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  Published Thursday Edition
October 5, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 198
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Ruta 1 down
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo    
Work crews try to clear out downed trees and debris at Ruta 1.
BREAKING: Storms shutting down infrastructure
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Updated: Thursday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m.

The low pressure system affecting the country has evolved into tropical storm Nate, which is pummeling the country's infrastructure.

As of now, Ruta Nacional 32, a major artery that connects San José to Limón remains closed until further notice, according toa Thursday morning statement from the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

Those who need to head to or from the Atlantic coast or province of Limón, CONAVI recommends drivers it take the Ruta Nacional 10  passing through  Turrialba or take the newly inaugurated Bajos de Chilamate-Vuelta Kooper.

Also, drivers can take Ruta Nacional 1 between San Ramón and Palmares.

Those in need to take Ruta Nacional 27, which connects San José and Caldera, should be warned the road is closed at Kilometro 38 between Atenas and Orotina. This is also due to landslides, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

There is a partial 35-kilometer long closure on Ruta Nacional 2, between the villages of Buenos Aires and Paso Real due to landslides.

Other roads fully closed are: 243 at Río Palma, 321 in Pérez Zeledón, 34 Bajo Capulín, 141 Bajo Tapezco, 228 Tablón Copalchi, 126 between Cinco Esquinas and Cinchona, 142 between Cañas and Tilarán and 707 at Turrubares.


Airport operations have also been affected by Nate. Currently Jetblue, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Copa Airlines have had to change the itinerary on some of their flights or cancel them.
Landslide
Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo     
Officer gazes out at flooding.

Some of these cancelled flights are: Copa CM392 coming from Guatemala to San José, CM145 and CM115 going from San José to Ciudad de Panamá, CM391 from San José to Guatemala  and CM168 between Managua and San José. More updates are expected from the airports.

At Daniel Oduber Quirós international airport in Guanacaste province, all domestic flights have been cancelled until further notice, according to Dirección General de Aviación Civil.

The Instituto Nacional de Electricidad also informed the shutting down of its hydroelectrical plants at Cachí, Brasil, El Encanto, Cote, Electriona and Ventanas.

The measure is taken due to sudden flow increases in the river. According to the Instituto, the national electrical grid continues working as usual and the geothermal plant at Miravalles is working to its full capacity.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social announced that its facilities and services would remain open. Officials from the institution said that there were no new closures of local clinics due to the flooding or landslides at this time.

All national parks are now closed excluding access for emergency services at this time, according to the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación.


flooding
Casa Presidencial photo     
Issues related with flooding are causing problems on the roads, suspension of classes and closing of health clinics throughout the country.
Officials issue red alert for most of Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has issued a red alert for most of the country to keep emergency services activated due to heavy rains that have cause landslides, flooding and other damages all across the country.

According to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, a low pressure system located off the coast of the country, will continue causing heavy rains today in the Central Pacific and Central Valley. This is the result of the tropical cyclone off the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. Though the intensity of the rains may vary from one territory to the other, authorities have called the population to be prepared.

"We want to assure the national community that all institutions are synchronized,” said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís. “All possible operations are properly coordinated so there are no delays in their deployment.”

"The vulnerability of the country due to the accumulated rainfall during the month of September is notorious,” said Juan Carlos Fallas, director of the institute.

The red alert has been issued for the South Pacific, North Pacific, Central Valley and North Huetar region, as well as a green alert for the province of Limón. These alerts can vary in the next few hours, so the population is asked to keep an eye on the information that will be generated.

"It is important to stay informed and avoid areas prone to landslides and floods as well as the coast, since strong waves affecting the entire Pacific coast during the next hours and days,” said Ivan Brenes, president of the institute.

Brenes explained that the declaration of National Emergency would happen if access to resources is found after technical assessments

The Cruz Rosa Costarricense requested its 122 auxiliary committees throughout the country to activate all institutional response mechanisms to address the needs of communities affected.

