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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 181              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!


Independence celebration off to an early start today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The independence day celebration begins this morning with several activities planned before noon. Then the holiday moves into high gear with a fiesta in Parque Central sponsored by the municipality.

Security and police officials will be raising the Costa Rican flag at a ceremony at 9 a.m. today at the ministry building in south San José. In addition to officials, students from the Escuela y Colegio Castro Madriz will attend as well as police cadets.

The Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica is hosting a civil ceremony for youngsters in Centro Educativo de Liverpool, Limón, at 8 a.m. today. Students also will be able to see the original independence documents that were delivered 189 years ago, the archive said.
 
In Barrio Mexico there will be a parade and a tribute to firemen.  Organizers said they wanted to recover patriotic values and light the civil spark in the barrio. The parade starts at 8 a.m. at the Catholic church there with the 85-member band of the Unidad Pedagógica José Fidel Tristán, the professional soccer team Club Deportivo Barrio México and others. The barrio is in the northern section of the capital.

The parade ends at the station of the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the firemen, to pay tribute. Motorists would be advised to avoid avenidas 13 and 15 this morning.

The Municipalidad de San José begins its party at 11 a.m. in Parque Central with marimbas at noon and cimarronas with mascaradas at 1 p.m.

These are the traditional brass bands and those giant plaster heads.

Various groups are scheduled during the afternoon.

Vice President Alfio Piva Mesén is scheduled to receive the antorcha, the torch of liberty, at the park about 5:30 p.m. The time is flexible because runners have been carrying the torch from the Nicaraguan line, as is the custom.
The event will be accompanied by youngsters carrying their faroles or colonial-style lanterns, music and groups of runners waiting to take their turns.

The destination is Cartago where President Laura Chinchilla will receive the torch about 6 p.m. at the Museo de Cartago. She has called a meeting of her Consejo de Gobierno for 6:45 p.m. at Parque Central de Cartago in front of the Palacio Municipal.

In the meantime, runners will be carrying torches to all points of the Central Valley. The session in Cartago is largely ceremonial, reminding Costa Ricans of where news of their independence was received 189 years ago.

Traditionally Costa Ricans stand on the sidewalk and sing the Himno Nacional Tuesday night at 6 p.m. There also will be school parades with youngsters carrying their homemade faroles.

Wednesday is the Día de la Independencia, a legal holiday. Despite the holiday school children are supposed to show up and participate in a parade from La Sabana to the Hospital de Niños along Paseo Colón in San Jose.

A.M. Costa Rica will publish an edition Wednesday but the office will not be open. However, calls and e-mails will be received.

Ms. Chinchilla will give a speech at Parque Nacional at 9:30 a.m. and meet with the diplomatic corps at 11:30 a.m. to receive their wishes. Already U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a statement congratulating the country on its independence.  A luncheon follows at Club Unión.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has called today a day of general vacation, so employees there will have two days off.

The Municipalidad de San José announced that trash collectors would not be working Wednesday because of the holiday. The same is true elsewhere. Nearly all non-essential government offices will be closed.


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Our readers' opinions
Experience at U.S. Embassy
was without problems


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I just read the article by Jayne Dell concerning the U.S. Embassy.  Twice in the past year I have visited the embassy. I guess that I must be very lucky because I never encountered one problem!  Everyone I encountered spoke fluent English.  While my friend and I were in the waiting area, a lady came up to us and asked us if we needed any help, and she asked us in English.  I will be back there again in a couple of weeks, and, if I have a different experience, I will definitely write about it.
 
It is of course upsetting to hear that an American had such a bad experience, but, from my own experiences and those of some of my friends, I think it is a rare exception rather then the rule.
Bruce Jacobs
New Jersey

Conquer criminal element
even if a bit inconvenient


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your editorial on civil liberties here was interesting. However a coin has two faces, and your editorial should have looked at the other side of the issue.

Are not our liberties at risk when one is at risk of stray or deliberate gunshots? Whose liberties are at risk when your house or apartment is at risk of being broken into and your belongings stolen?  Where are your liberties when you are forced to live in walled or fenced in and guarded houses or compounds?  It is almost like you are in jail.  Do you have freedom when you are afraid to walk down a street especially at night?  Where is your freedom when your car can be broken into even at a stop on the street?  Where is your freedom when you can be robbed and assaulted at a bus stop? How are your liberties protected when the courts instead of protecting the public and punishing the criminals practice a catch and release program?

We are at war, whether you recognize it or not.  We have to  conquer the criminal elements, or we all suffer.  I would not object to a little inconvenience if it would help in winning the war against the criminals.
        
