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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 180       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Four in one

This Sept. 2 satellite image shows Gustav (over Texas), Hanna (in the Bahamas), Ike and Josephine (both over open water). On that day for the first time in the 2008 hurricane season, there were four active tropical cyclones. See our story today HERE!
four storms in Atlantic
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration/National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Police and politicians fair poorly in crime survey
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A nearly 2-year-old survey released this week shows about a third of those interviewed reported that citizen insecurity was the country's No. 1 concern.

They also said overwhelmingly that the country had resources to solve the problems, but they also expressed extreme lack of confidence in politicians and police.  Some 9.9 percent said they had been the victim of a crime in the last 12 months.

The survey was done by a private firm for the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, which released the survey Tuesday.

The document has some flaws. For example, only 6.7 percent said they had a firearm in the home and less than 2 percent of the gun owners said they got the weapon illegally. These are not questions that would generate truthful replies.

The politicians and police were not institutions held in high regard. When asked how much confidence they have in certain organizations and institutions, 58.5 percent of citizens said they had no confidence whatsoever in political parties.

Some 42.7 percent said they had no confidence in the Asamblea Legislative, and 32.5 percent said the same thing about the Fuerza Pública.

The Policías de Tránsito received a no-confidence vote from 31.5 of the respondents.

Public schools received the most support with 36.2 percent of the respondents saying they have a lot of confidence.

There was not strong emphasis on the judicial system where many think much of the problem with increasing crime rests.  Some 28.7 percent of the respondents said they had a lot of confidence in the Judicial Investigating Organization. About 17 percent had no confidence. About 25 percent had a lot of confidence in the courts, and 20.4 percent had a lot of confidence in the Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency.

In-home, stratified interviews were done with 2,517 persons over 16 all over the country, and the
average interview time was 45 minutes.  The firm IPSOS-Costa Rica did the actual interview work from Nov. 5 to Dec.15, 2006.

Some 33.1 percent of those questioned picked citizen insecurity as the country's No. 1 problem. That was followed closely by economic problems at 28.8. Some 13 percent labeled drugs and trafficking the No. 1 problem, and 12.5 percent cited corruption.

More women and more of those in a higher income category saw the security problem as the major national concern. Some 38 percent of those in the metropolitan areas and 30 per cent of those in the rural areas did also. The survey did not show extreme differences between the opinions of those in the metropolitan area and those in smaller cities and the rural areas. Although nearly half thought downtown San José was the most likely spot for a crime.

Some 82 percent of the respondents said the country was not secure or very little so, but 70.1 percent said that the country had the resources to resolve the problem. The assessment of insecurity was about the same as that registered in a survey two years earlier.

The survey analysis tried to show differences in opinions among the communities of Aguirre,  Pococí, Montes de Oca, Goicoechea, Escazú,  Heredia, San José, Alajuelita, Garabito and Limón. However, comparisons between subcategories are unreliable in such surveys.

Overall, the company said there was a 2 point error margin in projecting to the populations as a whole the opinions of the survey group.

As an aside, the survey analysis noted that there were 130,077 reported crimes in 2005, up from 36,110 in 1985. There were 871 murders in 2005. Complete figures for 1985 murders were not available. Although crime statistics are unreliable in Costa Rica where many felonies are not reported, statistics for murders are usually more consistent because of the gravity of the crime.

The survey was a bit self-serving in that respondents all said there should be more Fuerza Pública officers and the first-line police force is hampered by a lack of support.

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Highway demolition begins
tonight for divider in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight workers will start on the Próspero Fernández highway to turn it into the new Caldera highway.

The principal job is destruction of the wall that separates the westbound and eastbound lanes. The construction site is between Río Tiribí bridge to the toll booth in Escazú. All the work will start at 8 p.m. and go until 5 a.m. all week, except Thursday when work will start at 10 p.m.

