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(506) 2223-1327              Published Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 187             E-mail us
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Sala IV rules home address off limits in data bases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitution court has restricted the distribution of one item of legally obtained personal information . 

The court ruled that the credit reporting companies, Cero Riesgo Información Crediticia Digitalizada S.A. and  Aludel Limita must remove the home addresses of two persons who appealed.

The court cited Article 24 of the Costa Rica Constitution, but that section seems to apply mostly to the government.

Credit reporting agencies maintain files on most Costa Ricans. The information is gained from public records and from self-reporting by the individuals when they seek loans and do other financial or business transactions.

 One person who filed an appeal was identified by the last names of  Rodríguez Cruz. She noted that the companies maintain information on home locations, telephone numbers and salaries. They also maintain information on  present and past employment, vehicle ownership and ownership of corporations.

The information is made available to customers
who pay for the data. Much of the data is free at the Registro Nacional, but the private companies consolidate the information.

The Sala IV in the decision cited what it called  autodeterminación informativa and said it stemmed from Article 24  of the Costa Rican Constitution.

That article guarantees  the right to intimacy, freedom and secrecy of communications and basically outlines what the legislature and government must do to search personal property.

As is frequently the case, the Sala IV read the Constitution broadly to accommodate a current case.

The second appellanttwas identified by the last names of Rodríguez Cordero. He cited his personal liberty, autodetermination and privacy in seeking removal of personal data. The court ordered that his home address be stricken.

Home addresses are useful for process servers and bill collectors. They also serve to differentiate between persons of the same name.

Generally journalists oppose making secret identifying information that is easily available to public officials from their own data bases, like in the utility companies.


How can you say no to such pretty faces?
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Costa Rica Animal Shelter near San Rafael de Heredia is a great spot for anyone wishing to adopt a pet dog, puppy or cat. The dogs in particular show the mongrel vigor not found in expensive purebred canines.

A substantial number of dogs were rescued from the aftermath of the Jan. 8 Cinchona earthquake, and some have been placed in new homes now. After the quake Cinchona was described as a ghost town without the usual opportunities for free-ranging dogs typical of rural Costa Rica. Many residents simply abandoned their animals when they fled.

Run by Dutch expat Lilian Schnog, the shelter also offers veterinary care and spay/neuter services. A donation is requested, but care is not refused based on ability to pay. Donations are also requested (rather forcefully) to receive an animal. All animals available for adoption have been spayed or neutered.

The shelter is “no kill,” so dogs that are not adopted remain there for their natural life span, with one individual marking five years. Some have been put down for humanitarian reasons, but there is a dog with one eye and a diabetic among the animals offered for adoption.

Sterilization clinics are also held around the country with Saturday visits to Aguas Zarcas, Playas del Coco, and Limón programmed for October.

A “Cause for Paws” fundraising auction is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Escazu. The Web site has more details.


The shelter is above San Rafael de Heredia on the road to Los Angeles. Visitors coming from Heredia will need to go around the main square of San Rafael to the north side to find the
dog sleeping
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
A special nose rest.

Cinchona dog
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Refugee from Cinchona

intersection. The shelter is on the right about four kilometers above the intersection. The most common reference for the area is the Castillo Country Club.
Motorists who arrive there have gone two kilometers too far. More information is available at 2267-7158 (English spoken). Offices are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 187

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
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For Calderón and associates
its all over but the verdict

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A decision is scheduled for Oct. 5 in the case of former president Rafael Ángel Calderón and seven others who face allegations of  tapping a loan from the government of Finland.

Calderón is on trial now for receiving a substantial commission from a $39 million purchase of hospital equipment by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The so-called CCSS-Fischel case has Costa Ricans riveted to their chairs for 10- months during the nightly television news in Spanish. Walter Reiche, former chief executive of the Fischel chain of drug stores, has implicated Calderón as well as Eliseo Vargas, former head of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. 

A total of eight persons are on trial. Prosecutors say some $9 million was paid as so-called commissions to political figures involved in the purchase.

