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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 186                          Email us
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Expats 65 and older can get immigration amnesty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats 65 years and older who have lived in Costa Rica illegally for five years or more can become legal residents under the current amnesty program.

That was the word Monday from Javier Zavaleta of Residency in Costa Rica. He provides a service for foreigners who wish to become residents here.

Zavaleta said his firm has studied the regulations that apply to the amnesty and discovered the loophole that might help North Americans. Until now the general belief was that the amnesty program was geared mainly to help Nicaraguans living here illegally become legal. There are several categories specified in the regulations that do not seem to apply to most expats. For example, persons under 25 who came to Costa Rica as children are eligible. Also eligible are parents of Costa Rican or resident children.

Already reported is that foreigners who let their residency lapse since 2003 could bring their paperwork up to date.

Zavaleta said that the deadline for filing for the amnesty programs is Nov. 17.  He said the application is paperwork intensive, similar to that for pensionado and rentista applications. Birth certificates are required for each applicant as well as a police clearance letter from the overseas residence.
immigration rule
 Here is a key section of an immigration handout
 that says persons over 65 are eligible.


The Nicaraguan Embassy on Avenida Central has been flooded with citizens from that country seeking birth certificates and other documents to apply for residency. Also flooded has been the security ministry office that provides fingerprinting, which also is required.

The regulations released by the Dirección General de Migración do not specifically say a person 65 years or older.

The rules use the terms persona extranjera adulta mayor, which is generally accepted to be someone that age or older.

Zavaleta said his sister, Mayanye Zavaleta, who handles the firm's business in Costa Rica, attended a 20-hour immigration department seminar at which the finer points of the amnesty were discussed.


The 10 Commandments get prime spot at legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican lawmakers have installed a heavily edited version of the 10 Commandments at the entry to the legislative chamber.

The work by sculptor Edgar Zúñiga consists of 10 free-standing scenes affixed to columns.  The works were inaugurated Monday night.

The sculptures are a donation from the Sociedad Bíblica de Costa Rica.  In Jewish and Christian tradition, the commandments were handed to Moses by God on stone tablets while the tribes of Israel wandered in the desert after the flight from Egypt.

The artist also calls the work the Ten Words, an earlier description of the moral code.

The artist also takes liberties with the traditional commandments. For example No. 1 says in Spanish that God is interested in the liberty of his people.

Even though the works are placed in a location frequented by politicians, the artist retained the
commandments
Partido Liberación Nacional photo
Legislative leaders view the new art work.

injunction against lying but changed it from the traditional  "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" to "You will always tell the truth."
"Thou shalt not kill" is rendered as "Respect the gift of life."

In a legislative news release, Zuñiga was quoted saying that he faced a challenge creating sculptures. The works are based on the commandments and constructed to be contemporary and show the principles still are in force today, he said.

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Costa Rica Expertise

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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Our readers' opinions
Genetically modified plants
are called an abomination

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yesterday, Sept 17, is http://occupy-monsanto.com/ day.  Perhaps as a public service you would share this link to a documentary  film, available online free for a few more days. http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

If people don't have the time or inclination to protest, please make the time to watch this film, and then share with all your friends and those you love.  It is really important to understand just what genetically modified organism (GMOs) do and how they affect your health and the health of our animals and the planet.  These generically altered seeds have been approved with virtually NO independent studies in the U.S.  They have been banned in most of the world. The BIG chemical companies have bought out the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA has given itself power to write LAWS.  There is less "testing" on GMOs then adding  new color to food.  It is against the "FDA LAW" for the Florida Citrus Association to say "an orange a day prevents scurvy".  PROVEN MEDICAL FACT, but the FDA regulations says "only pharmaceuticals can prevent or cure disease."

For those of you lucky enough to live in California, or with friends there, they have an opportunity to make companies label these GMOs abominations of nature by voting yes on Prop 37. Please share this video far and wide.  Everyone needs to know this stuff before it's too late. Pura Comida!!!

Fortunately for us living in Costa Rica, bean, rice and wheat have not been genetically altered. Unfortunately, virtually all U.S. soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola and sugar beets have been altered.  Which means avoid all fried foods, soft drinks, and dairy!!!!!

