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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 217       Email us
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The end is in sight, weather institute promises
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The official word has come from the weather experts. The notification is what expats and would-be tourists have been awaiting.

The country has begun to enter the transitional phase between the rainy season and the dry, although that may not be obvious from the weather Tuesday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that everywhere but in the south Pacific, the onset of the dry season is delayed this year from five to seven days at least.

The weather institute released a list of probable dates Tuesday for the start of the dry season. As usual, the northern Pacific benefits from the northerly winds that drive away the rains. The institute estimated that the dry season would arrive there between Nov. 11 and 19. The normal date is Nov. 4, the institute said. The transition period is generally the week before the onset of the dry season. The transition period is characterized by alternating days of rain and days without rain.

In the Central Valley, the dry season should have arrived by Thanksgiving. The weather institute said that the likely time this year would be Nov. 14 to Nov. 24, which happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving. The normal date is Nov. 9.

The central Pacific is about a month later. The institute said that the dry season would arrive there in time for Christmas. The experts estimated
End is in sight

from Dec. 14 to Dec. 24. The normal date is Dec. 9, they said.

Because of its location, the southern Pacific always welcomes the dry season the latest and sees it leave the soonest. This year, the institute estimated from Dec. 20 to Dec. 29. That probably means an early arrival when compared to the average date of Dec. 29.

On the Caribbean coast, where the weather seasons are reversed, November means the arrival of more rain, pushed there by the northern cold fronts. The weather institute is predicting more rain there through February and warns of flooding and other rain-related problems.

On the Pacific and in the Central Valley, the dry season frequently contains several cold spells that are amplified by stronger winds.

Rice farmer protest brings action from government
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government caved in to protesting rice farmers Tuesday and asked the Corporación Arrocera Nacional to solve the problem by buying that part of the harvest that was not already sold.

That was the word from Casa Presidencial after a caravan of rice farmers blocked the street at the Zapote facility and also the four-lane Circunvalación nearby.  Luis Liberman, one of the country's two vice presidents, met with representatives of the rice growers and later sent a letter to the government rice corporation, said Casa Presidencial.

Rice farmers have been protesting for weeks, but Tuesday they brought their protests to San José from Guanacaste, the northern zone and the province of Limón.

They may be protesting again today. They caused traffic jams Tuesday evening.

At the  heart of the protest, rice farmers want to stop the importation of the grain even though the free trade treaty with the United States and other countries provides quotas for rice,

The United States is a major rice producer, and dealers there can deliver rice to Costa Rica at less
than the cost of production for farmers here. The protests had been anticipated when the free trade treaty was signed because the rice industry had been heavily subsidized by the government.

The farmers also want an extra import duty put on rice. That also is forbidden by the trade treaty.

The farmers were concerned because a significant portion of the harvest had not been purchased. Rice is a controlled commodity, and the government and its Corporación Arrocera Nacional is intimately involved in determining what farmers get and how much consumers pay.

The corporation said there are about 1,340 producers in the country. Each Costa Rican consumes slightly more than 100 pounds of rice each year, according to the corporation's statistics.

Farmers get 22,604.41 colons for each sack of 73.6 kilos or about 162 pounds, according to the corporation. The price is about $44.28. Rice prices in the United States Tuesday at the farm were reported to be between $13.65 per hundred pounds to $15.55 or $343 per ton, according to the Oryza Daily email newsletter. By comparison, Costa Rican rice, based on the price decreed for farmers, is about $547 a ton. The price fixed by the government for retail sale is 691 colons a kilo or about $1,230 a ton.

Moderate quake rattles western part of country after lunch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 1:45 p.m.

A 5.4-magnitude earthquake took place at 1:03 p.m. today at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya.

Residents in most of the central and western part of the country felt the quake, but in the Central Valley it was just a slight shake, two to three points on the 10-point earthquake perception scale.
The quake was felt the strongest on the central Pacific in the Jacó area and on the east shore of the Nicoya peninsula.

