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These stories were published Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 211
Jo Stuart
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Immigration bill gets a new first approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa approved on first reading a revised immigration bill Monday. The vote was 38 to 5 suggesting that the measure has a good chance when it comes back on the floor for the second and final vote.

The purpose of the bill is to give Costa Rica more control over the flow of foreigners who come to the country. The measure creates new categories of legal visitors. And the bill would criminalize people who smuggle illegal immigrants.

The proposal also puts more legality behind the Policía de Migración y Extranjería.

The immigration law already was approved on first reading once, but lawmakers sent it to the Sala IV constitutional court for review. The magistrates generally found the law to be constitutional but had some concerns that were addressed in the draft that was approved again Monday. The Roman Catholic Church also expressed some concerns, particularly for the poor and refugees who might run afoul of the law.

A big sticking point was a section of the law that said foreigners who marry Costa Ricans must live together as man and wife for two years outside Costa Rica. That section was deleted, even though the original goal was to attack fake marriages.

Johnny Marín, the new director general of Migración y Extranjería, said in an interview published Oct. 12 that new regulations would be drafted if the new law were to be approved. The regulations would translate the wording of the law into working policies for his department. But lawyers will need time to draft the policies, so the new law, even if approved as anticipated next week, would not have a quick impact.

For the expat community, the law still says a pensionado must have a monthly income of at least $600. Some lawmakers wanted to raise that amount to reflect current prices. The rentista category, which was deleted from the first draft of the law, has been reinstated with a monthly income qualification of $1,000. Marín said he would like to draft rules that would guarantee that rentistas actually do bring that amount of money into the country
each month. He speculated that bank transfers might be a solution.

The new law specifically states that pensionados and rentistas can apply to be permanent residents after living here three years. That is an unclear issue now.

For many expats the concern is that with new powers and authorizations, the immigration police will be aggressive in cracking down on what is known as perpetual tourists and people who work here when they have tourist visas.

Regulations likely will require a criminal record check at border entry points even for tourists. A number of expats are living here on tourist visas that are renewed continually contrary to the spirit of the existing law. Some of these are fugitives, and each month agents arrest expats who are wanted in their own countries or elsewhere.

An embarrassing revelation came Friday when a henchman of Panamá's deposed Gen. Manuel Noriega was found living a normal life in the Central Valley even though he had been convicted of participating in a political massacre in 1989.  The man, Evidelio Quiel Peralta, was granted residency in 1999 despite his exploits in Panamá. Heis fighting his extradition.

Immigration officials also have to face the issue of false exit stamps. Some expats who hold tourist visas never actually leave the country to renew them every 90 days, as the law requires. There is a cottage industry in fake immigration stamps and paperwork which defeats the purpose of the national laws and allows individuals with significant criminal records to continue to live here.

To obtain pensionado or rentista status requires an applicant to present a police report from his home country, something criminals do not want to do.

The immigration department has been criticized heavily lately for delays in processing paperwork. Much of the problem was in granting passports to Costa Ricans. Officials hope to have the department fully computerized by the beginning of the new year and to begin issuing plastic cédula-like identification cards to resident foreigners. They also hope to bring the various data bases up to date.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 211

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Our readers' opinions
He's blaming the bankers
for Latin American poverty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

So I read Thursday morning that the Inter-American Development Bank wants to find a way to get their hands on $50 billion dollars sent home by immigrant workers abroad. The story says that people receiving the money just spend it without trying to invest (oh, horror!) or trying to borrow more money from the bank (thus paying the bankers' interest).

And I say OF COURSE they just spend it, they are hungry after all. Is it not the low wages and the poverty of Latin America which forces people to leave and go where the work is? And who created the laws and environment which allows poverty to exist? The rich bankers! And now the bankers want to "leverage" the people¹s own money to get the people into more debt under the false flag of improving the world for future generations.

