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These stories were published Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 203
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Out of
the rain

The new Mercado del Registro Civil is more than just another food store. It is a place where former street vendors have a chance to develop their businesses without fear of being run off.

Our story is:



Bill seeks to punish solicitation in public areas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A presidential candidate has sponsored a proposed law that would fine prostitutes who seek clients on the street or other public  places. The action is a step towards regulating adults engaged in the world's oldest profession.

The measure would fine prostitutes and those who solicit their business. At first, a fine is imposed, but for repeated violations, the proposed law calls for a jail term of up to three months.

The sponsor is Juan José Vargas Fallas, who, in addition to being a member of the Asamblea Legislativa, is the presidential candidate for the Partido Patria Primero.

The proposal covers both male and female prostitutes. In San José and more recently in Heredia passers-by have difficulty telling the difference because many of the street prostitutes are transvestites.

Some prostitutes are on the street because they are under the legal age of 18 and cannot enter some of the better known bars and clubs that serve as meeting places between prostitutes and their customers. Engaging the services of an underage prostitute is a serious crime in Costa Rica and punished by prison.
The proposed bill defines public places as the sidewalk, parks, streets, beaches and other areas where the public has daily access.

The goal of the bill is not to prohibit prostitution and certainly not legalize it as a routine labor category, according to a summary from the legislature. Instead, the idea is to exercise some regulation and control over these activities and prohibit them in public, said the summary.

Prostitutes can be seen on the street frequently in the evenings in much of the downtown area. But a recent appearance of transvestite prostitutes in the center of Heredia led to vocal citizen complaints and swift police action.

Vargas was quoted as saying his proposed law is the first initiative by the state to address prostitution between adults in this country.

The activity can be a violation of human rights and the illicit enrichment of individuals at the expense of others, he said, adding that prostitution promotes a style of life that involves drug addiction, violence and degradation of the human condition.

Prostitution is not prosecuted here, and this has led to Costa Rica getting a reputation as a prime sex tourism destination.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 203


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More citizens in shelters
as emergency continues


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More rain sent 1,992 persons in Guanacaste and Quepos to 16 shelters and caused the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias to up its alert to yellow for several cantons, it said.

Those cantons are Abangares, Hojancha, La Cruz, Liberia, Nandayure, Nicoya, Tilarán and Upala, the emergency comission said.  Based on information from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the shaky stability those towns are struggling to maintain from recent floods, several local emergency committees are keeping a close watch.   

The emergency commission sent 450 rations, 140 foam mattresses and 140 blankets to Upala and Guanacaste, the commission said.

The comission is maintaining a red alert for the cantones of Cañas, Filadelfia, Santa Cruz, Bagaces de Guanacaste and Aguirre, it said.These areas have been hard hit by rain and flooding over the last three weeks.

Emergency committees in Guanacaste reported that a total of 13 shelters house 1,692 persons.  People have evacuated their homes in Santa Cruz, Carrillo, Bagaces, Cañas and La Cruz, the commission said.  In Filadelfia alone, 1,100 persons have crowded into 6 shelters.  Those people come from Corralillo, La Guinea, Bambú 1 and 2, Hollywood, Santa Lucía, Isleta, Los Jocotes, Paso Tempisque, Barrio La Cruz and Belén, the commission said. 

The commission is keeping an eye on Upala as a result of the Río Niño creeping up its banks in Cuatro Bocas.  The commission is also worried that the swollen Río Guacalito could flood the towns of Las Pavas, Santa Clara and Las Perlas, it said.  Authorities are also watching the Río Chiquito in Santa Clara which could affect the community of Colonia Libertad, the commission said. 

The commission is especially concerned since the weather institute has said that the Pacific slope should expect more rain until Saturday, especially in Guanacaste and the central Pacific Coast. 

The emergency commission said that although Guanacaste has been taking a beating, they still must monitor the central Pacific Coast where 300 persons in the communities of Matapalo, Portalón, San Cristóbal and El Silencio still are staying with family or in one of three temporary shelters.

The commission said it is still working with rescue workers from local fire departments to watch the health of those persons still displaced.  They are working to grant government subsidies to the affected families that would arrive once a month for the remainder of the year.

