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Cascata del Bosco

Part-timers with few jobs are employees automatically
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

What makes a service or independent worker an employee?
According to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, commonly known as the Caja, and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, known as INS, the key element is the number of  jobs.

Yes, if anyone is working, regardless at what, and they only have one, two or three jobs, they are considered employees and should be covered as such by the people for whom they work, the agencies said Friday.

The labor law summarizes a worker by three criteria: 1) someone who personally provides labor or a service, 2) the person is paid, and 3) they are being directed by another and subordinate to them.  However, one lawyer said the Sala II, the highest labor court of Costa Rica, has over 20 criteria including, but not limited to, how many jobs a person works.

This means that if an expat homeowner has a domestic or an outside maintenance worker coming to the house once or a few times a week and the employee only has a couple of these jobs, everyone hiring them should have them covered by the Caja for health insurance and INS for workers compensation.

Far too many expats, taking the example from their Tico friends, pay casual workers for professional services instead of having them on a payroll.  The reason they do this is simple, it is cheaper.  Many Costa Ricans set a very bad example to foreigners because they pay their domestic workers piecemeal and not at all as the law requires.

Here is the cost difference. Paying a domestic worker as a professional service person to come in and clean up the house five hours a week at 2,000 colons an hour is 10,000 colons a week or 520,000 colons ($1,050) a year.  However, that same person on a payroll costs much more. 

Here are the figures without going into nitty-gritty details.  Once a person is an employee, an employer needs to pay 26.17 percent of the wages to the Caja for health insurance and an estimated 18,367 colons annually to INS for workers compensation.

This workers’ compensation number is only for domestic workers covered by RT-Hogar, a special workers’ compensation insurance for them and should not be confused with regular compensation rates which range between 1 and 7 percent of an employee’s annual wage. Employers are also required by law to escrow 5.33 percent of gross wages for severance benefits, 4.16 percent for vacations and 8.33 percent for a Christmas bonus.  These additional amounts add up to an estimated 45 percent so the 2,000-colon-an-hour employee is really almost a 3,000-colon-an-hour worker.  This translates into close to $500 more per year.

No wonder many try to cheat the system.  However, cheating is even more expensive in the end.  Workers claims to benefits never expire by statutes of limitation. Most claims for non-paid benefits have been upheld in Costa Rica’s constitution court.  The worst nightmare is if the Caja gets its teeth into a collection action.  The penalties and interest are severe.

Even if one is doing everything right, an employee can request an audit of his or her benefits.  One  expat with a yacht rental business had one 

employee question his retirement payments and get small increases three times over the course of 10 years.  Needless to say, the expat always ended up paying more.

Some people like to pay as they go just because they do not like dealing with the Caja and INS.  Their systems are not overly complex but when calling the institutions with questions, most find themselves in a bad dream.  It is difficult for an educated person asking the right questions to get correct answers, imagine a less fortunate individual with no education.

One gardener questioned over the weekend said he was an independent worker and the Caja and INS covered him because workers’ compensation is included in his Caja policy. He said he was told this when he called to ask for clarification.  A paralegal called the Caja to ask staffers if this was the case, and their answers were, “No, we have nothing to do with the INS.” The women on the phone kept insisting the paralegal come in for an interview regarding her questions because the institution’s policy is not to give out such information over the telephone.  More information regarding insuring employees can be found in an article written Sept. 2.

When hiring anyone these are the questions one should ask:

1.) “How many people do you work for?” If the answer is three or less they are probably an employee.

2.) “Do you give invoices authorized by the tax authority, Dirección General de Tributación?” Ask to see one to see if it is authorized. Computerized invoices need to have this legend on them “AUTORIZATION POR RESOLUCION 11-97 12/08/97 DE LA DGTD (AUTHORIZED BY RESOLUTION 11-97 12/08/97 OF THE DGTD).” 

3.) “Do you pay individual insurance?” Ask to see the receipts and check the coverage dates for both their health and workers’ compensation policies.

4.) Ask for references to check to see that in fact the prospective employee works for others and to check on the reputation. Expats should get at least five recommendations if the thought is to pay them as an independent contractor.

The bottom line, when in Costa Rica, do not do what many of the natives do. Pay workers according to the law.  Set an example for the locals.

Garland M. Baker is a 42-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2013, use without permission prohibited.

Oh, no! They plan to close the General Cañas tonight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists who commute to San José from the west and tourists coming and going to the airport should keep their fingers crossed.

The national road agency said that workers will take another crack at the Río Virilla bridge on the General Cañas Autopista tonight.

This is the main road from Juan Santamaría airport and Alajuela. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad is shutting down the roadway at 10 p.m. today, and if all goes well, the road will be re-opened at 5 a.m.. The plan is to pour a deck of quick-dry concrete over the notorious bridge.

If all does not go well, motorists may be faced with a double whammy. The Circunvalación remains closed due to a collapsed roadway. The General Cañas has been a major link for those who normally would take the Circunvalación, the southern bypass route.
If road workers have to keep the highway closed through the morning rush hour Tuesday,  access to San José and from San José to points west will be seriously restricted.

Already secondary roads, like the route through Heredia and the back roads through La Sabana are choked full of vehicles all day. The San José-Caldera highway would remain the only major route that is open.

The bridge is the one that has been called the La Patina after the steel joints or plates that continually are coming loose. That has been going on since 2009. Periodically the road agency takes steps to fix the four-lane bridge only to see the efforts fail a few days later. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has even gone so far as to suggest building a new bridge. The support for the bridge is too flexible and concrete put on top breaks up because of the movement. More recently the bridge concrete has broken up to the extent that the rebar  is visible.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Kimberly A. Beck  
Crowd gathers around accident victim near a hospital in Limón

Carnaval is off to slow start,
as Limón gears up for weekend

By Kimberly A. Beck
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Carnaval started in Limón this weekend, but it wasn’t exactly in full swing. The bomberos were in the process of washing their boat, the vendors were drowsy in their rocking chairs, and no one seemed to know where the activities were.

