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(506) 223-1327              Published Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 182            E-mail us   
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rascist sloganA.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Although it may appear they are doing something else, two young men write their slogan.
Racism is alive and well on streets of San José
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Graffiti production frequently is considered to be a solitary pursuit by a lone, disaffected individual prowling the night with a spray can.

In fact, the application of graffiti can require a team. Four young men Wednesday combined their talents to put what appears to be a racist inscription on a wall of the legislative complex along Avenida Central.

One youth watched the street. The second watched inside the complex for guards. Two others used spray cans and markers to inscribe their message.
Some graffiti, now called street art by the politically correct, can be beautiful, although the line between a mural and graffiti is hard to fix.

A big impetus to this ancient form of expression has been the free trade treaty. Walls all over Costa Rica provide rough editorial comment on the agreement with the United States.

That was what a reporter on a bus thought the four young men were doings Wednesday. It was not until they left that a crude message became obvious: "muerte a los negros," said the wall.

Nearby was a little caricature of a rastafasarian- style head with dreadlocks.

Coins and bills related to independence anniversaries are on display
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no surprise that independence from Spain has even been celebrated on the national currency.

The Museos del Banco Central have an exhibit
la india
La India gold coin
attesting to this fact through this month.  It is in the vestibule below the Plaza de la Cultura. September is considered the month of patriotism because it includes Sept. 15, the date of independence.

Among the items on
display is the gold 1850 coin known locally as "la India" which carries the date of Independence and a
commemorative medal struck in 1921 on the centennial of Costa Rican independence.

There also is a 1,000-colon coin struck in gold in 1970 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the independence of Central America. A series of paper bills bears the seal of the 150th anniversary.

The exhibit includes some of the dies used to strike money marking the anniversary as well as a catalog of the 150th anniversary exhibit, said a spokesperson for the museums.

Among the museums maintained in the location by the Banco Central is one showing the development of coinage and currency since the settlement of Costa Rica by Europeans. This is a permanent exhibition. The vestibule also is a place where coin and money collectors meet for swap meets.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 182

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Dall'Anese wants some help
from Chinese on immigrants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's chief prosecutor went Wednesday to visit the new ambassador from the People's Republic of China.

The prosecutor, Francisco Dall'Anese Ruiz, had a lot on the agenda, including the influx of illegal Chinese immigrants.

The ambassador is Wang Xiaoyuan.

Dall'Anese is seeking the help of the Chinese in cracking down on the organized bands that traffic citizens from that country to here. A handful of persons of Chinese origin are facing allegations right now that they helped to bring in Chinese citizens for employment here. The immigration director has said he was approached by someone who offered him $2.5 million to provide visas for Chinese nationals.

In addition, illegal Chinese immigrants frequently turn up on Costa Rican beaches when the boats traffickers use to transport them from South American to México suffer mechanical problems at sea off the Costa Rican coast. Traffickers are believed to bring the immigrants to México where access is posible to the United States through that nation's porus border.

Man held hundreds of times
now faces a murder charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who investigators say has been detained 399 times previously is in custody today for investigation in the death of a man Aug. 30 on Avenida 2 at Parque Central.

The man, who was identified by the last name of Fonseca, is 40 years old. He is being held in the murder of Luis Rubén  Chacón. Chacón was stabbed to death after an argument. There were witnesses.

Fonseca has a lengthy record of thefts and robberies in a number of locations. There are open cases against him now in diverse municipalities.

Despite the number of arrests he never has served significant time in prisons, officials said.

Jacó yields another fugitive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another U.S. citizen has been detained as a fugitive from justice in his homeland.

The arrest of Adam Blackiston, 36, took place Wednesday in Jacó. He was identified as a real estate dealer there, but he also is wanted to face a charge of growing marijuana in the U.S State of Virginia, agents said.

Our reader's opinion

Watch out for the year
that vehicle was imported

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yes, informative and revealing your articles on buying a used car.

Another "heads up" that should be mentioned is the relation between the YEAR of the car and the YEAR of its importation as regarding Riteve. 

Example:  Your 1998 Hyundai is imported into Costa Rica in 2006.  When going thru the inspection, the 2006 emission and mechanical inspection procedures are applied, NOT the 1998 ones, and there have been cases where even the installation of a NEW engine would not qualify it for passing, although if the 1998 requirements were applied, yes, it would pass and probably with its original engine.  I have known uninformed buyers falling into that trap.

O. Lamoree
San José

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 182

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Why would someone without assets buy auto insurance?
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In 1989 a university professor moved to Philadelphia and discovered, to his surprise, that auto insurance was more than twice as expensive there as in many similar U.S. cities.

That finding lead to the publication of an academic paper in the prestigious American Economic Review, titled, “Why is automobile insurance in Philadelphia so damn expensive?" The authors used 36 pages with lots of fancy formulas to show what is patently obvious to anyone who has a car in Costa Rica: large numbers of uninsured drivers increase the risks insurers face and what they must charge, making coverage more costly. A vicious circle.

Randall Wright and Eric Smith drew on Smith’s experience of an accident involving an uninsured driver and the difficulties of collecting from someone with few or no assets or from one’s own coverage. The snail’s pace of the Costa Rican judicial system, both in assigning blame for the accident and allowing collection from a recalcitrant offender, makes the situation infinitely worse.

Wright and Smith were able to show that rates could stabilize at a higher level than in other similar cities while still providing an “actuarially fair” return for the insurer. The insurance companies weren’t making any additional profit at the higher level of premiums. To roll back the rates (as was done by referendum in California at the time) would just make insurers lose money, all things being equal. At some point in the past, a fit of optimism in the City of Brotherly Love increased the number of uninsured cars on the road. The results then cascade through the rate structure.

