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(506) 2223-1327                          Published  Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in Vol. 13, No. 214                  Email us
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Jo Stuart

Parades planned for Thursday
Those giant masks are products of traditional artists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Back in second grade making a papier mâché head was easy. An inflated balloon was plastered with wet paper and some form of adhesive such as wallpaper paste.  All that was lacking was a painted happy face.

When Costa Rican artists seek to create one of those giant papier mâché heads, the procedure is much more sophisticated. The traditional mascaradas are unique works of art.

According to the nation's heritage center, the first step is creating a form in clay that appears the way the artist wants. Wet paper, old cement sacks and even various types of textiles are pressed into the form.

This is why the Costa Rican mascaradas can have very fine features and in many cases resemble living politicians.

The Centro recounted the explanations of Jorge Corrales, an Alajuelita maker of mascaradas who has been doing so for years and following in the footsteps of an earlier generation.

antique face
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photo
This is a treasured piece made by master artist Pedro Arias of San Antonio de Escazú.
Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photo
Photo shows the form and the reverse of the mascarada that is a work in progress.

The process is a long one, and the artists incorporate
steel structures in the giant heads so they can endure the movement during marches and dances. Barva, San Antonio de Escazú and Aserrí are well known for their mascaradas although artists in these towns may use different techniques.

Some today may use fiberglass or other reinforcements, and the traditional mascarada makers accept this grudgingly.

The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural is involved this year because it is honoring the marcarada makers with prizes. The Centro's facilities on the San José pedestrian walkway opposite Librería Lehmann have a number of these heads, large and small, on display. Awards will be presented Thursday, Oct. 31, the Día de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense.

Then there will be a parade down the pedestrian walkway to the Plaza de la Cultura at 11:30 a.m. There also will be a parade of mascaradas and cimarrona, the brass street bands, at the culture ministry's Centro Alajuelense de Cultura in Alajuela.

The tradition of these types of heads predated writing, The Costa Rican mascaradas have their roots in the Middle Ages and the country's Colonial period. There are identifiable figures, including the Devil, the witch, many of the scary legendary characters and some of the modern figures such as the Pink Panther.

Nearly all are eight to nine feet tall because the figure is carried on the shoulders of marchers.

Archive begins its administration paper chase
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla does not leave office until May 8, but the Archivo Nacional already is taking steps to preserve the documents from her administration.

Archives workers are visiting ministry offices and even the Presidencia to discuss plans for submitting documents at least by the last week in April. There is a law that requires this.

This is a sure sign that elections and a change in government are coming. Ms. Chinchilla cannot run for a consecutive presidential term, and considering her low poll numbers, she probably never will be an elected public official.

Meanwhile, other members of the government are trying to remain on the public payroll by casting their lots with their favorite candidate. Frontrunner Johnny Araya Monge of the Partido Liberación
Nacional has said that he does not want any members of the Chinchilla administration in his
government, but politics includes the art of changing the mind seamlessly.

Among the documents that are being sought by the archives are the minutes of the Consejo de Gobierno, the president's cabinet that meets usually once a week, correspondence and documents on important issues.

The archives announced the effort Monday and said that it had the responsibility to obtain those documents that will be considered historic in 20 years or more.

Without the law, most ministries would simply consign the paperwork to the trash as has happened in the past, said the archives announcement.

The process has been going on since last year, and archive workers already have visited key offices and conducted training session.

The documents being collected also appear to include those in electronic format.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Oct. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 214

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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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Colinas photo


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Customs improvements urged
in study by watchdog agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A study of the nation's customs offices shows that there are trends that could be better, said the Contraloría General de la República in one of its period reports on government agencies.

Customs is called the Dirección General de Aduanas, and it supervises the import and exports of goods. The Contraloría is the budget and financial watchdog.

Among other findings, the report by the División de Fiscalización Operativa y Evaluativa found that the agency had no code of ethics.

Another finding was that the amount of customs duty is lower than would be expected based on the declared value of imports.

The report also said that a low percentage of cargo is actually looked at and there needs to be improvement in the amount of irregularities detected. The report said that there is a long delay in auctioning off abandoned goods.

Red Sox takes game, 3-1,
and moves ahead in Series

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Boston Red Sox are returning home with a chance to win the Major League Baseball World Series after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in game five Monday night.