Saturday benefit planned
for destroyed Portalón


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Portalón, one of the Pacific coast towns most battered by the flooding a few weeks ago, will get some help to rebuild their homes. 

Hotel Si Como No and Monchados Restaurant in Quepos are holding a benefit concert Saturday to raise the money needed for the rebuilding effort in Portalón.  The show is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. at Monchados. The noted San José jazz musician, Fuzzy Rojas, is scheduled to perform, said Lorraine Champagne, one of the event's organizers. 

“The locals [of Quepos] have been great about donating money and supplies,” Ms. Champagne said.  “But many people lost their homes in the floods and they must be rebuilt.  The rebuilding effort is where the money will go.”

Fuzzy Rojas is extremely popular in San José and when the hotel was able to schedule her on a Saturday night, they jumped at the opportunity for a benefit concert, Ms. Champagne said. 

All of the money from the 3,000 colon ($6.14) entrance fee will go directly to rebuilding the homes of flood victims in Portalón, as will a portion of the event's bar receipts, Ms. Champagne said.

The main goal is to make sure that as much money as possible goes to the people of Portalón, said Richard Sutton, one of the event's publicists.  Si Como No is paying for the band and the restaurant is providing the bar and stage.  There are no administrative costs, no one is making any money off this, Sutton said.

Portalón was one of the hardest hit towns in the country.  Flooding caused the Portalón river to change its course and run through the center of town, destroying many of the 100 or so homes there.  For nearly a week after the rains, the town was isolated from help when the bloated river washed away the bridge into town.  Geologists that evaluated it later said that 90 percent of the town had been damaged and part of it would need to be relocated. 

Tom and Norman Home
will celebrate six years


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Tom and Norman Home for unwanted adults, the home is having a party for senior citizens 65 years and older. The home is a favorite charity of North Americans.

The Oct. 30 party is an annual event for the home in La Rita de Pococí and organizers are looking for people to sponsor the party-goers for 10,000 colons ($20.47) each.   The donations will serve to pay for the party and benefit the home.  The home said that currently, they have 15 persons in need of sponsorship.

More information is available at 763-2121 from Blanca Sanchez or 763-3917 from Julia Solano Mora.  Donations may also be  paid to  account number 051-4886-6 at the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica.  The name of the account is the Fundación Angel de Amor.  The home asks that at the time of the deposit, donors specify that the money is going towards the sponsorship of one of the senior citizens.
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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Typical prices on mercado products include imported apples at 100 colons each (a bit more than 20 U.S. cents).

A.M. Costa Rica photos by José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

They've traded in the street stalls for something better
By Silleny Sanabria Soto
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two weeks have been enough to change the life of those 95 vendors evicted from city streets by the Municipalidad de San José last Dec. 31.

Now, even though the vendors have to pay almost $40 a month, they have now a new home — and a better one than the streets. Its the Antiguo Registro Civil, but with a new name, too: El Mercado del Registro Civil, just south of Avenida 2.

This location brings with it better opportunities for the vendors, including more space and a comfortable place

Amalia Masîs Delgado
to stay. The people in this line of work make a big effort to just live day by day.

“The best of all is that here we have more stability, and there is no more rain, and there is no more sun. Now we don't have to be running every time because the police come to dislodge us,” said  Ligia Jiménez Fallas, a fruit stall operator.

With the opening of this market, there are more shoppers, the vendors report. One of the reasons is that the prices of products have not increased.  Apples cost less than 20 cents each, as do avocados.

Although fruit and vegetables are the hot products, this market offers more. There are a lot of small stands where souvenirs, rings, hair ornaments, purses, hats, necklaces and little t- shirts are sold.

But there exists a problem with this site, as Amalia Masis Umaña reports.  Her products are difficult to sell, not because they lack quality but because shoppers almost never see where they are located. Many shoppers still don't know the market is open inside what used to be a gymnasium for the Fuerza Pública reserves.

And inside, sales are a matter of location, too.