Now we need to ask the government of Costa Rica to protect it's people and ban all import of GMO grains as a national health risk.

Ed Rose
Quepos


ICE drags its feet to give
electric power to competitors


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When TLC (or CAFTA) was approved in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, we cheered at the prospect of having new phone and Internet providers. We hoped that competition would bring better service and lower prices.
 
The reality is that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, and it’s all-powerful union, has done everything in its power to block the implementation of new service for as long as possible.  Their latest game is to delay bringing electric service to the new cell towers, effectively blocking the ability of new providers to create a signal.
 
It was bad enough when ICE refused to allow the other companies access to the existing ICE cell towers, forcing competitors to litter the country with additional cell towers. Then ICE tried to prevent the construction of additional towers by creating zoning issues (i.e. you can’t put a tower in a residential area), even though ICE towers were already in the same locations.  
 
The latest game just adds insult to injury. While ICE couldn’t prevent the new towers going up, it seems they have just “forgotten” to provide electric service to them, effectively preventing the competitive companies from functioning in many areas of the country.
 
For example in the Dominical area, there is a new Claro tower about one kilometer north of the existing ICE tower on the Escalaras ridge.  The Claro tower has been installed for about a year now, but it sits there like a dead, ugly whale on the beach, powerless.  ICE has not even started installing the poles to bring power to the new tower.
 
Another tower in Alfombra has electric service passing directly in front of it, but the meter box still sits empty, waiting for ICE.  Since it normally takes about eight days to get a meter installed, there is no real excuse for the delay in this case.  
Linda Gray
Dominical

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary













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Colegio Humboldt in Pavas will mark 100 years this Oct. 1
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Staff members of Colegio Humboldt, a local, private, German-immersion school, will be busy this week hosting an eight-kilometer fun-run on Saturday and preparing for a week of activities to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary.

The run is called the Carretera Humboldt 2012. The anniversary celebrations will kick off  Oct. 1.

Although the events are occurring in such a short span of time, Renée Priess, who is in charge of communications and public relations at the school, said that the two events are completely separate from one another.

“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” she said. “They are completely independent.”

Colegio Humboldt, formerly the German School, opened its doors Oct. 1, 1912, as a kindergarten. Although no records exist of enrollment at the time, Ms. Priess estimates that the school had about 20 students that year.

Ms. Priess explained that the school closed twice in its first years. The school closed for one year within the first decade because there were no German teachers at the school. The second time World War II forced the school to close its doors, and administrators were not able to reopen it until 1956.

However, in spite of these difficulties, the school continued to grow and had to move to new locations several times, starting out in Barrio California. Then it was moved near the Atlantic train station, then to Moravia, and, in 1971, was moved to Pavas. It has remained in Pavas since.

Ms. Priess said that the school now has 910 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. She said that cultures blend among the students at the school, even though the majority of them are Costa Rican with no German background before starting at the school. She mentioned that about 20 percent of the students are a blend of German, Swiss and others from around the world.

“We have a really big mix of different cultures and different languages.” said Ms. Preiss. “A lot of students start without German.”

She explained that students start out with simple songs and activities in German in kindergarten, but by the time they reach first grade they are also being taught math in German. When they reach sixth grade, most subjects are taught in German.

Teaching that many classes in German can be challenging for the school, said Ms. Priess, because some of the teachers must be registered by the German government and must consequently come from Germany. Currently 15 of the
Colegio Humbolt
Colegio Humboldt in 1960

schools approximately 70 teachers were recruited this way.
The school will devote an entire week to celebrating its 100th anniversary, starting on the exact day that the school completes the century, Oct. 1.

During that school week, students will perform music, plays and other talents throughout their days in school, except for their day off Wednesday. The week will conclude with an Oktoberfest celebration at La Rumba in San Antonio de Belén.

However, Ms. Priess explained that the run this week has nothing to do with the anniversary. Physical education staff at the school held the run last year solely because they enjoyed the sport and wanted to get students, parents and community members involved in running.

“It's not for raising money. It's for the fun of running itself,” said Ms. Preiss.

