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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 199           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Police sweep area where gunmen killed pedestrian
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A multi-agency law enforcement task force descended on the area called Tierra Dominicana about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and detained 16 persons, all for immigration irregularities.

The police raid follows the murder Monday of a passer-by who was caught in the crossfire between two rival groups.

This is the area along Avenida 7 between calles 6 and 2 where the majority of the population are immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

In all, law officers raided eight locations, including an Internet cafe, bars and rooming houses. They said they confiscated crack rocks, marijuana and a 9-mm pistol.

One person who was detained on immigration irregularities was identified by law officers as a possible vendor of drugs. But they had no specifics.  All those held will be identified and investigated, law officers said.

A 21-year-old Dominican woman was detained when she admitted that she married a Costa Rican she did not even know simply to obtain residency here. She was held for deportation because her entry papers were not in order, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. She said she entered Costa Rica May 29 and was married June 18, the ministry said.

The daylight raid was the most visible of recent police actions in the area. Evening raids are frequent because the current demographic makeup generates complains from long-time residents. Groups of young men, apparently Dominican, populate street corners at all hours of the day, and the small businesses frequently have customers
sitting outside on their steps all day long.

Fuerza Pública officers were seen throwing chairs and tables from inside one bar or cafe. Some locations were closed due to health violations.  In each location police officers and agents questioned at least a dozen individuals and detained the few who did not have current immigration permissions. The ministry said that some locations were sites for drug trafficking, but there were no arrests for that crime.

Taking part beside the Fuerza Pública were Judicial Investigating Organization agents, the Policía Municipal, immigration police, and employees of the Ministerio de Salud.

Killed Monday shortly after noon was José Aguilar Aguilar, 78, who was walking with two grandchildren. Investigators said that a car containing Colombians stopped at a traffic light and that two men, presumed to be Dominicans, stepped from a bar and began shooting at the occupants. The men in the car returned fire. Aguilar died from a stray bullet in the back.

Passengers in a public bus bound for Heredia hit the floor as bullets perforated the front and rear windows. Some impacted into the now-vacant seats.

One occupant of the vehicle came into police hands after the car crashed into a traffic signal pole. He suffered a bullet wound to the neck.

The shootout close to the geographical center of San José caused political ripples Tuesday, and some bus passengers and the company lobbied for a change in the location of stops and the route.

Police usually do not enter the area unless they come in force in response to an emergency call.

Nation embarks on the next election campaign
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones officially opened the campaign for national elections Wednesday and urged all citizens who are on the rolls to show up and vote Feb. 7.

Elections in Costa Rica have fixed rules like a soccer game. Among these is the mandate that the sitting president take no sides.

Óscar Arias Sánchez promised to abide by that rule in a short television speech Thursday night that had the tone of a swan song. He, too, urged Costa Ricans for vote and exercise their democratic right.

Costa Ricans will elect a president, 57 members of the Asamblea Legislativa, 495 local regidores or council members and 495 substitutes. The voting will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the nation's 2,018
polling places. Sometimes the results are not known for several days.
There are 71 political parities registered with the tribunal, but only 49 have their paperwork up to date, officials said. Most of these are regional or local parties. The parties have until Oct. 27 to complete their slate.  One party that lacks a presidential candidate is Unidad Social Cristiana, which ruled Costa Rica from 1998 to 2006. This party's formidable candidate was Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, who was president from 1990 to 1994. But he was convicted Monday of taking illegal commissions from a $39.5 million public contract for hospital equipment.

Luis Fishman, president of Unidad, described the party as bent but not broken in a press release Wednesday. He said the party would meet in a national assembly Sunday to pick a new candidate. Although Calderón is appealing the conviction, he announced he would drop out of the elections.

Fishman said the conviction was unjust and that it was the result of strong political interests.

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Insulza calls for dialogue
to end Honduran standoff

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States made a strong call Wednesday for dialogue in order to achieve the restoration of unity within the Honduran people and its democratic institutions.

During the inauguration of talks with representatives of President José Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government in Honduras,  the secretary general, José Miguel Insulza,  said that “we all need dialogue to heal divisions and so that Hondurans don't have to keep paying the consequences of what happened.”

The session took place in the Madrid Hall of the Clarion Hotel in Tegucigalpa,

Dialogue, Insulza said, will allow the return of the “previous democratic institutionality, guarantee that the elections on November 29 will truly be the free expression of the people’s will, the path through which the democratic political process will be channeled and the end of sanctions that we never wanted to impose.”