“Our products are too difficult to sell because we don't have a better place in the market: All the fruits and vegetables are in the entrance, and so we are really hidden. That's why the people cannot see us and our stands, and we cannot sell,” affirmed Mrs. Amalia Masis, souvenir vendor.

Melania de los Angeles Gonzalez has a chunk of the traditional fudge (cajeta) for every visitor.
  

 
The famous cajeta (a type of fudge that is one of the typical sweets of Costa Rica), is sold just in one of the stalls of the market, and when a reporter approached Tuesday the business was just a day old.

“I wanted to show the people other different things than my partners used to sell. Thats why I sell cajetas” and condiments for the people," said Melania de los Angeles Gonzalez, the stall operator.

When El Mercado del Registro Civil, opened, the safety came with it. There is no more trouble with fights and thefts. When the vendors operated near the city's Central Market and along Avenida 8, crooks used the restricted walkways as a place to robber passers-by.  Robbers also could vanish quickly into the labyrinths of informal commercial activity.

Although the municipality has not put more security personal around the place, there are at least two Fuerza Pública officers in front the market to keep a lookout. Inside there is security also.

“We show to the public that their opinions were wrong and that the people who work in here are real organized workers and not vulgar or useless people like they used to think,” said Geovanny Jiménez Godines, the manager of the market.


Police, in this case the bicycle variety, always are posted near the market, which is just south of Avenida 2.







Gang of sneaky crooks who targeted locals and tourists prompts arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization arrested four persons in San Pedro Tuesday evening who the agents said formed a band of thieves that preyed on tourists and locals alike throughout San José.

Agents said they arrested 45-year-old Romero Osvaldo Roy and 40-year-old Osvaldo Figueroa González, both of Argentina.  They also arrested 25-year-old Luis Felipe Granados and 23-year-old Monica Martínez Luzano, both of Colombia, agents said.
The gang worked by pulling guns on individuals carrying expensive electronic equipment and stealing tourists' bags at bus stations, the agents said.  Their other method was to enter universities and office buildings and while one distracted the receptionist, the others would take whatever they could, agents said. 

When agents arrested the four, they also seized two computers, various digital cameras, wallets and approximately $5,000 in cash, agents said. 

The agents suspect that the gang is larger than the four persons they arrested, they said.


More reader reaction to tourist who had a bad time
Response to criticism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding Mark Adamson and his complaints about Costa Rica.
 
If the story was true about people being detained even after having copies of their passports with entry stamps, at the least one must ask why if they were instructed to do that at the airport. However, nobody has ever told me anything at the airport. The first time I heard of a problem about carrying a passport was a few years ago. A bunch of foreigners got upset at police because they raided the Del Rey for illegal immigrant prostitutes. Some of the Gringos wanted to go to their defense. In any country if one is rude to a police officer, the odds are he will find something . . . some reason to cite or arrest you.

Many in the U.S. are upset that once illegal Mexicans cross the border nobody seems to ask for passports etc again. So, it is unfair to blame Costa Rica police for doing their job

Many Ticos do not like or trust the police. However, I am sad that some of the readers had to drop to the level of Mr. Adams by attacking and slandering him as he seemed to do Costa Rica.

One way to improve a situation is to acknowledge  problem exists. Costa Rica Immigration got upset with me a year ago because my passport was so beat up. Due to size alone, a passport is difficult to carry in one's pants pocket in a country with rain, humidity, sweat and other elements. It would be great if a system was enacted and a tourist was charged for a small laminated photo ID card upon entry that would expire in 90 days that included their passport number and other critical information.  This would help  prevent a lot of passport theft and could even produce some revenue from tourists.
 
For the record I like Jacó. Large potholes do not  bother me either. Especially when it is the rainy season. One thing I do not like are inflated prices of hotels to gouge foreigners at most of the beach  locations. I think Costa Rica would get much more tourism if it was not a common practice for many to charge tourists double or triple the rates of residents.