The fee for the race does not go towards scholarships or towards school operations, but only goes towards paying for the event itself.

The German Embassy is also pitching in to organize the race, using its contacts with the Costa Rican government and other organizations to set up the run.

The race costs 4,000 colons for children and 6,000 colons for adults. The path will start and end at the school in Pavas and circle all the way around Parque la Sabana. Persons can register for the run at either the school or at Runners store locations until Thursday.

After both of these events are concluded, Colegio Humboldt will look forward to a series of sports competitions between schools across Central America, which will take place in Costa Rica in March. In those games, the school will host four other German-immersion schools from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.


Expat group pushing for more influence with U.S. Congress
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats in Europe have banded together to tell Congress that the United States needs a residence-based tax system instead of a citizenship-based method.

The group, called the Americans in Switzerland Town Hall Meeting Working group, also wants more say in issues involving overseas Americans. The group suggests that some form of ombudsman be created and empowered to review and respond to challenges facings Americans overseas.

The Sept. 3 letter from the group in Switzerland is signed by business leaders and heads of both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad.

The primary concern is the effect that the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is having on overseas Americans as well as the impact of the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. These are called FATCA and FBAR.

"Recent measure aimed at finding holders of undeclared foreign bank accounts, the vast majority of whom are not residents abroad but living in the U.S., have been applied in such a manner that has made ordinary life very difficult for average, law-abiding American citizens who live and work overseas," said the letter to members of Congress.

The letter also said that bi-national marriages are coming under increased stress because of the reluctance of the non-American partner to share joint account information with the Internal Revenue Service. The letter also said that some U.S. citizens are concluding that their best option is to surrender U.S. nationality.

"A disproportionate number of those who are renouncing their
U.S. citizenship are currently living here in Switzerland," the letter said.

The letter says the heart of the problem is the unique policy of the United States to base its taxation on citizenship. This denies overseas Americans any chance of attaining competitive equality in world markets, and also has very adverse effects on U.S. exports and the entire U.S. economy," the letter said.

The group said that the problems are not confined to U.S. citizens in Switzerland but are general among U.S. expats all over the world.

The group also suggests representation in Congress for overseas Americans.

A leading U.S. expat organizations, American Citizens Abroad, is based in downtown Geneva. Another organization, Association of Americans Resident Overseas, is headquartered nearby in Paris, France.

The report that accompanied the letter contains an expat wish list. In addition to the repeal of FATCA, the report expresses concern about proposals in Washington to repeal the foreign earned income exclusion that lets U.S. citizens earn about $93,000 each year overseas without paying U.S. taxes.
The report also rejects a proposal to deny passports to U.S. citizens who owe taxes.

The report also was critical of U.S. policies of using informants to denounce fellow citizens who are suspected of U.S. tax non-compliance. ". . . how such an ignoble practice could be deemed compatible with our long cherished fundamental American values of solidarity, friendship and mutual trust," the report asked. The report is HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 186
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New fiction book by J.K. Rowling will get a reception here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the worldwide launch of author J.K. Rowling's new novel “The Casual Vacancy” happens in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, fans living in Costa Rica can also partake through a program by the British Embassy.

Ms. Rowling will release her first novel since the Harry Potter series Sept. 27.  The author strives to captivate another audience this time, adults.

“Harry Potter was more for everyone, but this book caters to the older crowd,” said Bruce Callow, political and communications officer at the embassy.

The story behind "The Casual Vacancy" details the life of a town with groups at war with each other and the effects of an election after a council seat is left vacant.  From this point, not much more is known about the plot.
“There hasn't been that much information released about the book.  It's keeping everyone in suspense,” said Callow.

The British Embassy will present the book along with a presentation from the Little Theatre Group.  The theater group will also run a trivia quiz on iconic female authors of the United Kingdom. 

Five winners will receive a copy of the English version of the book. The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Bar Shakespeare on Avenida Segunda at Calle 28 adjacent to the Sala Garbo theater. Ambassador Sharon Campbell will also attend this event and may read an excerpt from the book, said Callow.

