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(506) 223-1327          Published Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 216        E-mail us    
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Arias gun control law seems to be fairly mainstream
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration has sent to the legislature a reform of the firearms law. Principal changes sought include limiting to three the number of weapons an individual make keep for self protection.

The proposed law also tightens the rules on getting a permit to carry a weapon.

A preface to the measure says that the presence of firearms increases the rate of suicides, murders and robberies in a city or country. In places where restrictions are imposed on arms, the rate of criminality is lower, said the summary.

The summary draws heavily from scientific studies and work by the United Nations, as well as the Arias Foundation for Peace.

In Costa Rica, the summary says, some 50 percent of the murders are committed with firearms, according to Judicial Investigation Organization statistics.

Guns are the third method, some 20 to 24 percent, used for suicide, said the summary.

The summary notes a rise in criminality. Between 1990 and 2000 robbery with violence increased 116 percent in the country, it said, adding that 51.4 percent of the robberies reported in the first half of 2003 involved guns.

The proposed law:

• prohibits the manufacture of firearms or components;

• forbids those under 18 from have or using a firearm;

• demands that precautions be instituted so minors cannot get guns;

• introduces clearer regulations of the use of firearms by police and security companies;
• prohibits as does the current law the carrying of a firearm in a bar, disco, sporting events, fiesta  or any place where liquor is served;

• Tightens the rules for awarding and canceling carrying permits;

• Imposes a higher penalty for murder committed with a gun.

The law does provide for gun collectors, who must keep their weapons disabled and secure. Hunters and target shooters can have as many as 10 weapons for that purpose.

There are still theoretical and practical tests that would be required to obtain a permit. However, a measure for a psychiatric evaluation enacted by the Abel Pacheco administration does not appear in the proposal.

Curiously, except for policemen and security guards, those who have the right to carry weapons must do so where they are not visible. The law also prohibits the importation of a virus, toxic gases, chemicals or bacteria that can be used as weapons.

The law is considerably weaker than many expats were expecting the Arias administration to propose. During the campaign, some North American expats put stickers on the bumpers of their cars suggesting that Arias would eliminate private gun ownership.

The administration also is proposing a change to Article I of the Costa Rican Constitution to prohibit the manufacture of weapons here.

This was a political issue raised by opponents of the free trade treaty who suggested that the agreement with the United States would open the county to being a center of arms manufacture.

Except for murder with a gun, the proposal by the Arias administration does not seem to tighten laws against illegal gun ownership. Costa Rica is awash with illegal weapons, and most of the criminals have no trouble getting firearms, including some that are superior to those carried by police.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 216


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Central San José darkened
by mistake with crane


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A workman using a crane touched a distribution bar with the device at the La Carpio electrical substation about 2:15 p.m. Monday.

The substation failed and five others also suffered failure. The machine grounded about 230,000 volts of power.

As a result much of the metropolitan area was without power for at least 45 minutes.

The outage was as far south as Aserrí, but sections of San José near the border with San Pedro continued to receive service. The substation belongs to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, but the outage affected customers of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.

Other stations affected were in Alajuelita, Desamparados, Anonos, Cocos and La Garita, said the company known as ICE in an afternoon news release. The company did not say if anyone was injured in the short at the La Carpio facility. They described the work going on there as routine.

Long term proposed
for Santa Elena gunman


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A prosecutor wants the surviving gunman of the Santa Elena bank attack to spend multiple lifetimes in jail.

The trial of Erlyn Hurtado is winding down in Puntarenas, and the Ministerio Público said it is seeking 344 years imprisonment. That figure was determined by adding up the penalties for the raft of charges facing the man. They include seven murders.

Hurtado was one of three men who tried to shoot their way in to the Banco Nacional in the community near Monteverde March 8, 2005. His two companions, his brothers, were shot dead by guards, and Hurtado ended up inside the bank with hostages. The siege lasted 28 hours and one police officer died in an abortive invasion of the bank.

In all nine persons, including the two robbers, died.

U.N. committee to study
Arias arms treaty proposal


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A committee of the United Nations will take a look at a proposal by Óscar Arias Sánchez to see if the world body wants to proceed with a treaty about international sales of firearms.

The U.S. General Assembly approved the idea of the committee by a 137-1 vote. The sole negative was cast by the United States.

Arias has been lobbying for the measure and visited New York last month when the assembly session started. He said that in 2005 Latin nations spent $25 billion on weapons.

The committee will examine the viability of the idea. If it is sound, a proposed treaty will be drafted for further U.N. action. The proposal basically requires countries to know who is shipping weapons and to where.

Power outage planned
for sections of Tibás


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz plans an outage for maintenance Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in most of central Tibás. Included will be the BAC San José facility as well as Banco Nacional and Scotiabank, the Palí supermarket, both Burger King and McDonald's and the municipal building.

The company said that adjacent sectors might experience some fluctuation in their power.