David Gibson
Sacramento Calif.
and Curridabat

Is he just blinded
to Costa Rica's beauty


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It seems as though Mark Adamson had a bad time in CR. Being a Fed he should know the rules of foreign travel. As a Fed in the U. S. of A. you think you know
it all anyway.   But you know how safe it is in  L.A . You can walk the streets of L.A. day or night without any ID and be so safe.  No crime, no prostitutes,
no murders, not even littering . The streets are some of the cleanest in the world. And of course  there are only the most honest and respectable cops there. In fact it's so good there, well it's the best place in America to live. So why is he looking to buy some land in Costa Rica?  Why so uniformed? Please step over that body in the freeway.
 
You are suppose to have a copy of your passport in CR.  Has he not bothered to read up on travel in Costa Rica? As for buying land, do you think you can
make one trip and seal the deal?  Just some old, rich  guy pushing his weight around. He is just as big an ass in America as he is anywhere he goes.  So Mr. Adamson does being an ass blind your eyes to the beauty of CR?  Or was it all those nightcaps you Fed Love so much?
 
I also live in a trailer in, a poor working stiff.  You know the backbone of America, the taxpayers. That 's me. And I will work and save until I have enough money to buy my family some land in CR. I, unlike Mr. Adamson, do not have money to throw around. We live week-to-week. That's why it's so important to
us to be able to come and see your beautiful country and meet your  people. And when we get there I will have a four-wheel drive for rain and potholes.
Also I will not have to worried about thugs, fools or criminals. But most of all I will not have to look at the likes of Mark Adamson or any of his kind. 
 
Kenneth Goodwin
Lancaster, S. C.
 

They are very glad
he left country


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My wife and I retired in Costa Rica from the U.S. about two years ago, and have just been approved for our permanent residence status. We have just a short, simple message for Mr. Adamson, and any other malcontent who comes here looking to make a quick  buck on real estate. (Although as "bad" as he says our country is, why would he bother!) He needs to hasten his return to his "smog-ridden, traffic-inundated, concrete & asphalt jungle environment in L.A.!  Yeah Mark, we lived in L.A. too for awhile, so glad to see you enjoy it. God knows you deserve it!
 
Our message is a simple "Thank You" for leaving Costa Rica. We know you weren't happy here, and your departure gives us the satisfaction of also knowing that we won't have to ever meet you in person, or be your neighhbor or share Costa Rica with you or those like you in any way.
 
Glad you're gone and good riddance. Leave us who love Costa Rica alone.

John & Val Rubida
San Ignacio de Acosta

    

He's not a soft Gringo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I agree with other readers about Mr. Adamson's disparaging letter and sarcastic attitude.

I do take exception to being lumped into a group of soft and ill-equipped individuals just because I am from the U.S.

Sure, there is bad in all countries. Sure there are bigoted individuals in all countries.

Many U.S. citizens grew up working hard from the time they were 8 to 12 years old, some younger. Although, we are [were] the minority, I think Mr. Antonio Silva is nearly as guilty as Mr. Adamson as for as the rose colored glasses go or is he just trying to insult. 

There are many reasons I like CR. And, I am making CR my home. I must admit that we do see many wealthy people come here. The wealthy are known for their intimidating ways.

Terry Cagle
Escazú

Two letters represent
worse sides of countries


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading the letters from Mr. Adamson and Mr. Silva I felt I had to comment.

First to Mr. Adamson.

If you site “all the ads and the ridicules television station WSEE35 “ as your references to Costa Rica, without further research then you should hardly be surprised by what you experienced. Most tourists take the time to understand the good and the bad of a country they plan on visiting let alone buying land. The rest of the world is not the U.S., and if you can’t accept that you should stay in the U.S. You will be much happier. Many of us enjoy diversity, some don’t.

A lot of the circumstances you point to were caused by extraordinary circumstances, i.e. large rainfalls spawned by the same hurricanes that decimated portions of the United States. If you found yourself in New Orleans at the same time, I am quite sure you would have found that unacceptable also.

If you think in the U.S. legal matters get handled in months not years, I don’t know where you are living.  Criminal law is enforced differently for poor vs. rich. A case involving a poor black usually does get settled quickly.  Civilly it is a joke with the rampant lawsuits filed over any perceived wrong. No other county is anywhere near so litigious and the cost to the country is enormous. I think this is a form of corruption itself.