"All our structures and committees must assess the resources and prepare our response and actions,"said Edgardo Acosta, director of the Cruz Roja. "Road safety is also important because of reduced visibility in the late afternoon.”

Wednesday evening already saw the Consejo Nacional de la Vialidad shut down Ruta 21 between Santa Cruz and Nicoya due to a landslide in Nambi.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes also closed the road in Cambronero del Cristo de San Ramón. Ministry officials recommend drivers use Ruta 27 instead. Reports of another landslide at Ruta Nacional 209 between Tarbaca and Asseri are also being assessed by personnel to verify.

Public works officials emphasized that the main national highways such as the Interamericana highway, the Costanera Sur, Ruta Nacional 32 and Ruta Nacional 27 maintain normal operating conditions in spite of the landslides there.

Emergency crews remain on alert to continue with any necessary clean-up work.

The Ministerio de Educación also canceled classes today and Friday. The schools that will be closed are at: Carrillo and Santa Cruz, Cartago canton, Parrita, Quepos, Puerto Jiménez, Ujarrás, León Cortés, Tarrazú, Data, Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Esparza and Garabito.

Other schools include three in Puntarenas canton like Lice Antonio Obando Chang, Liceo de Chacarita and Manuel Mora Valverde school. Zapotal and Peñas Blancas schools will also be closed. The Dirección Regional San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón is cancelling classes.

rain system
                              map
Instituto Meteorológico Nacional graphic    
Map displaying movement
of tropical cyclone.

Red
                                alert map
Comisión Nacional de Emergencias map    
Much of the country is now on red alert.

Education officials called on the local directorates and municipal emergency committees to stay in communication as well as to continue informing staff and parents regarding the alert.

Meanwhile, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social announced that seven clinics were being affected by the rains and the alert.

According to Dr. Warner Picado Camareno, the regional director of health services in the Chorotega region, the clinics at: Ortega and Cartagena in Santa Cruz as well as in Belén 2, Filadelfia Sur, El Coco, Sardinal and Paso Tempisque of the Carillo health area were isolated by floods. Picado said that these clinics were either isolated or overrun with flooding.

Patients needing urgent care will receive it at the health centers in Santa Cruz and Carillo while the Carillo 24-hour emergency service will remain open, the Caja said.

The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados announced that water services will be interrupted for areas in the cantons of Mora and Puntarenas this morning. AyA said that, from 8 a.m. to noon, the institute is calling on people to only use water for drinking so as to not effect the storage tanks.

The Planta Potabilizadora de Puntarenas is out of operation due to problems near the Río Barranca. The places affected by this shortage will be: Barranca, Chacarita, El Roble, Barrio San Bosco, Calle La Unión, Barrio José Aguilar and the residences near the cemetery of Ciudad Colon and Chepe Monge. AyA said the closure will affect almost 70,000 people.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad sought to dispel rumors that the grid was knocked out in a Wednesday evening statement sent out to the public. ICE advised the public to follow and monitor official channels for notifications on the power grid.

Lastly, the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación decided to close access to several national parks in the country.

These include: Santa Rosa, Rincón de la Vieja, Barra Honda and the Refugio de Vida Silverstre Bahía Junquillal. SINAC did not rule out closing more national parks when necessary.

The closures are also for the inclement weather and to prevent possible emergencies. They will remain closed until further notice, according to a statement from the Minister del Ambiente y Energía.



Operation Pangea
                            in action
Ministerio de Salud photo    
Police and health officials cooperate in conducting street operations.
Health ministry conducts international operation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 312.6 million colones were seized in the latest health ministry operation to tackle the illegal pharmaceutical trade in Costa Rica.

It surpasses the 235 million colones worth of drugs seized last year. Pangea X is the name of the operation and its objective was to find medicines or other pharmaceutical drugs circulating on the black market without proper registration from the Ministerio de Salud. This registration is similar to the ones administered by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration that are supposed to guarantee the safety and quality of products sold on the market.

