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New rule on driver's license bars many expats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new traffic law prevents foreigners from obtaining a Costa Rican license until they have a residency cédula in hand.

This is another of those apparent unintended consequences of new legislation.

New expat Jerry Embry of San Isidro de El General found this out Thursday, and a detailed check of the new traffic law shows that his account is correct.

The legal change that just took effect means that persons who apply for residency cannot obtain a Costa Rican driver's license until the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería gives them an official cédula.  Embry said he found out that workers at the driver's license bureau in La Uruca would not honor paperwork from immigration that says he already has applied as a pensionado.

The legislation also prevents so-called perpetual tourists from obtaining a local license.

Embry, who speaks Spanish, is the former chief mate on the research vessel JOIDES Resolution.

He retired in January.

Until now, a foreigner who had a valid driver's license from his or her own country could obtain one in Costa Rica without the need to take a written exam or a driving test. Even foreigners in Costa Rica as tourists could obtain one.

Typically those who sought residency here would obtain a Costa Rican license quickly even before they filed paperwork with immigration.
A.M. Costa Rica file graphics

Now an entire class of foreigners, those awaiting approval of their residency status, can either risk a significant fine for driving without a license or leave the country every 90 days to renew their tourism visa in order to keep their curent license valid. In the past, once an expat filed for residency he or she was free of the need to renew their tourism visa by travel.

Because of the weekend, traffic officials and lawmakers were not available to explain why they made the change.

The specific part of the new traffic law is under article 91 (b) iii, which establishes requirements. The section says that a foreigner soliciting a Costa Rican license by virtue of having one in his or her home country must have legal residency here. Presumably that could be pensionado, rentista or any one of the many residency types listed in the immigration law.

This was a condition that was not discussed in public during the two years when the new legislation was under study in the Asamblea Legislativa.

What is left unsaid is if foreigners who do not have residency will be able to renew the licenses that they already have acquired.

Gunplay on Guachipelín roadway leaves man dead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents say the motive was prior personal problems that led to the shooting of two men Saturday afternoon at Guachipelín, Escazú.

One of the victims died.

Escazú Policía Municipal made the arrest of two suspects not far away, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Several passers-by witnessed the shooting and followed the suspects to their residence, said agents.

The killing took place just off Ruta 27 at the highway entrance to Guachipelín. The two victims were on a bicycle and had traveled from Santa Ana.

Two men confronted them, and four shots were
fired,  said agents. The dead man was identified by the last name of Estrada. He was 35, agents said. The other man on the bike had the last name of Toledo, agents said. He suffered a wound in the left arm, they said.

Estrada suffered four bullet wounds in various parts of his body. One of the assailants had a pistol in a bag. He produced it and began firing, agents said.

The suspects were detained in a room on a street identified by the name Boquerón, said agents. Agents confiscated a pistol and confiscated clothing to submit for a test of gun powder, they said. The hands of the suspect also were checked.
Investigators did not elaborate on the motive. They just said that the suspects and the victims had had personal problems in the past.

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Sala IV rejects Catalinas claims,
managing partner reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV has dismissed a case against the Las Catalinas development in Guanacaste, according to managing partner Charles Brewer, who posted the news to the internet.

Brewer said that he and his associates have not yet seen the full resolution but gathered the news from the judicial Web site.

The court appeal was brought by Robert Campbell, a retired U.S. resident of the area, and the Confraternidad Guanacasteca, represented by Luis Carlos Sánchez Herrera.

The project is owned by Catalinas Properties Holding Ltda., which plans 2,500 luxury villas on 79 hectares. The opponents of the project announced in early August that they had been instrumental in freezing construction.

The opponents argued that developers are cutting many trees and that this will cause erosion and damage. In addition they questioned what they claim is an irregular approval of nine wells that would provide water to the project. They also say that the paperwork for the project is not complete.

Governmental agencies also were named in the case. They are the Área de Conservación Tempisque, the Dirección de Aguas of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the Municipalidad de Santa Cruz and the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental.

The property is near Playa Danta and Dantita in both Santa Cruz and Carrillo. 

Brewer in his post expressed gratitude to his staff and advisers who brought relevant facts to the attention of the court and also government agencies he said were required to produce detailed testimony and evidence during this process and have done so in a timely and accurate manner.

He also said that prospective buyers of property there have stuck with the management through the legal process.

Brewer said that his firm is committed to have a positive influence on Costa Rica.