Based on your letter please do not talk of the beauty of Costa Rica to your friends because if they are anything like you they will reflect very poorly on those of us from the U.S., that love Costa Rica warts and all.

Mr. Silva, You raise a few good points but they are overshadowed by your wild rhetoric.

"Soft Gringo that has never worked a hard day in there life.” Most U.S. citizens work much longer hours, are more efficient and considerably more dedicated to their job than Costa Rican workers. The hours and efficiency are very easy to prove. The dedication is based on my experiences in the two counties. That said where Costa Rican’s place value is one of the things that many of us from the U.S.A. find appealing about Costa Rica.

I am No fan of George Bush, but I have never seen a more ineffective president then your current president. As much as I disagree with almost every major action taken by President Bush, at least he has the personal strength to take a stand for what he believes in. Compare this with your president. Even with the campaign finance scandals and other scandals Costa Rica has seen during the last presidential campaigns, I would not question your right to elect who you as a county see fit. 

I don’t understand you viewpoint on corruption, “The $50 fee the officer was imposing is not all that bad” would indicate you feel corruption is a good efficient system. I am quite sure you would not feel it was such a great deal if it was being extorted from you instead of a “soft gringo.” If, as the Costa Rican government says, carrying a copy of your passport is OK, Immigration police should not be enforcing a different standard.

As a Gringo in Costa Rica, I have been stopped by police over 40 times in 3 years, only once had I done anything to violate the law (speeding) and yes paying the officer is much more efficient, but it only encourages this behavior. In almost all cases it was clear the police officer was looking for money.  I have been pulled over as many as three times in a day during the Christmas season.

Mr. Silva I agree it is wrong to ever use the word all when referring to a group,  but if you don’t think most traffic police in Costa Rica are looking to accept or solicit a bribe i.e. (corrupt), maybe it would help if you opened your eyes. Maybe the first step to stop this is paying the police a decent wage.

I lived in many places in the U.S.A. for over 45 years and not once did anyone solicit a bribe from me. With  two ex- presidents in prison and one in Switzerland, bribery scandals that have cost the average Costa Rican citizen many dollars (some of which could be used to repair the roads) it seems a little self serving to be discussing others corruption or calling other countries the most corrupt in the world. The problem does exist in both countries it is only a difference of scale.

Finally the comment “Being from the U.S.A. You came down here looking to steal a piece of prime real estate” is so inflammatory it should not be commented on but I must. Do you consider the tens of thousands Costa Ricans who own land in the U.S.A. as thieves? How do you view the hundred thousand or more Costa Ricans living in the U.S.A?

Should Costa Ricans owning land in the U.S.A. give up the land they have fairly purchased and those from the U.S.A. where to do the same, you can be assured the Costa Ricans would lose more. I know Costa Ricans to be pretty savvy group when it comes to buying and selling real estate, and if stealing exists in Costa Rican real estate, it is Costa Ricans and Gringos selling properties for far more than they are worth to unsuspecting Gringos and other foreigners, (Shame on the Gringos for not doing the proper research). There are laws and systems in place that protect those in the U.S., (including Costa Ricans) from these types of practices. 

These two letters represent the worst in North American and Costa Rican attitudes and rhetoric. I only hope they are the exceptions and not the rule.

Bruce Wood
Curridabat


Presidents in custody
show system works


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read today 10/11/05 the two wonderful letters in response to the tourist who had such a bad time in CR. It bothered me all weekend, and I have been trying to
get it together to respond. These two great letters have said it all for me. I also live in L.A. and am making plans just now to build a home on recently
purchased land in Arenal.

I have been to your country several times lately and have found it all  exciting, very different from the U.S. and glad for the diffrence. If Americans can't take the lack of good roads, foreign language or culture, they should stay home. It is a beautiful and kind place in a world of bad news.

And for the last few presidents being in jail, I love it as it shows that the law works. You see here in America we have had several of our last leaders like Regan and Bush who should be in jail for crimes committed while they were in office. Did or will they spend one uncomfortable night in the slammer, no way, they are rich and powerful and above the law. In CR aparently your laws work no matter how powerful.

Thanks for AM Costa Rica.

Paul Freeman
Los Angeles, Calif.

 
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