During active work hours Próspero Fernández will just have one lane open in either direction.  The company heading the project is Autopista del Sol. The Caldera highway is 47.7 miles long, and It was planed 30 year ago.

The Autopista del Sol manager, Álvaro Muelas, said that all the work will be in the night to avoid problems with the traffic. Muelas also said motorists should choose an alternate route, if possible.

In Santa Ana, since last Monday, the company has been building a drain between Oficentro Forum and Residencial Villareal. That work starts at 9 a.m.

Two go on trial today
in Toledo home invasion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men accused of murder in the home invasion of former presidential candidate Ricardo Toledo go on trial today. They have been identified by the last names of Rueda Brenes y Umaña Montero, and they face two allegations of murder.

The crime happened in the early evening of March 21, 2007, when Toledo's wife arrived home and was about to park her car inside the gated parking area.

Three men burst in, pistol whipped the wife, broke her left arm and then shot and killed a domestic employee working inside the house and a neighbor who came out on his balcony to see what was happening. Toledo did not arrive until later.

An individual who was then 15 years old has been sentenced as a juvenile to 15 years for murder and aggravated robbery in the case.

The Toledo home is in Rohrmoser near the Parque La Amistad. Killed inside the house was Ligia Hernández Alvarado, 42. The neighbor who died on the second-floor balcony was Werner Bohl, 48.

Toledo, a former legislative deputy and minister of the Presidencia under Able Pacheco, ran on the Unidad Social Cristiana ticket in 2006 against Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Panama newspaper raided
after judge issues order

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawyer acting under a court order has seized the assets of the weekly newspaper El Periodico in Panama, The Panama News reports.

"This was the first time since the days of the 21-year military dictatorship that a Panamanian news medium was shut down under color of law," said The Panama News. The newspaper that was the object of the confiscation has a circulation of about 20,000.

The lawyer was working for businessman Herman Bern who had filed a court action against El Periodico. The confiscation order was issued by a local judge without the knowledge of the newspaper executives and without them having a chance to contest it, said The Panama News, adding in its latest edition:

"The dispute arises over El Periodico's publication of a purported income tax return of Bern's in which the multimillionaire developer who owns the Hotel Miramar, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, the Playa Bonita Resort, the Crowne Plaza Panama and the Panama Canal Holiday Inn allegedly reported only some $39,000 in income."

Airport work continuing
at Guanacaste locations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nosara is getting a new airport runway, and in Liberia the international airport is getting a recovering of the existing runway. Both jobs were cited Tuesday by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. Both jobs have been under way since July.

The Nosara job includes installing a new fence around the airport. In all, an investment of about $1 million is being made, said officials. The job is expected to be completed in a little more than two months.

The Liberia job at Daniel Oduber airport includes construction of additional parking areas for commercial aircraft. The runway job includes scraping the existing stripe and putting on an asphalt topping and paint, the ministry spokesperson said. This is a $6 million project.

Cultural fair at Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica begins a cultural fair on its Cartago La Casa de la Ciudad Thursday. The fair is to mark the nation's independence as well as give some exposure to local craftsmen and women.

Thursday at 7 p.m. local folklorist Edgar Cerdas will be honored. He received the national cultural prize in 2007.
The fair ends Monday but there will be dances, mascaradas and other activities.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 180

new boat
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo/Guillermo Solano
Youngsters enjoy the new boat that the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas will have to protect the Isla del Coco. Tuesday was the Día del Niño.

Security ministry gets new boat and a plane for patrols
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government here through its embassy donated a twin-engine airplane to the Costa Rican security ministry Tuesday morning at Juan Santamaría airport. The ministry also got a new boat.

The Piper Seneca II will be used for emergency services and security surveillance, said a spokesperson from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The aircraft seats five passengers not including the pilot, said a spokesperson.

Oldemar Madrigal Medal, director of Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea, said in the welcoming ceremony that the plane will also be used to transport government officials to perform various tasks, according to the spokesperson.