Robert A. Durnin, M.D.
Encinales

Slipping in competitivity
is wakeup call to country


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The article on Page 4 of Fridays A.M. Costa Rica should be a wake up call for the Chinchilla administration. “In competitivity, Panama inches past Costa Rica”.

Just read the daily articles to see why Costa Rica is having problems maintaining there position over other countries. Look at the destruction that is easily foreseen on the Interamericana Highway, but ignored. If I were the president, I would be embarrassed for any dignitary to travel on this highway even without the mudslide. It is treacherous and injures and kills citizens frequently. Just drive this stretch from San José to the border in Nicaragua. Actually, the Interamericana improves when you enter Nicaragua.  I wonder if the president now or previous presidents have ever driven on these roads. The heavily traveled road from touristy Guanacaste to La Fortuna is another killer road among many others. When I have to take my car for the Reteve, I have to drive with delicate caution just so that the suspension will pass the inspection by the time I get there.

On another page Friday and Monday was the story of an American relaxing in Puerto Viejo is shot in the back of the head by another vicious criminal who most probably is a repeat offender who was let off by a judge who's hands are tied because of the legal system in Costa Rica and the overcrowded prison system.

Researching and reading a lot of news about Panamá and also talking to people living there and moving there, Panamá seems to be doing a lot of things favorable to draw retiring expats to move there. My experience here in Costa Rica for six years is that Costa Rica is doing all that it can to dissuade expats to move here and causing many that live here to relocate out of this country.

Many communities are asking expats to contribute to repairing the small town infrastructures. Such as repairing and supplying the schools who have been ignored, and the local police are asking for donations to repair the vehicles donated by China because they cannot get funds to repair or maintain them. Even asking for money for gas.

Where is the accountability? Why are the schools neglected? Why are repeat offenders being set loose to pillage and harm or kill? Why are we adding police when we can't maintain equipment? Why is the administration not trying to make it more easier to accept expats with money to become residents? Why are the laws continuing to favor criminals? Why is the labor laws so favorable to the workers that it dissuades hiring for fear of retribution in the form of law suits? Why do we have to drive long distances to make medical or ministerial appointments and then have to return whenever to have the appointments? Just some of the questions I hear repeated daily.

Ms. Chinchilla herself is quoted as saying that she would like to become a “developed country.” Just what has to be done to achieve this long-range goal? What has to be accomplished to achieve  transition from developing to First World? Personally, I would choose the safety of its citizens to out rank all else. I would also begin a campaign to eliminate wasteful spending and, if necessary, to hire experts in an advisory position outside the country for innovative ideas for advancement. The old ideas here are obviously not working. Make it desirable for more companies to relocate here by addressing the labor laws to reflect with with the work ethic and not hold the employers hostage.

As far as criminal offenders, I would most certainly look to making the punishment fit the crime and making parents accountable for their minor children. In closing, make it competitive actions to outrank Panamá and other smaller countries and make Costa Rica rank near the top to attract tourism and the future relocating desirable expats and others.

Tom Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

Another negative report
on visiting U.S. Embassy


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This e-mail is being generated promptly after reviewing today's article about the American Embassy and the writers opinion of embassy shortcomings. Jane Dell did an outstanding job summarizing my thoughts exactly. I was so happy to read the previous article and then todays article.  The articles made me realize "it just wasn't me."  

I have lived in Costa Rica for the past six years and have had the unfortunate opportunity to visit the American Embassy three times.  All I can say is that it is always an adventure.  The first time, I spent over 30 minutes trying to figure out where to park.  I envisioned a guarded parking lot for Americans.  Oh no, park in the street and worry about your belongings in the car. Once inside I had the same experience as Jane, I remember thinking "why does no one speak english?'" 

The second time I decided to leave Jacó so that I could be at the embassy an hour before it opened.  Well, when I arrived there was this long line, so I again parked on the street.  When I got to the back of the line I looked for someone who spoke English because everyone in line looked like they were from Costa Rica.  Long story short, I decided to leave and do my other errands in San José.  I returned that afternoon.  I was amazed that I got my business done so quickly, but I do recall the American man before me being totally frustrated and cursing under his breath when he left the teller.  I ended up with same teller, an American lady who had the personality of a rotten grapefruit. 

I understand why he was frustrated.  She acted like we were from a foreign country.  The funny thing is that when I told a fellow expat about my experience and the long line, he said that I should have gone to the front and shown my passport.  Wouldn't you think that when there is a long line outside, that an American Embassy representative would look for us Gringos and escort us around the line of Ticos trying to get visas?  Too logical.