Calderón spoke to the court Monday, the last day of the trial. He said he came by the money prosecutors found in various bank accounts as payments for professional services in his capacity as a lawyer. He also said that only one person has accused him. He meant Reiche, who seems to have made a deal with prosecutors. Other suspects also spoke. He also was critical of the Sp[anish-language news media which followed the case closely.

Calderón might be acquitted based on a lack of clear evidence. At least that is the opinion of some legal observers. He is the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana candidate for president.

Political observers think that Calderón would be a strong candidate if he avoids conviction. When Calderón returned to his Curridabat home after serving a term of preventative detention March 23, 2005, he was met with a crowd of supporters.

In addition to a relatively successful term as president from 1990 to 1994, he is the son of one of the two most important political figures in 20th century Costa Rica.

Judges said that they would give a simple verdict for each of the persons facing allegations Oct. 5, Then they would take another month to prepare an extensive analysis of the evidence to support their verdicts. In major cases, judges here prepare a detailed, annotated document that might run into the hundreds of pages.


medal for Del Vecchio
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policúa
y Sseguridad Pública photo
Medal awarded by Colombia comes in two sizes along with a ribbon for every day use. However, Costa Rican ministers do not wear military uniforms.

Security minister awarded
decoration for her efforts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the perks of a diplomatic life (other than the champagne receptions) is that there are lots of medals.

There are medals for foreign ambassadors who complete their assignment in a country. There are medals for any number of activities.

The security minister, Janina del Vecchio got one last week. She need such a lift because her ministry have been the center of bad news for the country. Police have been arrested for stealing cocaine. Police have been arrested for robbing pedestrians. Police have been arrested for escorting cocaine shipments north.

It was the government of Colombia that made the presentation when the minister traveled there. She was honored for her service to police intelligence with the Medalla Dirección Inteligencia Policial named after Teniente Coronel Javier Antonio Uribe Uribe.

The award came from Mayor General Óscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, head of the Policia Nacional there. Among the reason for the award was Ms. del Vecchio's fight against organizer crime, said the general.

Ms. del Vecchio, a math teacher, experienced strong criticism when she took over the job of security minister. And sometimes it seems that her ministry is in chaos with one corruption scandal after another. But Ms. del Vecchio has said repeatedly that she has zero tolerance for corruption.

Unhappy husband kills
children and himself


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man apparently heartbroken over the collapse of his 10-year relationship took his two children into some woods Monday, killed them and then killed himself.

The crime happened in El Carmen de Goicoechea. The children were just 3 and 6.

The man was identified as Jorge Loaiza. He and his wife separated about three weeks ago, and he continued to live nearby. He appears to have intercepted the older child on his way home from school and then took both into a wooded area. The killings happened about 2:30 p.m.

Dengue cases continue
to be lower than in 2008


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cases of dengue are down 42 percent so far this year, and health officials are crediting cleanup of junk that provides breeding places for mosquitoes. A dry rainy season also might be a reason.

Only in the central Pacific are cases up. That increase is about 7 percent over 2008.

Throughout the country some 3,329 cases have been reported since Jan. 1. The greatest number of cases are in the cantons of Parrita with 836, Aguirre for 583 and Golfito with 119. The entire central Pacific region has 1,794 cases.

The Ministerio de Salud said that since June teams have been inspecting and monitoring the situation and using information campaigns to encourage citizens to eliminate mosquito breeding spots. They also have been involved in fumigation.


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Did you try

to call us?

We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

It is hard to believe that our company telephones have been out of service  for at four weeks.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

Calls to ICE are met with yawns.

You can reach us at 8832-5564.

But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 187


Kayak race
Bahía Rica Adventures photo
Racers in the individual class head for Isla Cedros in Saturday competition
First Nicoya kayak event attracts 10 participants from four countries
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Nicoya Peninsula's first kayak races had good weather and 10 participants.

In the Saturday individual class, the top men's finishers and their times were Mario Pérez Chavarría (Paquera) 1:05:17; Marcos Arraya Castillo (Rio Grande) 1:07:47 and Tim Ryan (United Kingdom) 1:09:19.route was around Isla Cedros and about 8.5 km.