In Costa Rica, many of these seizures are not found in darkened alleyways or being sold by street hustlers and drug dealers. In fact, some if not most were found in local market stalls, pharmacies and medical offices in addition to parks and warehouses. Authorities even visited a couple sex shops, according to a report from the health ministry.

The Comisión Nacional contra Productos de Interés Sanitario Falsificados coordinated the planning of this multi-institutional operation that occurred earlier in September. Out of more than 17 places considered of interest for investigation, more than three were shut down by authorities due to lack of proper permits.

The border posts and the international airports were also screened in an attempt to stymie the flow of these products into the country, Salud said.

Examining seized pharmaceuticals
Ministerio de Salud photo    
Health officials examine the goods.

Most of the products were seized due to: expired or false registration, no health registration and unspecified labeling among other breaches.

Operation Pangea X is a worldwide effort led by the International Police Organization, or INTERPOL.

This year, the operation included the participation of more than 123 countries in the effort with 400 arrests made worldwide.

Total seizures accounted for more than $51 million in drugs. In Costa Rica, two people are being charged with smuggling and selling drugs and other pharmaceutical products in the courts, according to the Interpol office based in San José.

“It is absolutely necessary to work together to achieve success in combating the marketing of illegal products that can compromise the health and the life of Costa Ricans,” said Diana Víquez, the coordinator for the commission at the health ministry.


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Ex-director of Aduanas provides shocking details in cement case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a sudden departure back in March, Benito Coghi, the former director of Aduanas, made an appearance before the special commission in the legislature investigating the infamous cement case currently plaguing the executive branch.

Spanish-language media went abuzz with a series of conversations allegedly occurring between the ex-director and the deputy finance minister, Fernando Rodríguez. The discussion mainly surrounds the ongoing issue of the 20,000 tons of Chinese cement that has implicated many officials. These messages were released by Coghi to the special commission Tuesday night. They were sent through the WhatsApp messenger application, a popular form of communication in Costa Rica.

The primary topic of the released material deals in the unloading of the cargo, according to the reports in Spanish-language media. This business deal gained notoriety thanks to a clip of a recorded audio where a man is suggesting to another man to tell lies and by doing so, not having to pay a $30 million contract.

It is the supposed conversation of a businessman telling a member of the executive board of Banco de Costa Rica to leak a rumor. Just a small rumor that the institution had violated the bank secrecy laws. A bit of information that would allow this man to skip the payment of a loan granted to import Chinese cement.

That audio caused great uproar among the Costa Rican public at the time this started heating up earlier in September. Some other uproars kept coming as weeks went by and more of the case was discovered. Apparently, that man and his loan were granted by the Banco de Costa Rica under unclear conditions and quite bizarre circumstances.

When it first made headlines, the executive board of Banco de Costa Rica was very shocked and all of them were for a deep investigation  on the matter, but then the attention somehow moved to Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís. Everybody focused on those forgotten meetings he had with the businessman at the time, and some implied his political power was used to subdue the will of the executive board of the bank.

Legislators finally forced him to provide and explanation on the case, which he did on public television. There he explained he had nothing to explain because he is not into those technical decisions of an autonomous bank. However, opposition legislators were not satisfied and called the meeting a waste of time.

Meanwhile, Victor Zapata, one of the others involved in the Whatsapp conversation, has been a close friend to the president who supported his candidature for the Legislative Assembly, but in the middle of it all he made a mistake and admitted it. At some point in 2016, he called the director of the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias to rush a delayed payment to the businessman.

That businessman was the one providing the cement for that government agency and allegedly requested a little push from Zapata.

The president called for his resignation. He subsequently disassociated himself from the Partido Acción Ciudadana and crowned himself an independent legislator.
Fernando Rodríguez decided to respond publicly to these new revelations in the case.

“Around July of last year, Victor Morales Zapata asked me to participate in a meeting to expose the problems that were occurring with the import of cement from China,” he said in a written statement released by Casa Presidencial.