The mechanical rides were working but not even half full, like they were in test mode. A schedule of activities was nowhere to be found.

The only thing that was swinging was Big Boy baseball stadium. Two dollars bought a ticket to see a double header between the visiting Siquirres team and Limón.  Siquirres won the first game 8-7. The second game was delayed by two females fighting in the stands, when the umpire yelled out “strike,” they obeyed. 

Casey Bahr of San Isidro de El General drove his family six hours to see the festivities. “There wasn’t a lot going on Carnaval-wise but it was interesting to see the people and the architecture.” Bahr, the author of  "A Dull Roar," a Costa Rica blog, drove to Limón expecting to see dancing in the streets and children on parade but left a bit unsatisfied after a walking tour of the city left him with only hearing one reggae song and none of the famous Limón party atmosphere. “I’ll be back next year but maybe during the weekend of the Gran Carnaval,”  Bahr said.

Carnaval goes through next Sunday,  and the grand parade is at noon Saturday.

There is increased traffic in the streets which can be dangerous to both the pedestrians and drivers. Sunday an unidentified man was struck by a car in front of the Hospital Tony Facio. He was quickly placed on a gurney and carried by foot into the emergency room.

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Police aguinaldo effort
is a sure sign of Christmas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a sure sign that Christmas is coming. The Fuerza Pública is about to announce its strategy for safeguarding the Christmas bonuses Costa Rican workers get.

Juan José Andrade Morales, the director general of the Fuerza Pública, is expected to announce some changes during a meeting today.

The police most certainly will continue the use of towers that have proved successful in the past. Some have remained in place all year  because they give police officers a bird's eye view of the crowds. The metro area also is flooded with police during this time.

The Christmas bonus is called an aguinaldo, and it represents one twelfth of what an employee earns all year. That is why it is called the 13th month of salary. Employees also do not have any deductions from the payment as is usually the case with the regular paycheck.

Police officials reason that with the increased amount of money in the street, there is more opportunities for thieves and robbers.  Most Costa Ricans now have bank accounts and use their debit cards for purchases. But there always is the negotiating power of cash, which is why some carry large amounts.

Employers are supposed to pay the bonus between Dec. 1 and 15, and Costa Ricans who fail to get their money will quickly show up at the Ministerio de Trabajo to file a claim.

A big chunk of money is that paid to public employees. The government always manages to pay this money despite the national economic conditions.

Acción Ciudadana's Solís
wins second party's support

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Partido Acción Ciudadana has entered into a pact with Alianza Patriótica, another political party.

This means that Alianza Patriótica will support the presidential ambitions of Luis Guillermo Solís of Acción Ciudadana.

The parties have similar philosophies. Both Alianza Patriótica and Solís oppose the free trade treaty with the United States.   Alianza Patriótica is rabidly opposed to Óscar Arias Sánchez and his wing of Partido Liberación Nacional.

If Solís wins, members of Alianza Patriótica expect to participate by assuming appointed positions in his administration, Acción Ciudadana said.

The party also announced Sunday that Helio Fallas and Ana Helena Chacón will be the vice presidential nominees.

Fallas is an economist with experience is strengthened the middle class, the party said. Ms. Chacón is a former vice minister of security and a former legislative deputy. She has been recognized for her work with children and as director of  Fundación PANIAMOR, which campaigns against sex tourism.

50-year prison term upheld
for Herradura arson murderer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The high criminal court has upheld a 50-year prison sentence for a man who ignited a shipping container while four persons were inside. The victims died.

The Poder Judicial said that the Sala III of the Corte Supreme de Justicia rejected appeals presented by the defense lawyers of the man identified by the last name of  Vásquez. A criminal court in Puntarenas found him guilty in July 2012 and awarded the lengthy term. Killed were two men and two women, including a minor. The original sentence was for 142 years, but the legal limit in Costa Rica is 50 years.

The crime was June 10, 2011 in a field in Herradura near Jacó. The shipping container was being used as a home.  Vásquez was accused of chaining the doors of the steel container shut and then pouring inflammable fluids around the exterior.

Fuerza Pública nabs four
after Ciudad Colón pursuits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have detained four men who are suspected of stealing a wide-screen television from a home near the Universidad de Paz outside Ciudad Colón.

The burglars fled but police were able to capture the four suspects after several chases, they said.

This is the same area where an expat suffered a bullet wound when he shot it out with home invaders who briefly abducted his wife. Suspects were captured.

Increases in bus fare are minimal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's price regulating agency has reviewed bus fares and left 1,214 or about 34 percent of them unchanged. Nearly 60 percent of the bus routes or 2,112 have been approved for a 5- to 25-colon increase, said the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos   Overall the increases  average 1.29 percent for the nation's 3,570 bus routes, it said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday,  Oct. 14, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 203
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Zamora with drums
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Mario Zamora checked out drums of fuel presumed to be for a helicopter.
Secret base camp in north draws a visit from security minister
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers still are uncertain why heavily armed men set up a camp in northern Costa Rica.  But the situation is serious enough to warrant a visit by the security minister.

The minister, Mario Zamora, visited the heavily wooded location Friday in the company of members of the Policía de Fronteras. Among other items confiscated were 5,000 liters of gasoline in steel drums. That's about 1,320 gallons, enough for repeated flights by a helicopter.  There was a rough landing pad at the site, too.

Members of the tax police also have expressed interest in the case with the thought that this may have been a smuggling operation bringing untaxed goods into the country.

