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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 196            E-mail us
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Familiar face selected for vital anti-crime office
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Corte Suprema de Justicia reached into the ranks of its own retirees and selected Jorge Alberto Chavarría Guzmán to be the next fiscal general de la República or chief prosecutor of the nation.

The term is for four years.

The magistrates voted by paper ballot and 14 eventually selected Chavarría. Jeannette Arias, who now works in the Poder Judicial, received eight votes in the final of five rounds.

Chavarría, 57, will leave a vice minister's job to take the position Oct. 15. He takes the office that was vacated by Francisco Dall'Anese, who took a United Nations post heading a crime commission in Guatemala. Chavarría will become the seventh fiscal general since the Ministerio Público was created in 1975.

The job of fiscal general is the single most important post in the nation's effort to stem the advances of organized crime, unravel the narcotrafficking networks and prevent the growth of youth violence.

Chavarría was a judicial investigator before he became a prosecutor. He has a law degree.

From 1979 to 1982 he was head of the Judicial Investigating Organization office in the province of Limón.

From 1983 to 1990 he was a fiscal or prosecutor and said he worked with common crimes and also cases of corruption, money laundering and similar. From 1990 to 1995 he was head of the narcotrafficking unit and filled in for the then-fiscal general.

From 1999 to 2004 he was in charge of training fiscals, and from 2004 to 2005 he was in charge of relations between police and prosecutors.

In 2006 he served as acting fiscal general. He retired in May 2006 but went to work as vice minister of security in the Laura Chinchilla administration.

He has written books on fingerprints, investigation and prosecutorial procedures and  wrote an article in 1993 on the marijuana market in Costa Rica.
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguirdad Pública photo
Jorge Alberto Chavarría Guzmán

After the balloting, President Chinchilla said that Chavarría is a Costa Rican known for his experiences in fighting organized crime and combating narcotrafficking. She also said that he initiated dialogue and coordination with the other branches of government.

He made presentations at a number of seminars and attended a number of training sessions as a student.

Chavarría is a contemporary with others in the security apparatus of the Chinchilla administration. José María Tijerino, the security minister, for example, also has served as fiscal general. That was from 1990 to 1995.

Ms. Arias was the favorite among expats who knew her, in part because she is fluent in English. She headed the Poder Judicial's victims office when many North Americans lost large sums of money with the Villalobos Brothers, Savings Unlimited and other high-interest schemes in 2002.

Some said that they thought she would bring an unbiased presence to the office instead of business as usual.

Dall'Anese's term was distinguished by his single mindedness. He also was the focus of complaints by his bodyguards about his late-night carousing. He was re-elected by the magistrates even in the face of these complaints.

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Our readers' opinions
It's a very positive report
about the U.S. Embassy here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I have been a reader of A.M. Costa Rica since 2003 and I am also married to a Tica, have a Tico son and two stepchildren that are Ticos.
I am always curious about the horror stories shared by my fellow readers as my experiences with the U.S. Embassy have been very different in that they are positive! A year ago this month I accompanied Dina and our little son, Jarrel, to the embassy expecting a nightmare of red tape and confusion. However the folks at the embassy were friendly, spoke English to me and then explained to Dina in Spanish what they were doing until I told them Spanish was fine as I was fluent
(imagine that a Gringo that took the time to learn the language!!!)

We got the visas for my wife and our little boy with no problems. At that time I did not have enough money to pay for Geancarlo and Sofi to get Visas, and the embassy said I had a calendar year to do it on that application which would save me money and time. Two weeks ago Dina flew back to San José, went to the embassy, got the packet of needed documents and instructions and proceeded to work on getting the kids their visas. I must admit I envisioned having to fly down at the last minute to help and work through any and all problems. However 45 minutes ago Dina called me to say "Patrick va a bailar en el calle. Los chicos tienen visas!" So after doing a little dance, singing a little song and wiping a few tears away, I decided to share our very positive story with your readers.
If you go into the Embassy informed, with the proper documents and a pleasant and positive attitude, good things will happen. I really believe most of the negative e-mails you receive are from unprepared, under-informed people with a bad attitude. I am proud to be an American and even prouder to be a Tico-Gringo. I hope this coming year when I apply for my Costa Rican residency that they are as helpful as the U.S. Embassy has been. My positive experience was NOT because I am a rich guy that paid bribes to make things work. I am a struggling businessman in a bad economy that struggles to make things work.

