman who got house hugs Arias. Arias hugs kid.

The free trade treaty referendum is but 27 days away. And neither side has tapped gut issues. Sunday the forces in favor of the treaty drove around town in a motorcade waving white flags and balloons. A group opposed to the treaty met in Heredia and heard, among others, Eugenio Trejos, the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica rector who has been given a vacation to campaign against the measure.

The Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones will publish a summary of the treaty in Spanish-language newspapers today on the assumption that the public will read it. Meanwhile, the tribunal is holding seminars on the treaty, as are groups for and against the measure.
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Frame from original Daisy commercial

In all, the approach has been cerebral to an issue that is highly emotional.

And the Tribunal is spending money and time trying to find editorial bias in news stories and demanding that operators of Spanish-language Web sites disclose their financing.

The promotions minds behind each side of the campaign could use some help from a 43-year-old little girl. She is Daisy, widely regarded as the most effective fear and attack ad in the history of politics.

That was the little girl who plucked petals from a daisy only to have her counting submerged beneath a missile countdown and the subsequent footage of a nuclear detonation.

Daisy is back in the news because the Web site has just released a detailed history of the advertisement and the Democratic and advertising industry brains behind it. The target of the ad, of course, was Barry M. Goldwater, the 1964 Republican U.S. presidential candidate. The implication was that Goldwater, an Arizona senator, was a loose cannon likely to launch nuclear weapons.

CONELRAD, the Web site, says it is devoted to atomic culture, past and present. It is named after the first U.S. emergency broadcasting system.
The Daisy spot was aired only once, Sept. 7, 1964, during a network movie. The day was Labor Day 1964. The advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach created the spot. The ad has been aired thousands of times in documentaries and advertising films since.

Johnson won the November election in a landslide, in part because of voter concern about Goldwater's fitness to be president.

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Oreamuno protesters win
their case against municipality

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of the housing project Vista Hermosa in Oreamuno, Cartago, have won their case before the Sala IV constitutional court.

The residents gathered to protest last week at the building of the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

Friday the Poder Judicial said that the constitutional court had ordered Oreamuno officials to connect the houses that are without water to the municipal supply and to provide the proper documentation so that families who are not now in the homes that have been assigned to them can enter.

The municipality had declared a state of emergency over the housing project and withheld what amounts to occupancy permits. The court specifically directed the ruling to Gladis Coto Carpio, president of the consejo municipal and Marco Vinicio Redondo Quirós, the mayor.

The court noted that the persons seeking the housing were very poor. It also awarded the citizens court costs from the municipality.

Autopista becomes scene
of multiple tragedies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Autopista Próspero Fernández was involved in three deaths Sunday.

A taxi driver, identified as Guillermo Roja, died when someone in an adjacent car shot him multiple times in the head and neck. A female passenger in the taxi was not injured.

That was at 2:30 a.m. in Escazú.  When the sun came up a passer-by noticed the body of a man in a culvert alongside the road.  Police do not know yet if the crimes are connected.

A man died the victim of a hit-and-run driver Sunday on the same highway near the autopista turnoff to Guachapelín.

Meanwhile in Sardinal in the Nicoya Peninsula, Fuerza Pública officers are taking credit for taking a murder suspect out of the hands of an angry mob.

The Fuerza Pública said that Víctor Manuel Arias Picado, 52, got in a fight with another man, and the other man used a knife.  That was just after 11 p.m. Saturday. Police said they had to intervene to keep a crowd from killing the suspect, identified by the last name of Mairena.

The response was slow because police were involved in another shooting, that of a man identified as Cecilio Méndez, who suffered a wound in the stomach. When police arrived at the murder scene they said that friends of the victim had doused Mairena with gasoline and were about to set him afire.

Costa Rica sends help
to hurricane victims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 50 members of the national emergency commission and the Cruz Roja are in Nicaragua lending aid in areas hit by Hurricane Felix.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that its representatives would travel in a caravan of seven vehicles, two of them trucks loaded with supplies. They were going to Managua and then to where the supplies were needed most, their comission said. Among the vehicles is a radio base station.

Some 100 persons are believed to have died in Nicaragua as a result of winds and flooding from the hurricane.

House robbery suspects
face allegations in Garabito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization says it has detained a band of robbers who were invading homes in Garabito on the Pacific coast.

Agents said that the gang consisted of three persons, including a woman they described as blonde and pretty. Investigators said that the women would appear at the door of a home dressed well and seek permission to use the bathroom. Once inside, she would oepn the door to her confederates, they said.

Age-discrimination proposal
introduced in legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican over age 50 generally is unemployable if he or she is not a professional. A lawmaker now has moved to make discrimination based on age illegal.

He is José Manuel Echandi. His proposal, if passed, would cover both public and private employment. The measure seems to establish a quota of 10 percent that companies and public agencies would have to meet as far as employing persons 50 and over.