The victory puts the Red Sox ahead three games to two in the best-of-seven championship series.

The game was tied 1-1 through six innings, continuing a trend of tight early battles between the two teams. The Red Sox broke the game open in the seventh inning, scoring a run on a double by catcher David Ross and another on a single by outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

That was all the offense the team would need as Boston pitchers Jon Lester and Koji Uehara combined to give up just one St. Louis hit the rest of the game to seal the win.

The Cardinals are sending rookie star pitcher Michael Wacha to the mound for Wednesday's game six, hoping to beat Red Sox veteran John Lackey and force a game seven in Boston on Thursday.

The two pitchers matched up in the second game of the series, which the Cardinals won 4-2.

Another murder of journalist
prompts protest to Honduras

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Another newsperson has been murdered in Honduras. This time the victim is cameraman Manuel Murillo Varela.

The killing brought a strong protest from the Inter American Press Association, which urged the government of the Central American country to comply with commitments made at a national and international level concerning measures to protect journalists.

Murillo Varela, 32, was killed Wednesday and his body was found a day later with three bullet wounds to the face in the Colonia Independencia neighborhood of Comayagüela in Tegucigalpa. In 2010 he had worked at Globo TV and on the state-owned Canal 8 television. He was also the official cameraman of President Manuel Zelaya in 2008, prior to the 2009 coup d'état in Honduras.

According to local media, Murillo Varela was a member of the Partido Libertad y Refundación formed in part by a future presidential candidate, the wife of former president Zelaya, Xiomara Castro, and in which he had planned to run for a local council office.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights provided Murillo Varela with protective measures Feb. 25, 2010, after he reported Feb. 2 that he and a colleague had been kidnapped and tortured by police officers dressed in civilian clothes, who took them to a clandestine prison. Local media states that the officers threatened to kill members of his family if he did not hand over videos filmed at a protest being staged by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular following the ouster of Zelaya.

Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, reiterated to the Honduran government the urgency of solving the murder of journalist Aníbal Barrow, killed in June, and insisted on the need of creating a system of protection for journalists, among other steps, and elaborating reforms of public policies which the country should adopt to punish crimes against freedom of the press. He is chairman of the Inter American Press Association's Press Freedom  Committee.

Our readers' opinions
Water heater distributor
has super customer service

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I have read too many negative experiences of the Gringos with services in Costa Rica published in your newspaper.  It is time to display some positive experiences.
We bought the top-of-the-line hot water tank (Stiebel Eltron) made in Germany that saves a lot of energy.  The installer we used did a poor job of connections creating a small leak and incorrect wiring.
Óscar Campos Rudin, the general manager of the distribution company for this brand, went out of his way at zero cost to us to send his technical people to install this correctly.  Mr. Campos Rudin was immediately concerned with the reputation of his company and fixed this even though he had no responsibility to do this.  The Stiebel Eltron works like a charm.  It also seems that our electric bill decreased approximately 20 percent immediately versus the other tank.
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Getting items bought online
is a big hassle for expats

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

 I do not know if this item is worthy of insertion in your newspaper, but hopefully it is if it can save some person/s a real hassle in respect to ordering items online.  Note the fuel costs alone to go retrieve items already paid for is just a start for a lot of hassles and misery.

Apparently there is some new law in effect in regards to online ordering.  What occurs is that when mail is received here, especially from a foreign country, the mail apparently is diverted from the local town post office and sent to customs in Puntarenas.  This notice is given to you by your local post office only after you sign with the expectation of receiving the item you ordered, but instead, you are handed some document explaining that you have to go to Puntarenas to pick up the item. 

This surely explains as to why the idiot at the local post office was laughing when he saw me come in inquiring about my mail.  There are instructions listed to include that you must have a copy of your Internet ordering receipt, your cédula and so on, but good luck having these employees even answer the phone.  From there, they impose a 30 percent tax on the item, and in my case they consider the cost of the paid international postage as part of the tax base.  In my case, the items I ordered were not worth the gas required to drive to Puntarenas, and the expected hassle of which noted that could include storage for a padded envelope.  Also, it seems to take a couple of weeks at tortuga speed here to even be notified that you have a parcel.

What also is annoying is that except for duty free in Golfito, it falls on deaf ears at airport customs and now at the Costa Rican postal authority that we expats are allowed $500 duty-free every six months.

