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(506) 2223-1327              Published Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, in Vol. 9, No. 219      E-mail us
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Arias freezes right of foreigner to have gun permit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government froze the issuance of permits to foreigners to carry firearms Wednesday.

The order to the security ministry from Casa Presidencial was made with the backdrop of a shootout between Jamaicans and judicial agents Tuesday, but the weapons involved in that firefight and many other crimes were illegal in the first place.

About 225 U.S. citizens who are residents here have the right to carry a firearm. Nearly as many Chinese, mostly small business owners, also have permits.

In all there are about 2,000 such permits. Only four are issued to Jamaicans, according to current statistics.

The Jamaicans detained Tuesday and Tuesday night even had a machine pistol and at least two AK-47 rifles, which may have been automatic fire.

The minister of the Presidencia, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, said that a study would be made of those who now have permits to carry weapons. A number of foreigners with permits are Nicaraguan because many are security guards who need permits to do their job.

The order by Arias might not survive a legal challenge because Article 19 of the Costa Rica Constitution says that foreigners have the same individual and social rights and duties that Costa Ricans do, with the exceptions and limitations established by the Costa Rican Constitution and the laws.

The Arias administration has been hostile to the basic right citizens have to self-protection. President Óscar Arias Sánchez has promoted firearms restrictions in the United Nations. A
More on the shootout
HERE!


proposal authored by a committee headed by then-vice president Laura Chinchilla would have limited the number of weapons a citizen could have to two. She is now a leading presidential candidate.

The law notwithstanding, the Fuerza Pública has reported that it has confiscated up to 3,000 illegal firearms, including homemade types, each year. Most of these cases never find their way to court.

The principal Jamaican suspect in the killing of a university student on a Los Yoses street last Thursday and the killing of a judicial agent during an arrest Tuesday was among four persons stopped more than a year ago with two illegal pistols. That discovery happened after Fuerza Pública officers stopped two luxury cars near Puerto Viejo. However, the local prosecutor never followed up on the gun allegations and turned the case over to immigration officers instead.

Up until Wednesday foreigners could register a firearm and pass a written and practical test to obtain a carry permit if they were residents. Registered corporations can have ownership of a firearm if it is kept on the company's premises.

The U.S. Supreme Court established the limited right of citizens to bear arms for self-protection when it threw out a prohibition by the government of the federal district of Washington, D.C., in June 2008. The right is enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, although the high court had not specifically ruled on the matter previously. Other rights specified there include that to free speech, free press, free practice of religion and freedom from arbitrary searches. Many of these same rights, with the exception of weapon possession, are in the Costa Rican Constitution.


Government push is on to create a ministry of sports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration tried to set up an agreement with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social to get Costa Ricans into shape, but the deal fell through.

That was the word Wednesday from Osvaldo Pandolfo, vice minister of Cultura. He was at the legislature pushing for the creation of a ministry of sports and recreation. A bill to do that already is in the hopper and under study by the Comisión de Juventud Niñez y Adolescencia.

Pandolfo said that such a ministry is needed because the Costa Rican population is too fat and the Caja spends 40 billion colons a year on diseases of the heart and diabetes, about $70 million.
The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud used to amend its name with the phrase y deportes, but  that label had been dropped in the Arias administration.

The vice minister said that prevention is more important than the cure. He did not go into detail on why the deal with the Caja failed.

The proposed law would create a new ministry that would promote, aid and coordinate sports practices and recreation.

Estimated costs for a new ministry have not been established, but some devotees of certain sports are hoping that the ministry would be a channel of funds, particularly in light of the construction of a new stadium that also will have many areas for the practice of minor sports, like fencing.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 219

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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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troiopical storm ida
U.S. Hurricane Center graphic
Blue line shows where a tropical storm warning is in effect on the Nicaraguan coast.

Costa Rica spawns its own
powerful tropical storm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has spawned its very own tropical storm that is now menacing Nicaragua and points north.

The low pressure system that hung over Costa Rica for three days strengthened into a tropical storm early Wednesday and generated heavy rain in the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone.

About 11 p.m. Wednesday the tropical storm, now called Ida, was about 50 miles or some 85 kilometers northeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua, according to the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The center had issued tropical storm and hurricane warnings on the chance that the system may strengthen further.