“As it was an import issue, I scheduled the appointment and asked the then-director-general of Aduanas, Benito Coghi, to accompany me, as is usual in meetings that require a technical criterion.”

Rodríguez said the meeting was regarding a technicality n the importation and the possibility of allowing entry for the product before it deteoriorated. The meeting was also attended by Welmer Ramos, who was the minister of Economía at the time.

Rodríguez insisted that nothing unusual or illegal happened within this meeting and that the proper procedure was followed through its entirety. He placed the decision-making in the hands of the customs director.

“In this case, the particular decision taken by the Dirección General de Aduanas was to resolve a doubt about the landing and storage process, which should be said, did not entail any tax loss or exemption from any nationalization requirement,” he said. 

“A research process that is still open in its final recursive phases prevents me from referring to and giving details of this process.”

He added that he was committed to upholding the laws and being completely transparent in the matter and leaves himself available to any interested authorities who seek greater clarification on the matter.


Government suspends five board members of Banco de Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Since only two of the seven members from the Board of Directors of the Banco de Costa Rica resigned after a direct call from Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, the government has decided to suspend the remaining five from their positions and thus, start a replacement process.
 
This was confirmed by Sergio Alfaro, minister of the Presidency, who said that it is a measure to gain time while an investigation is carried out with possible sanctions, as announced by Solís when the board members refused refused to resign.

The only two former executives who accepted the call for resignation were Ronald Solís and Gustavo Arias.

Paola Mora, Mónica Segnini, Evita Arguedas Francisco Molina and Alberto Raven declined to leave theirs posts are they claim there has not been any wrongdoing in their actions.

The new appointees will be announced next Tuesday on the weekly government meeting, said Alfaro. The remaining executive board include the members who originally denounced an apparent plot to commit fraud against the Banco de Costa Rica.

On Sept. 25,  on a television broadcast, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís requested the entire Executive Board of the bank to resign their positions, due to the lack of transparency in their operations and the clear existence of  conflict of interests.


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Residency

Published || Thursday Edition, October 5, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 198
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ICE installs natural bridges to protect the local wildlife at Las Pailas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just a few hours after having placed the last three aerial bridges to protect the fauna around the Las Pailas II geothermal power plant, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad  registered the first critters using them. Ten of these bridges have been installed as of Sept. 30

"One of the bridges was inaugurated just six hours after being installed, which shows the positive animal response to the new the structures.” said Laura Artavia, coordinator of the project's biology.

One of the species that has taken advantage of the new bridges is the howler monkey, locally known as Congo, a primate that had not been previously seen in the areas around the project.

"The main objective of the aerial bridges is to keep animals from coming down to the ground and thus, reduce the odds of injuries or death,” added Ms. Artavia.

The Instituto monitors the bridges by visiting the sites and monitoring the several cameras that have been set in place.

“There are already relevant results from the monitoring,” said Ms. Artavia. “In one of the bridges we saw a troop of 20 white monkeys.”

Monkey
                                bridge
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo      
One of the furry critters benefiting from the aerial bridge.

The Instituto said some underground passages were also built. Frequently, animals approach places where temporary works are carried out. That is why staff has  implemented a rescue and relocation strategy. As of today, the staff has rescued 575 animals.
 
Las Pailas II Geothermal Plant is built in Liberia and has a 60 percent overall progress.




Aresep destroys over 2,000 gas tanks in dangerously poor condition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last week, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos destroyed 2,430 gas tanks in poor condition and posed a general threat to consumers.
 
The destruction makes part of the Aresep’s Gas Quality Assessment Program, which conducts checks on the conditions of the cylinders during the packaging process. These check-ups discard cylinders that do not meet quality requirements and specifications, such as bumps, corrosion, leaks, as well as cylinders made of aluminum as they do not meet the minimum safety requirements.
 
During the inspection process carried out last week, technicians from Aresep validated 2,000 new cylinders, returned 3,000 of them, and destroyed 2,430.
 