In my case, since my mail had international tracking, I sent an email requesting the item be returned to sender, and notified my seller of the items as to what has transpired.

Just the fuel cost alone from the Arenal Area can easily burn up $40 to Puntarenas, and an additional bag on the airlines is $40.  My suggestion to my fellow expats here is have your odd ball impossible-to-buy-here items be sent to a friend in the U.S., and have them simply bring them here and pay their extra bag fee, and take them on some excursions for thanks.  Also, there are import companies that for a fee do consolidated shipping and clear your items through Costa Rica customs.

I have spoken with other people here, and never have I heard anything that resembled a pleasant experience to have to deal with the officials at Puntarenas, so this ordering items on line and being sent here should be erased as an option period, unless, of course, you are more than willing to pay extra and put up with the hassles.

John Kouns

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Workmen hope to install the beams for the Heredia-Barva bridge over Quebrada Seca today.

This will be a four-lane bridge, and the job is supposed to be finished in December.

The old structure had just one lane.
Barba bridge
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad

Public school students begin today their life-changing tests
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As fifth year students face their first final exam today or tonight in Spanish grammar and literature, their futures hang in the balance. Those who fail to pass the series of exams will not get their diploma, and they will be in an academic and social limbo afterwards.

For the estimated 70 percent who pass, the sixth day of testing will determine their higher education fate. Top performers will go to the public universities.

The testing continues Wednesday with math and Thursday with social studies. Friday is when science knowledge is tested. The subjects are a mix of biology, chemistry and physics.

The tests continue Monday with a foreign language and Nov. 5 with civics.

These are not easy tests, and unlike some of the standardized tests in the United States, general knowledge and problem-solving ability must take a back seat to specific details.
There is a steady business in preparing students for the tests. There even are online sources with 15,000 questions that the students could review.

There is a lot of competition among schools for the best average grade, and the winners usually are the specialized schools that train students for the top higher education institutions, like Tecnológico de Costa Rica in Cartago.

Private school students do not get a pass. They have their own series of examinations, sometimes provided by the French or German governments, depending on the national orientation of the school. These, too, are vital to success.

Many educators oppose such standardized testing because of the pressure it puts on students and because such exams may not reflect accurately a student's ability.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública exams are under tight security because cheating and the sale of exams is epidemic in the nation's schools. The ministry wants to make sure that at least for these tests, there is no advanced look.

Fingerprints key to identity of unconscious hospital patients
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every expat who has applied for residency has had a set of fingerprints taken at the security ministry in Barrio Córdoba.

But there are those who cannot make the trip there. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policia y Seguridad Pública noted Monday that its fingerprint experts have managed to identify this year 17 patients who were unconscious in local hospitals due to some type of injury.

More routine are the 300 or so persons who arrive at the ministry each working day for residency fingerprinting or perhaps to obtain a firearms permit.

Less routine is what happened Sunday near Avenida 8 in San José. Two police officers stopped a suspicious character and were not satisfied with the name he gave.  The man had good reason to give the name of his brother because a fingerprint check showed he was wanted for rape.

The name of the division is the Sección de Dactiloscopia, and there is immediate access to 3.5 million sets of fingerprints. Then there is the hookup with other police
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policia y Seguridad Pública photo
  Special device allows obtaining a fingerprint for an
  unconscious and hospitalized subject.

agencies. The section is celebrating its 85th anniversary this month. The section also handles nearly all the fingerprint work of other law enforcement agencies, including that of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Cel Rey Halloween

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Oct. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 214
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Study suggests that monkey brains are hard-wired to fear snakes
By the University of California at Davis news service

Was the evolution of high-quality vision in human ancestors driven by the threat of snakes? Work by neuroscientists in Japan and Brazil is supporting the theory.

In a paper published Oct. 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that there are specific nerve cells in the brains of rhesus macaque monkeys that respond to images of snakes.

The snake-sensitive neurons were more numerous and responded more strongly and rapidly, than other nerve cells that fired in response to images of macaque faces or hands, or to geometric shapes. Lynne Isbell, professor of anthropology at Davis, said she was surprised that more neurons responded to snakes than to faces, given that primates are highly social animals.

"We're finding results consistent with the idea that snakes have exerted strong selective pressure on primates," Ms. Isbell said. She originally put forth the theory.