The Laboratorio de Ingenería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica said the quake intensity registered at six points at the Cruz Roja in Jacó and at the Cruz Roja in Paquera. Five points on the intensity scale means a moderate quake with little damage, said the laboratory.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 217

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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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Our readers' opinions
Non-traditional visitors
cloud results of statistics

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
You well alluded to the fact that many Costa Rica "tourists" counted in stats are not traditional vacationers but "perpetual tourists," even "serial tourists" who make Costa Rica their mental/emotional, if not physical, second home.  Probably more than any other country could this be true.
Food, hotel rental car rentals may not increase due to these type of "tourists," as they have found alternative, low cost, "local" ways to get around, stay, eat, play, etc.
Maybe the immigration form could ask if the person has been to Costa Rica more than five times in the last five years -- to put their stats in perspective.
Mary Jane Piazza
Richmond, Massachusetts

Obey the law and avoid
those steep speeding fines

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Judy Griffith Gill's letter published on Tuesday raises an interesting question: Why can't there be signs notifying drivers of speed limits? And the answer, of course, is that there are such signs. They're everywhere. Every time the speed limit changes, a sign is posted. It's either painted on the roadway or posted on a sign beside the road. This is common practice throughout the world and it's virtually universal here in Costa Rica.

Now there is some concern about the size of Costa Rica's speed limit violation fines, and I share those sentiments, but what other country posts the monetary cost of violating its speed limits? Why must Costa Rica be unique in that regard?

I share Ms. Gill's sentiment that the simple answer to the problem is to obey the law.
David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

Government should do
right thing and cut fines

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have for years read and enjoyed many of the letters that have been written.  I have never responded to any of them although I have wanted.  Ms. Gill’s letter about speeding fines in Costa Rica is out of touch with reality.  She states that most Costa Ricans should pay the speeding fine if they break the law.  Interesting concept!  She thinks that $600 is just fine! She obviously is not aware that the average Costa Rican makes just enough money to get by, this is a DRACONIAN LAW put in place only to generate money for the government.  I agree, that if you speed you should be responsible for your actions, but make the fine proportionate with the action.  The Costa Rican government should do the right thing for their people, lower these fines and worry more about the increase in violent crimes.

George De Prado
Coyote and Miami, Florida

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 HERE!
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 217

Latest postal emission honors scouts and guides worldwide
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone sending a letter as of Friday can use stamps to honor the Costa Rican version of the boy and girl scouts. Correos de Costa Rica has begun circulating the postal issue "Centenario Guía y Scout," which notes the 100 years of scouting around the world.

Correos issued 30,000 stamps, composed of two motifs that represent some of the most typical of the movement: a fire and a camp with the participation of children and adults. According to Giovanni Rojas, representative of the organiation, "This issue is framed in the celebration of 100 years of Movimiento Scout y Guía to the world, and celebrates the social and educational work of scouts and guides in Costa Rica and the world. "

The Asociación de Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica is part of two world associations: the ¨scout," which was originally created for men, and the "guide," which was created later for women. But both have the same principles and values, and today there is no gender differentiation between the two, Rojas said.

This emission, costing 340 colons, is complemented by 1,000 first-day envelopes, 2,000 postmarked philatelic bulletins, and postmarked with a line drawing of the guides and scouts movement´s shield of Costa Rica.

Alvaro Coghi, general manager of Correos de Costa Rica, highlighted the importance of this issue, recognizing the
scout stamp
Stamps feature a campground and bonfire.

work of girl guides in the consolidation of civic and moral values that should prevail in Costa Rican society.

"For Correos de Costa Rica, as a creator and promoter of the Costa Rican stamp collection, it is an honor that the scouts and guides form part of the stamps that circulate daily in Costa Rica and the world in letters and packages that the official mail service of the Republic distributes through its more than 570 specialized carriers and messengers, "said Coghi.

