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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 187              E-mail us
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Drug fight is keystone of Tijerino's security plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister went before a legislative committee Tuesday and said that an integrated policy to tackle the drug trade was a critical part of the Chinchilla administration security plan. The minister, José María Tijerino Pacheco, also lobbied for two tax bills that the administration expects will pay for the anti-crime effort.

Tijerino outlined five initiatives that he said make up an integrated plan to combat organized crime and drug traffickers.

The proposals did not seem to be much more than good police work.

First, the minister said in his prepared remarks that the Fuerza Pública must generate the capacity to respond to citizen calls. He also said that 10 vulnerable communities have been selected for an integrated strategy of security. A 911 call does not always result in a police response, and in some rural areas officers ask that a caller agree to provide money for fuel if they respond.

The second initiative or axis of the plan is increasing the police coverage of the country and strengthening the focus of officers as servants of the community to bring the police and community members closer together.

The third component of the plan is the creation of a national police academy to improve the members of the police forces. A current police academy mainly trains new recruits although there is some training available for potential commanders. The police academy would have a broader mission, Tijerino seemed to say.

Tijerino's fourth component is an increase in the investment in infrastructure, equipment and technology and the strengthening of a police intelligence network.

Tijerino listed fighting organized crime and impunity to prosecution as the fifth axis. He said the goal would be to reduce and control the demand for drugs as well as the illicit trafficking, money laundering and financing of terrorists.

He called his plan a change of paradigms to make an organization change where the mission of his ministry would be to serve and protect the citizenry and safeguard rights.

The plan, although abstract, seems very much like community policing, a well-established crime fighting policy. The technique involves winning the support of the public and maintaining an interaction with the public to identify criminals and dangerous situations.

The concept of community policing for Costa Rica runs up against several problems. The first is that the Fuerza Pública, supervised by Tijerino's ministry, is not supposed to do any investigative work. They have been described as doing criminal prevention. The Judicial Investigating Organization guards its monopoly to investigate crime jealously. In other jurisdictions, the street
police officer is a valuable source of information for detectives. In Costa Rica gathering evidence is
police arrest
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
The Policía de Control de Drogas is a unit in the security ministry. This arrest of a drug suspect took place earlier this month.

so complex that doing so might be beyond the training of most Fuerza Pública officers. Even judicial police are restricted from doing what seems traditional elsewhere.

For example, they cannot question suspects.

They have to leave that chore to prosecutors.

Another problem is the long-running distrust of police officers by the ordinary citizen. Police officers have low pay, and frequently citizens are targets for bribe solicitations. In addition, police have been known to act criminally in robbing individuals. Police in Costa Rica also have been accused of turning suspects over to rival drug gangs for assassination or in providing information to traffickers. Some officers on the Pacific coast have been accused of riding security for traffickers on their police motorcycles.

A newer problem is the willingness of many young gang members to become police officers to undermine the system and to gain personal power. Officials have said they need to conduct more detailed background checks before hiring.

Tijerino told legislators, members of the Comisión de Narcotráfico y Seguridad Ciudadana, that the money provided his ministry in the national budget is insufficient against organized crime. Tijerino expressed support for plans to levy a tax on electronic gaming and physical casinos and to assess a $300 annual fee on every registered corporation in Costa Rica. Tijerino said such taxes, if passed, would generate $140 million for all these security measures he has planned.

The security ministry has had problems with finances. There is limited funds for repairs, so many police vehicles are out of service. A whole shipment of Romanian patrol cars were found to be defective when they arrived in the country in 2005. At the same time, officials found that a handful of police stations that were to be constructed were not even though final payments were made to contractors.

President Laura Chinchilla ran on a citizen security platform. She said that her major effort would be to improve the lives of citizens with social programs to eliminate the development of criminals.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 187

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New banknote puts police
in a high security mode


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers are on alert today because the new salmon-colored 20,000-colon banknotes are being dispensed at automatic teller machines, at banks and in stores.

Police said they are going to give special attention to the teller machines, which are frequent sites of robberies.

The new note is the first of a series of six that the Banco Central will issue. Each denomination contains sophisticated security features that are designed to frustrate counterfeiters.

The 20,000-colon note contains a graphic of a hummingbird, so it probably will be christened with that as a nickname: colibri. It also contains an image of the writer Carmen Lyra on it. The bill, the first of the series, was supposed to come out in August.

The highest denomination bill will be the 50,000-colon note. Until today, the highest denomination banknote in Costa Rica was the 10,000-colon bill.

More information on the new currency is HERE!


Two communities suffer
under garbage buildup


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both San José and Escazú have garbage pickup problems because trucks are awaiting repair.

In San José only eight trucks are in good enough shape to go into the streets. That is less than half the fleet. In Escazú three trucks are out of service and the municipality said that garbage collection will be affected for the next two weeks.