Ms. Isbell originally published her hypothesis in 2006, following up with a book, "The Fruit, the Tree and the Serpent" in which she argued that human primate ancestors evolved good, close-range vision primarily to spot and avoid dangerous snakes.
Modern mammals and snakes big enough to eat them evolved at about the same time, 100 million years ago. Venomous snakes are thought to have appeared about 60 million years ago These are ambush predators that have shared the trees and grasslands with primates.

Hisao Nishijo's laboratory at Toyama University, Japan, studies the neural mechanisms responsible for emotion and fear in rhesus macaque monkeys, especially instinctive responses that occur without learning or memory. Previous researchers have used snakes to provoke fear in monkeys, he noted. When Nishijo heard of Ms. Isbell's theory, he thought it might explain why monkeys are so afraid of snakes.

"The results show that the brain has special neural circuits to detect snakes, and this suggests that the neural circuits to detect snakes have been genetically encoded," Nishijo said.

The monkeys tested in the experiment were reared in a walled colony and neither had previously encountered a real snake.

"I don't see another way to explain the sensitivity of these neurons to snakes except through an evolutionary path," Ms. Isbell said.

Rafael Maior and Carlos Tomaz at the University of Brasilia, Brazil, also participated in the studies.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Real estate rentals
Real estate rental agents
Real estate for rent
Real estate wanted

Real estate rental services (paid category)

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.

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 
of Costa Rica. We are offering homes for every budget and every need. Please visit our Web page at or contact us at or call at (506) 2654-5442.

Barrio Escalante, totally furnished, 1 BR apartment for single, responsible person. $35 daily, weekly rates. Contact 8385-2542,

MONTHLY $800 TO $1,200

Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.

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About us
What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2013 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Oct. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 214
Real Estate
About us


Pacific Estates

EU officials meet in D.C.
to study extent of U.S. spying

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

European Union lawmakers have begun a series of meetings aimed at confronting U.S. officials about allegations of widespread American spying on their allies.

The 23-member European Parliament met Monday with U.S. lawmakers and officials in several government agencies, including the National Security Council at the White House. The talks are scheduled to extend through Wednesday.

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on Monday called for a total review' of all U.S. intelligence programs in response to the allegations, which the California Democrat said she was not told about.

But even with diplomatic efforts under way, European officials continue to look for a way to pressure the U.S. to provide details of past surveillance. They also want assurances that the practice will be curbed.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger suggested severing U.S. access to an important law enforcement tool used to track terrorist money flows. The SWIFT agreement, signed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, allows the U.S. access to funds transferred through the private, Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which handles the movement of money between banks worldwide.

In recent days, European leaders have denounced reports of National Security Agency spying on allies, including monitoring of the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the latest outcry, Spain denounced the snooping as inappropriate and unacceptable.

The Spanish foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador James Costos for a 45-minute meeting in Madrid within hours of reports in two Spanish newspapers that the U.S. tracked more than 60 million Spanish phone calls in a single month.

El Mundo and El Pais reported that the NSA monitored the calls last Dec. 10 through Jan. 8 of this year. The reports said the U.S. collected the numbers of the calls and their duration, but not their content.

El Mundo says the surveillance also included intrusions into personal information through Internet browsers, email and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The reports were based on some of the documents leaked by former U.S. national security contractor Edward Snowden, a U.S. fugitive now living in Russia. In recent days, European media have reported similar U.S. spying on France, and that Chancellor Merkel's cellphone was monitored for several years, along with spying on 34 other world leaders.

Germany says it will soon send its intelligence chiefs to Washington to demand answers about the spying. Chancellor Merkel called U.S. President Barack Obama last week to voice her personal protest, saying that international friends cannot condone such snooping.

The NSA says it engages in spying to try to thwart terrorist attacks. But it said Sunday that on President Barack Obama's order, it is reviewing its intelligence gathering operations. The secretive agency said it is seeking "to ensure that we properly account for the security concerns of our citizens and allies, and the privacy concerns that all people share." 

A leading U.S. newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, reported that Obama went nearly five years without knowing that his own spies were bugging the phones of the world leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, and that the program has now ended.

The newspaper, in a report Monday citing anonymous U.S. officials, said the president learned of the snooping after ordering an internal review a few months ago. The White House said it is not monitoring Ms. Merkel's mobile phones and will not do so in the future. But it has declined comment on whether the NSA spied on her devices in the past.