The company also said that an outage is planned for today in El Porvenir and San Miguel in Desamparados, This outage will run from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Our reader's opinion

Personal privacy concerns
man worried about 'bots


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:                                                      

I am a long-time subscriber to Consumer Reports and recent issues have raised some alarming (to me) questions concerning our personal information.

In the June ’06 issue, an article entitled “The End of Privacy,” examined the nature, use and abuse of radio frequency identification devices (RFID).  These are miniature devices that can be imbedded in swipe cards, clothing and virtually everything else one can buy.  It said that it’s possible to walk around a store and receiving devices can tell what you are wearing, where you bought it, and how much you paid, etc.!

The September ’06 issue examined “Cyber Insecurity.”  Do you know that ‘bots can be installed on your computer without your knowledge that register every keystroke you make?  The remote installer of this malware can then read every Web site you’ve visited, how much is in your bank account (if you bank online), your credit card number (if you’ve used it to make an on-line purchase), etc..

The October ’06 issue identifies the problem of “Your Privacy For Sale”.  This occurs where professional data-gathering companies sell the information they have on you (it’s MUCH MORE than you think!), to other parties.  The data they collect isn’t secure and can be stolen or hacked by scam artists.

Now, it may be that there are as many, or more, benefits to this era of hi-tech but it is my opinion that the downside outweighs the upside.  My position can be expressed this way.  My data of who I am, how I live and my preferences, are personal and I retain the exclusive right to them.  I demand to be fully aware of what agency is requesting any of MY information and what they will use it for.  I also reserve the right not to be forced to divulge any information concerning myself if I choose not to do so; in this regard I am willing to forfeit any “benefits” that I may obtain.  I am fortunate to live in Costa Rica and not in Big Brother U.S.A. where, so far, my privacy is respected.

Steve Friedman
Rio Oro de Santa Ana
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 216







Marco Vargas outlines the plan of the administration while some union members pay attention.

Casa Presidencial photo


Administration notes some agreement with union on Limón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A redevelopment plan for the Provincia de Limón is closely linked to investments in the docks there. An initial investment of some $70 million is needed, and the goal is a megaport, which might cost as much as $500 million.

This was the plan outlined Monday by Marco Vargas, minister of Coordinación Interinstitucional, before public officials, dock union leaders and community representatives.

What the government of Óscar Arias Sánchez wants is an integrated plan to improve living conditions in the whole province. Also proposed is the redevelopment of the city of Limón with the help of the World Bank.

Many of these plans have been aired in the past, but what Vargas gave Monday was a unified outline.

Union leaders have developed their own plan as far as the docks at Limón and Moín are concerned. The government stressed Monday that there were many similarities between the two plans.

President Arias has vowed that there would be no privatization of the docks. Instead he is pushing for a concession or perhaps a public private agency. The president is the first to admit that the government does not have the money for an ambitious redevelopment.

First, the Arias administration wants to eliminate slums and improve daily life by stressing educational programs, citizen security and some direct payments.
Despite the docks, which are the most important in Costa Rica, Arias has noted that the unemployment rate in the Provincia de Limón is about 20 percent, considerably higher than most of the other sections of the country. He calls this the contradiction of Limón.

The initial investment into the ports of Limón and Moín will cost $70 million  and includes adjustments on rates, a free zone for cruise ship passengers. Eventually the construction of a megaport will require $500 million, said the proposal.

The Municipalidad de Limón is seen as the center of regional development, and the Arias administration wants to create infrastructure attractive to tourists and create more jobs.

The government seeks to strengthen the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Econmico de la Vertiente del Atlántico, known as JAPDEVA, the agency that runs the ports now.

The union, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA has been engaging in periodic strikes. The Arias administration negotiated an end to one strike early Friday. In addition to a financial demand, the union members were concerned that the government would lease the Caribbean docks as it did with the Pacific docks at Caldera, which already is beginning to attract some shipments from exporters fed up with the uncertainty of doing business in Limón. 

The union had been on a slowdown since Sept. 20 before it launched into a full-fledged strike Oct. 23 and 24.


Minimum salaries will increase Jan. 1 to compensate workers for inflation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Minimum salaries paid to employees in Costa Rica will go up as of Jan. 1, but the increase will be just 4.95 percent.

The Consejo Nacional de Salarios made the decision after presentations by both labor and businessmen.

The increase is for salaries paid in colons and is supposed to reflect losses caused by inflation, which for this year is predicted to be about 11 percent.

Workers have been getting raises every six months, although
some complain that the increases have been less than the 14 or so percent annual inflation. The last three increases were 6 percent or greater.

The list of minimum salaries is maintained by the Ministerio de Trabajo. Salaries are specific to each occupation. Many persons in Costa Rica work for the minimum salary. Some are paid by the day, like tradesmen, and others are paid by the month. The latter would include office workers.

A cook's assistant makes 5,184 colons a day now.  That is just short of $10. A carpenter makes  5,411 colons a day.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 216


Danish skeptic says global warming effort is bad investment
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A leading critic of the environmental movement is questioning the conclusions of the latest British report on global warming. The critic, Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg, argues that money spent to combat global warming is a comparatively poor investment.