The head of the hemispheric organization said that the process of dialogue that started Wednesday should consider all issues included more than two months ago in the document known as the San José Accord.

The agreement, authored by Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez, is clear on five points: the restoration of President Zelaya to power; the formation of a government of national unity; the guarantee that there will be no new initiatives focused on amending the constitution; amnesty for political crimes that might have been committed; and the international supervision of the agreement.

Afterwards, Insulza said that it is “indispensable to fulfill certain political and procedural requirements,” among which he highlighted: the restoration and upkeep of constitutional guarantees; the restitution of suspended media outlets; guarantees for the life of President Zelaya; the empowerment of the parties to reach binding agreements; a commitment to avoid disruptive demonstrations; the elaboration of an agenda including all issues at stake; and the establishment of clear and short deadlines to reach an agreement.

“None of those requirements should take too much time if, above all, there is a real political will to reach an agreement. We can and are willing to help, but we cannot and we will not substitute the effort of the citizens of this country,”  Insulza said.

Finally, he encouraged “those assuming responsibility for this dialogue to face it without hidden intentions, with good will, sacrificing legitimate interests, leaving all prejudices and fears aside, and being generous in the name of the greatness of the nation.”

Among those in the delegation headed by  Insulza was Bruno Stagno, Costa Rican foreign minister.

Zelaya wasousted June 28, The United States and other nations have condemned Zelaya's overthrow. Washington also has revoked the visas of Honduran officials and cut aid to the Central American country. Many conservative U.S. lawmakers have criticized President Barack Obama's support of Zelaya.

The de facto government says Zelaya was ousted because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office.

LaserCard beefs up security
on its ID card products

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

LaserCard Corp., the Mountain View, California, firm that provides equipment for making residency cédulas in Costa Rica, said Wednesday that it has enhanced the security of the product.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería uses the company machines to produce residency cédulas. The  innovations are to the firm's optical security media that aid document examiners in visually authenticating identity credentials when electronic card readers are not available.

The company said it now provides:

• higher resolution security artwork: Security features are embedded into the optical media in the LaserCard controlled manufacturing process. These images are resolved at up to 25,000 dots per inch, well beyond the capability of current or conceived scanning, copying and printing technologies;

• higher contrast, higher resolution cardholder image laser etched onto the optical security media  to resist substitution or tampering of a credential’s printed or lasered facial image(s);

• new personalized features which enhance the embedded hologram, including ghost image (a faint duplicate of the credential holder’s facial image) and continuously variable text, both of which enhance counterfeit resistance;

• complex background images to lock the elements of the embedded hologram together, such as watermark. and wallpaper, which enhance visual authentication, prevent tampering and further deter counterfeiting, and

•A new optical media card configuration which complies with International Civil Aviation Organization standards for travel cards.

Murder of motorcyclist
was mistake, agents report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who shot an 18-year-old motorcycle passenger in the back Sept. 27 in Golfito killed the wrong man, investigators have concluded.

They arrested a murder suspect on a bus in Pérez Zeledón and held him for the crime, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents said that he mistook the victim, who had the last name of Lobo, for someone else

Two robbery suspects caught

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two gunmen stuck up a pharmacy just 300 meters from the center of San Rafael de Alajuela Tuesday night, but Fuerza Pública officers managed to collar two suspects. Officers confiscatedd 70,000 colons (about $121) and two sidearms, a Tauras and a Ranger, they said.

Our reader's opinion
Opinions of living here
based on financial status

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I’ve noticed that there are generally two points of view about most Gringo issues in Costa Rica.  The articles written by Garland Baker recently have spawned plenty of replies that illustrate this.

One letter writer and I were both high tech professionals in California when the tech industry collapsed in 2000/2001.  The big difference was how much money we had when we came to Costa Rica.  I lost almost everything I had when the tech market collapsed, the other writer was able to sell a home in California and make their start with that capital.  I ended up working odd jobs. They ended up in real estate.

After living in Costa Rica for six years, I can tell by an expat's view of local events or opinions about life there whether they came there with a lot of cash or very little.  It’s a pretty simple division in mentalities. 