The Intendente de Energía, Mario Mora, said it is essential to check the condition of the cylinders to prevent emergencies. He also said it is important that the user purchase containers in good condition and reject those that do not comply with the safety standard.

According to Mora, there is an ongoing plan to replace all the old cylinders in the country, a plan that has been agreed between the Autoridad and the main gas  companies.  The objective is to replace at least 100,000 cylinders per year.
 
The Autoridad performs weekly inspections in all the cylinder filing gas plants.

Aresep
                                  gas tank destruction
Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos photo       
By piercing the cylinder, it becomes unusable
unless it is recycled


Once officials find any one non-compliant with the regulations then they are marked for further review by the company. If by the following week the problems persist, technicians from the Autoridad proceed with their destruction.

Cylinders are destroyed by first emptying them and then are pierced several times  to make sure they must be recycled by the companies.




Recommended
                          restaurants and hotels

Los Suenos

Crocs

Hacienda
                    Baru
 
Villas de Palermo

Formula Kart
 
Don
                    Wang

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

Published || Thursday Edition, October 5, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 198
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Rainy weather and cooler temperatures create more cases of the flu
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rainy weather and the cooler temperatures in some places usually come with cases of influenza and the flu.

According to data from the Ministerio de Salud, over 93 percent of the doses provided to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social were applied this past July. These came with a series of announcements from both institutions urging people to receive their flu vaccines. Influenza may not seem like a very stressful situation for most of the population, but, as one A.M. Costa Rica reader, pointed out, that common cold can easily become pneumonia for older persons.

Based on data from the Caja, over 92 percent of seniors aged 65 and over received their vaccinations. Of course, this comes only for those who use and access the Caja’s health facilities. It may not include many persons living in Costa Rica as perpetual tourists.

Aside from seniors, the other group at risk from acquiring more serious complications catalyzed by an influenza infection would be young infants and children. Only 70 percent of those children aged three years and younger received their flu shots for 2017, according to the same data. Oddly enough, only 63 percent of Caja health officials received their shots too.

According to a statement from Dr. Roberto Arroba Tijerino, the coordinator for immunizations at the health ministry, they are expecting a peak of influenza infections in these last few months of the year. Although the official flu vaccine campaign is over, the health ministry said that some establishments still have stores of flu vaccines left.

The most prevalent recommendations from both health institutions, however, is for people to protect themselves. The Caja and Salud consistently release the typical recommendations for dealing with this illness and that is: consistently wash one’s hands with soap and water. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, flu spreads mainly through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.

Vaccine stock
Voice of America video grab      
It is past the vaccine campaign but if you have
a serious case of influenza, seek medical attention.


Even if they land on a surface or object, then that could pass along the infection.

The CDC said, that in rare cases, this illness can become bacterial pneumonia, give ear or sinus infections and worsen chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure. To clarify, flu is a viral infection that could weaken the immune system to where a bacterial infection could come into play. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and are recommended only to be used at the onset of a bacterial infection.

The Caja and health ministry both insist that citizens and residents receive a vaccination or take preventive measures against the infection.

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U.S. Income Tax Services (paid category)

Tax time
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Including disclosure of foreign corporations to avoid serious problems.

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Real estate rentals
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A.M.
Costa
Rica
Fifth
news page


Published || Thursday Edition, October 5, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 198
Calendar
Opinion
Classifieds
Real estate
Lifestyle
Food
About us


Women still constitute minority in engineering and science fields
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Women interested in pursuing a career in engineering are still a minority in most of public universities, according to the findings from the Sixth State of the Education report.
 
According to the document, female engineering graduates are lower than their male counterparts at the Universidad de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional and the national technical university. In the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, the data varies.
 
“Many students choose this professional path looking for professional prestige, high employment rates, good income, while the university is chosen by its reputation,” according to the report.
 
The data also shows that in recent years there has been a slight increase of female  participation, from 22 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2016.