My third trip was uneventful because I now knew the ropes, but the experience was still the same:  a feeling of being a second citizen. I greatly respect being in Costa Rica as a foreigner, but I never expected to feel the same way when I entered MY American Embassy.  Perhaps they need to rename the embassy the Americostarica Embassy. Or better yet, form a panel of expats to recommend needed changes that will significantly enhance the expat experience when dealing with OUR American Embassy.  I suggest Jane Dell head up the panel. Jane, job well done.
Jack Ettinger
Jacó Beach  

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 181

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U.S. high court to hear about gender in citizenship cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen mother who gives birth overseas can pass on her citizenship automatically. But a U.S. man who fathers a child overseas by a non-U.S. mother has to fulfill legal requirements if the child is to be a U.S. citizen.

That's the law, and it has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the court may be about to expand or modify the requirements. The court said in March that it would hear the appeal of a man born to a U.S. father and a Mexican mother in Mexico.

At issue is the rule that a U.S. man must spend 10 years living in the United States before his child is born in order to pass on citizenship. Five of the years must be after the age of 14, according to a law passed in 1952. However, a U.S. mother has no lengthy requirement.

The basis for the Supreme Court appeal is gender discrimination. The person making the appeal is Ruben Flores-Villar, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a U.S. citizen father who was then 16 years old.  Although the father would later testify that he lived in the United States for more than 10 years, because of his age when the child was born he could not have five years of residency after the 14th birthday.

The child came to the United States when he was 2 months old and grew up in the San Diego, California, area. The case is in court because immigration agents nabbed him and accused him of being an illegal alien. He was sentenced to prison.

Legal experts said that the court decision in this case could have far-reaching implications for U.S. family law.

U.S. male citizens who produce a child by a foreign woman have several hoops they must jump through to pass on citizenship. Among these are proving conclusively that they are the father. The law, says this must be done with clear and convincing evidence. Usually, the U.S. Embassy here requires a DNA test, although simple scientific proof has not been fully embraced by the court as proof of a paternal relationship.

"The mother’s relation is verifiable from the birth itself and is documented by the birth certificate or hospital records and the witnesses to the birth. However, a father need not be present at the birth, and his presence is not incontrovertible proof of fatherhood." said the court in upholding the requirements in an earlier case. 

In that 2001 case, Tuan Anh Nguyen et al. v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Supreme
citizenshipo


Court upheld the law but ducked the gender-based
requirements. It did say the gender differences in the law served an important governmental objective.

Said the court: "A child born abroad and out of wedlock acquires at birth the nationality status of a citizen mother who meets a specified residency requirement. . . . However, when the father is the citizen parent, . . . one of three affirmative steps must be taken before the child turns 18: legitimization, a declaration of paternity under oath by the father, or a court order of paternity."

The Supreme Court is only supposed to consider points of law, but the 2001 case was not enhanced by the fact that  Nguyen was a two-time child sex offender trying to stay in the country. In addition, the court decided the case on grounds that were not gender-based.

The court also said that Congress is well within its authority in refusing, absent proof of an opportunity for a child-parent relationship to develop, to commit the United States to embracing a child as a citizen.  It also noted that a child has the right to seek citizenship on his or her own.

The Supreme Court usually decides cases on very narrow grounds. Even if the court overturns an appeals court ruling against Flores-Villar, it might not have much impact on expats here. And it is possible that any decision might have negative effects on U.S. expats here who wish to pass on their citizenship. Lawyers for Flores-Villar want the court to reduce the requirements to pass on citizenship to that now enjoyed by women.

All the court said is that it was prepared to hear arguments on the case during the upcoming October term.


Construction contracts readied for post-earthquake Cinchona
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The contract may be called an emergency measure, but nearly 20 months have passed since the Jan. 8, 2009, Cinchona earthquake.

The national emergency commission said it is inviting contractors to the site of the new Cinchona in Cariblanco de Alajuela.

The company executives will see if they want to bid on the contracts to build 93 new homes there or to put in infrastructure like a water line.
The emergency commission purchased land for a bit more than $1 million, and the land has been prepared. But the actual homes have been slow in coming.

Families who will get the homes were on the site Saturday picking out decorative items. The homes are being distributed in a process directed by the Ministerio de Salud with oversight by the Defensoría de los Habitantes. Homes are from one to three bedrooms.

The original Cinchona sat on a ridge, and a dozen residents died when the land gave way as a result of the quake. The toll eventually reached 18.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 181

Are they human or animal? That is the question created by 'Perezosos,' the work of María José Salazar and the winner of the ceramic event.
ceramic three Pereznzo
Museo Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia photos


Juried ceramic works displayed at Museo Calderón Guardia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia has an exhibit of ceramics through Sept. 27.