I went to the USCIS web site, talked to any immigration lawyer that would give me free advice and paid Lena-Korial here in Jacksonville to prepare the original application which was well worth it. I DO recommend getting an attorney involved. I used my Costa Rica attorney/notary, Marielos Melendez, to help with translation of documents and to help prep Dina for her original interview . . . .which never happened. They saw our son and the stack of money wire transfers from years of supporting them from Florida and knew this was no make believe marriage.
If you wonder why The U.S. Embassy uses "rent-a-guards at the embassy and not Marines, its because Costa Rica is our ally and not prone to terrorism, Our fighting men are busy now and can't be spared for this duty. Thanks to all of the staff at the embassy. You always were pleasant when I called (and I called so much they remembered me and often said "Mr. Mach if you remember the last time you called and we discussed this . . . .  ") You were helpful when I was there a year ago and today when my wife our son and two stepchildren went in, you answered our prayers. Our dream has come true. With a little luck I will have my family in Florida for Christmas and begin a new life here thereafter. They will be like me people with a foot in two different countries.
Thank you A.M. Costa Rica for listening to me and often publishing my letters. I ask you to print this because the folks at the U.S. Embassy deserve a pat on the back!
Patrick Mach
St Augustine, Florida / La Uruca

Make all turtle harvests
illegal to stop the poaching

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Ms. Wilcox misses the bigger picture with her observations regarding the "legal" turtle egg harvest in Playa Ostional.

She points out that the vast majority of eggs in the first 36 hours of the arribada, turtle laying time, are dug up by other sea turtles.  Those eggs dug up naturally provide lots of nutrients and food for a huge variety of other creatures that live in the sea or in or around the tidal zone.  Those eggs actually don't really go to waste they are all part of the food chain and thus part of the ecosystem to function normally.
She mentions that the community tends to protect these beaches from other predators.  The real predators are humans.  Again, there are natural predators, but they don't consume over three million eggs each season.
Another thing that was mentioned, that the flood of eggs entering the market legally keeps prices low enough to discourage poachers.  Ms. Wilcox needs to live in other parts of the country to see how many eggs are poached all over Costa Rica.  Most of the eggs sold in the open markets are illegal.  By making any turtle eggs legal, it opens the door to sell illegal eggs as legal.  Many bags are stamped to resemble the Ostional stamp of approval, but no one checks to see if it is the real stamp or just a forgery.  The way to stop selling illegal eggs is to make, selling turtle eggs illegal altogether.
The best approach is to get many people to stop eating them.  Many male Costa Ricans eat them cause they think it makes them virile.  What we need to do is hit the male machismo where it counts.  I have made a bumper sticker for my car that says, "Los huevones, no necesitan a comer los huevos de tortugas".  Translated; Men with balls, don't need to eat turtle eggs.  I get a lot of smiles and thumbs up from many a Tico, men and women, when they read it.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

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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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 196

Latigo K-9

Government managed to save face on checkpoint ruling
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A recent decision put the Sala IV constitutional court in the news when it restricted random searches of vehicles at the impromptu checkpoints often set up by law enforcement agencies.

Reaction from the public, the security ministry, and President Laura Chinchilla was quick to condemn the judgment, even before the main text was available. Many seemed to believe border controls, hot pursuit, and other means of law enforcement were prohibited by the ruling. The individual who filed suit was identified by his full name in the document, unusual in legal cases. He was pilloried and many respondents of newspaper opinion posts demanded the sacking of the Sala IV as not representing the majority.