The Wall Street Journal account says the review uncovered that the NSA had tapped the phones of the world leaders, and that the NSA ended most of the program after the White House learned of the operation.

Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it would not have been practical to brief the president on all of them.

Bild am Sonntag quoted Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich Sunday as saying the allegations have shaken Berlin's trust in Washington, a longtime ally.

Friedrich told the newspaper that "if the Americans intercepted mobile phone communications in Germany, they broke German law," and said that would be an "unacceptable violation of German sovereignty."

Former NSA contractor Snowden leaked documents earlier this year purporting to show sweeping U.S. surveillance of Internet searches and telephone records of U.S. citizens and world leaders.

Germany is working with Brazil on a draft U.N. General Assembly resolution to guarantee privacy in electronic communications.  U.N. diplomats say it would call for extending the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to Internet activities, but would not mention the United States.

Shrinking ice gets the blame
for soggy summers in Europe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Anyone who lived in or visited Great Britain and northwest Europe during the summers of 2007 through 2012 probably remember how rainy they were.
Research just published by the science journal Environmental Research Letters has added a new theory as a cause for the extraordinary soggy summers.  The study found that a loss of Arctic sea ice is pushing the jet stream further south than normal, which in turn is causing an increase in summer rainfall throughout northwest Europe.
Using a computer model, James Screen from the University of Exeter said that he was able to examine just how European summer climate is impacted by the dramatic retreat of sea ice in the Arctic. Plugging in a variable that included the Arctic ice loss, Screen said that the predicted pattern of rainfall produced by his model was very close to the rainfall pattern of recent northwest European summers.
"The results of the computer model suggest that melting Arctic sea ice causes a change in the position of the jet stream and this could help to explain the recent wet summers we have seen,” said Screen.  "The study suggests that loss of sea ice not only has an effect on the environment and wildlife of the Arctic region but has far reaching consequences for people living in Europe and beyond."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, jet streams are narrow bands of strong wind, blowing usually 30 meters a second or more, located in the higher levels of the atmosphere.  The Northern and Southern hemispheres have two powerful jet streams each. In the Northern Hemisphere it’s the polar jet stream which usually sits at roughly 60 degrees north latitude and the subtropical jet stream that is at roughly 30 degrees north latitude.  These jet streams are caused by the difference in temperature between tropical air masses and polar air masses and are responsible for guiding weather systems and their rain.  The jet streams do vary in size and shape, usually with the change of seasons.
The jet stream impacts weather patterns for Britain and northwest Europe because in summer, it usually lies between Scotland and Iceland, causing the weather systems to pass north of Britain. However, when the jet stream pushes further south in the summer, it brings along with it an incredible amount of wet weather to Britain and northwest Europe.
While Screen’s weather model has suggested an increase in summer rainfall for northwest Europe, it also has predicted that the Mediterranean regions will receive less rain.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado the Arctic summer Arctic sea ice extent has been shrinking over the last 10 years, meaning there has been more of a seasonal melt of Arctic sea ice.  There were record amounts of sea ice melt in the summers of 2007, 2011 and 2012, coincidentally when Britain had very rainy summer weather.
There are, of course, a number of other factors along with the impact of melting Arctic sea ice that could also explain the recent run of wet summers.
Scientists have also been predicting a possible decade long cycle of wet summers in that part of the world due to a major warming in the North Atlantic Ocean in the 1990s that has also had an effect on the jet stream.
To develop his findings, Screen compared the weather patterns that took place during these periods of low seasonal sea ice with the weather patterns that occurred during high seasonal sea ice conditions, such as those in the mid to late 1970s.
Since his study didn’t use any estimates of how much sea ice there will be in the future, Screen said it could not predict future weather. The results, he says, do suggest however that if sea ice loss continues as it has over recent decades, the risk of wet summers may increase.
While earlier this year many weather prognosticators were predicting that the summer of 2013 would be another wet and soggy one for the UK, it turned out that overall the summer was drier than the long-term average. Except for parts of northwest England and the Midlands area in central England, all areas had a drier than average summer. In fact, according to the Met Office, the UK's National Weather Service, it was the driest summer for the UK since 2003 and for England the driest since 1996.
The NSIDC also recently reported that because of a cool and stormy summer, the seasonal Arctic sea ice melt in 2013 was less than when it set a record in 2012.

