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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 187          Email us
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In search of that elusive personaría juridica
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The news was not particularly welcome. An employee left a company cell phone on a bus. The time was mid-July.

That meant buying a new, cheap cell and spending at least two hours at the phone company office getting a replacement chip and activating the new purchase.

Would that be true! Instead, the situation became what Costa Ricans call a calvario, named after the sufferings of Jesus on the way to the cross.

To prove ownership of the company and the legal right to act on its behalf requires something called a personaría juridica, a document issued by the Registro Nacional that lists the company officers and their powers.

Thanks to the handy online service provided by the Registro, obtaining such a document was easy and cost less than 3,000 colons, some $6. The reference was an article on how to use the system written by Garland Baker May 2.

There has been a change at the downtown office of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Perhaps to be more competitive in the face of competition, the state phone company has added more attendants, so a 20-minute wait is all that was needed to present the news of the lost cell phone to a clerk and also hand over the personaría juridica.

Drats! It seems that the lost telephone was the asset of an otherwise inactive company and not the company that owns A.M. Costa Rica and all the other telephones. The clerk smiled. We left.

Back to the digital service of the Registro Nacional to get the personaría juridica for the correct company that we'll call LittleKnown S.A. The company's only asset was the cell telephone purchased back in the days when the phone company was rationing lines one to a company. It seemed a good idea then to buy an additional phone in the name of LittleKnown.

Alas, the computer spewed out the new personaría juridica, but the identification numbers for the officers were several years old and incorrect because of changes in immigration status.

Shucks, we thought we changed all that in March. In fact, we did. A document drafted by a lawyer informed the Registro Nacional of changes in the officers' cédula numbers, the company address and several other minor details. It would seem wise for the Registro to have a form for individuals to fill out to make minor changes in information like addresses. But in Costa Rica that is the job for a lawyer and a custom-drafted document.

So a messenger was dispatched to the Registro to point out that clerks there had failed to make a change. After all, we had the lawyer's document approved and returned by Registro workers.

No way, said Registro workers. Even though all the required information was in the lawyer's
elusive personaria

document, it was not in the correct form because
they just changed the correct form. The messenger returned empty handed.

Another lawyer stepped up to bat. The Registro frequently will pay much more attention to a lawyer than a mere messenger or, even worse, a civilian.

The Registro agreed to make the changes.

Another 3,000 colons spent online proved that the incorrect numbers remained in the company file.

A second, hotter visit by the lawyer.

That was then, this is now, said the Registro clerks. The form is incorrect. We can't change it. Go fish.

By this time Lawyer No. 2 was even hotter, but then he agreed to draft the document in the way the Registro demanded. He did and presented the document seeking the small changes.

A week later, the Registro returned the document to Lawyer No. 2 signifying that it had made the changes.

So it was time for another personaría juridica from the Registro Digital.

But wait! The Registro, faced with a Sala IV appeal over the prices its charges on the digital Web site, had frozen the system that dispensed online documents.

Not to worry. Another messenger appeared personally at the Registro and purchased the personaría juridica with the changed numbers.

But, whoops, they were not changed.

Lawyer No. 2 heads back to the Registro even hotter.

Eventually a new personaría juridica, accurate in all aspects, appears for LittleKnown S.A.

So to change a couple of cédula numbers in a company's records required two months, two lawyers, $200 and assorted fees and taxi fares.

What ever happened to those laws that were supposed to simplify doing business here and cut down on paperwork?

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New Atlantic storm system
moving west toward isthmus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a new storm in the mid-Atlantic that may cause problems here. Meanwhile, a disturbance in the Pacific is moving up the Mexican coast and away from Costa Rica.

The new tropical storm is named Ophelia. It is moving due west at 9 mph or 15 kph, said the U.S. Hurricane Information Center in Miami. Forecasters said they expected the speed to increase.

The Atlantic is where storms are born during the hurricane season, which does not end officially until Nov. 30. Frequently such storms will take a turn to the north. But others fail to make the turn until they have an effect on Costa Rican weather.