Apparently having been advised of the content of the ruling which proved little different from international treaties to which Costa Rica is a signatory, José María Tijerino, security minister, issued a press release announcing that roadblocks would continue as long as noticia criminis was available indicating the commission of an actual crime. Tijerino emphasized that no action would be against the court ruling but said he expected room to work while still maintaining the roadblock concept. This way the government managed to save face.

The press release did end on an ominous note, with Tijerino saying “for drug traffickers, it will make their work easier, since the controls we were using just yesterday will no longer be available.”

Justification for a search could be a report of a crime to 911 or some other sort of tipoff, an offender seen in the act, or pursuit on the part of other authorities. The latter would more likely be by judicial investigators, which, strictly speaking, are part of the judicial branch of government. Most of the “preventive” law enforcement in Costa Rica is by the Fuerza Pública which is the public security ministry.

A few days later, when it was evident that the court had only restricted search and detention of vehicles without what would be called probable cause in other countries, politicians and the Spanish-language press fell silent. Ultimately the definition of probable cause and procedure during roadblocks should be familiar to most expats, though it will probably take a few more court cases to define protocols.

Absent from the debate was the fact that entry to a dwelling requires a warrant from a judge, and this case proved only an extension of that logic. The ruling stated “It is a fact, within the conformities of the law, that police can exercise controls to identify persons, check migratory status, control contraband or traffic of animal and plant species, among others,” said the opinion, referring to a 2002 court case on a fixed checkpoint between Cartago and San Isidro del General on the Interamericana highway. “It is not possible that these controls take place in an indiscriminant manner and much less that persons be forced to permit access to the interior of their vehicle, without noticia criminis or probable cause . . . .”

Probable cause in the United States has been refined over the years with numerous Supreme Court decisions. One of the original cases dates from 1925 and searching cars for moonshine.

But in the case of car searches, by definition most stops will be for traffic violations. Since Costa Rican traffic police are a separate force from the Fuerza Pública that usually conducts roadblocks, more opportunity for searches will likely come with cooperation. The fact that in Costa Rica citizen or foreigner alike can be obliged to produce identification (for now) provides an opening for contact lacking in the United States.

Retired detective Robert McDonald, who lives here, describes procedures in his California department as using permitted random encounters focused on public safety issues, particularly drunk driving, to establish contact with potential offenders. He said probable cause must still
checking ids
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Ingrid Luna
Despite the Sala IV ruling, police still have the power to make identity checks as they did here Saturday night.

be established on the ground for specific reasons before any search is undertaken.

The definition of probable cause for search in the U.S. is peppered with terms like “more likely than not,” “reasonable suspicion,” and “more than suspicion.” According to Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial, Oregon law allows for searches of a car when the occupant is arrested for something else, for example a driving under the influence violation. He said that if a “safety” pat-down looking for weapons should find a meth pipe, that would be probable cause to think there was contraband in the car and it can be searched. (Or it can be in plain sight.)

But, according to Oregon procedural manual, “the car must be mobile before the stop, and must be attended and operable, to allow the search.” The presence of another person in the car complicates the matter. In this case, Fourth Amendment law makes distinctions between “person, residence, vehicle and property.” The fact that a car can be driven off is relevant to the suspicion required to search it.

Dial said Oregon law doesn’t allow profiling. Elsewhere, profiling or not, the “faulty equipment traffic stop” is listed as the most common justification for a stop leading to a significant arrest by the Florida Highway Patrol Contraband Interdiction Program. According to an internal poll, excessive window tint is a favorite.

As protocols presumably develop to justify checks, some sort of profiling will be needed in Costa Rica. The courts have not pronounced on this. Profiling per se is less likely to run against laws about equal treatment and discrimination than in the United States. While Costa Rica did have a sort of segregation of its small black minority at one time, prejudice in setting profiles is unlikely to be an issue. A Nicaraguan accent or appearance is far more likely to attract attention. Migration status is specifically stated to be grounds for inspection.