Study evaluates the impact
of food aid vs. cash grants

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cash can be more effective than food aid when it comes to reaching hungry people, according to a new study.

The finding comes as the U.S. Congress considers the law governing its $2 billion food aid budget.

However, the study authors find there is no right way to deliver aid, and say flexibility is key.

Since the 1950s, U.S. food aid has helped more than 3 billion people in more than 150 countries, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. That aid comes largely in the form of U.S. commodity crops like corn, soybeans and vegetable oil.

It’s a point of pride for the farmers and food processors who make it, and they have been strong supporters of the program. But food is often available locally at a lower cost than shipping it across the ocean.

Critics say what people really need in a crisis is money to buy their own food. That’s why European donors support cash and local purchase more than food aid.

Both sides claim they’re right, says economist John Hoddinott at the International Food Policy Research Institute, but neither has much evidence to back them up.

“What we wanted to do was bring evidence and facts to bear on this debate,” Hoddinott said.

So, Hoddinott and colleagues at the World Food Program studied aid projects in four very different countries: Ecuador, Uganda, Niger, and Yemen.

In each project, beneficiaries received either cash or food of the same value. The researchers studied both the quantity of food, measured in calories, and the quality and diversity of the diet the recipients ate. They also calculated the cost of delivering the aid.

They found that cash was cheaper to provide than food, which saves more than just money. 

“It would only be a slight exaggeration to say we’re also talking about saving lives,” Hoddinott said.

If the projects used only cash or vouchers, an additional 32,000 people could have been fed, approximately 15 percent of the total.

However, Hoddinott stressed, “We want to be very clear: the results of our study do not say that you should always provide cash.”

When the researchers looked at the impacts of cash compared to food aid on the amount of calories and dietary diversity, Hoddinott said, “What really jumped out at us was the variation in effects.”

In Ecuador, for example, the people who received food aid got more calories but a less diverse diet than those who received cash or vouchers. But the opposite was true in Niger. Those who received cash ate more calories but a less diverse diet.

That’s because fundamentally, context matters, Hoddinott said.

The project in Ecuador served Columbian refugees in urban areas with well-stocked markets where food was available for beneficiaries to buy.

“What they needed was the resources," Hoddinott said. "Hence, the cash and vouchers work well in that environment."

By contrast, the project in Niger served very poor people in rural areas where the markets did not have much more than staple grains available.

“People who got cash basically went out and bought lots of grains,” Hoddinott said.

Food aid, on the other hand, included grains, lentils and cooking oil. “That meant their diet became more diversified than households that got the cash and were just basically stocking up on staples.”

Hoddinott says aid programs need to have an understanding of the fundamental goal of their intervention because that will affect which method to choose.

Both the U.S. and the European Union would benefit from a more flexible approach to food assistance, he said.

The U.S. spent about $200 million on cash and vouchers last year, out of a roughly $2 billion budget. Congress is considering legislation that would allow slightly more flexibility.

U.S. farmers, shippers, food processors and some aid groups have opposed more significant changes to U.S. food aid policy.

Paul Green, a consultant for the North American Millers Association, agrees that every food insecurity problem is different, and “the study reinforces the need for all the tools in the toolbox.” He also believes current U.S. foreign aid programs provide adequate flexibility for emergency response.  

Other aid groups see it differently.

“This study further underscores our call for reform of current food aid programs to make them more flexible and allow for more tailored responses,” said Eric Munoz of the aid group Oxfam.

The legislation is part of the much larger Farm Bill. House and Senate negotiators begin hammering out the differences in their versions this week.

Man in Britain indicted
in government hacking case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British man has been arrested for allegedly hacking into the computers of several U.S. government agencies and the U.S. military.

Lauri Love has been charged with infiltrating thousands of computer systems, including those of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A federal grand jury in New Jersey charged Love, alleging he and his unnamed co-conspirators hacked into computer systems between October 2012 and October 2013.

Once inside, Love and others placed hidden shells or back doors within the compromised networks, which allowed them to return to the systems and steal confidential data.

The indictment said the stolen data included the personally identifying information of military service personnel and others.

British authorities said Monday that Love also was charged under a U.K. law that allows people to be arrested for starting attacks from the U.K. on computers anywhere in the world.

He was arrested Friday at his home about 110 kilometers north of London. He has been released on bail until February.