San José garbage collectors are meeting with Mayor Johnny Araya today to try to resolve the problem. They promise a strike Thursday if more trucks are not on the road.

U.N. officials and agencies
mark International Peace Day


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

From cultural displays and a parade of peacekeepers to a children’s immunization campaign and the handing over of responsibilities to local police, United Nations field offices and missions around the world marked International Day of Peace Tuesday with a series of events in honor of its key themes.

This year’s day is dedicated to young people, as 2010 also marks the beginning of the International Year of Youth, whose theme is dialogue and mutual understanding. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used his official message to urge youth to work to promote international peace.

“And I say to all young people, join us. Help us to work for peace. You are impatient. You see what we, your elders, allow to persist, year after year: poverty and hunger; injustice and impunity; environmental degradation,” Ban said.

Police catch 15 year olds
after two women robbed


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police grabbed two 15-year-olds they said robbed two women of their purses and stabbed one with a knife. The crime took place in Parque Nicaragua in Zapote, in eastern San José.

Each robber had a knife.  Police picked up the trail quickly and detained the suspects. They said the teens carried the purses and other belongings of the women.

One woman suffered a cut finger from the robbery. The second woman was threatened but not stabbed, said Fuerza Pública official Carlos Alvarado.

Musician loses in labor court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A musician who worked at a Cartago hotel for three years ending in 2006 was not an employee but a contractor, the Sala II labor court has decided. The man was let go and wanted payments from the hotel that are due employees. Even though the contract between the hotel and the musician mentioned a labor relationship in passing, the court said that the situation clearly was one of a contractor.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 187

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Earlier residents have fought potholes and flooding, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents have been wrestling with rain and flooding since the first human prowled the rainforest.

If there is a constant in Costa Rica, it is that residents must plan to prevent rainy season disasters.

Rains in the last week flooded out residents along the Río María Aguilar. The stretch runs from La Unión, Cartago province, to San José. The national emergency commission blames much of the disaster on poor urban planning and failure to maintain infrastructure. Paved parking lots do not hold water well. And some low areas eventually will be flooded. There was more flooding Tuesday.

These are not new problems. Earlier residents have won modern praise for handling the rain. Residents around the Turrialba volcano get about 140 inches of rain a year. Much of it falls between August and November. There probably has been little seasonal change in thousands of years.

This is the site on the flank of the volcano where the city now called Guayabo flourished until shortly before the Spanish arrival. Just like parts of modern San Sebastian and Zapote, the site is near waterways that must have swelled during downpours. Yet the site is still there, the streams having been tamed.

The American Society of Civil Engineers named the remains of the city as an international engineering heritage site because of the elaborate waterworks, tanks and drainage systems. Some of the stone systems still work carrying away excess water.

Guayabo is the name of a fruit tree. No one knows what the residents really called the site. There is no translated language, just enigmatic carvings, many featuring crocodiles and jaguars. The city may have held up to 10,000 persons at its peak. All the structures are gone now because they were made from organic materials like wood. What can be seen of the site was wrested from the jungle and a cow pasture by archaeologists.

The site may have been first inhabited 3,000 years before Christ. The modern city dates from 900 to 1200 A.D. The civil engineers were impressed by several elements. "A wide roadway leads into the site," the association said in its award summary. "This roadway is made of multiple courses of rock pavement. The pavement still looks like we could walk on it today."

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Location is east of San José
Gauyabo overiew
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo photo
Overview of the explored part of the Guayabo site

Also winning praise were the reservoirs that guarded the water flow for periods of scant rain. At the time the award was given more than a year ago, Costa Rican politicians mused about the modern problems of flooding and giant potholes and suggested that the country could learn some techniques from the early builders.

Guayabo covers about 600 acres, but very little has been excavated scientifically. It is not unique. There are many such pre-Columbian sites, but none have been given the status of a national monument.

About next March at the end of the dry or high season, if the past is any indication, Costa Ricans will be anxious awaiting the rain to clean the streets and to make the air fresh and cool. In the same way, they are grousing today about the heavy downpours, the flooding and the wet shoes.

The early inhabitants of Central America also must have endured a rainy season and even hurricanes. But they, too, found rain to be very useful.

One of the principal Mayan deities is Chac, who delivers the precious fluid. Better left unsaid is how one encouraged him to act.

Archaeologists think that Mayan civilization collapsed because of a prolonged drought.

The sun is pushing south and will cross that imaginary equator later tonight. The astronomical event is a promise of approaching December and the onset of the northern cold season and the dry season here.

Folks in Turrialba got 52.4 millimeters, more than two inches, Monday afternoon, mainly at 4 p.m. The rain is heavier higher up the volcano. One can just imagine an earlier resident staring from his conical home in Guayabo wishing the rain would just stop so he could go hunting or tend the corn. And he was thankful for the constructions that carried the raging water away from his house foundation and dumped it safely downstream.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 187


Change in judicial code would end use of singing criminals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Corte Supreme de Justicia has come out against a legislative proposal to eliminate the use at trial of criminals who roll over on their associates.

