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(506) 223-1327              Published Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 195           E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Five reasons treaty will/will not be approved Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The results of the trade treaty referendum Sunday seem to be too close for statistical methods to call. But there are strong factors on either side that will determine the outcome.

A.M. Costa Rica has not and will not endorse either side of the referendum, although as an agent of a Costa Rican corporation it has the right to do that. Staffers, however, believe that there are positives and negatives for expats that make the impact of the vote cloudy.

For example, this newspaper reported more than a year ago that vehicles would not be exempted from high import taxes if the treaty is enacted. Contrary to all reason, Costa Rican officials consider such tariffs to be internal taxes, and U.S. Embassy officials agree with them.

Although expats pay a 13 percent duty on most of what they buy in Costa Rica, the economic impetus from the treaty would seem to diminish any personal financial benefits.

Here are five factors that suggest the treaty will be passed by voters:

1. Liberación Nacional, Movimiento Libertario and several other political parties are mostly in favor of the treaty, as is President Óscar Arias Sánchez. He and these experienced political  organizations are working to bring out the vote.

2. Some companies like textile manufacturers, produce exporters and manufacturing firms have a strong interest in reaching the U.S. market, and they are encouraging their employees to vote in favor of the treaty.

3. The campaign for approval has lots of money and has conducted an extensive, if minimally effective, advertising campaign.

4. News reports make clear that the Caribbean Basin Initiative is not a permanent piece of U.S. legislation. Under this one-sided agreement many Costa Rican products reach the U.S. market without import duty.

5. Serious voters might be put off by the smoke and mirrors campaign of the free trade opponents who speak abstractly and emotionally.

Conversely there are at least five good reasons why voters will reject the pact.

1. A large number dislike Óscar Arias and see him profiting personally from the treaty with his sugar holdings and other investments in the country.

2. Many free trade opponents are rabid in their hatred of the measure, and these certainly will go to the polls. Among these are committed socialists, anarchist and Communists, in addition to university students who are naive about economic facts and are strongly influenced by their teachers.

3. By cloaking their opposition in the mantle of patriotism, the opponents have waged a very effective and emotional campaign. The stories of the filibusters of the 18th century are well
Referendum Ballot
for Expats*

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ingrained in the national psyche, and now modern Ticos have a chance to oppose what they see as an invasion from the north.

4. Many Costa Ricans dislike the United States. These include the many that have been mistreated when they sought a U.S. visa at the U.S. Embassy. Plus the war in Iraq turns many off.

5. The anti campaign has infiltrated the camp for approval even into Arias' Casa Presidencial. They have full knowledge of any strategies and have used formal complaints and even whining to neutralize them.  Even the political parties that favor the measure have fifth columns that are against the measure.

One advantage for expats if the treaty passes is the arbitration clause. Treaty opponents cite this as an erosion of the Costa Rican justice system. The arbitration clause will hold Costa Rican institutions to international standards of justice.

A.M. Costa Rica has written extensively about wholesale thefts of condos and land by crooked lawyers, notaries and public officials. One such story appeared Monday.

Individual expats probably would not be able to maintain such a case in international arbitration, but someone, perhaps a large corporation, will, asking why the Registro Nacional and the whole property registration system is vulnerable to illegal activities. The same is true with the courts, which rank very low in the delivery of justice.

Canadian investors and others with the Villalobos Brothers high interest scheme, declared to be a ponzi by a trial court, are seeking $200 million reimbursement from an arbitration agreement involving an agency of the World Bank. The free trade agreement with Canada contains an arbitration agreement similar to the one in the proposed free trade treaty with the United States.

The Villalobos investors claim, with some truth, that Costa Rica shirked its responsibility for financial oversight. The court that tried Oswaldo Villalobos agreed.

However, the path is long and expensive. Still several successful arbitration victories might be a wake-up call to Costa Rican politicians, even those some of them are ankle deep in questionable activities themselves.

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Storm drains go in along the Moravia-Coronado route as one of the first steps to widening.

Coronado-Moravia widening
begins with drainage project

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wider route from Moravia to Coronado will run about 3.8 billion colons ($7.3 million) and take a year and a half to complete, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The job is being started with a new drainage system.  The work will cover 5.1 kms, some 3.2 miles. The plan is to install three lanes, one of which will reverse the flow during peak traffic hours.