The study says: law, journalism, health and education, continue to be areas with a greater female presence. However in the case of education, the number of women graduates is decreasing while more men are getting their teacher’s degree.
 
As for health-related areas, most women get their degree in nursing and medicine. In 2014, there were as many males and females graduating as nurses and doctors.
 
Another curious discovery is that health-related education is more attractive among women coming from a private school.
 
Education degrees are more likely to be chosen by those who trust their vocation, seek professional prestige or an easy school to get admitted to. The study also determined that sexist attitudes and gender stereotypes affect women's performance and their choices.

female
                      engineer stock
Pixabay courtesy photo     
Gender roles may still affect a a woman’s career choice.

Another difference found in the report is the gap in leadership role. Only 10 percent of women with a postgraduate degree hold positions of management and leadership. In the case of men with the same educational level the figure reaches 26 percent, the research shows.



Repairing stoplights takes at least 17 days to fix, official says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most people have been in a similar situation. The traffic light goes out or experiences problems and, suddenly, that nice drive becomes a traffic nightmare.

According to data from Costa Rica’s Dirección General de Ingeniería de Tránsito, a total of 488 failures were reported with traffic lights. Diego Rugama, head of the Departamento de Semáforos, said that all these reports had the issue resolved. The total cost for fixing these issues was 272 million colones.

“Last year, outside the GAM, we took an average of 17 days to address the breakdowns,” Rugama said. “For this year, we propose to decrease the time in 11 days and we are aware that we are taking an average of seven days to deal with the faults using our crews.”

GAM is the acronym used to describe the greater metropolitan area around San José.

Rugama said that factors that could cause breakdowns include torrential rainfalls. He also mentioned that drivers have nine options available to make these reports.

Stoplight
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo      
Stoplight trouble takes a long time to fix apparently.

Five are online forms by accessing the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes website, by tweeting SemáforosCR, via Skype Semaforos CR or the Facebook page with the same name among others. The exact address and a brief description of what is wrong should be included with the report, the ministry said.


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Brodell
                Book
Costa Rica: Remarkable Tales from Our Super Vacation Spot

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 (editor)A.M. Costa Rica celebrates its 16th anniversary with a compilation of classic news reports geared to the needs of foreigners living here and those elsewhere with personal or business interests in this vacation paradise. Each seeks to tell something new or original about the vacation and retirement mecca.  
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Life is a Tropical Garden

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Brodell book 2
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Costa Rican News
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Retire NOW in Costa Rica
CostaRicaReport.com
Fine Dining in Costa Rica
The CAFTA Report
Fish fabulous Costa Rica




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From page 6:

Banco Central obtains $1 billion credit loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The board of directors for the Fondo Latinoamericano de Reservas, or FLAR, approved the request of Costa Rica’s Banco Central to obtain a credit loan of $1 billion this past Monday.

According to a statement from the bank, the move is intended to strengthen the country’s international reserve position. “In its decision, the FLAR board assessed the positive effect that credit resources will have on the credibility of Banco Central shares,” the bank statement read. “Likewise, its willingness to take measures that guarantee a monetary and exchange rate situation consistent with the behavior of the fundamental variables of the Costa Rican economy.”

At the same time, however, the FLAR urged the country to adopt structural measures to tackle the fiscal deficit crisis. The agency said that such actions are critical to maintaining and stabilizing the economy.

This move comes following the behavior of the exchange rate system back in late May. At the time, the exchange rate decreased to almost 600 colones to every $1 following several weeks where the rate was on the rise. To prevent a financial freefall, the authorities at the Banco Central announced three new measures to keep the rate steady, which seems to be working so far.

The first was continuing to sell dollars out of its $7.2 billion reserve and then to intervene whenever necessary to stabilize the rate. Lastly, the monetary policy rate increased from three to four percent for the fourth time this year.This allows commercial banks to increase the interest rates for savings in colones, making them more attractive for the general public. 


As of Wednesday afternoon, the exchange rate was placed at 566 colones for $1.