Most of my “poor” friends came to Costa Rica because it was cheap. They wanted to live Tico style and liked things how they were years ago – and didn’t want things to be like the States.  The people I know with money are different.  They have visions of a more developed Costa Rica, one with all the luxuries of the U.S.A., and most wanted to change things and make money doing it.

If you’re a Gringo in Costa Rica and you don’t have much money, than you are exposed to the work issues that Garland Baker wrote about when you try and support yourself.  You can’t afford to buy residency through investment, so you play the revolving tourist visa thing.  You don’t live in a gated community, so you are closer to crime and often a victim of it. 

Many, like me, buy an old vehicle and have to deal with inspections & mechanics and all of those sorts of headaches.  These things are not issues for Gringos with plenty of cash, many of whom live a life detached from the community in which they live and pay people to do the stressful things that everyone else has to deal with.

Personally, I agree with most of what Garland Baker has written and in many cases have personal experiences that are similar.  He’s been in Costa Rica a long time and seen the changes.  It’s easy to be optimistic when you are trying to sell Costa Rica to people but when you see your home being sold out from under you, it’s not.

Brett Swindell
Suffolk, Virginia

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U.S. fugitive faces deportation and not extradition here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 64-year-old U.S. citizen did not have to endure a prolonged judicial process of extradition. He was deported instead.

The man, identified by law enforcement officers as William Snyder, was detained Thursday in Escazú. He was on a plane bound for Houston and later to Las Vegas Wednesday. He faces federal charges of fraudulent use of a Social Security number, identity theft and money laundering, according to the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad and agents of the International Police Agency here.

Immigration officials said that Snyder entered the country in March, overstayed his visa and took no steps to legalize his status here. He was living in San Rafael de Escazú and driving a rental vehicle.

Snyder was one of two foreigners picked up by INTERPOL agents in the last week. A 37-year-old citizen of Belgium, identified by the last name of Calvelo came into police hands Sunday afternoon at his home in BarrioCorobici, Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, said agents.

He also is wanted in the United States. Agents here said he was a suspect in the sale of medicines via the Internet. They said the allegations were that the medicines were false and that he did not have permission to sell controlled substances.

In the case of Calvelo, more court hearings are planned. He was remanded to prison for two months preventative detention by the  Tribunal Penal de San José, said the Poder Judicial.

William Snyder
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguirdad Pública photo
William Snyder in law enforcement custody

Depending on the circumstances, immigration agents have the option to deport or expel foreigners here. Frequently suspects fight being sent to another country to face charges, and if they have the right to stay in Costa Rica a court hearing is likely. Some individuals spent a year or more in prison fighting the demands by foreign governments that they be extradited.

Legislators urged to provide youngsters access to condoms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two members of a non-profit corporation appeared before a legislative committee Wednesday and asked that legal changes be made to insure that minors have access to condoms.

The two were members of  Fundación Mundial Déjame Vivir en Paz, and they were appearing before the Comisión de Juventud, Niñez y Adolescencia, which is studying a law that is designed to decrease pregnancy in youngsters.
Steven Bustamante, one of the two, said that medical opinion show prevail and not parental power.

He cited as an example the case of  a young member of Jehovah's Witnesses who may be given a blood transfusion against the parents' wishes.

The other witness, Carlos Alfaro, said that the reality is that many young people are prostitutes and need to have access to condoms for the protection of their health from the various sexually transmitted diseases.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 199

The business chamber says that the minimum salary started to gain ground against inflation in about the second half of 2006

minimum salaries
Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado graphic

Business chamber pushes for more flexibility in work rules

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The chamber of private companies in Costa Rica has come out with a series of changes it wants to see in the laws. Among these are adjustments to the minimum salary which has shown an increase against inflation over the last 10 years, according to Banco Central figures, the organization said.

The group is the  Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. It said in a statement directed to lawmakers and the public that private enterprise employs nine out of every 10 person in the country. The organization wants, among other developments, changed in the codigo de trabajo or employment rules.

Specifically the organization asked lawmakers to stop the political maneuvering over proposed legislation covering the free zones where 53,0900 employees work and some 100,000 more are indirectly benefitted. The free zones, the organization said, produce nearly $5 billion in exports a year.

Lawmakers are debating a proposal now that would clarify
certain rules and provide a firm legal framework for the free zones. This week political parties clashed over where to put the measure on the agenda for debate.