MECO S.A is the company that has the contract awarded by the ministry's Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. The ministry estimates that more than 25,000 cars use the route each day.

The ministry also reported that some 23 companies have expressed an interest in bidding on the maintenance of some 3,000 kms of gravel roads, 70 percent of them in Guanacaste.

The contracts are expected to be awarded soon and are expected to total about $96 million. The work will begin in February or March, the ministry said.

Our reader's opinion
Another story about lawyer
who was out for himself

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I had known about the tactic Garland Baker wrote about in his Monday article. Something similar has happen to me. I had a lawyer who agreed to work for a contingency fee. Then he demanded “expenses,” but never showed me any receipts.

After some months of the expense payments and little results on my case, I told him I was not going to pay the “expenses.” He got mad and said he was not going to do more. I said fine and then with the help of a paralegal, we did wonders.

Meanwhile the attorney who did almost nothing for me became a tiger in the courthouse and Registro Nacional with suits etc. against me. He filed suits for millions of colones in every civil court I had something pending. Then he filed a criminal case against me in the criminal court.

In the criminal court through political contacts he had in the Registro Nacional and the court system, he was able to get an order to impound a car I had in my name. I hide the car, but a criminal case pending note was put on the car in the Registro Nacional, which is better than a lien.

We finally made a settlement, because even though the criminal case after several years was proven to have no merit, he could still file appeals and delays for years. (the old wear’m out strategy). This should be the end of the story, however I asked an attorney to get the note removed.

Evidently, this ex-attorney was informed of this by his contact in the Registro Nacional. So, he tells them not to remove the note, because I owe him interest. And this is where we stand today.

This attorney, has been very active in a political party and was an unsuccessful duputado candidates in the last election. He now holds a government post.

My car is not a newer model or one I need to sell, but I will never have anything in my name in Costa Rica again. I thank the Lord; I did not have any real estate.
Yep, as Garland says it not what you know, it is who you know.
Bobby Ruffín

'SICKO' available on Internet

Dear readers:

A reader reports that Michale Moore's "SICKO" can be viewed HERE via the Internet in English with Spanish subtitles. Another reader wrote that anyone who believes Moore and his critique of the U.S. medical profession should star in "STUPIDO." Both were responding to a letter Monday.
The editor

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 195

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Three robbery suspects in city turn out to be police officers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three of four robbery suspects captured early Monday turned out to be Fuerza Pública officers. The fourth suspect works as a security guard.

The four were arrested in a police dragnet after a pedestrian reported his robbery to officers on motorcycles, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.
The ministry said that the three officers, all with disciplinary records, will stay on the job until the investigation is complete.

The robbery happened near the Colegio de Señoritas in the center of the city. The victim told investigators that the men approached him, showed police identifications and then stole his backpack, said the ministry. The two motorcycle officers passed the location a short time later and were hailed by the robbery victim.  That was about 2 a.m.

Police broadcast the alert for a gray Toyota Corolla. Police on patrol saw such a vehicle a short time later on Avenida
 14 near Clínica Bíblica and gave chase. They managed to make the captures a short time later.

The three officers detained were identified by the last names of Gómez Corrales, Porras Quirós and Castrillo Fajardo. The man identified as a private security guard was identified by the last names of Pérez Sánchez.

Gómez and Porras joined the force in 2001 and work in Pavas, while Castrillo joined the force a year later and works in Guadalupe, the ministry reported.

In another robbery arrest Monday Fuerza Pública officers on motorcycles happened upon the holdup of a DeMasa delivery truck in Escazú.

The bandits were trying to open the strongbox on the vehicle with a crowbar. The bandits fled but police officers detained two suspects some three blocks away. The robbers left a bag containing handguns and tools in the street. The suspects were identified by the last names of Morales Araya and Cordero.

Comments are sought on rule to strangle internet gambling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System have crafted a rule to prevent financial institutions and others from accepting payment for illegal Internet gambling activities.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, and citizens and others interested in the measure have until Dec. 12 to file comments.

The issue is important in Costa Rica because many Internet gambling operations are located here.

The proposed rule requires participants in designated payment systems to establish policies and procedures reasonably designed to identify and block or otherwise prevent or prohibit transactions in connection with unlawful Internet gambling, said the Treasury Department.  These include payments made through credit cards, electronic funds transfers, and checks.

The two entities were required by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to develop the rule. The Federal Reserve is the U.S. central bank.