Frontier police were tipped off by residents because some of the occupants of the mountain camp were believed to have made trips to town for supplies. They must have been there some time because they had constructed two rude houses. Police also confiscated a truck and a new quadracycle.
The occupants cut a road into the site, too.

This is the place where police found 20 rifles, AK-47s and M-16s. They also found an RPG-7 grenade device. Experts had to be called in to check for mines and to disarm another rocket device.

Foreign banknotes appear to underline the international nature of the camp. Police found Mexican and Guatemala bills.

Police said they think that five men lived at the site, but they fled into the mountains and are expected to be across the border in Nicaragua now.

Zamora said that the weapons discovery was the most important in 15 years. He said earlier that the firearms were new and not leftovers from the Nicaraguan civil war.  The location is in the hills near Limonal de Cutris, which is in far northern Alajuela province.

Zamora said he was stationing a permanent force in the area to keep the sector completely under government control.

Costa Rica's case against Nicaragua will be televised on Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Court of Justice hearing today between Costa Rica and Nicaragua will be streamed live from The Hague. The television facilities of the United Nations are being used to distribute the hearing in several formats.

Costa Rica wants the court to order Nicaragua to leave the Isla Calero and give permission for remedial work to close up the two canals that the Nicaraguans have dug and dredged between the Río San Juan and the Caribbean.

The television signal will begin at 10 a.m. in The Hague. That will be 2 a.m. Costa Rican time because The Netherlands is on daylight savings time and there is an eight hour time difference.
The service will be streamed in English and French. Some news reporters and probably the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here will receive a high definition signal.

The public can see a low definition signal via the Internet. This is the LINK for English. This is the U.N. Television LINK!

The court said that the session today would begin at 10 a.m. local time and finish about 1 p.m.  That would be 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Costa Rican time.

Costa Rica outlines its case today. Nicaragua does so Tuesday.

The hearing is scheduled to last through Thursday with each country presenting its case and having another day to respond.

Del Rey HOtel

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday,  Oct. 14, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 203
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Communities got city status 200 years ago because of San Salvador revolt
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José, Heredia, Alajuela and Ujarrás are celebrating this year their incorporations as cities, something that was awarded by the short-lived Cortes de Cádiz.

These were turbulent times when desire for more autonomy was growing in the Americas, and the French had invaded Spain, the mother country.

It was another revolution in the Americas that won these Costa Rican communities the name of city. The Archive Nacional noted that the action by the Cortes de Cádiz came because those in what is now Costa Rica sent a unit of troops north to help the Spanish crush what was Central America's first independence movement. The archives said it gathered a lot of the information from a 2011 book written by Manuel Benavides Barquero.

The revolt began in San Salvador Nov. 5, 1811, and the revolutionaries were some of the leading citizens. They claimed that because the French had deposed  Ferdinand VII, the king's appointees no longer had valid posts.  Historical sources note that there were economic reasons related to taxes that fueled the revolt against the Captaincy General of Guatemala.

Eventually the Spanish negotiated an end to the revolt, but the spark flared up in León, Nicaragua. Costa Rica sent solders to Grenada, and there were
 some deaths. The archives does not say why, but it does note that one of the dead was Casiano Emigdio Porras Sandoval. He happened to be the brother-in-law of the province of Costa Rica's representative in Cadiz.

The gathering in Cadiz was created to fill the vacuum when war broke out against the French invaders. It had local power but also had some authority over Spain's overseas possessions.

Costa Rica was represented by Florencio Castillo, and he petitioned the Cortes for city status. This is the same body that promulgated the 1812 Spanish constitution and abolished the Inquisition.

It was disbanded the same year when central authority became stronger.

The resolution of the Cortes was published Oct. 16, 1813. The Archivo has a copy of this document.

En commemoration of the edict, the Archivo Nacional has set up a photo exhibit, “San José en blanco y negro.” The photos are property of the archives and have been published in the book "La ciudad de San José. 1871-1921."An opening date is to be announced.

The celebration is relatively low-keyed over the city status because the communities were recognized as cities long before the action by the Cortes.

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Real estate rentals
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Real estate for rent
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See our listing of real estate brokers on the for-sale page.

Real estate for rent (paid category)


Homes for rent in Palmares, Alajuela

See our Web page:

Unfurnished 2-bedroom 2-bathroom house.. One large room for living room, dining room and kitchen. Separate bath.  2 bedrooms with bath on second floor. Washroom. Large 3-bay garage with bathroom, secure  for warehousing and storage. Located  approximately 6 miles east of San José and 1 mile west of Concepcion Tres Rios.  Map on request.  Telephone installed, cable and Internet available.  $250 a month plus utilities. 6 months minimum lease, deposit. Available after Oct. 15.  Tel. 2256-9426 

COMPLETELY and nicely furnished apartments
apartment view
in San José. Fast Internet, cable TV, hot water. Large American appliances including washer and dryer. Both convenient locations. No pets. $600 per month. Contact: or call 8555-9819.

