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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 218                          Email us
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Business owners dig down in effort to end robberies
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Leaders from a prominent Costa Rican business chamber and the security minister signed an agreement Wednesday to coordinate better protection for businesses in Costa Rica to reduce robberies and hijackings.

The Cámara de Industrias de Costa Rica agreed that its members would donate money for supplies and personnel. In return, the ministry will open up channels to pass relevant security information and communication to businesses.

Members of both groups said that a high rate of  robberies is the most urgent security problem facing businesses.

Large businesses and manufacturers like the ones that the chamber represents particularly worry about their trucks being robbed while transporting products.

“What we want to say to the police is that we need the ability to successfully move our products securely throughout the country. Some of which are for the national market and others to be exported,” said the chamber president, Juan Ramón Rivera, in an interview.

Although crime is generally going down, according to the 2011 statistics report from Costa Rica's judiciary, both sides seemed to address the issues of robberies with a sense of urgency.

In late September, a United Nations affiliated organization report said that Costa Rica had the highest rate of robberies of all countries in the Western Hemisphere in 2010. The report said that 43,000 robberies took place that year in Costa Rica.
However, the judicial report also released in September says that less than 20,000 crimes overall took place in 2010. Mario Zamora Cordero said in an interview after the conference that this is a result of using different statistics. He is the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Rivera said that there are two specific types of robberies that are of concern. The first type is when stores are robbed of their products while on the shelves. The second type is when products are stolen from stores and suppliers while in transit. To this end, Zamora said at a press conference that one of the primary goals of the agreement is to secure major thoroughfares through which most commercial vehicles travel.

Juan José Andrade, director general of the Fuerza Pública, said that he would like to see the money go towards more police, cars and especially more communication devices.

“The first decision that can be made to impact the strategy to improve security from the industrial sector is to invest in mobility and invest in communication,” said Andrade.

Money donated by members of the chamber will be controlled by a committee, Rivera said. This committee will ensure that the money goes towards appropriate security expenditures and provide a venue for police to communicate with businesses.

Zamora's ministry is one agency that is benefiting from the financial bonanza generated by a new tax on corporations. The Ministerio de Hacienda said Tuesday that this tax already has raised 20 billion colons, about $40 million. No numbers were given Wednesday, but the donations from industry probably would be a lot less than this.

Lawmakers consider capping the price of drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are considering a proposed law that would fix mandatory ceilings on the prices of drugs and order physicians to prescribe generic versions of medicines when available.

The proposal, No. 17.738, also creates a commission in the economics ministry to fix the top prices for drugs and authorizes stiff fines for sales of drugs above the listed price.

The 14-page proposal also includes rules on purchasing drugs by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Also prohibited would be monopolistic practices, and no firm would be allowed to control more than 60 percent of the market for a specific drug.

Lawmakers in the special commission studying the economic situation of the Caja heard testimony Wednesday from representatives of an entity known as the Asociación Farmacéuticos de Comunidad. They favored the proposed controls.

Top prices would be set by a five-person regulating commission based on the prices of the same drug in seven countries at a similar state of development, says the text of the measure. The price also would reflect the therapeutic value of new medicines, it says.

The job would be mostly that of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, which has a

consumer agency. Maximum prices of drugs would be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper several times a year.

Physicians would have to prescribe the generic version of a drug unless there was a valid medical reason for prescribing brand names, said the text.

The Caja also would be instructed to seek discounts in bulk purchases.

The impact of the measure is hard to predict. Many generic versions of drugs are made in Third World countries. Some have been criticized for not providing the benefits of brand name medicines or for having less potency.

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Flurry of earthquakes rattles
the neighborhoods in

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Escazú area endured six moderate earthquakes Wednesday within five hours.

Monitoring agencies reported the first, a 2.7-magnitude quake, at 6:07 p.m. There were two 3.1-magnitude quakes within a minute of each other at 6:39 and 6:40 p.m. in the vicinity of San Antonio de Escazú.

At 6:45 p.m. and again at 8:05 p.m. there were quakes in the 2.3 to 2.4-magnitude range. The final quake came at 10:54 p.m. The  Red Sismológica Nacional said it had a magnitude of 3.0.

Many of the quakes were felt throughout the Central Valley.

The Red Sismológica Nacional attributed the quakes to local faults, and said that earthquakes of 5.0 to 6.5 are possible in the central area of the country.

Our reader's opinion
Releasing repeat offenders
defeats purpose of justice

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Concerning France asking cooperation from Costa Rica for more protection for tourist, I wanted to reply to this yesterday, but not in the way Edward Bridges did in his comments Wednesday. Mr Bridges is right about not trying to defend yourself especially when the perpetrator is armed, but I believe he missed the point of what is happening here in Costa Rica.