Costa Rica under the Instituto Nacional de Seguros monopoly is an imperfect example of the model developed by Wright and Smith, in part because of the different packages of coverage sold here. Uninsured driver coverage (their fault) and collision (your fault) are lumped together. The impact of so many uninsured drivers is felt most strongly in the price of that combined coverage, which in one case is an unaffordable 190,000 colons per semester. This meant the car was not covered when hit by a Hyundai driven by a drunk.

Presumably some element of the driving public currently uninsured would take out protection, if the price were lowered. Still, without adequate enforcement of a mandatory insurance requirement, some hard-core element would remain. The academic authors suggest subsidies to get the presumably low-income holdouts aboard, but that would be a non-starter in Costa Rica where by definition if you have a car you are not poor.
accident graphic

But how much does it really cost to be responsible? For any passenger car in Costa Rica, third-party coverage is the same price. Standard personal injury limits are 50 million colons/person (about $96,100)  and 100 million/accident, and property damage coverage up to 10 million colons. Property damage has a 20 percent deductible, while for personal injury the limited coverage currently part of the annual “marchamo” or road tax removes the need for a deductible. This basic package costs about 70,000 colons per year, or $134. A no-claims discount of up to 40 percent accumulates over five years.

Presently it costs about 17,000 colons to fill the tank of a Suzuki Sidekick with gasoline. Asked if increases in fuel prices have resulted in many dropped policies, one agent said that concurrent falls in interest rates have resulted in more cars sold on credit. Any loan agreement will require insurance. This influx of cars into the insurance pool is
masking any decrease in the percentage of insured cars caused by changes in the costs of operating the car. Still, 5,000 colons per month ($9.61) seems manageable for most car owners if they want to be covered.

It would not be difficult to force third-party coverage on the nation’s car owners. There is an opportunity every December to check if the car is covered, when the annual road tax is paid. To charge the insurance at that time would be logical enough, but rates would end up regulated and administration would be inefficient.

So the problem persists. Even with mandatory coverage, there will still be many who cannot pay the deductible if their vehicle hammers a Mercedes. It’s rational behavior in the classical economic sense. Why would anyone with no assets to lose but a car, which they can barely afford to drive anyway, pay for third-party coverage?

Some observers are confident that increased competition brought on by the breakup of the government insurance monopoly, coupled with mandatory liability insurance, will drive down prices to where more people can afford better coverage and break this vicious circle.

The experience in the United States suggests this is by no means certain.

Memo author Casas has to step down from his ministry post
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Kevin Casas, the nation's second vice president, will step down as minister of Planificación while an investigation takes place to see if any public resources have been used to advance the campaign for the free trade treaty with the United States.

That was announced Wednesday. Casas has been under fire since last week when it was disclosed by forces opposed to the treaty that he wrote a memo urging an aggressive publicity campaign to get the measure passed.

The investigation is by an internal auditor at the request of election officials.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones maintains that the
central government cannot use its powers to gain passage of a treaty it has negotiated.

Casas had urged that President Óscar Arias Sánchez consider using the traditional advertising technique of a fear appeal to tell voters that if the treaty is not approved many will lose their jobs. He also encouraged Arias to lean on the municipal mayors to make them work for passage.

Nearly all reaction to the Casa memo has been negative. There has been no word how a copy of the memo ended up in the hands of the anti-treaty Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Meanwhile the campaign against the treaty plans a big rally Sept. 30 in San José. Organizers are calling for the biggest turnout in history to exceed their estimate of 80,000 who marched Feb. 26.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 182

It's all in the family when it comes to crack cocaine sales
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are not many lucrative economic activities in the poorer neighborhoods of Costa Rica.

That's why the anti-drug police continually breaks up home businesses of crack cocaine sales.

The 19th such family group this year came into police hands Wednesday. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said officers detained a 49-year-old woman with the last names of  Siles Mathieus, her 24- and 25-year-old two children, both with the last names of Rojas Siles, and a 30-year-old family friend with the last names of Vega Jiménez.

The arrests were at the family home in the La Capri section of San Miguel de Desamparados. Police said neighbors turned them in.

Such arrests of small-time drug dealers infrequently make big news, but officers pointed out Wednesday that the family group was the 19th such operation busted up this year and that there were 16 such arrests of family groups the year before.

They said they confiscated 160 doses of crack cocaine, two doses of cocaine and some marijunana. Some  174.455 colons ($335.50) also were confiscated, as was a handgun.

These are not big businesses. A crack rock sells for
mother arrested
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
A mother, the presumed gang leader, is led away.

500 to 1,000 colons on the street. That's about $1 to $2.

Cocaine is readily available, in part because access to U.S. markets is not as easy as it was before Sept. 11, 2001. The excess goes into the local market and to a variety of neighborhood drug dealers who maintain tight security by using their own family members and close friends.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 182

Costa Rica ties with Canada in a rough game at Toronto
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican national soccer team could not shut out the  Canadian squad and had to settle for a tie in Toronto Wednesday night. Sele member Victor Nuñez drew first blood 48 minutes into the game when he smashed a Junior Díaz pass in front of the goal home for a score.
But it was not to be the winning score. Six minutes later  Dwayne De Rosario booted one in for Canada after Costa Rican midfielder  Randall Azofeifa was ejected for rough play.

Despite being described as a friendly match, the play on the field was unforgiving.

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