We have many prime properties available for long-term rentals.
Santa Ana

Lovely cottage on private coffee farm
One spacious bedroom, one bath, office room/spare room with high speed DSL internet, fully equipped kitchen, phone line,
Sarchi cottage
balcony with beautiful view, especially at night with the far off lights of San José. Farm is gated and guarded, private and peaceful, owner on-site. Sarchi is a quiet small town about 30-40 min from the airport, a perfect base to explore from and also get a
feel for normal, day-to-day Tico life. Rental is $575 per month, 3 months minimum. All utilities included. Shorter stays at $45 per night, 2 nights minimum. $225 per week, and $30 per additional night. Sorry, no pets.  Contact or 8308-7732.

house for rent
House for rent on a large property surrounded by fruit trees and garden on a bus line. Fully furnished, complete laundry room, two bedrooms plus extra room for office, security, electric gate, Internet available.  Located in Monte de la Cruz, San Rafael de Heredia. $475 monthly. Call 2267-6306  Or email:

Cute rental house
Beautiful and cozy mountain cottages
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Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for your stay in this beautiful part 
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Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Monday,  Oct. 14, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 203
Real Estate
About us


Pacific Estates

Our readers' opinions
Costa Ricans have complaints
similar to what expats say

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is always humorous to read many of the expats complaints about almost everything under the sun and then read those who either defend Costa Rica or, better yet, tell the complainants to get over it. They say Costa Rican's made their country and all should accept things as they are.
Too me, this seems insulting! I may be a Gringo, but, my wife and her entire family are Tico/Ticas. AND, psssst, they are upset with all the same things. Do expats think Ticos are idiots!? Do they think Tico/Ticas get better services than expats? It is just the opposite. Most folks nowadays are greed-driven, and when they see Gringos, they see dollars. When my wife and I go here and there, I get the attention in most instances. Costa Rica has all the problems that all other governments have that have massive amounts of debt, and under those circumstance, problems can never be fixed.
I see what is up with the U.S.A. When the alleged world's only superpower country has $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities and continues growing the debt, the smaller countries like Costa Rica see that the key to living in this phony Monopoly world is the printing of dollars too.  I'll just take comfort that my Tico dollars are so colorful ! The U.S. just added a dash of color recently, but, nothing like my colons.
Worldwide the people seem to elect the worst of the worst. Seems that the greedy by in large have the assets to buy votes over the poorer folks who run, and once in position use it to become super rich. In the U.S.  "60 Minutes" pointed out that Pelosis and Boehner used inside information and made mega millions. At least many of Costa Rican leaders end up in prison!
When in Rome ! You know the rest !
Bob Shakerdge

Prisoner with cell telephone
played trick after tragedy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Soon after the announcement that the two bodies were recovered at the huge landslide south of Arenal, the cook at a small Arenal soda received a telephone call. The caller ordered many box lunches and said he was going to donate them to the many volunteers who helped recover the bodies.

The cook rushed out and bought extra supplies to fill the order. The order was never picked up and never paid for. According to the police, the caller was a prisoner using his cell phone to make the call. A big joke. Why are prisoners allowed to have cell phones? The police said that maybe the prisoner would receive time added. Later the police reported that a soda in Tilarán had also fallen for the hoax.

All sodas should be warned of the possibility of hoaxes resulting from people taking advantage of tragedies. Many sodas just get by, and a great loss can be devastating.

The cook is well known for helping people. It was heartrending to see her tears after working so hard for nothing.

John McClure

EDITOR'S NOTE: Prisoners are not supposed to have cell telephones. Every time they shake down a prison they come up with all sorts of items, including cell phones. There is no way prisoners can have cell phones without prison officials knowing about it. Efforts to block the signals have not been effective. Land line calls from prisons contain a recorded message saying where the call originated.

Sidewalks are clearly needed,
and trash cans do not work

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your newspaper every single morning and was in hysterics reading the one that one of your readers submitted this morning, saying that if you object to the trash along the streets and sidewalks, just look up and not down.

Only one thing wrong with that suggestion. If you live where we live, which is walking from east of the Red Cross building up to Paroquia Santa Ana Catholic Church to Mass, as we do every Sunday morning, and you were looking up or straight ahead, rather than down, you would be dead, probably in the first 10 minutes of your walk, or if not dead, severely injured.  That is due to the fact that we virtually have NO sidewalks in this part of Santa Ana.  And there are places along that route that have holes where you could bury a 6-foot man, so obviously, our plea to anyone running for office in this area, this coming election would be to PLEASE let us have sidewalks, like they have in Lindora, Belén, and most of the other cities around here.

As for his other comment about picking up the trash ourselves along the way, in fact, I do.  What is amazing is that the “Chinese 7-11,” as we call it or the Super Roble, right up the street here has just spent a fortune re-doing the entire front entrance, with a brand new paint job, new walkway into the store, new signage.......everything brand spanking new and the owner has placed a huge trash can right at the exit of the store on the sidewalk out front. Yet the Ticos walk right by it, finishing their candy bar or their pack of cigarettes or whatever, and rather than throw the empty package into the trash can, they just toss it right on the sidewalk and totally ignore the trash can.  You would certainly think that if you were born and raised here that you would want to see your community improved and want to be proud to show it off when guests or family from other places come to visit you, but obviously that is not the case here.

Rosalind Stanco-Litt
Santa Ana

No shame in kvetching
to avoid acquired apathy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Rob Rowntree's relatively pleasant "Get Over It" rant, just like so many of those that have preceded it over the years here on A.M. Costa Rica, still ignores the obvious: By not effectively confronting the shortcomings everybody knows exist here, Costa Ricans and their fearless leaders in San José are insuring that these issues will persist. Are we who've come here with open hearts and open wallets and whose lives and businesses are impacted by these perennial problems and the less than transparent/often futile attempts by the government to solve them, supposed to just shut up and work on our our tans simply because most of us don't have the right to vote? Where I come from, that's called "playing the victim."

There's no shame in kvetching. It's a global pastime with a proud history that stretches all the way back to the time of our screeching, tree dwelling ancestors. But many foreigners bring more than just money and opinions when they come to Costa Rica. They arrive with shared experiences of generations of community support and activism, a tradition that is often lacking here.

My neighbors in Manuel Antonio hate the crumbling, potholed road that passes through our neighborhood. It has been an axel-buster for most of the 10 years I've lived here. But if you try to talk them into signing a petition or going down the hill to a town council meeting, they'll look at you like you're suggesting they light their hair on fire and streak the bus station! That's just who they are. The vast majority of them are friendly, hard working, God fearing folks who just aren't wired for confrontations of any kind with civil servants.