A hurricane watch was in effect for the eastern coast of Nicaragua from Bluefields north to the border with Honduras, said the center. A watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the next 36 hours.

The storm was moving northwest at about 7 mph or about 11 kph, it added. A gradual turn to the north northwest with a decrease in speed is expected during the next day or so, said the center. The center of the storm was expected to make landfall on the east coast of Nicaragua sometime this morning.

Winds were calculated at 65 mph or about 100 kph with higher gusts, said the center. The storm could strengthen into a hurricane as early as this morning, the center said.

A storm surge of at least three feet was expected in the ocean along the coast.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional cautioned that higher waves would be seen on the Caribbean and in Guanacaste. It also warned of slides in the rain-soaked soil and local flooding.

The low pressure area had just a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm, the hurricane center said Sunday night. Tuesday night it upped the prediction to 50 percent, but a few hours later the system won a name. Then the Costa Rican emergency commission heightened its alert level.

Nov. 30 is the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season, and Costa Rica has been spared this year because hurricane development was much less than predicted. So far there are only two named hurricanes and neither came close to Costa Rica. From eight to 12 were predicted. The country usually is hit by spinoff from the storms although hurricanes do not come here.


Legion strikes deal to save
on cremation of veterans


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you are a veteran you still can't take it with you, but you might be able to leave more behind.

American Legion Post #10 in Escazú reports that it has negotiated an agreement with a local mortuary for a signficiant discount on cremation services.

The agreement covers all U.S. military veterans, their families and even Costa Ricans who may have searved in the U.S. military, said the Legion.

Typically a cremation is about $1,600. But the Legion deal calls for a price of $800, said a release. The family has to present proof of military service. Prepayment agreements also can be made, the Legion said.

Those interested in obtaining more information may call Cristian Coronas at the Montesacro-Polini mortuary at 2253-1923 or 8813-7118 or Mel Goldberg, first vice commander of Post #10 at 2288-0454 or 8870-6756.



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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 219


Events leading to double tragedies started with 2006 visa
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was a long chain of events that led up to the killing a week ago of an innocent university student in Los Yoses and the shootout that killed a judicial policeman Tuesday afternoon.

The chain appears to have started sometime in 2006 when a man in Jamaica obtained a tourist visa to Costa Rica. The man had the last name of Perkins, and he is now the principal suspect in the two murders.

Costa Rica did not begin to require a formal visa application from residents of Jamaica until June 1, 2007, so it appears that Perkins was able to enter the country without submitting a police report.

Perkins first showed up in police records Sept. 20, 2008, when he was one of four Jamaicans stopped at a Caribbean police checkpoint.

A man identified by the last name of Cambell carried a 9-mm. pistol and a man named Hill carried a .40-caliber weapon, said police. Neither had weapons permits, so both guns were confiscated.

Perkins had a 2-year-old expired tourist visa. So did another man identified by the last name of Salmond, who police said entered the country illegally the previous January. Because he was married to a Costa Rican, Salmond was set free with a summons to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. Perkins got a summons, too.
 
The men were accompanied by Costa Rican women on their trip, which was said to be to a party in Puerto Viejo.

Salmond is the man who was detained briefly after the 20-year-old university student, Milena María Madriz Muñoz, was gunned down on her way from class a week ago. He was let go because evidence showed he was not the man who fired the fatal shot, said investigators.

After the guns were found in 2008, the local prosecutor decided to turn Hill and Cambell over to immigration officers instead of filing charges over the illegal possession of weapons. Their whereabouts now is unclear.

At a news conference Wednesday, Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, blamed the country's open door policy on immigration for allowing Perkins and others to stay in the country.

In a separate talk with the press, Francisco Segura, the deputy director, blamed unspecified corruption for setting the scene for the double tragedies.

According to Rojas, despite having been identified as an immigration violator Perkins and his associates continued their own personal crime wave that involved abductions, robberies, extortions, frauds and crimes against property.

Much of the activity was headquartered in the Central
Valley. In raids Tuesday night, two persons were detained in one Santa Ana location and two more Jamaican men were taken into custody at a luxury home in Rio Oro de Santa Ana. The two men are not being held in relation to the shootout in Los Yoses or the one Tuesday in San Antonio de Escazú where their agent died, said Rojas. But they are being held because Rojas said there are warrants out for them in their own country. They entered the country legally with visas issued in Jamaica, said Rojas.