I, for one, am sick of the lies of the world bankers. They give us 3% interest on our money and loan it 10 to 15 times to our neighbors at 10% each which means they receive about 150% profit ON OUR MONEY! Then when a bit of bad luck befalls us and we can¹t pay back the mortgage, they happily, greedily throw us out on the street and quick sell our homes and then complain that there are too many people living on the streets.

Here in Costa Rica the debt to the bankers is about 25% of the GDP. That means that 25% of all production goes to pay the debt to these greedy bastards. Not to mention other taxes and fees used to pay for do-nothing politicians who work a few years sitting around some fancy meeting rooms talking about what they should do and then after four years of empty promises they live the rest of their lives off the back of the working
people collecting their full salary pensions.

If the people had a means to express their distaste and unhappiness they would, but most of the world¹s media is owned by the bankers. And many countries, including Costa Rica, have laws against insulting the ruling
elite or disagreeing with the local published histories. Therefore the rulers get away with murder and the working people have to keep their mouths shut, their heads down, and live the life of poverty forced on them.

I ask you if poor people live that way because they want to or because the system gives them little to no choice. In Costa Rica there is a minimum wage law, but very few workers make much more than the minimum wage even after years working in the same job for the same master. What do you pay your gardener, your maid? Are they poor?

Today, Monday, I read that the state of Costa Rica is terrible. Gee, those of us who live here do not need a government report to tell us that! Just look around.
None the less, I far prefer living here in this tropical local then to spend any time in fascist USA!

Bob Jones
He has an answer
to finding peace here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

There are a variety of reasons why people move to Costa Rica. By-and-large the top two reasons I often hear are political and economic. However underneath whatever explanations are given, what I really hear people saying is that they are looking to achieve a personal sense of peace that they weren’t able to find in their home country.

Sure, the politics in places like the United States are becoming totally unbearable for many. And yes, it is possible to live on a smaller budget in Costa Rica than many other places in the world. Yet can a person move to Costa Rica and really find paradise and this sense of “peace?”

There are really only two stories being told. Either you’ll hear a person came to Costa Rica and found it to be full of crime, corrupt, difficult and expensive – or you’ll hear that Costa Rica is peaceful, inexpensive, full of loving people and the true paradise they had been looking for. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

How is it possible to have such diversity in experiences? Are the experiences one can expect to be totally random, luck of the draw so to speak?

I’m a spiritual psychologist, and to my clients I would say the answer is no. “Outer Experience is a reflection of Inner Reality.” In other words, the more disharmony one experiences internally is directly reflected in the experiences they have in the “real world.” Conversely, the more healing that has taken place inside oneself and the more aligned one feels with their true purpose in life, the better an experience they are likely to have in life.

Sometimes we put unfair expectations on ourselves. Many of us come from cultures in which we learned that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. When we find that things aren’t working for us, we figure that making a change in our job, relationship or home will solve our problems. But how often is this really so?

It isn’t until we really get a sense of who we are, define our core values and become willing to drop some of our misperceptions of the world that we are able to reach the greener grass.

Some questions you might consider asking yourself are:

Am I unable to move on with my life because I constantly re-live old situations? Am I taking responsibility for my own happiness, or do I allow others to determine my happiness by blaming them for what they “do to me?” Do I have a victim attitude?

While examining these questions, one of the most beneficial and important things you can do is to sit down and to imagine what kind of life you really want to have. Be willing to write these dreams down and to allow yourself to see and feel what it will be like when these dreams are fulfilled. Belief that you can have what you want, and the willingness to take small steps in the right direction are the only requirements to the fulfillment of your dreams.

I promise you that becoming clear about these things will change your experience in life, no matter where you live. And if you live in Costa Rica, you’ll be able to tell one of the happy stories!
Scott Pralinsky
Paraiso de Cartago
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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Guess what is increasing in price again: Gasoline
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To no one's surprise, the regulatory authority is increasing the price of gasoline again. This time the hike will be 5.22 percent for super gasoline, 3.81 percent for regular gasoline and 5.97 percent for diesel.