The production was financed by the Banco de Costa Rica and illustrations were made by Costa Rican artist Luis Demetrio Calvo. The issue can be purchased at the Correos de Costa Rica online store through the Web site ( and the philatelic office located in the Central Post Office building in San Jose.

Olympic hopeful visits to give pointers to other gymnasts
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On a rare break from her rigorous routine, Costa Rican gymnast Mariana Sánchez was able to leave her training grounds in the United States for a brief sojourn in her home country to visit family, friends and young, aspiring gymnasts.

Though her past is highlighted with an ever-growing list of accomplishments and her future aspirations are to be a world-class athlete, Ms. Sánchez' demeanor was everything but braggadocios as she performed a routine with younger girl gymnasts Tuesday in Parque la Sabana. The 15-year-old even seemed a little nervous in the glaring spotlight before the media cameras.

But all the nerves disappear when she is focused on her gymnastics routine. Ms. Sánchez excels on the bars, although she said she prefers the floor routines, and her talent has brought herself and Costa Rica plenty of status in the gymnastics world with a career marked by top finishes in junior competitions.

Now Ms. Sánchez is focused on competing at the elite level. On a typical day she said she trains roughly eight hours total with school crammed in between workout sessions. Her gym is in Ohio where she lives with the family of another gymnast.

Her training is sponsored in part by Banco Nacional. The bank's marketing director, Mario Roa, said his organization would like to see her achieve her dreams and help put Costa Rica on the world map.

And one of the primary goals of her strict regimen is just that: an Olympic appearance, either in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro or next year in London. To compete in 2012 before she is 16, Ms. Sánchez needs a special exemption from Olympic officials.

“I'm preparing for London,” she said. “But I always have 2016 in Brazil to fall back on.”

She also is anxiously anticipating the opportunity to represent her country at the 2013 Central American games to be held in San José, where the taste of a home-soil victory would be sweeter than most.

Yet her taste for success has been a long-time coming. Ms. Sánchez has been training stateside for approximately two and a half years, but her desire to compete came long
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Ms. Sánchez balances a younger gymnast.

before with her first competition at the age of 4.

However, she claims her progression actually started in the womb and laughed that her mother, who owns a gymnasium and was a gymnast herself, was performing the sport while pregnant with her.

“She is impressive,” said one girl in the group of predominantly elementary school children as Ms. Sánchez performed a solo floor routine complete with flips and spins. And when the group of girls was asked if they wanted to be like Sánchez they all nodded their heads enthusiastically.

Ms. Sánchez offered them this piece of advice.

“Never give up and just follow your dreams, even if it's not gymnastics.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 217

This is a file photo of some of the boats in a previous race leaving Le Havre

Transat race
Transat Jacques Vabre photo

Trans-Atlantic sailboat race is scheduled to begin today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Transat Jacques Vabre is supposed to be well under way today by midmorning here. The starting time is 3 p.m. in Le Havre, France.

This is the 10th edition of the cross Atlantic boat race and the second to have Limón, Costa Rica, as a finish.

The race start was delayed 50 hours by bad weather. Organizers say that the crews still will face a tough Channel with south southwest winds in the 15 to 20 knot region. They expect a front to pass and that the winds will shift to the northwest. That will give a boost to the 35 boats in the race.

Some skippers said they expect winds in the 50 knot range once they reach open sea.
Monohulls have a 4,730-mile course to traverse. They pass by the Dominican Republic. Multihulls travel further.

That course is 5,323 miles in the southern Caribbean.

The first boat is expected to reach Costa Rica in 13 to 14 days. The last race to Costa Rica was in 2009.

Then the multi-hull Crêpes Whaou! crossed the finish line off Puerto Limón the night of Nov. 23 to claim victory.

The Crêpes Whaou! took 15 days, 15 hours, 31 minutes and 50 seconds to travel from Le Havre. Race organizers compute their average speed at 13.41 knots over the 5,805 miles.