The low pressure area in the Pacific is not named. It is moving west northwest and has a 90 percent chance of converting itself into a tropical storm or worse within the next 48 hours, the center said.

Meanwhile the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts weather here to be typical of the season with warm mornings giving way to clouds and rain in the afternoon.

Zone along the border
created for residents there

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department has agreed with officials in Panamá to set up what is basically a free zone for 100 meters along the border. This provides entry to the Paso Canoas commercial district for citizens of Panamá.

In the case of Sixaola on the southeastern part of the country on the Caribbean, the border zone will be 300 meters parallel to the main street. So residents of both countries can more freely travel in the zones for commercial purposes.

The Direccón General de Migración y Extranjería signed an accord to this effect with officials from Panamå Tuesday.

The agreement creates a visitor's permit for those living on both sides along the southern border. For those in the Caribbean, anyone living in Puerto Viejo and south can obtain the permit to allow them to move freely on both sides of the border. In the west, permits will be available for residents of  Paso Canoas, Ciudad Neilly, Río Claro, Golfito and San Vito, said the agency.

Free travel is restricted to citizens of Panamá and Costa Rica. Expats, even those with residency, probably will not be able to take advantage of this new setup.

Suspects from San Ramón
detained at Sarchí roadblock

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two men suspected of sticking up a jewelry store owner in San Ramón Tuesday were caught by police at a roadblock in Sarchí.

The bandits took 14 million colons, about $28,000 that the store owner had just withdrawn from the bank. The bandits pulled up in a motorcycle as the man and a son were driving from the bank some 600 meters to the store, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The stickup took place just outside the store, and another relative of the store owner who had been inside the shop suffered a superficial wound from a gun used by the bandits, judicial police said.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that all the money and a gun were recovered at the roadblock.

Paseo Colón juice shop
targeted by two bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crooks continue to prey on San José stores in broad daylight.

Tuesday the stickup happened at a juice outlet on Paseo Colón where some 10 customers and staff were surprised by a man with a gun. A companion waited outside on a motorcycle, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Judicial agents said that the two men initially entered the store as customers and then one man returned shortly before noon.

The gunman took the possession of all in the shop and got away with an estimated 50,000 colons, about $100, said agents.

The downtown has been the scene of a string of store stickups but this appears to be the first time that customers were involved.

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.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 187

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Someone sent a mesage to the environmental tribunal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators have confirmed that someone fired three bullets at the offices of the environmental tribunal in Los Yoses.

The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo confirmed the report Tuesday. It said it has asked for police protection.

The tribunal is the agency that is investigating environmental crimes all over the country and sometimes snags developers and those with homes built illegally in the maritime zone with big fines.

The shooting took place sometime over the weekend. No one was in the offices. A bullet hit the main metal door at the entrance of the offices and in wooden frames around the garage door.

Agents found a spent bullet inside the offices. Shell casing were found outside.

José Lino Chaves, president of the Tribunal said he thought the purpose was intimidation or blackmail.

The Tribunal is an agency of the Ministerio de Ambiente,
agents check porton
Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo photo
Judicial agents check the entry gate at the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo.

Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

There was no mistaking the offices because they are marked by a sign.

Proposal for new canton in Nicoya Peninsula moving ahead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature is moving ahead with creating a 12th canton in the province of Puntarenas.

The canton would be the southern tip of the Nicoya peninsula and be called La Península.

Now that area is part of the central canton that has its main administrative offices in Puntarenas Centro on the opposite side of the Gulf of Nicoya.
Members of a special committee set up to study the issue voted 4-3 Tuesday to accept a substitute text that would create the canton. The new canton would include the districts of Lepanto, Paquera and Cóbano as well as a number of islands in the gulf.

The proposed text requests the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones to set up voting within six months of the creation of the new canton for regional offices, including the mayor. In the meantime, members of the local councils will hold the offices temporarily, according to the text.