While reading this article in Tuesday's edition, the part that jumped out on me was this paragraph of:

“Cruz would only give the name of one of the two suspects who have been detained. That man is José Luis González. The other suspect was released for cooperating with police, a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization confirmed.”

José Domingo Cruz is the regional director of the Fuerza Pública. I don't know who is responsible up the ladder but to release a dangerous person back on the streets to violate more citizens or tourist is a crime in itself. I don't care how many police Costa Rica adds to its work force, the revolving door justice system here is The Problem. Released just because he cooperated...Give me a break! What is his criminal past. I would love to have that information.

It makes me wonder if anyone has kept records of crimes committed by repeat offenders. And the people whomever they are who continue to put these offenders back on the street are just as responsible as those who commit these crimes. The answer for an overcrowded prison is to put these persons back out in the population to commit more offenses to the honest public. This is the tail wagging the dog.

Tom Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 218
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The long-awaited seasonal transition is taking place now
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The dry season will arrive earlier than normal this year, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Costa Ricans usually associate the change in the weather patterns with the arrival of Christmas. But this year, the transition already has started, and residents of the northern Pacific will see the end of the rainy season in a week or 10 days, said the weather institute.

That is not all good news because that area, Guanacaste, also will be facing a drier dry season than normal with less precipitation predicted. The area suffered from drought conditions through September until heavy rains arrived at the end of October.

The Central Valley where a high percentage of residents live, will see the rain lessen and end by the middle of this month, said the institute.

As usual, the seasonal change begins in the north and continues slowly to the south. That is why the central Pacific will see the end of the rainy season in the middle of December, and the southern Pacific will usher in the seasonal  change along with Christmas. The institute said in a written report that this year is similar to 2001 and 2008.
When does the dry season start?
Northern Pacific
Nov. 7 to 11
Central Valley
Nov. 17 to 21
Valley de El General
Dec. 12 to 16
Central Pacific
Dec. 12 to 16
South Pacific
Dec. 22 to 26
Source: Instituto Meteorológico Nacional

The news is good for tourism operators who would be happy to welcome more vacationers in November.

Of course, the season will be reversed on the Caribbean coast where more rain is expected.

The institute also said that five to seven cold fronts will come from the Arctic during the dry season, and these will chill the country and cause heavy rains in the Caribbean. The northern winds are the reason the country has clear skies and lower temperatures from December through March every year.

Araya setting up infrastructure for his presidential campaign
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Presidential elections are more than a year away, but the races already are beginning to heat up.

Front runner Johnny Araya Monge, the mayor of San José, announced Wednesday that he has hired a public relations firm to get his message across to the media before the Partido Liberación Nacional convention April 21. That is when the party will select its candidate.

Araya seems to have a good shot at the nomination because he leads in the polls. In addition, the Partido Acción Ciudadana and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana seem to be experiencing internal conflicts.

The one condition weighing against Araya is that President Laura Chinchilla is of the same political party, and her ratings among the public are low. Araya picked Antonio Álvarez Desanti as his campaign manager in September, thereby eliminating another challenger.

The opponents of the free trade treaty with the United States  and an assortment of minor parties are converging into the Alianca por la Patria, which is expected to field a candidate.
 Supporters think they have gained some ground because José María Figures said Wednesday that he would not be a presidential candidate. The former president and son of the founder of the current Costa Rican political system lagged in the polls.

Araya said he had selected Nexo Relaciones Públicas y Prensa to handle the communication aspects of his campaign.

His brother ran for president but was defeated by Abel Pacheco in 2002.  The election is in 14 months.

Almost immediately after announcing his appointment by email, Alejandro Brokke A., director general of Nexo, had some good news about Araya.

He said that a survey by the Unimer firm, commissioned by La Nación, showed Araya with a 10 point lead over rivals among the general public. Araya had 16 percent of the 1,200 respondents. Rodrigo Arias, the brother of the former president, had 6 percent, the public relations report said.

Among persons with tendencies toward Liberación Nacional, Araya drew 32 percent compared to 16 percent for Arias, said the survey.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 218
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That bridge on the autopista is being closed for repairs again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials closed the westbound lanes of the Autopista General Cañas overnight so that workmen could install a metal plate over missing concrete.

This is the so called platina bridge that has been immortalized in song, YouTube and jest. The bridge spans the Río Virilla.

This is just a temporary fix. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad has been applying major fixes to the span without satisfactory results for three years.