Acclimation by foreign residents to life in Costa Rica can easily produce acquired apathy if one's awareness is overly focused on fitting in/not rocking the boat, rather than pitching in/grabbing an oar and putting one's back into the shared journey. My experience is that Ticos appreciate it when extranjeros pitch in, as long as they (a) don't expect to be put in charge, and (b) don't require a hero's adulation for their efforts. Speaking up is a way of pitching in.

With all respects to Mr. Rowntree, Costa Rica's foreign residents should NOT "get over it," and they shouldn't shut up about it. They should get involved with it; respectfully, constructively and in the spirit of community building and cooperation.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

Criticizing can be a duty
that helps alert other expats

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Stop Muzzling Complainers
Rob Rowntree complains about the complainers, but misses the point.
Commenting critically, or favorably, is a right, unrelated to citizenship, residence, voting rights or anything else. Even an Asian traveller to Paris for a one-night stopover has the right to complain about his hotel, restaurant service, dishonest taxi drivers, vagrants or anything else that disturbs him.
The fact is that criticizing can also be considered a duty.  It confers benefits.
First, the vast majority of complaints printed by A.M. Costa Rica are real, valid, and annoying, when they’re not outright dangerous to life.
And so it’s helpful to residents, and tourists, and potential newcomers to know that if they’ve been a victim of any complaint made by others, they’re not alone. And that if they haven’t been, they may be.
It’s informative and consoling to know that one isn’t merely a single unlucky victim of overcharging, but that price-gauging non-Ticos is a sport both residents and visitors are treated to.
It helps both the resident and tourist to know some of the potential risks for patients of some doctors, hospitals and medical practices here.
Knowing about potential risks is also helpful to anyone thinking of renting a car to tour the country, or to women living or traveling here on their own, or to anyone considering buying a home to reside in, or to late-evening walkers in certain parts of the capital.

Second, how often does improvement result anywhere, from silence? Voicing valid discontent openly and long enough, might just reach an ear, even in this unlikely republic, that may start to do a little something to improve something.
Bob does a disservice to all residents and visitors by a cowardly call to “stop whining,” his denigration of valid criticism.
We’ll overlook his irrelevant aside that speciously equates valid complaining to “coming here and creating our own little corner of America (or Canada, etc.)” And his false dichotomy, impliedly claiming that  one can’t both count his blessings and complain. They’re not inconsistent and are both to be commended.
A.M. Costa Rica performs an undeniable public service in informing us all of the experiences, negative and positive, that all of us, residents and visitors, do or may encounter in Costa Rica.
Guys like Rob are best advised, in the interests of all, to suffer the complainers in silence.
Steve Breslin
San José

Many budget items here
are far cheaper than U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Obviously the discussion continues and the complainers write letters to A.M. Costa Rica. The issue is that expats living here, and more and more Ticos, want to have a First World lifestyle at Third World prices. The complaints are  that Costa Rica’s roads aren’t good enough, traffic is horrible, bureaucracy is intrusive, taxes are too high, food and services cost too much and finally that it is “nicer” or “cheaper” in neighboring Panamá and Nicaragua.

Let me deal with this point first. Maybe Panamá has nicer roads and malls and services and is more welcoming to expats. It also has the revenue from the canal ($314 million in 2012 and $9.07 billion in 2012 revenues) to help meet its citizen’s needs. Nicaragua ($2.72 billion in 2012 revenues) continues to be one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere with 44.7 percent of its people below the poverty line and a regime led by Daniel Ortega that remains antagonistic against foreign (read American) investors.  But an expat can feel really rich there if that is what they are looking for! Costa Rica had $6.5 billion in revenue in 2012 and only $922 million from taxes and 75 percent of that from corporations and NOT from individuals.

That means that Costa Rica has $922 million in taxes to pay for the complainers wish list: First rate roads, exceptional schools, well equipped and highly professional health care facilities and providers, quality infrastructure for cheap electricity and water and policing for public safety of an entire nation? Folks that just is not possible. That we get any of these services at all is pretty impressive, that we get the quality of services we receive is frankly miraculous!

So to the other complaint, the cost of life here. Let us look first at the things that never make the complainers’ lists. A university graduate here makes a minimum wage of around $900 a month. Every one of your expat readers makes more than that, so they start out ahead of the game. We can discuss what costs more, but first let us look at what costs less. Do you have a gardener? A maid? Your maid back home (which you didn’t have because you couldn’t afford her even with your expat salary) would cost almost a full day of pay in Costa Rica for an hour there. Someone to trim your lawn, care for your plants, trim a tree, clean a pool costs a minimum wage of about $18 a day here. Car repairs and car insurance are a wee portion of the U.S cost. Have you had to call a plumber or electrician or get an appliance repaired (you can have a repair done here but almost never back home)? And medical care? Everyone knows that it costs way less to see a doctor or go to a hospital here. Dentists are very affordable as are vets for our pet care. How about the price of a movie or a fabulous concert at the beautiful Teatro Nacional?

It is easy to complain about the Caja but it is a ridiculously low-priced medical insurance. Need a check-up a couple of times a year, take regular medicine for sugar or hypertension issues, need an ambulance in an emergency, hospital care, it is all free at the Caja. And recently they have changed so that appointments can be made by phone eliminating the horrid early morning lines.

And what is more expensive? Certainly not gas, the price is the same as in Canada and probably less than many European destinations. Not cable TV or Internet or cell phone service. My entire month for electricity, Internet, satellite TV, home and cel phone and water is just a few dollars more than a water bill in my home town, and I don’t pay for home heating or snow removal. In my mountain home I don’t pay for air conditioning. Certainly not taxes on my home or garbage pick-up services.