Foreign ministry seeks $1.7 million diplomatic war chest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The foreign ministry is budgeting 850 million colons to continue its diplomatic effort against the Nicaraguan invasion of the Isla Calero, a vice minister said Tuesday. That is about $1.7 million.

The vice minister, Carlos Roverssi Rojas, presented the ministry's proposal to legislators of the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios, which will create the budget for next year.

Roverssi also said that the ministry, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, needs about 30 million or
about $60,000 for engineers to plan and electricians to rewire its main building. The structure, Casa Amarilla, dates from the 1920s. He told lawmakers that studies show there is a high risk of fire in the structure he said was considered the most beautiful in the country

Nicaraguan troops invaded the island in northeastern Costa Rica in October. Costa Rica eventually brought a case in the International Court of Justice in the Hague where judges issued a temporary order restricting both countries from occupying the land pending a decision.

Nicaragua withdrew its troops, but young Nicaraguan activists have been seen setting up housing on the island.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 187

Ancient clams from last warming say El Niño will continue
By the Alfred Wegener Institute Communication
and Media Department

Earth warming will presumably not lead to a permanent El Niño state in the South Pacific Ocean. This is the conclusion drawn by an international team of researchers after it investigated 50-million-year-old clam shells and wood from the Antarctic. The growth rings of these fossils indicate that there was also a climate rhythm over the South Pacific during the last prolonged interglacial phase of the Earth’s history resembling the present-day interplay of El Niño and La Niña.
When the South Pacific Ocean warms up at an above-average rate every three to six years and El Niño influences weather patterns, the world in the coastal countries affected is turned completely around. Fishermen come back with empty nets, crops are lost, food prices increase and nearly everyone hopes the warm phase of the climate phenomenon El Niño Southern Oscillation will abate as quickly as possible.

The phenomenon still changes regularly from its cold phase (La Niña) to the warm phase (El Niño) and back. But what will things be like in the future? How will the worldwide temperature rise influence the phenomenon? Will there perhaps be a permanent El Niño? To answer this question, scientists are looking at the past – particularly at the Eocene period 60 to 37 million years ago. “The Eocene is considered to be the last real prolonged warm period. At that time the Antarctic was ice-free and green. Even trees grew and we know about the water temperature of the ocean that it fluctuated between 10 and 16 degrees Celsius over the year,” said Thomas Brey, biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association.

He and colleagues from the U.S.A. and Germany have now succeeded for the first time in verifying a rhythm according to the pattern of the El Niño Southern Oscillation phenomenon in the growth patterns of fossil clams and wood from the early Eocene. Their results will soon appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letter and are already available on its Web site in a text entitled “El Niño in the Eocene greenhouse recorded by fossil bivalves and wood from Antarctica.”
Brey and his colleagues investigated shells of the bivalve species Cucullaea raea and Eurhomalea antarctica that are 50 million years old as well as a piece of wood from Seymour Island in the Antarctic. “Like trees, clams form growth rings. We measured their width and examined them for growth rhythms,” said Brey.

Whether clams grow depends on the availability of food and heat. “That means the change from good and poor environmental conditions at that time is still reflected in the width of the growth rings we find today. And as we were 
Clam cross section
Department of Earth Science,
Syracuse University/ Linda Ivany

Cross section through the shell of Cucullaea raea showing annual growth increments.

clam with coin
Department of Earth Science,
Syracuse University/ Devin Buick
Cucullaea raea shell from the Eocene next to a coin to show scale.

able to show, this change took place in the same three to  six year rhythm we are familiar with in connection with ENSO today,” says Brey.

The shells are a real piece of luck for him. To verify the El Niño Southern Oscillation, he said he needed climate archives that cover the largest possible period year by year. Back then clams lived for up to 100 years.

To examine the significance of the growth rings of clams and wood, the researchers compared their measurement results with current data as well as with the fluctuations produced by a climate model of the Eocene. The result: all patterns correspond. The results are a strong indication that a phenomenon which fluctuated between warm and cold phases also existed in the warm Eocene,” said Brey.