Women finishers were Ruth Mora (Heredia) 1:16:16; Karla Madriz Davila (Cartago) 1:25:06 and Laura Bender (Chicago) 1:32:56.  Winners received an Isla Tortuga cruise.
Sunday five two-person teams participated in a relay around Isla Jesusita, a course that is approximately 3.5 km. The weather held up and the Team Unknown with Tim Ryan (United Kingdom) and Jesús Gabriel Loria Leal (Isla Cedros), paddled themselves to victory ahead of the Godzilla Team of Ruth Mora (Heredia) and Ann Cristina Alonzo Mora (Heredia) in 51 minutes and 40 seconds.

The organizers, Bahía Rica Adventures operators Thomas Jones and Vigdis Vatshaug and triathlete Roberto Machado, said they plan to turn the competition into an annual kayak fest in the Paquera area. Participants the year came from from four countries: Germany, United Kingdom, United States and Costa Rica.


Another arrest made in police-Colombians drug plot
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained another member of the coast guards Monday in the widening probe of law officers being involved with drug smugglers.

The security ministry also revealed that 18 months ago the director of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas filed complaints against 12 members of his own organization. The person detained Monday appears to be the second coast guardsmen to be detained. A former member came into police custody Friday as agents rounded up 10 policemen, three Colombians and the former coast guardsman.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas is supposed to be
responsible for catching smugglers and conducting ocean patrols.

The man detained Mondayyy has the last names of Montoya Fernández. He has worked for the security ministry for nearly six years, said the ministry. He was detained in Flamingo at the Guardacosta station.

The policemen detained Friday and Monday are suspectedof providing inside information to Colombian drug smugglers and in some ccases physicallyhelping to unload fastboats full of drugs. Tourist policemen in the Herradura station also served as motorcycle escorts for trucks carrying drugs.
The ministry did not say what role officials were attributing to the newly arrested man.


IRS gives U.S. tax cheats more time to turn themselves in
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Internal Revenue Service has announced a one-time extension for U.S. taxpayers to turn themselves in for cheating on their taxes with offshore accounts.

Taxpayers now have until Oct. 15 to throw themselves on the mercy of the tax collectors.

The IRS had announced a voluntary program of reporting hidden income last March with a deadline of Sept. 23. But it said Monday that tax preparers and lawyers sought more time to handle the backlog of tax cheats who want to take advantage of the offer.

The IRS deal is not an amnesty, but the tax collectors promise much harsher civil penalties, where applicable, and possible criminal prosecution for those who do not report themselves voluntarily.
The IRS also is obtaining more and more access to foreign bank account information to allow its agents to track down tax cheats.

Unlike most countries, the United States taxes citizens on money earned anywhere. So those citizens who fail to report having foreign accounts and fail to report the interest or other benefits from these accounts can be haled in by the IRS.

In Costa Rica a number of U.S. citizens were big winners in the real estate boon. Many simply took their money to Panamá without reporting income or capital gains.

By extending the deadline for a short period of time, the IRS said it is providing relief for those taxpayers who had intended to come forward prior to the deadline, but faced logistical and administrative challenges in meeting it. The IRS also announced that there will be no further extensions

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 187


Zelaya surfaces at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Deposed Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales has returned to his country's capital, Tegucigalpa, and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy to avoid arrest.

In a television interview Monday, Zelaya said he had returned to Honduras to reclaim his presidency in accordance with the will of the people. He called for for a national dialogue.

Initial reports that Zelaya had returned were unclear about his exact location. Crowds of supporters rallied outside the United Nations building in Tegucigalpa amid reports that he was inside.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Ian Kelly, said the U.S. reiterates its almost daily call for supporters of both Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could provoke violence.

Kelly added the U.S. still considers Zelaya Honduras's democratically elected and constitutional leader.

Zelaya was forced out of the country at gunpoint on June 28. Leaders of the interim government that ousted him in the military coup have said he would be arrested if he returns.
The United States has refused to recognize President Micheletti's interim government despite that government's assertion Zelaya was legally removed.