Other raids took place in San Antonio, Granadilla de Curridabat and in Coronado. Rojas said Perkins and his associates moved around frequently. Confiscated was a submachinegun, an AK-47 rifle, a .22 caliber pistol and a .38-caliber revolver as well as ammunition.

Also found was a car that agents have linked to the murder of the university student.

She died in the crossfire between two groups who are presumed to be rival Jamaican criminal gangs.

The judicial agent, Randall López Garita, 30, died because he and other officers were outgunned when they stopped a BMW that carried Perkins and others. An AK-47 was found at that scene, too. Two persons, including Perkins, were arrested at the scene. One person escaped.

Rojas said the cases would be treated as organized crime.

Perkins faces allegations of homicide and attempted homicide in relation to the death of the student. He also faces a litany of other charges, including one of aggravated resistance in the death of the judicial agent, said the Poder Judicial. He is in jail.

Salmond provided information about his associates, said Rojas. He was found dazed and disoriented after the Los Yoses firefight. There is still no clear information why two groups of Jamaicans shot it out with each other last Thursday. However, investigators are trying to tie a string of individual killings, mostly of Jamaicans, to Perkins and his associates. The deaths over the last two years were attributed at the time to rival drug gangs.

The Thursday killing took place when two carloads of presumed Jamaicans confronted each other in front of the Citibank building on a service road off Avenida Central in Los Yoses about 5:30 p.m.

The shootout in which López died and a companion agent suffered gunshot wounds took place about 2:30 p.m. in San Antonio de Escazú. It appears that the agents were watching the home where Perkins and others lived. He and companions arrived in a car, saw the agents and began to flee.

The shootout took place about 500 meters south of the south side of the San Antonio plaza.

Francisco Dall'Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor, said Tuesday night that the type of vest worn by the agent, López, could not protect against a weapon as powerful as an AK-47.


Space is plentiful for Crucitas hearing, Poder Judicial says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who wants to witness the public and oral arguments on the Crucitas open pit gold mine will be able to do so, but they may have to settle for a closed circuit video display. The Poder Judicial confirmed Wednesday that the hearing would be next Wednesday on the controversial mining project. President Óscar Arias Sánchez declared the mine to be in the national interest but promptly got in trouble when environmentalists objected.

The company is Industrias Infinito S.A., a subsidiary of the Canadian firm now called Infinito Gold Ltd. Such hearings are infrequent but not unusual. The judicial panel seeks to further review the case over and above the extensive written
material that has been submitted, said Infinito Gold.
The Poder Judicial said that the case is a compilation of some 19 different actions, which will cause dozens of lawyers to appear at the open hearing.

Among the allegations is that the mining company cut down protected trees.

The session will be in the court's Salón Multiusos on the third floor of the Corte Suprema building in downtown San José. Television screens will be set up in the adjacent Judicial Investigating Organization building's auditorium for an overflow audience, the Poder Judicial said.

The Poder Judicial specifically requested the parties that are involved to avoid demonstrations or and display of signs or posters. If the session runs long, the following day, a week from today, will be used to conclude the hearing.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 219

   
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Big sweep targets suspects of window-breaking robberies

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a massive law enforcement action, some 150 officers and agents swept down on 17 locations early Wednesday to arrest 19 persons who are suspects in the plague of robberies that women motorists encountered, mostly in the Hatillo area.

The arrests culminate three months of investigation in the Sección de Robos of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The organized gang is believed to be the author of hundreds of robberies of women motorists. Many took place at stop lights on the Circunvalación, but others took place where traffic slowed in other communities. Only women driving alone were targeted.

The robbers would smash a car window, sometimes threaten the driver with a gun or knife and flee with whatever could be grabbed. Robberies involved purses and laptop computers, said Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization. He said his agency had 110 formal complaints. A map showed more than 100 red dots indicating locations where robberies took place.

More than 50 million colons was listed as the value of what was taken. However many persons did not report the crimes that they faced. The reported amount is about $87,000. The cost of replacing windows also was ample.