The agency is the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, It said the price increase was  necessary due to the $9 a barrel hike in the international price of petroleum between Sept. 8 and 22. It also blamed the devaluation of the colon against the U.S. dollar.

The regulating agency has been increasing the price of gasoline nearly every four weeks due to the increase in the world price of oil. The agency sets the price,
and the product is delivered by Refinadora
Costarricense de Petróleo S.A, a government petroleum monopoly.

Regular gasoline has been selling for 292.935 colons per liter. The new price will be 310.790 or 463 colons with Costa Rican tax applied. That last price is just a few cents short of one U.S. dollar.

Super goes from 320.498 a liter to 345.984 or 504 colons after tax is applied. Diesel is now at 217.575 a liter, and it will go to 237.329. That's 337 colons a liter after taxes.

The actual price at the pump depends, in part, on the cost of transportation.

The increases will take effect the day after the legal notice is published in the La Gaceta, the official newspaper.

New hosptial going up with British Embassy support
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new medical complex near Cerro Chirripó is set to open its doors to improve the health services of the Cabécar Indians.

The center which should open Nov. 3, was financed by $20,000 from the British Embassy in Costa Rica and philanthropist Robert Kelly.  Kelly, who is also the husband of the British ambassador, has contributed to several such projects that benefited the Cabécar people.

Backers hope the complex will replace the old Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Saluden, which was closed by the Ministerio de Salud last year.  However, the complex will also include two other buildings.  One will hospitalize the Cabécares, who generally have to walk long distances through the mountains to find medical help.  The other building will serve
administrative purposes, such as legal, or educational.

The Colegio de Abogados has organized meetings with the Cabécares to teach them about their legal rights.  Another organization has expressed an interest in supporting the project is the Asociación para la Atención Integral Indígena.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is supplying the medical equipment and the necessary furniture and will also be generally in charge of the complex since it is that agency that employs the doctors.   

“I am happy with this complex and very thankful to my husband, Robert Kelly, for making this a reality in such a short time period.  This complex has more than double the capacity of the old EBAIS, but what is most important, is that it supplies an operations base for those who truly desire to help the Cabécares,” said Georgina Butler, the British ambassador. 

Sala IV supports ministry in action to evict owner from Caribbean hotel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal from the owner of a Punta Uva hotel that has been taken over by the government.

The owner of the hotel, Jan Kalina, claimed that the  Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía acted outside the law Sept. 27 when officials, assisted by Fuerza Pública officers took over the hotel, which is located on the beach not far from the Caribbean.

The luxury hotel is called Las Palmas, and the corporation is Complejo Turístico Punta Uva S. A.

Kalina even held a press conference in San José where he ridiculed the ministry and its actions.

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the minister, has been consistent in saying the government was acting correctly. First word of the Sala IV decision, which was made Thursday, came from the ministry. Rodríguez
has said the hotel would be handed over to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the  Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje to become a hotel and tourism school.

The fight over the hotel began in 1993. At that time the ministry canceled a use permit, but the operator of the hotel chose to go to court.  The luxurious hotel is some 1,500 square meters of structures and has access to a protected bay where ships could anchor. The ministry claims that Kalina has done irreparable damage to the environment. Officials claim that Kalina has violated his concession on public land by make alterations to the terrain, such as drainage systems and excavation of sand.

Two days after the takeover, the Sala IV froze any official actions until it could consider Kalina's appeal.

The situation is complicated by Kalina's friendships with local officials and his political activity with national lawmakers.


Scientists will be giving eye exams to two mummies
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Over the next week, ophthalmologist William Lloyd will dissect and examine the eyes of two North Chilean mummies for evidence of various diseases and medical conditions. One of the eyes belonged to a boy who was 2 years old when he died 1,000 years ago, and the other is from a female, who was approximately 23 years old when she died 750 years ago.