Should the scientists be right, these findings mean for the future that in all likelihood the worldwide temperature rise will not disrupt the climate rhythm above the South Pacific Ocean.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 187

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Monetary Fund characterizes
U.S. recovery as sluggish

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Monetary Fund says the U.S. economy is struggling to overcome sluggish growth due to an unresolved government debt crisis and weaknesses in the housing market and household finances.

In a report released Tuesday, the fund downgraded its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year to 1.5 percent, one percentage point lower than its previous projection. It says the first priority of the U.S. government should be to commit to a credible fiscal policy that puts the country's massive public debt on a sustainable track.

The report urges the White House and Congress to agree on a medium-term debt reduction plan to avoid a sudden collapse of market confidence that could disrupt global economic stability. It also calls for temporary government stimulus measures and an accommodative monetary policy to encourage private economic activity.

In another report highlighting weakness in the housing market, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday construction of new homes fell more than expected in August.  It says U.S. housing starts declined 5 percent from July, to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 571,000 homes.

The International Monetary Fund also predicted U.S. unemployment will remain above 9 percent next year.  The jobless rate was 9.1 percent in August.  Persistently high unemployment has dampened consumer spending, the biggest part of the U.S. economy.

Analysts expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to announce new measures to try to boost the U.S. economy today at the end of a two-day policy meeting. The central bank opened the meeting Tuesday.

Analysts say the Fed is likely to announce a move to buy long-term U.S. government bonds as a way of pushing down long-term interest rates and encouraging businesses to invest. The U.S. central bank has kept short-term interest rates near zero since 2008.

The analysts do not expect the Fed to repeat its recent purchase of $600 billion in U.S. treasuries, a quantitative easing operation that expired in June. The operation fell short of the Fed's goal of generating self-sustaining economic growth and critics said it risked fueling inflation.

Retired U.S. satellite due
to plunge to earth Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite 20 years ago this month.  And now that bus-sized satellite is plunging toward Earth.

Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Texas, says the craft will likely reenter the atmosphere on Friday.  He says scientists will be able to narrow the time frame as it gets closer.

As far as where it will crash, Matney says the satellite passes over the Earth between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude. 

Everything from Canada down to the tip of South America, and from Siberia down to the tip of Africa and Australia could be where the satellite lands, said Matney. 

Given that more than two-thirds of the planet is covered by water, space debris usually lands with a splash. 

Still, there is the chance that the satellite could land with a thud, although Matney says this reentry is not cause for great concern.

"If you talk about the probability of you getting hit, it's something like one in trillions, so actually the odds of you getting hit is quite small," Matney says.  "So, I don't think anybody needs to be unduly concerned about it." 

The space agency says it has no reports of a person being injured or property being significantly damaged by reentering debris.  But there was an incident in 1997.

"There actually was a lady in Oklahoma who was hit by a piece of very light debris from a reentering satellite, but it didn't hurt her.  It was a piece of insulation.  She was out jogging, and it hit her," recalled Matney.  "That same reentry dropped two tanks over Texas."

Matney says debris reentry is a common occurrence, averaging about one piece per day, but that the pieces usually are small.  But he says this will be the first time in 30 years that a U.S. space agency satellite of this size will have crashed back to Earth. 

Even though officials at NASA and the Department of Defense cannot yet provide a precise landing footprint, Matney says the science of figuring out what will land is exacting. 

"We actually take time to get the original specifications, to get the different parts of the spacecraft, the material types, their shape, their mass," explains Matney.  "And we actually have computer programs that model the dynamics as it begins to heat up and break up and look at the temperatures those pieces reach and whether they reach the melting point of the metal." 

For instance, he says that because of aluminum's relatively low melting temperature, aluminum objects usually disintegrate before they reach the surface of the Earth.