For purposes of the proposed rule, unlawful Internet gambling generally would cover the making of a bet or
wager that involves use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any applicable federal or state law in the jurisdiction where the bet or wager is made, said the Treasury Department.

The proposed rule also exempts certain participants in designated payment systems from the requirements to establish such policies and procedures because the agencies believe it is not reasonably practical for those participants to identify and block, or otherwise prevent or prohibit, unlawful Internet gambling transactions restricted by the Act.

Those who wish to comment can go to the U.S. government regulatory Web site and search for the department and  "Treas-DO-2007-0015." All comments and identifying information remain in the public record.

However, the document was not available Monday.

The proposed rule is part of the U.S. government's war against what it considers illegal gambling. The idea is to cut down the flow of funds to offshore gambling enterprises. In addition, the U.S. government has been arresting principals of gambling firms when they can reach them.

This is despite the fact that some firms are totally legal in jurisdictions such as England and Antigua.

Voters will be able to get a free ride on the peninsular ferry this Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Have to cross the Gulf of Nicoya to vote Sunday?

If so, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has a deal for you: a free ferry ticket.

On days when national elections are held bus rides are free. But the tribunal is extending the concept to one of the ferries that ply the gulf connecting Puntarenas with the Nicoya Peninsula. This is the ferry operation run by the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera, the tribunal said in a release.

But there is a catch. Those who wish to make use of the
 free service have to get the ticket in advance. The tickets will be available at the San José office of the tribunal as well as some 32 regional offices. The tickets also will be available Saturday and until 2 p.m. Sunday.

Vacationers will not be able to take advantage of the offer. The tribunal said that the cédula de identidad of voters will be checked to make sure they have to cross the gulf to vote.

The ferry leaves Paquera on the peninsula at 5 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day. It leaves Puntarenas for a return trip at 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and at 8:30 p.m.

The association ferry is one the smallest of three that connect Puntarenas with the peninsula.

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Citizenship rule for air passengers finally goes into effect
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Americans flying to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean now need a passport to get back home.

Starting Monday, the U.S. government required a passport or proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, for all air travelers arriving from countries within North America.

The rule has minimal impact in Costa Rica because U.S. citizens needed a valid passport to enter the country. The rule had gone into effect in January. But the State Department suspended it when it could not keep up with the demand for new passports.
Previously, air passengers arriving from nearby countries had to show proof of citizenship only at the discretion of border agents.

Starting next year, Americans traveling by sea or car within North America will also need to show proof of citizenship. Travel to and from other continents has long required passports.

Americans who left the country before the rule went into effect can return without showing a passport.

The passport rule is part of the government's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Correa reports that his party has won a majority in the constitutional assembly
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has claimed victory in an election for an assembly to rewrite the nation's constitution.

No official results have been released, but preliminary exit polls indicate his party has won at least 70 of the 130 available seats in the assembly.

Opposition leader Gilmar Gutiérrez, however, has refused to accept defeat, saying he is waiting for the official results, which could take weeks.

The assembly has six months to prepare a final draft of the
new constitution and present it to voters in a referendum.

If Correa's party gains control of the assembly, the leftist president says, it can dissolve Ecuador's congress, which has blocked many of his proposed reforms.

He has promised to use the assembly to curb the influence of traditional political parties.

Correa says the current congress is corrupt and inefficient. His opponents say he is trying to grab more power.

The Ecuadorean leader is following a path similar to that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who pledged new constitutions if elected.

No early release for trial figure even though prosecutor says there is no evidence
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor in the Parmenio Medina Pérez murder trial says there is no evidence to implicate one of the accused. Still, the three-judge panel has declined to release the man because to do so might be against the rules. The long-running trial is in the Tribunal de Juicio of Heredia. Earlier prosecutor Giselle Rivera asked the court to acquit Jorge Castillo Sánchez due to a lack of evidence. The panel finally made a ruling Monday.

The panel said that Castillo must stay in preventative
 detention with the others implicated in the crime because the law says he must. He also is Colombian and could leave the country, said the court.

Parmenio Medina was the radio commentator who was gunned down in 2001. The prosecution alleged a complicated conspiracy involving a businessman and a Roman Catholic priest as the intellectual authors and a series of intermediaries and triggermen as suspects.

Under Costa Rican law the judges could find Castillo guilty even though the prosecutor says there is no evidence.

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