“The opportunity to analyze two pre-Columbian era mummy eyes is exciting and fascinating,” said Lloyd, an accomplished physician, researcher, professor, author and expert in comparative ophthalmology, which involves the study of the eye across species. Lloyd holds joint appointments in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, and Pathology at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. “By analyzing these eyes, we hope to determine if their pathology suggests any so-called modern day diseases, like diabetes or high blood pressure.”

It all began when Huck Holz, chief resident in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, read an article about the founder of modern paleopathology, Arthur Aufderheide, in the May 16 issue of the "New Yorker" magazine. Paleopathology, the study of ancient diseases, has taken Aufderheide around the globe, salvaging mummies’ organs and tissues in various stages of decomposition. The thin tissues that make up the eye allow it to dehydrate quickly and, because moisture causes decay, most mummies are found with well-preserved eyes.

In the "New Yorker" article, Aufderheide said that he’s been saving the eyes for the right investigator, someone with the expertise and the commitment to examine them thoroughly. Holz and Lloyd convinced Aufderheide that they were the researchers he’d been waiting for.

Last week, Lloyd inspected and examined the eyes. The process involved rehydrating the eyes and optical nerves, preparing the tissues for chemical processing, embedding the tissues in paraffin, slicing the specimens for microscopic viewing, applying stains to
highlight selected cellular characteristics, and finally examining the tissues under a microscope. Preliminary findings should be available by the end of the week. Slow rehydration may postpone the findings by a day.

Tests for eye diseases, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, will be conducted, but Lloyd says there are many more systemic ailments that can be found by examining the eyes.

“During modern-day eye exams we can see signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, various cancers, nutritional deficiencies, fetal alcohol syndrome and even early signs of HIV infection.  These same changes are visible under the microscope,” said Lloyd.

Both mummies are already known to have recovered from pneumonia.  One of the female’s lungs was stuck to her chest wall and both of the boy’s lungs were stuck to his chest wall.

This condition is consistent with a recovery from pneumonia, said Aufderheide, who is a professor of pathology at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, School of Medicine. “Since we see it on both of the boy’s lungs, he probably had and recovered from pneumonia twice.”

The child, who was one of the last members of the Tihuanacu culture, also had an inherited cystic disease in his liver. “We’re not sure if the liver disease is what killed him,” said Aufderheide. “There were a few preserved internal organs, but most of the body was in decay.”

The 23-year-old woman was buried in a seated position, fully clothed in embroidered V-neck wool shirts. She wore sea-lion-hide sandals and on her head, a bandana. Her hair was in two braids. In addition to the pneumonia, she had lice, bad teeth and osteoporosis.

“It’s likely that the young woman’s osteoporosis was caused by a diet that included oxalate-producing plants, which inhibits the body’s ability to assimilate calcium,” said Aufderheide. “Perhaps something in Dr. Lloyd's findings will tell us more about the lives and deaths of these two people.”

Mexico's Fox vows to rescue some 30,000 stranded tourists  in Yucatan
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Vicente Fox has pledged to send buses to rescue thousands of tourists stranded in resort areas along the Yucatan Peninsula that were hit hard by Hurricane Wilma.

Fox toured the resort city of Cancun, where luxury hotels have been destroyed by the storm and shopping centers emptied by looters in its wake. Fox said Cancun's airport would not open until Tuesday
 and that tourists would be bused to the city of Merida and flown out from there.

As many as 30,000 tourists faced a fourth night in crowded shelters Monday in Cancun and other resorts. The storm is blamed for at least seven deaths in Mexico.

Meanwhile, rescue teams in boats pulled people from flooded homes in the Havana, Cuba, Monday after seas swollen by Wilma submerged parts of the city.

Galapagos Islands get new, red hot tourist attraction: Volcano eruption
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A volcano has been spewing lava on the largest of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

The Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island erupted late Saturday, sending slow-moving lava flowing into the sea.
Officials at the Galapagos National Park say the island's famed giant tortoises have not been harmed.

The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers off Ecuador's Pacific coast. The diverse wildlife inspired naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The islands were named a World Heritage Site in the 1970s.

Jo Stuart
About us
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