Scammers use diversity visas
to extort, U.S. agency reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new report by the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Inspector General says organized fraud rings masquerading as travel agencies have taken control of the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine.

The report, released Friday, outlines a pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme affecting the U.S. visa lottery program as well as the intimidation and extortion of Ukrainian citizens.

The United States awards 55,000 Diversity Visas annually to the citizens of countries with historically low immigration rates to the U.S. They are granted through a random lottery system that does not take into account the applicants’ family relations, professional or personal background.

The fraud rings “buy, steal, or obtain from public sources personal information about Ukrainian citizens,” the report says.

The Office of the Inspector General does not identify which groups are carrying out the fraud, but says they have a vast impact. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv estimates the groups are entering the names of as much as 80 percent of the population of western Ukraine into the online visa program, and continuing to enter them year after year. This happens often without the citizens’ permission or knowledge, preventing them from entering the visa lottery on their own because the computer system deletes duplicate applications.

The fraud rings then have access to the confirmation number assigned online to the visa applicants, so if the U.S. State Department grants a visa to one of the applicants, only the criminals can facilitate the process.

The Office of the Inspector General report says the criminals then contact the hundreds of Ukrainians selected and demand they sign a contract promising to pay up to $15,000 to get the confirmation number to pursue the immigrant visa application.

If the Ukrainian wants to pursue the visa but cannot afford the fee, the criminals may insist he or she enter a sham marriage with someone who wants to immigrate to the U.S. and has enough money to pay the fraud ring. The criminals might even demand the visa winner get a divorce from their actual spouse and get married to someone else willing to pay.

The extortion does not end when the visa is awarded and the Ukrainian moves to the U.S. According to the Office of the Inspector General, the criminal groups take control of the immigrant’s U.S. Social Security card and Social Security number for further exploitation. They also demand the new immigrants pay back the costs incurred by the fraud rings to get them to the U.S. Failure to pay, the Office of the Inspector General, says, has resulted in threats against relatives in Ukraine.

U.S. officials have made efforts to combat the fraud, including changing the interview questions to try to trip up applicants coached by the criminal gangs, but corruption persists.

Pope and World Bank chief
discuss joint poverty fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World Bank President Jim Kim and Pope Francis have discussed better ways to jointly fight poverty. The two met Monday at the Vatican for almost half an hour.
Kim has made eradicating extreme poverty in one generation his top priority.
Pope Francis has been urging members and officials of his church to do far more to serve the poorest in society.
The pontiff is the spiritual leader of the world's more than one billion Catholics.
The World Bank is a source of financial and technical assistance to developing nations around the world.

Real estate-related services (paid category)

Project completion specialists
Casa del pacifico logo
Pacifica living
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:

                      • Building completion services
                      • Interior design & decoration
                      • Custom furniture design & manufacturing.

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.
Serving region for 10 years.
We regularly exceed client expectations. We guarantee it.
Cell phone: (506) - 8707-8008
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.

Re/Max, the Pacific coast expert
Re/Max offers comprehensive Costa Rica Real Estate, vacation rental and relocation services. Our award-winning team is the largest in the country, and can show you the best lifestyle and financial investment properties in the most desirable locations including prime real estate in Tamarindo, Langosta, Conchal, Flamingo, Pinilla, Coco, Hermosa and Playa Panama.  Give us a call in Costa Rica at 506-2653-0073, or toll free from the U.S. and Canada 1-800-385-5930. Re/Max, the name you trust for the finest real estate services in Costa Rica.

Moran Arenal
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
The undiscovered jewel of Central America, 35 square miles of blue, pristine, clear water ideal for fishing, swimming, boating, Real estate values still low.
Great lake front, river front land, farms, homes, condos and commercial property. Some with owner financing
This is far and away the most beautiful place in all Central America — cool climate. Try our two-day, all-inclusive discovery tour for $299.

Check with our Web site at
Contact us at the office: (506) 2694-0088
Cell (506) 8880-8888
Phone number from the U.S. (305) 307-0088
Moran logo

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 768
1,000 square meters of land and 350 square meters of construction. HERE!
Grecia 807
  18,000 square meters of land and 300 square meters of construction. HERE!
  Send us your request to our email:

Real estate for sale (paid category)

beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West,, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603

San Mateo pool


Includes 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 2-story house built to American standards with a balcony overlooking full-sized swimming pool and rancho with a bathroom and a shower room, and landscaped tropical gardens.  There are two large storage buildings, a carport and electric-gate access to the enclosed property.  It is a short drive to the highways to San José and the beaches.  Owner financing available.  Please call: +506 2446-4901

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.