Security officials said the plane will play a part in stopping drug traffic and help in medical emergencies. The plane
will fly people who need medical treatment from rural areas like Talamanca, said the security spokesperson.

The security ministry also announced the arrival of a new coast guard boat which will be used in the waters near Isla de Coco. The boat, which is worth about $40,000 (20 million colons), is a speedboat "interceptor" and was built in Costa Rica, according to a security release.

"With this boat we will have the capacity to respond faster in the fight against drug trafficking and illegal fishing around Isla de Coco. In addition we will have more equipment to carry out humanitarian work when necessary," said Martín Arias, the director of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, in a press release.

The funds to buy the vessel were provided by Conservation International, a conservation organization based in the United States, at the request of the non-governmental Costa Rican organization MarViva.

Two strange hanging deaths are being considered suicides
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strange phone call, a blindfold, and a rope binding the victim's hands are mysterious factors in two deaths that investigators are ruling as suicides. 

Investigators declared the death of a U.S. man a suicide even though his hands were bound behind his back when they found the body, said a judicial agent Tuesday. 

A passer-by found the body of the man, Jeremy Hall, 24, hanging from a tree in Guápiles Aug. 14. Hall, originally from Oregon, had only been in Costa Rica for about a month, said Carlos Thomas, the regional director of the Judicial Investigation Organization in Pococí de Guácimo. Thomas said investigators believe Hall slipped his hands into a loop of rope before he hung himself.

Thomas said that the death of Hall was a clear suicide because investigators tracked down the store in Limón where they believe the 24-year-old bought the rope. Hall still had a significant amount of money in his bag at the time of his death, added Thomas.

Reports at the time said that Hall had recently made a withdrawal for $2,400 (1.2 million colons) and had $2,000
(1 million colons) left in his bag when the police arrived at the scene.

Investigators also have ruled another strange hanging in the area as a suicide, said Thomas. The victim, Fermín Cortés Reyes, 50, was found hanging from a tree with a black blindfold over his eyes in Guácimo Aug. 26. After his disappearance, the family received a mysterious phone call and a person who told them where to locate the body of Cortés, confirmed Jorge Rojas, the director of the Judicial Investigation Organization last month at a press conference.

Thomas said investigators are still awaiting autopsy results for Cortés. but that the death as of now is being called a suicide. Cortés had family problems and investigators suspect Hall had drug problems, said Thomas. The regional director said Hall was found in “a crack zone” in Guápiles, so investigators suspect he used crack.

Investigators are still trying to contact Hall's family members, said Thomas. They have spoken with workers in the U.S. consulate in Costa Rica, who sent Hall's photo to law officers in Oregon, said the local judicial director. As of Tuesday no one had identified the body, said Thomas. Thomas added that investigators did not know where Hall had been staying in Costa Rica and believed he was traveling alone.

Ike has little effect here but a tropical wave is headed in this direction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although Costa Rica has avoided a serious backlash from Hurricane Ike, the problems are not yet over.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that another tropical wave, a trough of low pressure, is headed this way. This will be the 26th of the season, and such phenomena usually bring low pressure, clouds and bad weather.

Residents of Cartago got the icy effects of a thunderstorm Tuesday as hail fell during the afternoon. Hail is common
when there is unsettled weather. Strong thunderstorms have marched through the Central Valley from the west since Sunday. Monday trees were knocked down in Sabana.

The weather institute said there would be more of the same unsettled weather today. About an inch of hard rain fell in San José Tuesday during afternoon thunderstorms.

Ike, meanwhile, is headed to pound into the Texas Gulf coast or nearby México Friday. It had a rematch with Cuba overnight and was moving slowly between the western tip of Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early today.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 180

More comments from readers on their perspective on crime
She loves both worlds
and does not fear crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Wow!! Mr. Jalota sure has a chip on his shoulder about not being able to afford Costa Rica!! And his perspective on crime in Costa Rica is interesting. Has he googled the crime rates in Denver lately? One stat I found for 2006 had 23 murders and over 6,000 thefts, and that's in Denver alone!!