The raids were in cooperation with the prosecutors in
window breakers
Judicial Investigating Organization Graphic
Red dots show locations of the robberies in Hatillo area

San Antonio de Escazú, Santa Ana and Hatillo, said Rojas.

Rojas said that each of the persons detained could be linked to at least four crimes. Four persons were juveniles.

The Poder Judicial said that raids took place in Hatillo 5, 6, and 8, la Colonia 15 de Septiembre, Villa Esperanza de Pavas and Coronado.

Just the day before, the security ministry said that the continual presence of motorcycle policemen had reduced dramatically the incidents of the window-breaking robberies that are called  quiebra vidrios in Spanish.






Al Andalus with 25 dancers and 10 musicians will be showing off their flamenco style Nov. 15 in the Teatro Nacional. The event is cosponsored by RedCultura.com

Al Andalus
Photo by Carlos Zegarra



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 219

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Castro column criticizes
Obama and Colombia deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has criticized U.S. President Barack Obama over a U.S. agreement with Colombia that allows American troops access to Colombian military bases.

In a column published in Cuba's state-run Granma newspaper and attributed to him, Castro says allowing the United States to use Colombia's military bases threatens not only neighboring Venezuela, but all people in the region.

The former Cuban leader says the agreement violates legal, constitutional and ethical norms.

The U.S.-Colombia deal, signed Friday in Bogota, gives U.S. troops access to seven Colombian bases for anti-drug operations.

The U.S. State Department said the deal allows both countries to continue working closely together to respond to security challenges within Colombia.

Other Latin American leaders have also criticized the deal. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said the agreement is a threat and could unleash the winds of war in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the deal is about U.S.-Colombia cooperation and does not pertain to other countries. 

Colombia is the strongest U.S. ally in Latin America and has received billions of dollars in mostly military aid during President Álvaro Uribe's tenure.

Ford Motor Co. reports
it is heading for profitability


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Ford Motor Co. posted a third-quarter profit of almost $1 billion. The U.S. automaker said it expects to be profitable in 2011. Meanwhile, General Motors announced its first monthly increase in U.S. sales in almost two years. The news is triggering hopes that the U.S. auto industry will recover.

Ford reported a net income of almost $1 billion in the third quarter — its first operating profit since early 2008. It was the only major U.S. automaker not to file for bankruptcy this year.

Ford benefitted from a government program that offered car buyers rebates if they traded in their older vehicles for more fuel-efficient models.

"Cash for Clunkers" helped Ford cut costly incentives and raise production.

Among the U.S. "Big Three" automakers, Ford alone declined to take billions of dollars in government loans. GM and Chrysler received bailouts and are still struggling after emerging from bankruptcy.

Ford began cutting costs and slashing jobs several years ago. It has also come up with new models that are popular with consumers.

A recent survey ranked 90 percent of Ford's models as "above average or better" in terms of quality.

But Ford's troubles are far from over. The company is carrying more than $23 billion in debt and is not predicting a profit for 2010.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 219


Latin American news
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Court says that employee
owes loyalty to employer


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala II supreme labor court has upheld the firing of an electrical supervisor becasue he engaged in a conflict of interest with his employer. The court said that an employee owes loyalty to his or her employer.

The case stemmed from an electrician who did work outside his normal working hours. The court said that an employee can hold more than one job. But in the case before the court the employee seems to have obtained electrical supplies at an employee discount and then sold them for his own account to customers of the firm.

The employer conducted an internal investigation and then fired the man. He had worked from 1971 to 2002, the court summary said. In firing the man sin responsabilidad patronal, the employer did not have to pay certain severance pay and accrued benefits.

The man lost at trial, in an appeal and finally before the Sala II, which frequently has been criticized for upholding the rights of workers ahead of the rights of employers. The court summary omitted the names of the firm and individual involved.

Concert to feature young soloists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil will feature soloists in a concert Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Teatro Nacional. The theme is based on "One Thousand and One Nights" or "Arabian Nights," as it is called in English.

The featured performance is the famous "Scheherazade" composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Scheherazade was the female narrator in "Arabian Nights."

Six young musicians, ranging in age from 17 to 25, will give solo performances in the first half of the concert. "Scheherazade" is scheduled for the second half.

One solo will be by Gabriel Mora Masís on the tuba. Other performances will be with the violin, the cello and the trombone.


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