The book launch is open to the public and there is no cost,  refreshments will be available for purchase.

“I think it is going to be a very memorable event,” said Callow.


Students invited to submit thoughts or artifacts for time capsule
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican students will communicate with their counterparts 38 years in the future this month. Unfortunately, the medium is only one-sided.

The Ministerio de Ciencias y Tecnología, the British Embassy, the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje and other organizations are collecting letters, photos, graphics and visions of the future in a time capsule, according to a press release from the ministry.

The Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnología will host an event Sept. 26, to publicly display the time capsule, which has been dubbed “Cápsula del Tiempo Odisea 2050.”

Organizers of the project hope to preserve the thoughts and perspectives of students in 2012 so that students in 2050 can  have a better understanding of their predecessors.

According to the release, the design is based on a concept developed at the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, but the
capsule was built by students at the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje. The capsule is in the shape of a corn kernel and its dimensions are 50 centimeters long by 50 centimeters high by 20 centimeters wide.

That's about 20 inches by 20 inches by 8 inches.

The event will also feature a Costa Rican film also called “Odisea 2050,” which focuses on the issue of climate change. According to the release, the 45-minute film approaches climate change from the perspective of young people.

The final deadline for students to submit documents to be enclosed in the time capsule is next Monday. So far, the ministry has collected 200 documents. Students can send their own contributions to the ministry or the British Embassy either through Facebook or through traditional mail.

The exhibition of the time capsule will open at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 26. The event will be at the building of the Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnología in Pavas, 1,300 meters north of the U.S. Embassy.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Bolivia says coca production
has declined 12 percent


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The cultivation of coca bushes in Bolivia decreased by around 12 per cent in 2011, according to a new survey released Monday by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The annual survey, jointly produced by U.N. agency and the Bolivian government, found that the area under cultivation reached around 27,200 hectares (about 67,200 acres) last year, compared to 31,000 (76,600 acres) in 2010, marking the end of three years of high levels of cultivation of the bush, which is the raw material for the manufacture of cocaine.

In a news release, the U.N. agency representative in Bolivia, César Guedes, welcomed this positive trend and thanked the government for its drug control efforts.

In 2011, the Government eradicated coca crop from 10,500 hectares (about 25,950 acres), up 28 per cent over the 8,200 hectares (20,260 acres) cleared in 2010.

Satellite images, plane flights and ground surveys of the largest coca-producing regions revealed that Yungas de la Paz, responsible for two-thirds of Bolivia’s coca production, saw an 11 per cent drop in cultivation while the Cochabamba Tropics registered a 15 per cent reduction and the Northern La Paz provinces witnessed a 7 per cent drop.

The Isiboro Sécure national park reduced cultivation by 30 per cent, whereas the Carrasco national park registered only a slight increase of 2 per cent. Overall, the protected areas of the country recorded a 15 per cent decrease, the U.N. agency said.

Lower production prompted a rise in coca leaf prices by 31 per cent in Government-authorized markets and an estimated 16 per cent in illegal markets, the survey stated.

“Higher prices are making coca more attractive, but farmers need viable alternatives if we are to curb illicit crop-growing over the long term,” said Guedes.

Despite lower production, the market value of coca leaf rose to $353 million in 2011, up from $310 million in 2010. This represents 1.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and 15.3 per cent of the GDP value of the agricultural sector.


Haiti at crossroads faces
backsliding risk, U.N. says


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A United Nations human rights official Monday said that while Haiti shows encouraging signs of progress, it is still facing challenges such as justice reform and poverty, and called on the international community to support the country’s long-term development.

“Haiti is at a crossroads. If the right steps are taken on a number of key issues, there is potential for progress – but at the same time, there are risks of backsliding,” said  Ivan Šimonovic, who just finished a four-day visit to the Caribbean nation on Saturday. He is the assistant secretary-general for human rights.

During his visit, Šimonovic met with senior Haitian officials and local representatives to discuss the human rights challenges ahead of the U.N. Security Council’s revision of the mandate of the U.N. stabilization mission there.

Šimonovic visited the national penitentiary, where some 3,400 inmates live in precarious conditions. He noted that only 278 inmates have been convicted, while the rest are in prolonged pre-trial detention and stressed that this calls for stronger rule-of-law institutions.