"We are championing a healthy alternative to urban sprawl by showing how wonderful and successful a well-planned and beautiful walkable town can be," said Brewer.  "I think we can change the development paradigm in Guanacaste and maybe the whole country for the better.  I hope that in 50 or a 100 years when people come to Guanacaste they will find a series of beautiful, prosperous walkable towns, each surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape — not a landscape of urban sprawl.  I think Las Catalinas’ example can go a long way towards making that happen.  The environmental and social benefits would be huge."

The project also includes plans for a hotel.

Decorated helicopter pilot
will speak to American Legion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who won decorations as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam will be the speaker when the American
Legion meets Wednesday at Club Cubano in Guachipelín, Escazú.

He is Joseph Finch, a Centreville, Virginia, resident who wrote a book about his experiences. The book is “Angel’s Wing,” a reference to a wartime sector described by map coordinates.

Finch, now, 67, was drafted as a private in 1966, according to the Legion. He rose through the ranks to
lieutenant colonel and earning numerous combat and peacetime awards including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, said the Legion.

All veterans of U.S. military forces as well as other countries military forces and guests are welcome to attend the meeting, said the Legion. A no-host lunch is available after meeting, the organization added. The Legion has posted a map to the club HERE!

Finch arrived in Vietnam in 1969 as a lieutenant, according to an description of his book. His book chronicles his year with the 25th Aviation Battalion. He learned to support ground troops, insert and extract men into and out of the most dangerous of situations and to evacuate the wounded, said Amazon.

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.
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Buffer zones around Turriable volcano proposed for safety
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's emergency response commission officials urged residents near Turrialba Volcano to stay vigilant for the possibility of an eruption when they presented the results of a new study Friday.

Engineers presented a map of how the areas adjacent to the volcano would be affected by an eruption. The presentation was at a conference in the town of Turrialba. Officials recommended that the land five miles around the volcano be kept mostly uninhabited.

They also renewed the commission's recommendation that tourists be restricted from visiting the volcano.

In the event of a natural disaster like a volcano eruption or a major earthquake, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is responsible for managing the government's response to resulting emergencies. Part of that is developing a plan before the disasters occur.

Since Turrialba volcano began mild rumblings and gas releases in 2007, the commission has been wary of a possible eruption there. Experts went on higher alert in January and May of this year.

The major Sept. 5 earthquake off the Pacific coast only heightened these concerns for  volcanoes throughout the country.

red zone around volcano
Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos
y Atención de Emergencias graphic
Red zone shows area around volcano where human activities should be abandoned, according to the emergency commission. Yellow zone should be just forest, said a study.
Click HERE for larger version.
Red Sismológica Nacional photo
Turrialba in a previous eruption

The Universidad Nacional's Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico says on its Web site that Turrialba poses one of the greatest natural disaster risks to Costa Rica. The volcano's height, proximity to major population centers and explosive potential coupled with prevailing winds that would send the ash cloud into the Central Valley contribute to this assessment.

A press release about the study says that the commission has been working with communities around Turrialba on emergency escape and communication plans.

Commission engineers presented recommendations about land use five kilometers or more away from the mountain.

These were based on data collected by the observatory at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Engineers said that land within two kilometers of the crater is in a high-risk area. Farms and cattle grazing land within that area should be abandoned. The area approximately two to five kilometers from the crater should be simply left as forests, and not be promoted as a tourist destination, they said.

The engineers also urged the municipality to improve access and escape routes from the area. Now there is one road and a branch that goes to the crater from Ruta 230. The engineers also pointed out strategic locations to build shelters.

The volcano is under constant observation by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the observatory, which broadcasts a 24-hour online feed that shows the crater. That is HERE!

Map shows locations of other drilling sites in which a previous expedition worked. The Costa Rica Seismogenesis Project expeditions drilled holes identified as U1380 and U1381 in April 2011.

Resolution map
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program graphic

International drill ship again seeking answers at Pacific plate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A research vessel is again off the Costa Rican coast in the Pacific trying to learn more about the Cocos tectonic plate and earthquakes.

The ship is the JOIDES Resolution, a drill boat designed to collect samples from under the ocean floor. The most recent visit began Oct. 23 and will last until Dec. 11.

The research vessel was offshore previously from March 15 to April 13, 2011, and April 16 to June 3, 2011. The offshore area is attractive to scientists because this is where the Cocos tectonic plate is pushing under the lighter Caribbean plate. That is the reason the Pacific coast has so many earthquakes, including a 7.6 magnitude one last Sept. 5.

The Resolution is named for HMS Resolution, commanded by Captain James Cook over 200 years ago, which explored the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and the Antarctic region, said the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which conducts the research. The boat has been in service since 1985.