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Business for sale or lease (paid category)71

beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West,, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603

In the nine years of operation, DIGITS Resource Guide has grown to cover the entire Southern Pacific Zone, and opened the door to further penetration in San Jose, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, and Osa Peninsula areas.  DIGITS is the only one of its kind with no comparable competition. With the extensive groundwork that has already been achieved, the business is now poised to expand into an even greater level of success. Operating since 2005, the owner is retiring to another Latin American country. For a preview of the magazine, go to, or simply go to a local Distributor for a copy. 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 aha_jm@yahoo.

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:

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Oct. 29, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 214
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Drug gang gets the blame
for Mexican power attacks

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico has stepped up security in a troubled western region after a string of attacks on electricity installations at the weekend that temporarily knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people.
Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell told reporters security forces had increased their presence at facilities of the state-run electricity company the Comision Federal de Electricidad and oil monopoly Pemex in the violent state of Michoacan.
An unspecified number of substations were attacked and damaged early Sunday, and six gas stations were also damaged, Michoacan's interior minister, Jaime Mares, told Mexican radio Monday.
Local media said blackouts affected more than 400,000 people across the mountainous state of some 4.4 million. Parts of Michoacan have fallen under the control of criminal gangs who are fighting among themselves and against authorities.
Mares declined to say who may have been behind the attacks in Michoacan, where clashes between the powerful Knights Templar drug cartel and rival gangs have sparked much violence.
Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said he believed the strikes had been carried out by the Knights Templar in retaliation for government efforts to crack down on the gang.
“It's a decision to carry out general terrorism,” Benitez said. “And this will now lead to a very strong response by the government, backed by the population.”
Petrol bombs were used in some of the attacks, which involved at least 19 Comision Federal de Electricidad installations, local media said.
Mares said there were no deaths in the attacks, although local media reported that five suspected cartel henchmen were gunned down by vigilantes in the town of Aguililla near the city of Apatzingan, a stronghold of the Knights Templar.
Michoacan has been rocked by repeated explosions of civil unrest this year, and protesters have repeatedly blocked major streets and highways in the capital and other cities.
Compounding matters, vigilante groups have sprung up in the region this year which complain that state and federal police are not protecting them from the gangs.
President Enrique Peña Nieto in May sent a general to take over all police and military operations in the state.
Michoacan was where former president Felipe Calderon launched his military-led crackdown on drug cartels shortly after taking office at the end of 2006.
Though he succeeded in capturing or killing many capos, Calderon could not contain the violence between the gangs, which has since claimed around 80,000 lives.

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From Page 7:

Country improves slightly in index
of doing business, World Bank says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has gone up seven places in the newest Doing Business 2014 report by the World Bank and its International Finance Corp.. The country now ranks 102 out of 189 economies, the bank said. The index estimates the ease of doing business in each economy with 10 categories.

Costa Rica's better score can be attributed to new systems for getting construction permits and for starting a business.

The government created a one-stop system for new businesses where an entrepreneur could obtain a health permit, register as a taxpayer, register with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, get a patente or business license and other needed documents online in San José. Construction permits also have been consigned to the Internet where even building plans are digitized.

Costa Rica went up 24 places for starting a business and up 37 places for construction permits. There also was a seven-place rise in handling insolvencies, said the World Bank.

There were few changes in other categories. Under the topic of enforcing contracts, the ranking dropped from 129 to 130.

Despite the electronic system, the bank said that anyone starting a limited liability business in Costa Rica needs to complete nine procedures, about average for the Caribbean, and should expect to spend 24 days. That is about twice the time as in the average First World country, the bank said.

One reason for the lack of speed is that a lawyer has to draw up incorporation papers. In many U.S. states a business can be formed online with a credit card in less than 30 minutes. No lawyer is needed.

The ranking put Costa Rica three places below Vietnam at 99 and above Malta at 102 and Kuwait at 104. Singapore headed the list, followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States

A summary of the Costa Rican data is HERE!

The rankings by country are HERE!