After almost eight years of spending up to three months a year traveling to Costa Rica, I have found that the expats who move there only because its cheap or because they hate their native country usually don't end up very happy. And they often end up back in U.S.A. with their tail between their legs. I know there is some distance between expats and the Costa Ricans, but a lot of it has to do with language and cultural  differences. 

I am trying to learn Spanish which is not easy at age 53. But I think Costa Ricans appreciate that I am trying!! And I also continue to enjoy their culture. We chose Costa Rica because of all the places we had visited in the past none of them had the same dependable weather and beautiful uncrowded beaches.

I think it best for Mr. Jalota to stay in Denver and accept his fate. His expectations of a country he has visited a few times is unrealistic. The only way to move up the economic scale in either country (U.S. or Costa Rica) is by hard work and sometimes inheritance!!  And due to many other circumstances even those two variables do not make one successful. We need more expats who see the better side of Costa Rica than the negative! Anyone who follows world economics knows these are hard times all over the world.  But when you look back in history, this is just part of the economic cycle.

It appears that Mr. Jalota must be in the lower middle class of the U.S. As a $200,000 to $300,000 house in the U.S.A. is nothing anymore. He probably bought it for less than half that and probably with out having to do anything to it, he has more than doubled its worth. It is the U.S.A. prices that have raised the Costa Rican prices. It is only reasonable to expect that anyone who invested in Costa Rica when things were cheaper would want their investment to reap the same rewards that Mr. Jalota is expecting in the U.S. Not to mention a $300,000 to $500,000 ocean view condo in Costa Rica would still be three times that in the U.S.A. (not to mention the taxes).

So if he can find a country where things are cheaper than Costa Rica that has no crime, than that is where he should go. But he should know that he will then be on the top of the economic heap of that country!! Thus making him more vulnerable to those who have not!! It is a fact of life!! No matter where you live!! Didn't just one Denver deputy district attorney get shot in his own backyard??

I do appreciate A.M. Costa Rica notifying us of murdered expats regardless of the circumstances or quality of the expat. I also appreciate hearing about all the good things happening to the expats living in Costa Rica. And I am talking about the expats who chose Costa Rica for other reasons than hating their native country or because its so cheap to live there!!

After eight years of visiting I still love the Costa Ricans and try to be friendly with as many of them as I can.  I do know that it is my lack of Spanish  that is some of the problem. It is their country and I am just fortunate to be able to pass some of my leisure time there. I would be there more if only my husband would retire!! I love both the U.S. and Costa Rica. And each country makes me appreciate the other more!!
Peggy Mielke

Some called in denial
about crime problem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I lived in and traveled Costa Rica for six years and have been a frequent visitor for over 15 years.  Things have changed in every way possible — very little for the better. 
It's hardly the same country even though many still try to say it is.  I left Costa Rica like many people I know, and even though the U.S. is not perfect, at least I don't live in fear everyday.

The statistics in places like Wikipedia that show murder rates don't show you who the victims were — just the numbers.  What you will learn from those numbers on Wikipedia is that murders are increasing in Costa Rica but decreasing in Colombia and steady in the United States.  What the statistics don't tell you is that the crime rates are much higher for foreigners living in Costa Rica. 

Almost every Gringo I know who lives in Costa Rica has been the victim of serious crime — not just petty theft — and I don't know any Gringos who don't personally know someone who was kidnapped, home invaded or murdered.  I'm from a very violent city in the U.S. but the crime and violence is far removed everyday life. Sure there are murders, but they are usually criminals killing criminals.  If a foreign tourist got kidnapped and murdered in Virginia Beach, it would be on CNN.

Crime statistics in a country with a joke of a police force mean nothing.  Most crime in Costa Rica goes unreported — even murders are swept under the rug on a regular basis.  I personally know of murders of foreigners in Jacó alone that never made the papers or were investigated seriously.  If you are a Gringo in Costa Rica then kidnappings, violent home invasions and more thefts than you can count will be part of your daily life.