During the 47-day expedition, the Resolution scientists will try to understand how and when the Cocos plate started pushing under the Caribbean Plate, which holds Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panamá, said the researchers. The Costa Rica Seismogenesis Project Expedition will try to find out what is happening with these plates as they push under each other along the area called the Costa Rica Subduction Zone, it said. This expedition will continue where the first expedition left off April 13, 2011, it added

The researcher also seeks to determine when some of the
volcanos in Central America formed and when some stopped 
erupting, said a summary.  It added:

"About 5 million years ago, the subduction of the Cocos Plate under the Caribbean Plate caused the volcanic land bridge to start forming between North America and South America.  68
volcanoes, many still active, are included in this chain.  When this land bridge formed, the climate of the entire planet was affected. The Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean were no longer connected, and the Gulf Stream started flowing north along the eastern side of North America.  Animals and plants were now able to travel between the two continents, as well, introducing new species to both."

The date in which the isthmus connected the two continents is still being debated in scientific circles, despite the estimate by the Resolution summary.

Scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá were at a conference Sunday in which some argued 3 million and others argued 15 million years.

Dena Rosenberger, education officer on the current expedition, explains on a blog posting that the nanofossil group on board was working hard to photograph and categorize tiny fossils in the core samples brought up by the drilling. She noted that scientists can get an idea of the date of a particular geological layer because the fossils are biomarkers that show the temperature of the sea water and other conditions when they were alive.

The Resolution usually carries about 50 scientists and 65 crew members. The boat is expected to make a post call in Puntarenas during the course of the current expedition.

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Fans of fights between roosters were rounded up and made to await processing on the floor of the ring.

chicken fight spectators
Policía Municipal de Escazú

Escazú raid busts up chicken fight and nets 50 persons
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 60 police officers descended on an illegal chicken-fighting operation Sunday and detained 50 persons, including children. One spectator who fled suffered a bullet wound to the foot, said the office of the Escazú mayor.

Participating were municipal police, the Fuerza Pública and the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal.

The raid took place at midday, and officers said they found alcohol for sale illegally. The children at the chicken fight ranged from 5 years to 12, officers said.

Fighting roosters is a long tradition that dates to antiquity. Although there is evidence of chickens from Polynesia in at least one pre-Colombian archaeological site, the fowl in the Americas today came from Europe. The practice of fighting the birds is not illegal in all Latin countries, and sometimes such fights are featured on cable television stations and can be seen in Costa Rica.

Police said the chickens found at the site will be destroyed. Some were fitted with the sharp, metal spikes that are used in the ring. The report said that one man threatened police with a machete when they entered the ring, which is called a gallera in Spanish. The man who suffered the bullet wound was one who fled through the underbrush. The exact reason is still unclear.

The big attraction of these fights is the ability to bet on the outcome of the encounters between roosters. Isidro Calvo, director of the Escazú municipal police, said that the raid was the result of several months of investigation.
fighting rooster
Policía Municipal de Escazú
This bird is wearing the steel spikes and is ready to fight.

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Genetically-modified foods
on ballot in California

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A fight is brewing in the western U.S. state of California. Voters there will decide Tuesday if foods made with genetically modified ingredients must carry a special label.

Backers say people have a right to know what they are eating. But opponents say labels would be costly, confusing and unnecessary.

American supermarket today have many genetically modified foods.

Nearly all the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States are genetically modified varieties designed to better resist insect pests or chemical weed killers.

They have been on the market for more than 15 years. The nation’s largest physicians’ group, the American Medical Association, notes that there have been no negative health effects reported.

But Chico, California, resident Pam Larry does not trust them.

“People used to think that smoking wasn’t addictive," she says. "My understanding is, there’s a lot of stuff like that.”

Ms. Larry says years from now, researchers could find health problems from eating genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

“So, I just think in the meantime, people have a right to know what they’re buying and eating," she says. "That’s it.”

Polls show 90 percent of Americans agree.

So Ms. Larry has been a leader in getting Proposition 37 on California’s ballot. It would require foods to carry a special label if they contain ingredients from GMOs.

Many European countries, Japan, and dozens of others already require labels.

But opponents say special labels for GMO ingredients would send the wrong message.

"It would be seen by California consumers as a warning that something was unsafe, when the science simply doesn't back that up," says "No on 37" campaign spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks.

Seed and pesticide makers Monsanto and Dupont, as well as food and soft drink makers PepsiCo and General Mills, are some of the top donors to the “No on 37” campaign.