Well what is more expensive are all those things that expats want so they can feel like they never left home. All the things that have to be shipped here from the closest port (Miami) adding costs above those experienced by us back home. Want good quality cheese instead of the bland, soft white stuff that Ticos seem to love or your favorite Skippy peanut butter? Well it has to go in a refrigerated container, sent by road or rail to Miami, put on a ship, travel again by road here and is subject to taxes and duties at both ends. I urge you to take a challenge. Look online at the ad for groceries at your favorite store back home and do some comparison shopping. The only things on sale are junk food, nothing fresh or wholesome is inexpensive. Do the math remembering to multiply the home price in pounds by 2.2 to match with the local kilo price.

As for my personal safety. I am saddened to realize that crime is everywhere, even now in my beloved Yellowknife, a formerly peaceful Arctic community where house break-ins and assaults against women are on the rise, and residents are clamoring for a greater Royal Canadian Mounted Police presence. Here I choose to live away from San José and almost never go there. I am careful where I go and what I do and have three dogs in my home (more for company than protection but thieves don‘t know that!). I do not feel unsafe or threatened, but I watch out for myself.

And the bureaucracy. Well here I am with the complainers. It seems crazy that it takes 15 minutes for the simplest transactions at the bank; that there is only one office to handle your vehicle licensing needs, that immigration matters take forever. I have been here 21 years and still have no patience for the stupid things I am asked to accept because “that is the way we do it here.” I try to say forget it and that is the price I pay to live here but it is hard. However, I am confident that a growing and more demanding middle class and a move to adopt modern communication technologies that eliminate the visits to the office of some overworked, under-trained and under-qualified civil servant will improve this part of my Costa Rican experience.

In closing, to the complainers, count your blessings, consider the inconveniences and stay if you find you love Costa Rica as much as I do. And leave if you don’t. Panamá, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and of course back home, will take you!

K. Noel Montagano
San Pedro de Poas, Alajuela

Obama's hypocrisies are legion
as debt hole is getting deeper

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Let's explore  the many sides of the hypocrisies that are the U.S. presidency.

"But he says he will not sit down with Republicans while a government shutdown continues and Americans are subject to what he calls extortion by extreme elements in the Republican Party."

Since 1960 the debt ceiling has been raised 78 times. There is no debt ceiling,  just a debt scaffolding that gets raised when we run out of money.  Without the threat of government shutdown,  no action will be taken to lower spending and pay off U.S. debts. The extreme elements of the Republican Party were elected by citizens who want an end to extreme spending. Mr. Obama must get used to having his own methods of negotiation used against him. He used the threat of military intervention in Syria, to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons.  Isn't that a bit extreme?

 " Everybody should say one of the most valuable things that we have is America's creditworthiness. "

It is hard to base creditworthiness on a country's ability to borrow money. After all, they are not paying the bills with their own money, they are paying them with the lenders money.  Thus, the hole we are in, keeps getting deeper.

"I had to miss critical meetings in Asia to promote American jobs and businesses."

What does it cost to send the President to Asia ? Government figures put the cost of flight time on Air Force One at around $186,000 per hour. Add security, flight/housing cost for the support staff  and limo, and the cost is well into the millions in short time. A person who has no idea of cost (using a 400-seat aircraft as a private jet), is not one to promote a business. If U.S. companies want to promote business in Asia, they can do it much more cost effectively than the president. He is not trained in international commerce and has never run a business.

"There were lost opportunities in the short term with countries that welcome the U.S. economic and strategic pivot to Asia"

The Chinese culture was flourishing well before North America was discovered. They are the ones lending us the money to maintain our creditworthiness,  I really don't think they need our help. 

Dan Jackson
Calhan, Colorado
Real estate-related services (paid category)

Project completion specialists
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A turnkey home and project completion agency devoted to creative vision and flawless execution. We provide a single, solid and dedicated point of contact for the duration of your real estate project, specializing in:

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Our primary goal is to assist our clients with a smooth transition to occupancy while providing highly personalized and distinctive services. We have refined the process to be a hassle free experience, especially valuable for clients who live abroad. We customize to suit each client’s personal taste, lifestyle and budget.
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Office phone: (506) - 2288-5644

Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)

Swimming pool at night
A Buyer’s Broker offering the best
of Costa Rica Real Estate.

For those looking for quality properties and service at quality prices. Central Valley Rentals. Offering honesty, experience and knowledge. Your Villa Real Expert. Call us now  Toll Free (877) 845-4533. In Costa Rica 2228-5961 or 8339-2112.

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Check with our Web site at
Contact us at the office: (506) 2694-0088
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Costa Rica,

Central America
Houses, lots and farms in Grecia,
western Central Valley.
Great climate
and safe communities.

Visit our Web Site:

English: (Cristian Arce)
(506) 8309-0173  
English:  (Luis Arce)
(506) 7100-8489  
 Español: (Luis G. Jiménez)
  (506) 8707-4016  
Grecia 794
This is the BIGGEST DEAL of the month now at $850.000: HERE!
30,000 square meters of land and 750 square-meters of construction.
Grecia 803
5,000 square meters of land and 175 square-meters of construction. HERE!
2,000 square meters of land and 200 square-meters of construction.  HERE!
  Send us your request to our email:

Real estate for sale (paid category)

For sale is a beautiful 50-acre property located in Los Alpes, just 15 minutes outside of San Ramon. At about 4,000 feet above sea level, this finca provides gorgeous views of the Central Valley as well as the Pacific Ocean in the distance while also offering a wonderful climate year around. The main house is two stories with three bedrooms and two full baths. High quality construction using exotic hardwoods such as almond, which covers the ceilings throughout the entire house. There are also two corrals and a small casita on the property. This location is perfect for a farm-style home or for beginning an agricultural business. This truly is a rare piece of property and is available for $399,999. Price is somewhat negotiable and we will be happy to work with the buyer to make it work! Please call 8816-2478 or e-mail for more information ¡y se habla español!