The lawmakers are studying changes in the Código Procesal Penal, the code that instructs lawyers and judges on how to try a case.

In the United States, the concept is called turning state's witness. A criminal who informs and testifies on his associates is rewarded with a lesser sentence or perhaps none at all.

The situation is current now because the chief witness
against Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría is José Antonio Lobo, a former official with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. He has testified to participating in the bribery scheme and handling the bulk of the money, yet he is not on trial.

The possible legal change is being considered in the  Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico.

Jesús Ramírez Quirós, a court magistrate who has studied the proposal, said that he and other magistrates believe that eliminating this possibility would deprive prosecutors of a fundamental tool in the prosecution of crimes, particularly among organized crime groups. The magistrates urged lawmakers to reject the change.



Insurance institute told to continue with pesticide exams

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the Instituto Nacional de Seguros to provide medical exams for about 2,000 persons who say they have been injured by a banana pesticide.

If they are found to have been affected by the pesticide known as Nemagon they will receive compensation. So far the national insurance company has awarded compensation to about 10,000 persons.

In an appeal filed by a former lawmaker, the court
 determined that there are about 2,000 persons awaiting examinations. The court told the insurance company to conduct the examinations immediately.

Among other conditions, the pesticide, which had been used in the country for 30 years, causes sterility. The insurance institute has an entire office dedicated to handling the pesticide cases. There was no explanation why the institute stopped scheduling exams three months ago.

Elsewhere, individuals have come forward to seek compensation even when they had not been involved in the banana operations.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 187

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Global governance pushed
as priority for U.N. president

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Several countries have expressed support for the initiative of the General Assembly president to make global governance a central theme of the current session of the United Nations body.

Prime Minister Klaus Tschütscher of Liechtenstein as well as Sheikh Khalid ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa, the foreign minister of Bahrain, Xavier Espot Miró, the foreign minister of Andorra and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League concurred with Joseph Deiss on prioritizing such an important topic.

The leaders voiced their support in separate meetings held with the president on Monday on the sidelines of the high-level summit being held at U.N. Headquarters on how to advance the Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015.

Outlining priorities for the 65th session at a news conference last week, Deiss called for efforts to reinstate the U.N. and its 192-member General Assembly to the centre of global governance.

“The challenges which we face today have acquired a global dimension and require global solutions. Our actions must have broad legitimacy and be the result of inclusive processes. We have to improve the mechanisms for information, consultation and cooperation between the United Nations and other actors and tools of global governance,” he said.

Press representatives to meet
with Calderón on violence


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International delegations from the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists are to meet today with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón to discuss developments concerning press freedom and the need for journalists and news media to be protected from violence being unleashed by organized crime.

The Inter American Press Association delegation will be headed by the organization’s 1st vice president, Gonzalo Marroquín, of La Prensa, Guatemala City, Guatemala, and also include Robert Rivard of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information chairman. 

Also taking part in the meeting with Calderón on Wednesday morning will be Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez. The day’s activities will conclude with a meeting with Interior Minister Francisco Blake. The press representatives will also get together on Thursday with federal legislators.

Also scheduled for Thursday in Mexico City is a forum titled “Mexico Under Siege from Organized Crime,” to be held as the Casa Lamm Cultural Center. The day-long event, sponsored by the two organizations, will consist of two panel discussions on “The Mexican Press in the Face of Violence” and “The Government’s Reaction to Violence Against the Press,” in which the two organizations will report on a special investigation into the situation of the local press and journalists.

The Miami, Florida,-based Inter American Press Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 187


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Ms. Chinchilla is accompanied by Duncan Niederauer, chief executive officer of the New York Exchange Stock. Dignitaries open and close the exchange each day.

Ms. Chinchilla promoting
country in New York visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla, in New York for the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations, had the honor of ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.

The president used her visit to New York to promote investment in the country. She was accompanied by Anabel González, minister of Comercio Exterior, and others involved in promoting the country's products.

She gave an optimistic economic report to a group of investors and told them that Costa Rica would reach its Millennium goals in 2015.


Exports continue to improve
but still lower than in 2008

 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country exported $6.3 billion in goods and products in the first eight months of the year. That is a 9.8 percent increase over 2009, according to Promotora del Comercio Exterior, the country's promotional arm.

Still the country has yet to surpass the exports that were registered in the same period of 2008, the agency said.

August exports showed a 5.1 increase over the same month in 2009. The total was $746 million.

The major importing nations showed a marked increase in their consumption, the result of improved economic conditions, said the agency. Exports to North America were up 16.6 percent and to the European Union some 11.3, it said.





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