Top scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have concluded that GMOs are as safe as other foods.

The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physicians’ organization, concluded this June that, "there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods."

But for years the GMO debate has taken place in an emotionally charged atmosphere.

In the 1990s, European protesters targeted supermarkets with GMO-containing products on the shelves.

“They’d parade up and down outside the supermarkets dressed as death and all these sort of things," says Mella Frewen, director-general of the industry trade group FoodDrinkEurope. "So the supermarkets had no choice, really, but to take them off the shelves.”

Opponents also worry mandatory GMO labeling could trigger lawsuits, affecting everyone from the farmer to the corner grocer.

“Even those who are following the law, doing everything right, still can get sued, leading to a situation where proving their innocence is going to be very expensive,” says the "No" campaign's Kathy Fairbanks.

Jobless rate moves higher
despite more hirings

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. companies beat analysts' expectations last month, hiring 171,000 workers in October. The Labor Department also revised job numbers higher for August and September adding 84,000 more workers to company payrolls. Even as employers ramped up hiring, however, the nation's unemployment rate was rising, up one tenth of 1 percent.

The last major economic report before Americans head to the polls shows hiring accelerated in October. That's welcome news for more than 12 million unemployed Americans, and for a president fighting to keep his job. President Barack Obama told supporters in Ohio that since July the private sector has added more than 170,000 jobs each month.

But the improving outlook is just one aspect of the government report. Despite upward revisions to job numbers in August and September, the nation's unemployment rate inched higher to 7.9 percent as more people started looking for work.

Since World War II, no U.S. president has ever won re-election with unemployment above 7.4 percent. The White House says the new report, though, is further evidence that the economy is healing from the worst downturn in decades. Still, the latest job numbers are unlikely to sway voters.

Cold weather may force
Sandy victims into shelters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Superstorm Sandy has left thousands of people homeless in the northeastern United States.  But, cold weather could force more storm victims from their homes.

According to weather experts, the temperature in areas of New York and New Jersey hardest hit by Sandy could fall to one degree by this morning.  Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes by the storm and the federal government, the states of New York and New Jersey, and the city of New York are trying to address the issue.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says despite not having electricity, many people do not want to leave their homes, but will be forced to do so because of the cold.

“It’s starting to get cold; people are in homes that are uninhabitable. It’s going to be increasingly clear that they’re uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn’t go on.  That’s when they are going to know they’re uninhabitable," he said.

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Taxi driver knew too much,
investigators say of murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An informal taxi driver showed up at the Quepos office of judicial investigators Friday afternoon to identify a woman who had been murdered. Agents detained him after they said he possessed information that had not been made public.

This is the case of a 22-year-old woman with the last name of Alfaro. Her body turned up near the Quepos airport early Friday. Her hands were bound and a piece of cloth was pulled tightly around her neck. Agents speculated that she had been killed elsewhere and dumped.

Agents released photos of distinctive tattoos found on the semi-nude body. But before the photos could be distributed to the public by the news media, the suspect said he knew about them, and he also carried the identity cédula of the woman, said agents.

They quickly determined that the man and the woman had maintained a relationship.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that a search of the man's living quarters turned up evidence.

Dominical rollover kills woman and injures a second

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 25-year-old man has been detained after he rolled his car near Dominical Saturday night, and a woman passenger died. A second woman passenger was injured.

Both women were thrown from the vehicle, said the judicial investigating Organization. Agents identified the dead woman by the last name of Jiménez . She was 22, they said. The driver suffered injuries but police said they managed to obtain a blood sample for an analysis of alcohol content.

Ill-gotten bottle bites man
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man suspected of being a thief at an Ipis de Guadalupe store slipped and fell on the pocket that contained a small bottle of alcohol. The man suffered serious injuries when the bottle, believed to have been stolen, broke and embedded itself in his leg, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The bottle was one of those small ones of some 365 millimeters known as a pachita in Spanish.

The man had been confronted by a guard, which may have contributed to his fall, said judicial agents.

Policeman held in fatal crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An off-duty Fuerza Pública officer has been detained to face allegations after a 46-year-old man died when the  policeman's car was involved in a collision late Friday.

The dead man was identified by the last name of Angulo.  He was the driver of a second car that was headed south on Ruta 21 between Nicoya and Santa Cruz.  The collision was head-on.

Before the crash, the policeman was the object of a 911 call because he was driving erratically, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was subjected to an alcohol test, and agents said that the paperwork of his car was not in order.                                        

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