Pacific Estates

Pacific Estates is divided into three distinct sections called Pacific Landings, Pacific Hills and Pacific Acres. Pacific Landings includes unique 2 & 3 bedroom homes incorporating pole house construction, cathedral ceilings, balconies on both the front and back of the house and eco-friendly elements. The homes also include granite counter tops, state-of-the-art stainless steel kitchen appliances, washer & dryer hook ups, internet connectivity and zone controlled A/C. These homes feature 1,290 square feet under A/C space and 1,537 square feet under A/C space with an optional Loft. To learn more about Pacific Estates, schedule a No Obligation Free Virtual Tour today by clicking here!

Samara church and lot
Commercial lot with great visibility in heart of Playa Sámara commercial district. Located alongside town's largest church, bank, hardware store/lumber yard, mini shopping plaza, and Pali (Sámara's largest supermarket). This lot has a large elevated building platform shaded with mature treees. All this makes for many commercial options.  One block from stunning "blue flag" beach. This is a perfect location for a eco/boutique hotel, restaurant/catering, apartments, or condominium. All utilities to this property. Lot size 1,414m2. Price 325K. Email:

Maui, 50 years ago!
One acre with all services located on the Nicoya Peninsula at about 2,400 feet below cloud level with the most intriguing panoramic views to the picturesque gulf, mountains and valleys, as well as sunset over the Pacific. 60,000 USD,    Cell 8916-5550.

Five bedroom home
Five bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths plus guest house
Price reduced $100,000 for quick sale. Features include out door BBQ, swimming pool, plus on the beach. The home is completely furnished with U.S. products. Each room is individually air conditioned.  Hot water in bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room.  Fully furnished. Includes TV’s, refrigerator/freezer, dish washer, microwave, electric stove/oven, washer & dryer and many “as seen on TV” appliances.  To see more, go to YouTube
Asking  $250,000.    Call Gary 8784-2945 or email

humming bird nest

Bed & Breakfast for sale and personal home with 2 houses on property of 3/4 acre (3,030 m2) and buildings w/verandas & carport approximately 350 m2. One house at entrance is central to village w/gated parking lot and a 3-bedroom house for rental or employees/family w/carport/yard/gardens. A 50-meter sendero winds to the top among lush gardens where the main house is situated w/2 buildings attached by verandas & stairway to second floor.  There are 2 bedrooms, sala, 4 baths, large kitchen, laundry rooms, work bodega, storage bodega and hot tub on veranda w/tiled shower room.  Home is surrounded by tropical gardens, views of Arenal Volcano, panoramic views of Lake Arenal, private w/school owned property on one side, pasture land on back side and connecting entry gate on other side to Cabinas El Castillo & Fusion Restaurant.  A bird watcher's paradise w/hummingbirds, Montezuma, toucans, butterflies and visits from howler monkeys.  The B&B is listed four consecutive editions of Lonely Planet and the first established B&B in this area.  Photos can be viewed on the Web site:  Make your dream come true with a slice of paradise in a quiet, private setting. Call Ellen Neely at  8835-8711.  Email:

Naranjo views


4254 msq. 1.2 acres - $59,000.00
• 10 minutes to the autopista and Naranjo centro
• Tranquil and Quiet
• Landscaped with fruit trees and flowering plants, and coffee#
• Incredible views - The Central Valley and nature reserve
• Close to public transportation - paved main road
• Building pad prepared and soil tested
• Survey/topo
• All services in place and underground - water/electricity/phone

Guiones retreat
Approximately half acre on the beach with private path to the surf. Very private three-home complex with pool, spacious patios with two wet bars, barbeque and yoga area. Featuring a three-bedroom ranch style home plus a two story Mexican villa style home with two master suites, large kitchen and living area with ocean views and breezes upstairs and a garden apartment downstairs with separate entrance. A caretaker's or teenager's cottage and lots of space for expansion. PRICED FOR QUICK SALE: $899,000.  Call 506 8867-8883 or

Beautiful fully renovated house in Bello Horizonte, Escazu, 446 sq. meters. Four bedrooms; four baths. Price includes all furniture and fixtures - ready to move in! Light, bright and airy....$550,000 USD. Telephone 2288.6451. More details HERE!

Condo for sale in Flamingo

Ocean view 3-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom condo. Designer furnished 1,800 square feet, gated community. Only six units. Huge pool and balcony, pet friendly, parking, walking distance to Flamingo beach, banks, grocery store, farmacia, etc. New building. $349,000 asking. Ask for photos. 8705-0056. or 1-800-536-2322.

Guaancaate condos
Little Dreams La Colina Magnolias

Great Guanacaste Beach Condos Available

$28,500 - Little Dreams - Ocotal beach studio condo, furnished upper floor condo in great complex just 1 mile from Ocotal beach, 2 miles from Coco beach, great price for this complex.
$70,000 - La Colina - another Ocotal beach 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo, 80 m2 and fully furnished with upgraded kitchen, complex has Infinity pool, mountain views.

$75,000 Magnolias 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhome just 1 minute's walk from Coco beach and the 2 beach clubs in Coco. Nicely furnished, walk to town, 67 m2, perfect location.
Find out more information on these and other condos at my website All 3 of these condos are about 35 minutes away from Liberia Intl. airport, no need to drive a long way to get to your condo.  Call for more information, 1-415-670-9382 or 011-506-826-1211. Or email

Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:

Nicoya views
Property with ocean and gulf view for sale
Tranquil million dollar view, 5,000-sq.meter property with 3/2 home built to American standards, artistically designed and decorated, 16-foot ceilings of mango and tamarindo, appliances, plunge pool, rancho, caretaker apartment, workshop, covered parking, views of Gulf of Nicoya and ocean, in countryside near San José to Caldera highway. Near the lovely town of Esparza. Can provide extra income from bed and breakfast room rental and stellar Tripadvisor reviews. $180,000 506-8869-9274.