The race is sponsored in part by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, which hopes it attracts visitors to the country.

Fire fighters are recruiting to provide staff for new stations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fire-fighting agency is seeking personnel for six new stations that will be opened in 2012. They are accepting applications for paid fire fighters and also for volunteers.

The first three new stations will be in Los Chiles, Puerto Jiménez and Bribrí.

Fire officials will be holding employment fairs for several days each in November in these communities. They will be in Los
Chiles at the Restaurante Las Heliconias Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. They will be in Puerto Jiménez on the Osa peninsula
at the Asociación de Desarrollo Puerto Jiménez Nov. 18, 19 and 20. They will be in Bribrí at the Municipalidad de Talamanca Nov. 25, 26, and 27.

Right now there are 66 fire stations and 503 salaried fire fighters. By 2020 the agency expects to have 96 stations. This is good news to expats, mainly on the Pacific coast, who are distant from existing fire stations.

The new facilities come from an approval last month of a tax on electrical bills. The proceeds go to the firefighters.

Those interested in seeking employment with the Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica can find out more information on the agency's Web site.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 217

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Many around world hustle
to enter U.S. visa lottery

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Internet cafes in many places around the world are reporting brisk business ahead of Saturday's deadline for the 2013 U.S. diversity visa lottery. Officials expect some 15 million people to register online to win one of 50,000 so-called “green card visas” that open a path to United States citizenship.

Yusuf Tamiru spends his days sitting in a guard shack in an upscale Addis Ababa neighborhood dreaming of life in the United States. His guard job earns him the equivalent of about $50 a month, hardly enough to support his wife and daughter.

Yusuf says winning a new life in the States would allow him to make enough money to send a monthly remittance to his family back home.

"My dream is if I get the chance and go to the U.S.," he said. "If I work there, then I get the money to send for my daughter and my wife."

The remittances that new immigrants send to relatives back home are often the main sources of foreign exchange in impoverished countries like Ethiopia.

For each of the past 11 years, Yusuf has gone to an Internet cafe where he gets help filling out his online lottery registration form. Registration is free, but he pays the equivalent of 60 cents for the services of a computer-literate consultant.

He worries that as more and more people register each year, his chances of being the lucky one get smaller.

"If man is lucky, if he sends one time, he the chance," he said. "I think I'm not lucky, that's why I didn't get the chance."

Working from the back room of a tiny Internet cafe, 23-year-old computer whiz Zelalem Tadesse has helped Yusuf and hundreds of others to register. The past three years, he's even applied himself.

Last year, about seven people he assisted were among the 4,900 Ethiopians who won a shot at a Green Card, but not him. He says he would prefer to stay home and help to build a better Ethiopia, but he knows his chances of success are greater if he leaves.

"If I got a bigger thing here, I don't need to go there," he said. "Because what I need, whether it is U.S.A. or Ethiopia, is being successful economically. If I can succeed here, I don't need to go there."

Zelalem does not claim that his assistance will improve his clients' chances of winning the lottery. He says if he could, he'd charge more than 60 cents, and he'd help himself first.

But U.S. consular officials say many unscrupulous operators have sprung up charging big fees with false promises that they can improve a person's chances.

The State Department has issued a warning about fraudulent Web sites posing as U.S. government sites charging large fees to complete lottery forms. Scott Riedman, consular officer at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, warns that all of those promises are false.

"We receive stories of people getting letters and e-mails saying, 'Hey, you've won the DV lottery program, just pay this processing fee and we'll make sure you get your visa', and these are all scams," said Riedman. The U.S. government is the only entity that processes diversity visas and “we don't even notify people by e-mail or letter if they've been selected to participate in this program,” he said.

Consular officials say applicants must log on to a State Department Web site with their personal ID number to find out if they've won the chance for a green card. Winners of the 2013 lottery will be notified May 1.