The interim leaders say Zelaya violated a Supreme Court order to drop efforts to change the constitution.

In New York, President Óscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica held a joint press conference with Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of State.  Mrs. Clinton reiterated that the United states supports the San José Accords that Arias drafted in an effort to return Zelaya to power.

"Once again, the Costa Ricans will be using their good offices to try to encourage that to occur, because now that President Zelaya is back, it would be opportune to restore him to his position under appropriate circumstances, get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority, and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic order in a very – on a very clear path toward that goal," said Mrs. Clinton.

Arias said he would be willing to go to  Tegucigalpa if both sides to the dispute invite him. "I think this is the best opportunity, the best time, now that Zelaya is back in his country to sign the San José Accord. It’s all we have on the table. There is no B plan. And when we wrote this San José Accords, it was after listening to everybody."

   
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 187
=
Casa Alfi Hotel

Cooperation called key
to human interactions


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The saying goes, "nice guys finish last." But some behavioral researchers say that might not be true. 

David Rand, a researcher at Harvard University, says rewarding people for good behavior, rather than punishing them for bad behavior results in more public cooperation.

Rand studies the evolution of cooperation, a sub-genre of biology which examines the development of human behavior.  Recently, he argued that the evolutionary advantage doesn't always go to the strongest in a group. Instead, he said, cooperative people get the edge.

"Human societies are at some level, based on people willing to help each other at cost to themselves, and people willing to contribute to group efforts," Rand said.

He added that examples of this can be seen throughout biology down to the smallest organisms where, "individual cells (are) not just growing as fast as they can, but doing their part." Cancer, he said, represents a breakdown of cooperation in which cells grow as fast as they can, uncontrolled by group cooperation.

To examine this phenomenon in human interaction, Rand recruited groups of college students to play a computer-based game for an hour. The rules instructed players to cooperate towards reaching a common goal. Students received financial bonuses for the number of points they individually earned, thus rewarding those who selfishly amassed the most points. But players were also allowed to punish people who were selfish. A player who was generous and cooperative also gained points, sometimes even more than the selfish players. 

Overall, Rand found that cooperation paid off. "If you look at the groups that rewarded cooperation the most, they earned about twice as much over the course of this hour as the groups which rewarded the least," he said.  He also found that, "the more the group punished, the worse its overall payoff was." Overall, Rand said that, "the group that punished the most, earned 25 percent less than the group that punished the least."

Rand concluded that the reciprocal nature of cooperation creates an environment for better outcomes and that the benefits can lead to future good will.

"It's saying, if you help me today, and help the group today, then I'll be willing to help you tomorrow," he said.

Rand added that "the implication of this study is that in settings where you interact again and again with the same people and you sort of have reputations, and you know what other people have done in the pasy. . .  it really pays to be helpful and nice to the people that are doing their part, and not helpful to the people that aren't doing their part."

Rand said that the lessons about cooperation apply to situations both at societal levels and intimate ones.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 187

Latin American news
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Contraloría backs minister
in consultants flap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República has issued a ruling that absolved Rodrigo Arias Sánchez of any legal responsibility in the case of the consultantshired by Casa Presidencial.

Rodrigo Arias, the president's brother, is minister of the Presidencia. He took responsibility when the news broke that the administration had hired a number of so-called consultantsh money provided by the Banco Centromaericano de Integración Económica.

The consultants were hired during the legislative debates and the public referendum over the free trade treaty with the United States. Some members of political parties that opposed the treaty ended up on the payroll of Casa Presidencial.

The Contraloria said that there were no inappropriate actions by Rodrigo Arias and that what he did did not damage the country.

Casa Presidencial had argued since the matter became public that money from the international bank was not public money so it was not necessary to follow the normal procedures such as budgets.  Consultantes were hired individual without any advertising. Several quit when the situation became public.

La Nación was the newspaper that broke the original stories but initially grossly underestimated the number of so-called consultants.

Arias said in a press conference Monday that the Contraloría haas said that he always had acted in good faith, that there was no irregularities in the selection of consultants and that the money was not public funds.





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