For Sale By Owner
1 lot (1.5 acres)  at SIBU (8 lots total) amongst 50 acres of protected jungle gardens with sunset ocean views of Playa Nosara. Underground electric and water.13 minutes from Playa Guiones. Gated. In house financing available. Home of SIBU Sanctuary.

Real estate services
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Business for sale or lease (paid category)7115-12/16/11
A successful, local, long-running business for sale.
In the nine years of operation, this company has grown to cover the entire Southern Pacific Zone, and opened the door to further penetration in San Jose,  Manuel Antonio and Osa Peninsula areas.  And it is the only one of its kind with no comparable competition. With the extensive ground-work that has already been achieved, the business is now poised to expand into a new level of success. Operating since 2005, the owner retiring to another Latin American country. It is now time to turn the business over to a new owner who could expand it to  even greater success.  Details on the business, its history, a strategic analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as a Pro-Forma Income Statement from 2008 through to 2013 are available upon request to

Live the dream!
Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

Real estate services
Real estate for sale
Businesses for sale

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday,  Oct. 14, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 203
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News from the BBC up to the minute

BBC news feeds are disabled on archived pages.

Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

U.S. Senate meets Sunday,
to seek debt limit accord

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hopes to avoid a U.S. debt default and reopen the federal government are being pinned on talks between the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate. The leaders consulted Sunday but did not indicate a breakthrough is near.

Fiscal talks broke down Saturday between the White House and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. Focus then turned to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said no effort would be spared to find common ground with his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It is important we do this. We must do this," he said.

Reid spoke during a rare Sunday Senate session that allowed members of both parties to come to the floor while consultations advanced behind closed doors.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, sounded a hopeful note. “I am perfectly happy with the two leaders negotiating a deal. And I want to support the leaders in negotiating a deal," he said.

But the parameters, let alone the specifics, of any accord remain murky, and bipartisanship has all but disappeared from Congress. Saturday, Republican senators blocked a Democratic bill to raise America’s borrowing limit for more than a year, and Democrats rejected a Republican proposal that included short-term fixes to the debt limit and the federal shutdown.

Sunday Corker said fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives helped precipitate the fiscal impasse weeks ago by imposing conditions for funding the government and raising the U.S. debt ceiling. Corker called the tactic an overreach, and warned Democrats against making a similar error in current talks. Specifically, he urged Democrats to refrain from demanding an accord that eliminates the next round of automatic federal budget cuts that go into effect in January. “The Budget Control Act is settled law. And we have agreed to some caps," he said.

President Barack Obama has said he wants to replace automatic, across-the-board spending cuts with targeted cost-saving measures and is willing to engage with Republicans in far-reaching fiscal negotiations once the federal government reopens and the debt ceiling is lifted.

Majority Leader Reid echoed the call. “Americans want Congress to reopen the government, take the threat of default off the table, and sit down to talk about a long-term budget deal that creates jobs and strengthens the middle class. And I am confident and hopeful that will be accomplished," he said.

McConnell did not come to the floor when the chamber gathered on Sunday, nor did the Republican leader’s office give any indication of progress in discussions with Reid.

Treasury officials say the U.S. government risks insolvency unless both houses of Congress vote to raise the debt limit by Thursday. And the ongoing government shutdown is believed to be shaving U.S. economic output a little more each day it drags on.

'Mambo Kings' Cuban author
dies at 62 while playing tennis

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban-American novelist Oscar Hijuelos, best known as the author of "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," has died.

His wife said Hijuelos collapsed while playing tennis in New York. He was 62.

The New York-born Hijuelos captured the Cuban immigrant experience in "The Mambo Kings,"  the story of two Cuban brothers who move to the United States and form a band.

They gain short-lived celebrity after appearing on the real-life television comedy "I Love Lucy" starring Cuban-born entertainer Desi Arnaz.

The 1989 novel won Hijuelos a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was turned into a popular movie.

Hijuelos wrote several other novels and also his 2011 memoirs "Thoughts without Cigarettes."

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From Page 7:

Environmentalists crash seminar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental activists crashed a seminar for reporters Friday and said they distributed information in favor of a national moratorium on genetically modified crops.

The environmentalists, mainly those associated with BloqueVerde, also challenged the firm presenting the seminar, CropLife Latin America, to a television debate.

José Perdomo, the executive president of the non-profit firm, said later that he accepts the debate challenge. He also said the intruders were welcome to attend the entire seminar, which was not limited to genetically modified crops. But they did not, he said.

He said the seminar drew 32 newspeople to learn about challenges to agriculture. 

The environmentalists equated CropLife with Monsanto Co., the firm that seeks to cultivate a patch of genetically modified corn near Puntarenas. This is something BloqueVerde opposes.

Perdomo said CropLife is not exclusively Monsanto. The non-profit has nine companies and 23 associations in 18 Latin American countries, and Monsanto is one of the companies.

The environmentalist said the debate would be the first Monday in November on Canal 15. That is the Universidad de Costa Rica station.

A news story Friday outlined the hopes of BloqueVerde to pass a law imposing a moratorium on genetically modified crops in Costa Rica.

The union that represents teachers just voted to seek the elimination of modified foods from the public schools.

A reader, Albert Lusk of San Isidro de Heredia, said by email that his firm was about to launch a line of corn chips, tortillas and masa made from certified organic corn grown in Costa Rica. "We would be happy to begin to supply some school systems with non-GMO tortillas," he said, using the initials for genetically modified organisms.