The chamber also said that it wants public companies as well as the private firms covered by a law that promotes competition and seeks to defend consumers. The chamber said it was unfair to only apply these rules to private companies.

And the chamber wants the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo restrained from putting indefinite notations on private property in the Registro Nacional. That keeps the property from being sold, the chamber said. It also said it wants the files of this, the environmental tribunal, open to public inspection. This also would require a change in the law.

On the subject of the minimum wage, the organization said that the mandated salaries are increasing faster than inflation and that this is affected job creation. In Costa Rica many employees work at the minimum wage, which is adjusted every six months. A graphic produced by the chamber shows that the salaries are increasing faster than inflation in the last several six-month periods.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 199

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112 countries meet to study
how to help world tourism

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Some 360 delegates from 112 countries are meeting under United Nations auspices in Astana, Kazakhstan, to determine how the tourism industry can surmount the decline brought on by the economic crisis while responding to the twin challenges of climate change and poverty alleviation.

Convened for the 18th session of the U.N. World Tourism Organization General Assembly, tourism ministers and senior officials from national organizations, as well as public, private and academic affiliate members, will discuss the agency’s roadmap for recovery, which calls on world leaders to place tourism and travel at the core of stimulus packages and the transformation to the green economy.

Travel and tourism have the potential “to play an essential role in post-crisis recovery by providing jobs, infrastructure, stimulating trade and development and should be a key consideration at future global economic summits,” the organization said in a statement, noting that they are among the largest employers in most countries and a fast entry vehicle into the workforce, directly or through related services such as construction and commerce.

Other key issues to be addressed include the facilitation of tourist travel, pandemic preparedness in the framework of influenza and technical cooperation to promote sustainable development through travel.

Overall, the tourism market is starting to indicate stronger prospects for recovery in 2010, with preliminary figures until August this year suggesting some moderation in the declining results of the first half of this year. International arrivals declined by 4 per cent in July, compared to decreases of 10 per cent in May and 7 per cent in June.

In absolute terms, international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 500 million in the first seven months, down from 540 million in the same period of 2008. Arrivals in 2009 are currently between the levels of 2007 and 2006. The first seven months of the year generally account for roughly 57 per cent of the total annual number.

“As the latest economic data and prospects indicate that the world economy may be starting to emerge from its most severe recession of the post-Second World War period, in tourism too there are signs that confidence is returning and that demand is improving for both business and leisure travel,” sasid Taleb Rifai, acting secretary general.

The economic conditions, combined with the uncertainties brought about by the influenza, are expected to continue to affect tourism demand, at least in the short term. But as decline rates are anticipated to ease, international tourism is forecast to decrease by between 4 per cent and 6 per cent this year.

Although many sub-regions might return to growth in the last months of 2009, this will not be enough to compensate for the losses felt so far. Growth for the full year is projected to be negative in all regions, except for Africa.

“Long-term prospects remain positive if the sector is able to address its challenges in a coordinated and effective manner,”  Rifai said. “Today, world leaders are working together in ways that would have been unimaginable at any time in the past, to coordinate and collaborate on economy, climate response and the development agenda. The tourism sector should do the same on the road to recovery and towards a more sustainable industry.”
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PriceSmart reports increase
in September net sales

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PriceSmart, Inc., said  that for the month of September  net sales increased 2.4 percent to $95.8 million from $93.6 million in September a year earlier. 

There were 26 warehouse clubs in operation at the end of September 2009 compared to 25 warehouse clubs in operation in September 2008.

For the four weeks ended Sept. 27, 2009, comparable warehouse sales for warehouse clubs open at least 12 full months decreased 1.1 percent compared to the same four-week period last year, the company said.

The company has five warehouse stores in Costa Rica.

Power cuts are planned
for two communities

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The electric company said that it will be cutting power to San Miguel de Santo Domingo de Heredia and Los Ángeles next Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for maintenance work. The cutoff in San Mihuel will be partial, but all of Los Angeles will be shut down.

The firm, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, said that the following schools would be cut off: Liceo del Este, Escuela Ricardo Salas, Escuela Cristóbal Colón, Colegio Villaseca and Colegio Yurusti.

Monday is another holiday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is a legal holiday in Costa Rica. It is El Dia del Encuentro de las Culturas, known as Columbus Day in the United States. Most government offices and embassies will be closed. In Costa Rica the day celebrates the fusion of cultures.

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