Traffic police were sending vehicles on  detours from 10 p.m.  Wednesday night. The bridges was supposed to be open again by 5 a.m. today.
This is the place where the concrete is crumbling and the metal rebars are being exposed.

The problems began when the metal along an expansion joint became loose. That was how the word platina, meaning "little plate" came into use.

Contractors fixed that joint several times, but the metal continued to become loose.

Even a major refurbishing of the bridge did not last long.

The concrete that is crumbing has been applied recently.

The possibility remains that nighttime work may continue if contractors cannot get the metal to remain in place.

Agents say that robbery of woman's home was family affair
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents arrested a mother along with her son and daughter Tuesday in connection with the robbery of a woman's home in June, a judicial bulletin said.

The report says that the man was in a romantic relationship with the victim, a 50-year-old woman, at the time of the robbery. Police suspect that this man planned the robbery.

The female victim lost 200 million colons ($400,000) in the home invasion, according to the report.

A judicial spokesperson identified the detained suspects by their last names only. The 45-year-old mother has the last name of  Brenes.  Her son, who is 25, and daughter, who is 28, are identified as Salazar Brenes. The report gives the following report of the robbery.
On June 2, the male suspect was driving in his car with the victim through Barrio Mexico when they were intercepted and forced to stop by two cars occupied by several people.

Two men stepped out of one of the cars with guns and forced the couple to drive back to the victim's house in Moravia.

The two men took jewelry and cash from the house and left the scene in a car that was waiting outside.

Judicial police raided the home of the man in San Vincente de Moravia, Tuesday morning where they also arrested his mother. Police also arrested his sister at her home in Tierra Blanca in Cartago.

Then agents raided a bar that two of the suspects own, because investigators believe that some of the stolen money was put into that business.

A.M. Costa Rica announces an adjustment in advertising rates
A.M. Costa Rica announces a small increase in display advertising rates as of today.

The increase is from 6 to 9 percent to compensate for additional expenses in salaries, rents, utilities, government fees and the estimated 6 percent increase in the cost of living. Current advertising contracts will not be affected.

Advertising with A.M. Costa Rica still is a great deal because
 the company does not have to buy paper and the pages are in at least 90 countries every day. Every weekday the newspaper serves up about 32,000 pages to readers. Independent statistical monitors report that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 unique visitors a day. Advertising executives are authorized to display the latest statistics to customers and potential customers.
Most sophisticated business operators want to see those statistics.
– originally published Oct. 16, 2012

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 218
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China retaliates in fight
with EU over solar imports

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China is starting an investigation into whether the European Union is unfairly subsidizing solar exports, the latest in a series of Beijing's trade disputes with Europe and the United States.

China's commerce ministry said today the anti-dumping probe will focus on whether the EU sold solar-grade polysilicon, a key material in the production of solar cells, at artificially low prices in China.

The move comes after the EU launched a similar investigation in September into whether Chinese companies were selling panels in Europe at up to 80 percent below actual cost.

The U.S. earlier this month imposed final duties of up to 250 percent on imports of Chinese-made solar panels to counter what it said was improper government subsidies.

Beijing has warned that the disputes will provoke greater trade friction in the new energy market, which is seen by many governments as an increasingly important source of job growth.

Destructive hurricanes
frequent in United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States gets hit frequently by hurricanes or tropical storms. But some do much more damage and leave a longer legacy than most.

President Barack Obama has declared "major disasters" in the northeastern states of New York and New Jersey, where the storm has flooded low-lying areas, damaged structures and caused widespread power outages.

But it is not yet known if Sandy will take its place among the real killer storms in U.S. history:
Galveston Hurricane of 1900:  The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, this Category 4 hurricane moved through Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico, before coming ashore in Galveston, Texas, killing at least 6,000 people.

Hurricane Camille, 1969:  Category 5 Camille landed over Gulfport, Mississippi, after forming west of the Cayman Islands, leaving about 250 people dead from Louisiana to Virginia and $1.4 billion in damage.
Hurricane Gilbert, 1988:  Gilbert's Category 5 winds were felt over much of the Caribbean, Central America and portions of the U.S.  The storm, which emerged off the western coastline of Jamaica and crossed the northeast coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, killed 318.

Hurricane Andrew, 1992:  Started as a tropical wave from the west coast of Africa, before eventually becoming a Category 4 hurricane and killing 23 people in the U.S. and three more in the Bahamas.  The hurricane caused nearly $27 billion in damage, mostly in south Florida.