The British-government report warns that human-induced climate change could cost between five and 20 percent of global economic output every year.

The report by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern recommends spending 1 percent of global output a year, starting immediately, to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He calls the corresponding increase in prices "manageable," and argues that failure to do so could trigger a catastrophe akin to the world wars or the Great Depression.

But Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg argues that money spent to combat global warming would be better spent on other pressing social needs.

Lomborg is the author of a controversial 2003 book titled "The Skeptical Environmentalist." He was at the United Nations for a conference with ambassadors and experts on how to most efficiently invest limited resources to meet the long list of global challenges.

Lomborg says when the government participants were asked to prioritize challenges, they made the fight against communicable diseases their top priority. Combating global warming was far down the list.
"The main issue here is not to say that climate change is not an important issue," he said. "And that it will have serious consequences, but the question is to ask, with limited resources, where can you do the most good. If you invest in climate change policies, you will help especially Third World countries a hundred years from now, but if you invest in some of the other things, you will help people right now."

Lomborg is not a scientist or an economist. He was a professor of statistics in Denmark before writing his book questioning the data used to predict the effects of climate change. He says the Stern Report's prediction on the economic damage bear close scrutiny.

"Even by the worst estimates of the Stern Report, which is saying 20 percent, now you have to remember that's factoring in a lot of dubious environmental qualities and it's also factoring in, it goes from 13 percent to 20 percent just simply by weighing the developing countries higher, which quite frankly I don't quite understand how you do, but let's just go with that 20 percent," he said. "They talk about the fact that this is a Second World War or Great Depression, so you have to remember this happens over 100 years, so even if you take the worst-case analysis, we're talking about a 20 percent reduction over 100 years.

Lomborg agrees that nations, especially the largest and wealthiest, must limit greenhouse gas emissions. But he argues that the costs of current international initiatives such as the Kyoto Treaty are too expensive.

The Bush administration opposes the Kyoto Protocol and has not signed it.


Federal riot police will remain in Oaxaca until order restored, Fox says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican authorities say federal riot police will stay in the city of Oaxaca until order is restored.

Police took control Sunday, ending five months of sometimes violent protests by striking teachers and other groups who took over streets and buildings and called for the resignation of the state governor.

Witnesses say at least one person was killed as police broke
through street barricades and turned water cannons on demostrators.

President Vicente Fox ordered federal action after a U.S. activist-journalist and two Mexican men, one of them a teacher, were shot and killed Friday near the site of the protests.

Leaders of the teachers union said Monday they plan further marches. They had earlier agreed to go back to work, but it is unclear if classes have resumed.


Pinochet facing a new round of human rights violation allegations in Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been placed under house arrest on charges relating to human rights abuses at the notorious Villa Grimaldi prison in the 1970s.

A judge in Santiago ordered the arrest Friday. Judge Alejandro Solis charged Pinochet in connection with 35 disappearances, 23 cases of torture, and one murder at the prison.

A Santiago court ordered a probe into the human rights abuses as part of an ongoing investigation into charges
 Pinochet hid $28 million in several foreign banks.

Pinochet's family has denied the claims about the money, and at least one bank has disputed the report.

Pinhochet has previously been placed under house arrest on charges of crimes committed during his rule. But he has never been prosecuted because Chilean courts have ruled the 90-year-old is physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

However, in January Chilean courts stripped Pinochet of the immunity he enjoyed as a former president. He ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 216


Brujas de Escazú now have magazine for self-promotion
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Brujas de Escazú have unveiled a magazine that will be a promotional device for the division one football team.

The slick magazine was presented Friday at the Estadio Nacional where the team plays home games.

“Brujas F.C. Escazú” covers many aspects of the soccer team including its hopes for a new stadium.

Minor Vargas, president of the football club, said the
magazine is an effort to project the team as a sporting entity and to position it as a business.

The Brujas team is promoting itself as a regional alternative to Saprissa or Alajuela, the two leading squads.

The magazine is available for the eqivalent of $2 at newstands. New editions will be produced in time with the development of the football season.

In another soccer note, the Santos de Guápiles and  Deportivo Saprissa said that their Sunday game will begin at 1:15 p.m. and not at 11 a.m. as announced earlier.


Medford will get a chance to engineer a World Cup surprise in 2010
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To no one's surprise, Hernán Medford is the new coach of the National Selection, the soccer team that will try to win a berth at the World cup in 2010.

The former coach, Alexandre Guimaraes, suffered a career setback when his team took a beating at the World cup in Germany earlier this year. Costa Rica lost all three games.

Medford's name has been at the top of the list for at least a week. He now is employed as the coach of the Deportivo
Saprissa team and will see the players through Sunday.

Some Costa Ricans had been pushing for a foreign coach with the idea that someone not from Costa Rica would have more of a concept about winning in the world cup. But Medford, who has played professional soccer here, was the sentimental favorite.

The route to the world cup is long and full of local games. Only half the teams in each regional division get to make the trip. The selection is made up of the best Costa Rican players regardless of where they play.


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