The facility in Barrio Escalante was the site of the juried  IV Bienal de Cerámica. The winning work was by María José Salazar. It was titled "Perezosos" and it was made with the use of a wood burning kiln. The work is interesting because of its ambiguity, which even comes from the title. Perezosos means the lazy ones but it also can mean those sloths that slowly live in Costa Rican trees.
Judges seemed to accept the second definition.

One judge praised the family nature of the three-part work and said the animalistic tradition was appropriate for Costa Rica.

Honorable mention went to Luis Chacón for a collage of ceramic pieces titled "María Antonieta." Also honored was  Natalie Steverling for an untitled work.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


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Untitled by Natalie Steverling
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'María Antonieta' by Luis Chacón


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 181

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Widespread rights violations
cited at U.N. council session


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.N. Human Rights Council began a three-week session Monday amid reports of widespread human rights violations around the world and escalating threats against human rights defenders. 

The new session of the rights council takes place against the backdrop of immense human suffering caused by devastating floods in Pakistan, violence and conflict in places, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia and indiscriminate killings of civilians.

In her speech to the Council, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, drew attention to the vital role played by human rights defenders in exposing abuse around the world. 

These people, she said, as well as journalists and civil society activists in all regions face threats to their lives and security because of their work.

"Peaceful dissidents, human rights advocates, lawyers, and press representatives have been targeted and violently attacked in countries, including in Iran, Iraq, and Somalia." said Ms. Pillay.  "Difficult conditions, including threats and assaults that put in jeopardy human rights workers, journalists, trade unionists and community organizers are often compounded by competition over natural resources, as is the case in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe."

Pillay urged the Human Rights Council and the international community to support and protect human rights defenders. She spoke with horror of the killings by criminal gangs of 72 migrants from Mexico.  Ms. Pillay also expressed concern about reports of a program by the United States of targeted killings of suspected terrorists.  

In Kyrgyzstan, Ms. Pillay descried the overall human rights situation, the result of ongoing tensions between the country's Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic communities.

But Pillay reserved her harshest criticisms for, what she calls, the new policies of France towards the Roma or Gypsies, including the dismantling of their settlements and collective expulsion to their country of origin.

"Such measures can only exacerbate the stigmatization of Roma and the extreme poverty and exclusion in which they live," she said. "The often stereotyping and discriminatory rhetoric by officials and by the media when referring to the Roma in Europe is also an issue of grave concern." 

Ms. Pillay noted that France's behavior toward the Roma is currently under scrutiny by the European Commission and the European Parliament.  She called on European States, including France, to adopt policies to overcome their marginalization.  

Stressing that states were obligated to protect people from terrorism, the high commissioner pointed out that anti-terrorism measures must never imperil human rights and due process of law.

“In this context, I am troubled by reports concerning a program by the United States of targeted killings of suspected terrorists in circumstances that challenge international norms set to protect the right to life and the rule of law,” she added.

“I am aware that a federal lawsuit has been filed in a U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., challenging the U.S. government's authority to target and kill U.S. citizens outside of war zones when they are suspected of involvement in terrorism.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 181


Latin American news
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Cuba will fire 500,000
workers, state union says


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's main labor organization says the state is to lay off more than 500,000 public sector workers by March.

The Cuban Workers Confederation said the country cannot and should not continue supporting businesses, production entities and services with inflated payrolls.  It said the losses hurt the economy and are ultimately counterproductive, creating bad habits and distorting worker conduct.

In the statement released on state-run media, the union said Cuba would change its labor structure and salary system and increase private sector job opportunities.

Currently, the state employs 95 percent of the official work force.

Several weeks ago, Cuban President Raul Castro said his government would scale back its involvement in the nation's economy and allow more Cubans to operate their own businesses and hire workers.  He said the aim was to create jobs for Cubans employed by the government who will be laid off. 



Venezuela crash toll
put at 15 dead, 36 alive


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Fifteen people have been killed in the crash of an airplane belonging to Venezuela's state-run airline, Conviasa.  Thirty-six others on board survived the accident in a steel mill yard in Bolivar state.

Steel mill workers helped pull the survivors from the smoking wreckage.

It is not clear what caused the crash, but officials say the pilot had radioed traffic controllers that something was wrong before the plane went down on the property of the state-run Sidor steel mill. 

The aircraft, a twin-engine turboprop, was carrying 47 passengers and a crew of four.  It was flying from the Caribbean resort island of Margarita to the industrial city of Puerto Ordaz.

Bolivar's state governor described the large number of survivors as a miracle.  And he called the steel mill workers heroes for assisting the survivors.






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