Hurricane Ivan, 2004:  Ivan developed into a Category 5 hurricane when it passed south of the Dominican Republic.  The storm destroyed much of the island of Grenada, before making landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a strong Category 3 hurricane.  Ivan was responsible for at least 92 deaths throughout the Caribbean and the eastern United States.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005:  One of the most devastating Category 5 hurricanes in U.S. history produced at least $75 billion in damage in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Coast.  Katrina is responsible for some 1,200 deaths, most of which occurred in Louisiana. 

Spain's financial problems
spawns independence push

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Spain’s worst economic crisis in a generation has sparked renewed interest in independence among people in the prosperous northeastern region of Catalonia. Local elections  Nov. 25 are expected to solidify the position of the region’s governing pro-independence party, and could lead to a referendum on the issue.
On the shores of the Mediterranean, Barcelona is a beautiful and prosperous city. Polls indicate its people are increasingly unhappy, however, about having their tax money go to support poorer parts of Spain, and a quick walk down a main street confirms the findings.
“I am in favor of independence because I think Catalonia would have more money if I didn’t have to send so much to Spain,” said a woman named Mariana.

“Yes, I am a supporter of independence for Catalonia for many reasons. The main reason is the lack of understanding of the Catalan reality over many years," said a man named Manuel.

“Catalonia pays a lot in taxes to Spain, when really it’s money that should stay here and could be used to improve Catalonia,” said another woman name Paulina.
The feeling is evident on many of Barcelona’s balconies. The Catalan regional flag is red and yellow stripes, but add a blue triangle and a star, and it becomes an independence banner. More and more of them are appearing all across the city, sometimes right next to the regional flag.   

Still, there are concerns that opposition from the rest of Spain would cause a long, bitter conflict, and Spain could block an independent Catalonia’s desire to join the European Union. 

The Catalan move comes as other regions in Europe also are seeking independent status. Regional pride and culture are a big part of the independence movements. 

Economics Professor Juan Carlos Conesa at Barcelona Autonomous University said practicalities, though, should play a larger role in the debate.

“My view is that it is going to be a loss-loss situation. The process implies a huge amount of uncertainty," said Conesa. "And in the middle of a big economic crisis, introducing additional uncertainty is not necessarily a good way to get out of the crisis.”
But in a lounge near his office, some of his Catalan graduate students disagree.

“In the very, very short run it can be causing some problems. Maybe a break like Catalan independence will help both the Catalans and also the Spaniards," said a graduate student named Pau.

“The political elite in Madrid, they are trying to build a centralized state and basically, they use the money from the wealthy regions like Catalonia,” said another grad student named Arnau.

“In a more plural society in Spain, we could fit, Catalans could fit there perfectly okay. But not in the way that it is right now,” said grad student Joaquin.
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Canada's ballistic device
valued at $1.2 million

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The donation of a ballistics system that the government of Canada made to Costa Rica is valued at $1.2 million Canadian, the embassy here said Wednesday.

The donation was identified further as the Integrated System for Ballistic Investigation produced by Forensic Technology WAI Inc. of Montreal. The new system is set up at the forensic laboratories of the Judicial Investigating Organization in San Joaquín de Flores, Heredia.

The elaborate device can take a 3-D image of a bullet or a spent shell, categorize it and compare it to a data base of other images with the goal of finding ownership or at least trace the use of a weapon.

Canada has said it will donate $70 million to Central America to fight organized crime.

Peace league plans sale
Saturday in Ciudad Cariari

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Women's International League for Peace & Freedom plans its annual sale Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ciudad Cariari, Calle Miraflores, Condominios Cariari #10. The location is south and behind the Ramada Plaza Hotel or about 400 meters south of the souvenir store, said the organization.

The league said that sale items would be any items that might be found in a home, such as books, household items, clothing, arts, and crafts.

By way of explanation, the league announcement said that the organization was founded in 1915 to protest World War I. The first international president, Jane Addams, became the first U.S. woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  The organization's work is as current as support for Pakistani's 14-year-old, Malala Yousafzai, the organization said. The girl was shot in the head by a Taliban terrorist.

Stolen vehicle yields
burned, unidentified  body

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents found the body of a person who had been burned to the point that it could not be identified, according to a bulletin from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A judicial spokesperson said that coroners would not be able to provide more information on the deceased until next week.

According to the bulletin, the body was found in a similarly burned car on a solitary road called Calle la Olla in Tarbaca.

The bulletin also says that, despite the damage, the car was identified as a Suzuki Grand Vitara, a mid-size sports utility vehicle. This particular car was specifically identified as one that was reported stolen Oct. 10 outside of a home in Sabanilla.

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