The only people in denial about the crime and safety situation in Costa Rica are the greedy, exploitative developers and real estate agents.  Lying to your clients to lure them into harms way should make you criminally liable.  So far you've been lucky but one good 20/20 or 60 Minutes episode and your property values will be where they should.

J. Brett Swindell
Bennett's Creek, Virgina

Murder victim's family
says there was no call

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is regarding Elise Sonray's article today about the murder of Bob Salberg on your newspage.

I am Bob Salberg's brother in-law. My wife, Adina, is Bob's sister. I would like to comment and correct something in the article.

The article states:

"Badilla said that two investigators had been assigned to the case and had visited the apartment complex Monday before noon. He also said they had spoken with a family member in the United States. "

This is not true.

I have talked to all Salberg family members in the States (There are very few of us in the same town) and no one has spoken with subdirector Badilla. If they spoke to someone in the States, it was not a family member close to Bob.

I do hope the police are interested in solving this case.

They certainly seemed to be not very interested in saving Bob's life if the ambulance was called as late as it was when the police finally arrived after shots were fired. The entire Salberg family is very shocked and appalled about the lack of response by the police and the ambulance in this situation if your article on Monday is accurate. Bob's life might have been saved otherwise.

As your article said on Monday, Bob leaves a sister, brother, son, young grandsons, and others in Illinois who loved him and will greatly miss him. Bob was a dedicated grandfather who loved spending time with his grandsons. Bob was a frequent traveler who had many many friends worldwide.

We all hope the thugs who killed Bob will be somehow brought to justice.
Dave Ewaldz
on behalf of the Salberg family

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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 week day.

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.

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

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Amusement park icon
at Coney Island is closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An icon of New York's Coney Island, the Astroland amusement park, is closing its doors after nearly 50 years. Astroland's owners and the residents of Coney Island say the shutdown marks the end of an era and also brings up questions about the future of the oceanfront Brooklyn neighborhood.

When Astroland opened in 1962 it represented the future of amusement theme parks, boasting state-of-the-art rides and attractions operating with an outer-space theme. The park is a fixture on the Coney Island boardwalk, best known for the Cyclone, its wooden roller coaster ride and the Wonder Wheel, a seaside landmark. Astroland's 22 rides and three game arcades provided 300 jobs.

Astroland has been by far the biggest amusement center on Coney Island, which has been a favorite holiday destination for Americans in the New York area since the 19th Century. It is the birthplace of the hot dog and is known for its kitschy rides, street performers, sand beaches and family-friendly atmosphere.

The amusement park was a family venture. In 2006, its owners, Jerome and Carol Albert, sold the land to real-estate developer Thor Equities for about $30 million. The Alberts had retained rights to operate the park, but disagreements over terms of the lease and worries about the developer's ultimate plans for the site led to Astroland's demise.

Mrs. Albert said she was forced to close permanently Sunday because the real estate firm refused to meet to discuss her lease, which expires at the end of this year. She says an answer was imperative because she was waiting to order equipment for repairs and also wanted to give her employees an answer about their future.

Although Astroland is departing, the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel are safe from the developer's wrecking ball, and are expected to stay in operation. Both of the vintage attractions were given city landmark status years ago and cannot be demolished.

Charles Denson, a Coney Island historian and author of the book "Coney Island: Lost And Found," says the area's amusement parks were special because they were affordable and accessible to everyone — including, in recent years, an increasing number of Russians and other foreign-born Americans. Denson says there is growing concern that as the amusement industry wanes, developers may seek to build more generic stores and condominium apartments in the neighborhood.

But Astroland's final chapter may be still to come. A few days after the park's announced closure, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said hope is not yet lost and that city officials are trying to step in and get a one-year renewal of Astroland's lease.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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