The agency expects 26 potentially hazardous pieces of this satellite to reach the ground, most of them made of titanium, stainless steel or beryllium, which have high melting points.  These pieces of debris include batteries, wheel rims and empty fuel tanks.  Debris is expected to range in mass from 0.6 to 158 kilograms.    

Bill Clinton says Haiti
could be regional leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton says Haiti has the potential for sparking competition in the Caribbean that would transform the island nation into a regional leader.  He made the prediction in New York City at the yearly Clinton Global Initiative, a leadership forum that tackles some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Speaking at an investment workshop on the eve of the forum’s official start, Clinton said Haiti’s advantage as a source of cheap labor is offset by the country’s energy costs. 

He said Haitian electricity rates are the highest of any country in the Caribbean, a region with the most expensive electricity in the world.  The reason, he says, is the importation of heavy fuels.  Clinton called that insane because there are alternatives.

“If we maximized their potential for hydropower, for agricultural waste, and for solar and for wind —  you did it all — then you can have backup generators on the days the wind did not blow and the sun did not shine," noted Clinton; "but the cost for manufacturers and for all other businesses would drop dramatically."

Clinton said other Caribbean nations would be forced to follow Haiti’s energy lead, boosting the fortunes of all.

Haitian President Michel Martelly said his country must overcome a legacy of 40 years of failed leadership, which impoverished the people and frightened investors.  Martelly said he will submit two bills to the Haitian congress to reduce government red tape to improve the investment climate.

“One will shorten the time it takes to open a business, and the other one, to shorten the time it takes to get a construction permit,” Martelly said.

Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake in January 2010.  Martelly says the tragedy claimed more than 300,000 lives, destroyed 30 percent of the country’s buildings and inflicted a total of $30 billion in losses. 
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 187

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Latin America news
Court in Ecuador upholds
$40 million libel judgment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An appeals court in Ecuador Tuesday upheld the $40 million award against four executives on the Guayaquil newspaper El Universo. The charge was filed by President Rafael Correa.

The Guayas Second Criminal Court overturned an appeal and upheld the sentencing of the newspaper’s executives Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez and of Emilo Palacio, its former op-ed page editor, according to the Inter American Press Association. Two of the three judges, Henry Morán and Hellen Mantilla, came out in favor of upholding the conviction, while the third, Guillermo Freire, abstained, the association said.

Palacio is currently in the United States seeking political asylum, claiming political persecution. The same claim is made by other Ecuadorean journalists who have been sued by President Correa. The court also upheld a three-year jail term for Palacio.

Judge Juan Paredes of the Guayas 15th Criminal Rights Court handed down a more than 150-page initial conviction based on a 5,000-page case file, in a record 12 hours, and then resigned, the Inter American Press Association noted.

“We are not surprised by this predictable decision, made in a country where a part of the judiciary appears to be subordinated to those in power, especially the head of state, who has shown signs of judicial manipulation, as evidenced on July 20 this year,” said Gonzalo Marroquín. He is president of the Inter American Press Association. He was referring to the date that Paredes issued his decision.

Robert Rivard expressed concern and anger at President Correa’s previous statements, made during his weekly Saturday broadcasts that always sought consummate punishment on independent and critical news media that he regarded as corrupt and not in line with the people’s revolution. “Anything not agreeing with his views or that shows criticism of the president ends up being hit with extravagant legal action,” Rivard added.  He is chairman of the association's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas.

Both association officers said they trusted that in the end Ecuador’s Supreme Court would be responsible for safeguarding the interests and principles of free speech and press freedom, which they said should be paramount in a democracy and which the government has pledged to guarantee.

The case stems from Palacio's column titled :No more lies,” that was critical of Correa's actions July 20, 2010, when police officers staged what amounted to an abortive coup while the president was visiting a hospital. Correa initially sought $80 million but never explained in his filings what damage the column inflicted on him. He was also unhappy that Palacio referred to him as a dictator in the opinion column, according to sources in Ecuador.

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