While it is presumptuous to assume case law will develop along the same lines as it did historically in the United States, the underlying concept is similar. The Sala IV finished its opinion saying “The indiscriminate practice of police roadblocks, with no concrete objective, ends converting a human individually recognized into a mere satisfaction of collective interests, which is inadmissible in a democratic state of Law.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 196

Workmen move a section of a bailey bridge into place on the Autopista del Sol. They also are putting in pilings to serve as footings for the bridge ends. The spans must accommodate heavy trucks. The bailey bridges, which come in sections, have been lifesavers for Costa Rica.
another bailey bridge
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo

Emergency officials get a break to inspect damages

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rain let up, the sun came out, and emergency officials lowered the alert level and took to the air Monday. They wanted to check out three mountains that are in various stages of collapsing.

The good news is that the hills above the Río Pacacua in Ciudad Colón is not an immediate danger to the community below. But emergency officials said that persons living along the watercourse should be prepared to move. Geologists also climbed the hills to find large cracks and slippage in the hillsides. Eventually there will be one or more slides.

Officials also studied the Cerro Chitaría above Salitral, Santa Ana. The mountain dumped two slides into the Quebrada Canoa last week and threatened homes nearby. Some 58 persons still are in public shelters in that community. The watercourse is filled with rocks, trees and other debris. The municipal employees are using heavy equipment to remove much of the debris in anticipation of more heavy October rains.

The national emergency commission said that its radio communication center got some 200 reports of flooding, landslides and requests to inspect bridges and roads during the last few days. At least 40 cantons in the country had some kind of damage, officials said.

Among the problems is the Autopista del Sol, which will probably stay closed through Thursday as workmen try to stabilize a bailey bridge that has been installed over a subsidence. The problem is at kilometer 47 between Atenas and Orotina.  Two portable bailey bridges are being installed at the location. Workmen are putting in 30 pilings to support the ends of the bridges. The spans must accommodate 40 tons, officials said.

The spans will remain in place until managers of the Autopista del Sol figure out how to repair the slippage of the roadbed.
The Interamericana Norte is open again at Cerro Cambronero (Kilometer 87). A bailey bridge has been installed there, too. This and the Autopista del Sol are the main routes between the Central Valley and the Pacific coast. Traffic is moving slowly because the bridge is one lane. Truckers reported that they had to wait up to two hours to pass the several miles of damaged roadway.

Officials have opened the roadway for 24 hours a day for passenger cars and light truck. Heavy vehicles still are restricted to 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Officials also said that Ruta 301 from Acosta to Parrita has been closed due to rain damage.

A section of the Costanera Sur between Dominical and Puerto Cortés was restricted to one lane Monday afternoon due to rain damage, officials said.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said Monday that 248 persons still were in shelters. In addition to Salitral, there were shelters in San Ramón de Alajuela, Fatima de Atenas and the Casa de Cutura in Naranjo.

The assessment of damages still is going on. The commission said that 95 stretches of road were damaged, 20 bridges had some type of problem, five dikes also had problems and that 21 water lines suffered breaks and four schools suffered damage. Some bridges were destroyed, and in the case of one in San Antonio de Escazú officials had to destroy a bridge because it became blocked with debris. The action prevented widespread flooding there.

The commission lowered the alert level to the lowest stage that has been in force since August. The commission also warned of rain that is supposed to intensify today.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said that there is a broad area of low pressure over Puerto Rico headed this way. The system has a 50 percent chance to become a cyclone in the next 48 hours, the center said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 196

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Front runner in Brazil
seen as da Silva's proxy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Dilma Rousseff is the favorite to become Brazil's first female president, even though she did not receive enough votes in Sunday's balloting to avoid a runoff election.  The woman chosen by President Luiz Inacio da Silva to succeed him has come a long way since she was a young leftist rebel.  But, many Brazilians say they are unsure of her political leanings.

Only a year ago, Dilma Rousseff was a little-known figure in Brazil.  That was the case even though she was the chief of staff to President da Silva.