“Police reform is not enough,” he said. “A more independent, reliable and efficient justice system is necessary to resolve not only this situation but to ensure that the rights of the population are better protected, including land rights. The ongoing penal code reform must be concluded without delay and should enable prosecution of past grave human rights violations in line with Haiti’s international legal obligations.”


Battle of Antietam Creek
killed 4,000 150 years ago


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Last week on Sept. 11, people around the world vividly recalled the day 11 years earlier when foreign terrorists piloting hijacked airplanes killed nearly 3,000 Americans and others.

Today, it’s mostly forgotten that 4,000 Americans died, and another 15,000 were wounded, in a single day on U.S. soil 150 years ago.

That was, and remains, the bloodiest day in U.S. history, and it is being remembered in the Maryland countryside west of Washington, D.C., near a sleepy little town called Sharpsburg. 

There, on Sept. 17, 1862, as many as 100,000 Yankee northerners and Rebel southerners, fighting a great civil war, collided on pastureland next to a tiny stream called Antietam Creek in an epic 12-hour battle.

Even though Union commander George McClellan was victorious, President Abraham Lincoln wasn't happy that surviving Confederates escaped back into Virginia, to fight another day. Lincoln traveled to Antietam to tell McClellan so days later.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had won victory after victory but on his own soil in Virginia.  He needed a triumph in northern territory that would persuade France and England to endorse the breakaway Confederacy and provide it with arms to win the war.

Support for President Abraham Lincoln’s war was shaky at the time, and Lee knew that if he won at Antietam Creek and menaced the capital city of Washington, the border state of Maryland might join the rebel cause, and the North lose its appetite for war. 

In those fields today, a visitor can almost feel and hear the fierce battle that decided it all, especially when he or she walk down a sunken lane that the locals called Hog Trough Road because pigs had worn a depression in the earth going to and from a barn.

But the soldiers who lived to tell about the battle there would soon call the place Bloody Lane.

Lee lost one-fourth of his army in and around that trough and was forced to pull his forces back into Virginia. 

But Bloody Antietam had lasting significance because it convinced President Lincoln to transform the war into a crusade against slavery that hastened the day when the nation would no longer be half-slaveholding, half-free.


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Traffic police in Guanacaste
held in bribery investigation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officers in Guanacaste had a happy hunting ground for bribes from motorists, both Costa Rican and foreigners, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency's Sección Especializada de Tránsito detained 13 traffic officers Monday in Limonal, Cañas and Nicoya.

The officers were detained at the various stations where they work. The judicial police said the investigation had been going on since March when a confidential tip came in.

The men were jailed overnight to await court action today in  Goicoechea, said the Poder Judicial.

Judicial police said that they were investigating 27 cases, but they added that there probably were many more.

The bribes ranged from 10,000 colons, about $20 for Costa Ricans, up to $80 for expats, said the judicial police. In one case, a motorist who had been flagged down did not have money, so the officer took a cell telephone. Agents said they confiscated the cell telephone when they arrested the man Monday morning.

The technique used to exact bribes was to keep watch on an area where there is a double yellow line which means a no-passing zone. When a motorist violated the law, the Tránsito officers were there to administer an instant fine. In some cases, the motorist was threatened with confiscation of his or her passport, said the judicial agency.

Rodrigo Rivera, the acting minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, reacted by calling upon traffic officers to be honest and to report corrupt members of their department. The Policía de Tránsito is part of the ministry.

The Poder Judicial said that the men were questioned formally Monday at the Ministerio Público in Liberia. Typically in cases like this a judge will let the men go free pending trial but they will be suspended from their functions.

So far this year, 29 traffic officers have been detained on allegations that they took bribes. That figure includes those detained Monday.


new director
Ms. Elizondo
Canatur director
   Ms. Cascante

New Canatur directors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sofía Elizondo Jiménez, an expert in management and marketing, has been named executive director of the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, known as Cantur.

The chamber also named Tatiana Cascante Rojas as assistant director. She also has an academic background in marketing.










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