The Ministerio de Trabajo would be in charge of keeping track, according to the measure.

Employment legislation in Costa Rica lags behind First World countries in equal employment, and employers have been known to seek photos of potential employees along with resumes. In fact, potential employees willingly provide this information as well as details that might be considered off-limits elsewhere, such as age.

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Stiff license fee for sportsbooks is back on legislative table
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana has introduced a bill to tax sportsbooks and other electronic betting operations.

The new proposal, No. 16.450, carries a heavier tax burden for betting operations than does the stalled administration tax plan.

This is the latest in a long line of proposals to tax the betting industry which provides a lot of work for young English-speaking residents.

The Acción Ciudadana proposal would also tax betting operations based on the number of employees on their payroll. Up to 20 employees the annual tax would be 15 million colons, about $28,000. At the top of the scale operations with 61 or more employees would pay 28.4 million colons or about $54,600.

The tax is being characterized as a license fee.

Taxing sportsbooks is an easy idea to propose but the politics of passage are complex. In October 2002 sportsbook employees protested for two days outside the Asamblea Legislativa in opposition to a similar tax contained in the proposed fiscal reform package promoted by then-president Abel Pacheco.

The entire plan died in the legislature, effectively blocked by the Movimiento Libertario which has championed the cause of the sportsbooks.
Since then the sportsbook industry has taken a few hits. One major betting operation, BetonSports, stopped taking U.S. bets because its executives were indicted in the United States. The firm is trying to distribute funds to creditors and employees, according to its Web site.

A large part of the day-to-day operations of has been transferred to a new Web site because owner Calvin Ayre, said he is having problems with the domain ownership. He appears to have returned to Antigua and just announced an agreement with Morris Mohawk Gaming Group in Canada to operate his gambling sites. His operation no longer employees many Costa Ricans.

The Arias administration package of new taxes also includes a licensing scheme for sportsbooks.  Online casinos and sportsbooks first must register with the Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Comercio. Unregistered companies would be illegal here. The Arias proposal begins at firms with 10 employees and specifies a fee of 10 million colons ($19,200) a year. Firms with 61 or more employees would pay 24 million colons, about $46,100. So the Acción Ciudadana proposal is about 18.5 percent higher.

Passing a law and actually collecting the taxes are two different challenges. The sportsbook industry employes North Americans who work there illegally and do not even benefit from social security payments on their salaries.

And sportsbook executives have said in the past that to move the operation to a more favorable country would not be difficult.

Be true to yourself, this Costa Rican saying insists
Andando caliente aunque se burle la gente

“Keeping warm even if people scoff at you.”  To me this dicho makes so much sense especially up north as our weather now begins to show signs of turning cooler. What it is saying is that it is better to be warm than to worry that people will make fun of your wooly wardrobe. Or, in other words, a person should do the right thing no matter what others may think or what is currently in vogue.

I’m also reminded of this dicho in Santo Domingo de Heredia, where we live in Costa Rica, when people laugh at me because I hurry to find a warm jacket after the sun goes down. It’s often quite breezy and cool in the evening, and the ridicule of others matters little to me when I feel the chill. I want the comfort of warmer clothing, and I really don’t give a fig what others may think of my choice of attire.

It’s better to be true to your own feelings than to be constantly agonizing over what is fashionably — or politically — correct.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States has ballooned to such a point that these days even municipalities are passing statutes giving authorities the right to arrest a business owner if he or she is suspected of hiring “illegal immigrants.” Hating immigrants has become the politically correct thing to do in many communities.

Interestingly enough, however, a recent article in The New York Times reported that some farmers in southern California and the southwestern states have started moving their operations to northern Mexico because the immigration crunch in the U.S. has left them without the workers that they depend upon to harvest such labor-intensive crops as lettuce, celery, asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries, and tree fruits. In Mexico, however, labor is abundant and cheap. So, it would appear that another U.S. industry is on the brink of picking up and relocating.

Though it may be fashionable among certain action groups and their eagerly attendant politicians to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon, the relocation of yet one more U.S. industry south of the border, which their campaign is certainly contributing to, actually plays directly into another anti-immigrant bugaboo, the exodus of employers from the U.S.

This paradox is quite excellently expressed by a dicho, or expression, in English: It’s like “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Yesterday I saw a piece on television about three kids ages 17, 13 and 9, all of them U.S. citizens by birth but whose undocumented parents had been recently deported. The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

 17-year-old girl has had to abandon high school and take on a parental role to care for the other two.

The family had never been on public assistance before the deportation of the parents, but now the girl must seek the financial assistance of state and local welfare agencies in order to ensure the survival of herself and her siblings. She has been forced to sell the living room furniture in order to make the mortgage payment on their house.