The purpose of the lottery is to bring individuals to the United States for countries that are under represented there.

Promise of free schooling
not the reality in Haiti

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One out of every two Haitians is illiterate.  Haiti's president, Michel Martelly, has made free public education one of his top priorities.

On the first day of school in Haiti, adding to the normal chaos, the president was handing out free backpacks.

“I’m now the superstar of the school,” a boy who received one of the coveted backpacks said proudly.

President Martelly says his recent taxes on international calls and wire transfers have changed the public schools of Haiti.

“That money has enabled us to provide free schools for the people,” explained the president.

But at a public school in Tabarre, a poor neighborhood outside of Port au Prince, the moms told a different story. They said it’s far from free.

The mothers said they paid to send their children to school.

They said they paid the equivalent of  $27 or $16. To back up their claims, they showed receipts.

"Somedays I am not even able to sell the bread that I have and I have to let my kids go hungry so I can have enough money to send them to school," one mother, who said she sells bread on the street lamented.

When a reporter returned one week later, it's bedlam. Children are kept outside the school because their parents have not paid a new fee to purchase emblems for uniforms. 

"We asked for children to have an emblem on their clothing to differentiate them from students of other schools," explained Jean Francois Lucien, the director of the school.  "So the parents are being stubborn and they are refusing to put the emblem on their children’s clothing."

The fee is less than $1.50 U.S. But it's still a hardship for the average Haitian who makes $2 a day. 

"A lot of times, you can't sell anything," another mother complained.  "You walk and you walk before you can finally make 100 gourdes ($2.48)."

And, what about the hundreds of dollars paid to enroll children here?

“The minister asked us to stop charging parents to register their children, so we stopped and we didn’t collect any money after that," school director Lucien responded.

But one woman reported that she had been told that her children had to leave because she didn't have an extra $6 for enrollment.

“They told me no, when you have the complete amount, come back,” she said.

Lucien says the school relies on the money from parents.

"As long as the government accepts to pay for what the parents were paying previously, we can operate the school, but the school can’t operate without any money," he said.

President Martelly says his administration will work with the school to make sure the money is refunded.  

The president used to be known as "Sweet Micky," a successful singer.  Martelly says he will return to the stage in December to raise $10 million for education.

If current trends continue, only 5 percent of the children will finish high school.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 217

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Machine has begun to chew asphalt on Paseo Colón

Paseo Colón to be rebuilt
as first stage in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the approach of the dry season, road work picks up and traffic slows down.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said Tuesday that work had begun on stripping the asphalt off Paseo Colón, one of the busiest streets in San José Centro.

The project encompasses 4 kilometers, from the west end of the four-lane street to Hospital San Juan de Dios.

This is a $2.3 million job that will rebuild the driving surface on the road and cap it with 5 centimeters of asphalt.

The street will be closed most nights from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Consejo said that it expected the work to be done in December and that there is a second and third stage that will be tackled later along the same route but further east.

This is the main street for the Festival de la Luz, the annual Christmas parade. There was no mention on how the road builders would accommodate the marchers.

The Consejo also noted that a similar job was taking place in Alajuela on the Bernardo Soto highway near Juan Santamaría airport. That is an $11.2 million job. There will be delays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., said the Consejo.

Masked men stick up
casino at Jacó hotel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said Tuesday that they managed to capture two of five persons who invaded and stuck up a casino in Jacó.

The details were sketchy, and there was no report on which of the casinos in hotels at the central Pacific beach community was the target.

Officers did say that the hotel staff immediately contacted police. The report said that five masked men, at least one with a firearm, entered, threatened workers and customers there and put some in a closed storage room.

The men also took computers, billfolds, cash and cell telephones from customers, said the Fuerza Pública.

Police said the men fled in a vehicle that resembled a red taxi. A vehicle matching that description was stopped in  Pozón de Orotina where the two men were taken into custody.

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