During the campaign, da Silva presented his protégé as the architect of many of his key projects.

That was enough to convince voter Ana Paula Vale de Santos.

"I don't know anything about Dilma, but I'm voting for her because her plan is to continue what Lula has done," she said.

Ms. Rousseff won 47 percent of the vote on Sunday.  Her main rival, Jose Serra, whom she will face in a runoff vote on Oct. 31, received 33 percent of the ballots cast.

But analysts say that having a second round of voting raises several unknowns.  One is whether four more weeks of campaigning will affect Ms. Rousseff's health.  She recently survived a bout with cancer.

Another unknown is her past as a Marxist guerrilla during Brazil's dictatorship in the 1960s.  Many of Ms. Rousseff's critics say she is a radical and cannot be trusted to run the country.

In her speech after Sunday's election, Ms. Rousseff promised to elaborate on her plans for the country.

"In this second round, I will take the opportunity to go into more detail over my proposals," she said.

When da Silva was first elected in 2002, many people on the right feared that his administration would be anti-capitalist.  But Brazil's economy grew and his approval rating soared to 80 percent.

Some Brazilians say that because their constitution limits presidents to two terms in office, da Silva hopes to maintain his influence through Ms. Rousseff.

Merval Pereira is a commentator for O Globo newspaper and Globo TV:

"I think he chose her exactly because she has no history, no political groups — nothing," said Pereira. "She depends on him completely."

Ms. Rousseff is the candidate of a leftist coalition dominated by da Silva's Workers' Party.  Analysts say her lack of political experience might also be a serious handicap, given the deep rifts in that coalition.

Trapped miners may soon
be brought to the surface

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera says emergency workers are very close to rescuing 33 miners trapped underground since August.

Pinera says he hopes the men can be brought to the surface before he leaves on a trip for Europe at the end of next week.

Officials have revised original estimates that the men, trapped since Aug. 5, would not be rescued until December.  Last week, the mining minister, Laurence Golborne, said authorities could start the rescue by the second half of this month. Officials say the drill making an escape shaft is within days of reaching the men.

Once the shaft is completed and has been fitted with the proper equipment, the men are to be brought up one at a time in a metal capsule. Authorities say the miners are getting media training classes via videolink, to prepare them for massive media attention when they emerge.

The miners, who are 700 meters underground, made contact with emergency workers on Aug. 22 and have since been receiving food, medicine, videos and letters through small supply shafts.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 196

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Year's toll of  journalist
put at 56 so far in 2010

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

At least 56 journalists have been killed in the first eight and a half months of 2010, and media employees worldwide continue to face physical violence and persecution of all kinds, whether from public officials, criminals or terrorists, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers said in its annual review of press freedom.

Assaults are daily - and often deadly - for those who challenge governments, report on conflicts or investigate corruption and crime, said the report, presented to the Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, meeting in Hamburg, Germany. At least 120 media employees were in jail as of mid-September 2010, most often following sham trials or without charges having been brought against them. Hundreds more have been forced into exile.

The report said of Latin America:

­ Media professionals face serious threats from both governments and powerful crime syndicates. Organized crime and high-level corruption remain the most sensitive subjects for journalists, in a continent where a deep-rooted culture of impunity prevails and where
authoritarian and populist regimes do not tolerate scrutiny or dissent. Mexico, where the government¹s war against powerful drug cartels continues, remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists worldwide. No less than eight journalists have been murdered since the beginning of the year. In the past months, media based in the northern part of the country have refused to cover any event related to the war on drug trafficking, resulting in widespread self-censorship and major news blackouts.

The organization, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore, India, Spain, France and Sweden, is the global organization of the world¹s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. 

Legion to hear realty exec

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Post 10 of the American Legion meets Wednesday at noon in the Bello Horizonte Country Club to hear local real estate agent Mercedes Castro to discuss the current situation. She is president of First Realty Costa Rica and has 15 years experience doing business here.

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