Of course these children are terrified, and it seems to me that all the action of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has managed to accomplish through the deportation of the parents is to force a previously self-sufficient, taxpaying household onto the public dole, thus virtually creating at a stroke a situation the anti-immigrant crowd themselves have been frothing at the mouth over for years.
Apparently such incidents are not so isolated as one might think, and they're a direct reflection of the consequences of doing what is currently politically popular at the expense of what any decent person should know is right.

I fear that intolerance of foreigners may be coming to Costa Rica as well, and not in the way that many might think. I’ve recently encountered young Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans who indignantly complain about how the tremendous influx of well off Americans, Canadians, and northern Europeans into Central America is rapidly driving up the cost of everything. It would seem that it’s not always accurate to say that a rising tide lifts all boats, for at present levels Costa Rican salaries cannot come anywhere near competing with the incomes of these rich denizens from up north.

The present regime of Mr. Arias is doing next to nothing to address such inequities and resentments, which, if left to fester, can easily develop into the kind of full-blown hatred the fuels large-scale social unrest.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 10, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 179

Second place is a tight race in Guatemalan presidential vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The remaining Guatemalan presidential race appears to be for second place and a chance to meet Otto Pérez Molina of Partido Patriota in the Nov. 4 runoff.

Pérez Molina had 26.2 percent or some 201,766 votes in preliminary results reported at midnight by the Tribunal Supremo Electoral. He is a former army general.

Alvaro Colom of Unidad Nacional de Esperanza was second with 22.99 percent and 177,023 votes. Close behind was  Alejandro Giammattei of the Partido Gran Alianza Nacional with 22.27 percent and 171,497 votes.

The results are not unexpected.   

Recent public opinion polls indicate that no clear winner will emerge and a two-candidate runoff vote is likely. But, in Guatemala City many people see the electoral process itself as an important victory.

There were few reports of problems in the first hours of the voting process and that in itself is regarded as an important accomplishment in a nation where political violence is a part of everyday life. In recent weeks there were numerous incidents of election-related violence in which some 50 people died.
Some 14 candidates are on the ballot. A candidate must get 50 percent to win outright.

Among the other candidates running in this round is 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, the first woman to run for president in Guatemala. She is of Indian origin and is known for dressing in her native garb. But her candidacy has failed to gain much support and even in primarily Indian zones, most voters favor Colom rather than her.

Several candidates from her party were victims of violence in recent weeks, a reminder of the bitter legacy of Guatemala's 36-year civil war that ended in 1996 and claimed around 200,000 lives.  Her Partido Encuentro por Guatemala was getting less than 3 percent of the vote.

Violence of a different sort is the main issue in this election. Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. With more than 5,000 murders a year, the nation of 13 million people has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world.

Front-running candidates have promised to fight drug traffickers and other violent criminals, but Colom warns against policies that could take the country back to the rampant civil rights abuses of the past, while Pérez Molina advocates a strong hand and use of the military to fight organized crime.

First Mexican trucking firm gets permission to operate outside U.S. border area
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved a Mexican trucking company to operate in the United States, as the start of a year-long experiment that expands cross-border trucking between the two countries.

Officials decided Thursday to allow the Nuevo Leon-based Olympic Transport company to operate in the United States, while the Texas-based Stagecoach Cartage and Distribution is being allowed to deliver cargo in Mexico.

The agreement allows Mexican trucks to deliver cargo
beyond the 40-kilometer commercial zone that runs along the U.S.-Mexican border. U.S. trucks will be allowed to deliver in Mexico for the first time ever.

Critics of the program say it will be difficult to get Mexican drivers to comply with U.S. safety requirements such as truck inspections and drug testing. A report from the transportation department's inspector general submitted to Congress Thursday says every Mexican truck will undergo a security check at the border.

U.S. officials say they hope to approve as many as 100 Mexican trucking companies for the program.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 10, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 179

Can you believe that Tiger Woods shot 22 under par for four rounds?
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods of the United States matched the lowest final round of his career to win the BMW Championship outside Chicago.

Woods shot an 8 under par 63 Sunday, giving him a two-shot victory over Australian Aaron Baddeley and four ahead of third-placed compatriot Steve Stricker. Tiger's four-round score of 22 under par broke by five shots the record he set four years ago at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Illinois.

The victory also gives Woods a commanding lead with one week remaining in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoff
 series. The final event will be played beginning Thursday in Atlanta. The winner of the playoffs, launched this season, earns $10 million.

Only three other players besides Woods and Stricker remain in contention for the big prize. American Phil Mickelson, who won the Deutsche Bank Championship last week but skipped the BMW, will have to win in Atlanta to capture the big payoff.

South African Rory Sabbatini and South Korean K.J. Choi still have a mathematical chance of winning the FedEx Cup depending on how the three Americans finish.

Woods' victory on Sunday was worth $1.25 million. 

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