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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 223            E-mail us
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Don Bernadino
Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera/Franklin Castro R.
Workmen scrub the hull of the 'Don Bernardino' before making needed repairs.
Once-popular Nicoya launch is getting a bottom lift
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The "Don Bernadino," the launch that used to travel between Puntarenas Centro and Paquera on the Nicoya peninsula, has been beached for repairs while the owner, the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera, considers a possible sale.

The launch, not to be confused with the ferries that operate on the same route, has been tied up for a year at a dock in Paquera because of a dispute on
social security payments. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social says the association owes 73 million colons or about $142,000 in back payments for employees. The association is trying to negotiate a settlement, it said.

In the meantime, there is some work to do on the boat's engine and on the hull. The association said there had been some leaks. The launch was considered to be more rapid than the ferries that also carry cars and trucks.

Employers group rejects opening up bank records
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The major organization of private employees has come out against a proposed law that would lift bank secrecy and give full access to account information to tax authorities. The measure is being considered in a legislative committee.

The organization is the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. The organization said that no one should be able to penetrate bank account records without the order of a judge.

Costa Rica is trying to comply with international rules against money laundering and tax evasion. But the employers chamber said that this can be done without opening up the bank records of every resident and anyone who has an account here.

The principal proponent of bank transparency is the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Periodically the organization puts Costa Rica on a blacklist because it disagrees with the structure of the country's laws.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation has been agitating to open bank accounts since at least 2000. It said in a report then that "ideally all member countries should permit access to bank information, directly or indirectly, for all tax purposes so that tax authorities can fully discharge their revenue-raising responsibilities and engage in effective exchange of information."

Primary members of the organization are those First World countries that fear citizens are hiding assets and income overseas. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is among those agencies that seek aggressively information on its citizens from foreign sources. The United States has taxed the
foreign earnings of its citizen expats since the 1970s.

In fact, a lot of that information is available already to U.S. tax snoops because nearly all data on Costa Rican bank accounts are in the hands of the Superintendencia de Entidades Financieras, a government agency.

The terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, gave a big push to international bank oversight, and it is the Superintendencia that interprets the country's anti-drug laws that require expats to spend long hours with bank workers outlining the sources of their funds. Those who do not find their accounts frozen, although such actions differ from bank to bank.

The current proposal in the legislature would give national as well as international tax authorities full access to account information without the knowledge of the bank customer and at the whim of the tax agency, and the employer group said that the provisions of the measure are well beyond what the international organization requires.

The employers group said that Costa Rica has done enough to comply with international agreements and that nine countries in the Americas have similar bank secrecy laws and that some European countries still require the approval of a judge. That would mean the taxing authorities would have to provide probable cause instead of just cherry pick.

The employers group is motivated partially by security concerns. A highly placed Costa Rican investigative official was detained on suspicion that he used his office to provide inside financial information on potential check-fraud victims to crooks. Under the proposed legislation bank information would be available much more widely.

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San José tourism guide
to be unveiled Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The capital, San José, is coming out with a tourism guide sponsored by the municipality.

The city's Junta de Turismo said Wednesday that the guide will be presented to the public Friday at the municipal building. It is called "Recorriendo San José" and is written by Rita Bornemisza. The title means to travel around San José.

The junta said that such a book was necessary because about 80 percent of the country's tourists visit the capital during their visit, and the number is slowly increasing, the junta said.

At one time nearly every non-cruise ship tourist visited San José because Juan Santamaría airport was the principal access. Now visitors, mainly from the north, can travel to Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia, visit the Pacific beaches and never set foot in the capital. The shift in patterns has had a negative effect on the city's economy.

The municipality has as a goal to prolong the stay of visitors by one day, from 2.4 days to 3.4 days. By achieving such a goal, the junta said it would be able to increase tourist spending in the city by 42 percent to about $125 million a year. This also would help the hotel industry here that employs 2,300 persons, the municipality said.

Would-be victim, 19, kills
one of two assailants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 19-year-old robbery victim pulled his legal gun late Tuesday and shot fatally his assailant, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The shooting happened in San Felipe de Alajuelita about 11:30 p.m. The would-be victim was approached by two men on a motorcycle who threatened him and ordered him to turnover his belongings.

The robber suffered two 9-mm. bullet wounds to the chest and fell to the pavement. His companion, the driver of the motorcycle dumped the machine and fled on foot. For most of the day, agents were unable to identify the dead man. In the late afternoon they identified him by the last name of Mejia, also 19.

Agents said that the would-be victim had all the paperwork needed to carry a weapon legally.

In Orotina Tuesday afternoon two men approached another young man who was waiting in line to board a bus and relieved him of a cell phone and other personal articles.

Police officers nearby managed to snag two suspects, identified by the last names of Sánchez Gutiérrez and Ramos Lara. They are 18 and 24 and residents of Tibás. Sánchez was identified as an illegal Nicaraguan immigrant.

A prosecutor was asking a judge to hold the pair for investigation.

Fuel prices will revert
to level in January

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The monthly price adjustment for fuel came Wednesday and super is going up 16 colons per liter and plus gasoline is going up 14 colons. Diesel will increase 21 colons per liter.

The price adjustment covers the rate of exchange with the dollar and the world price of petroleum from Sept. 23 to Oct. 7, said the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos.

Other petroleum products also are going up when the pricing order is publisheded in the La Gaceta official newspaper. Super will be 589 colons a liter or about $1.15. Plus will be 562 colons or about $1.09, and diesel will be 508, about 99 U.S. cents.

The prices are about the same as were in effect in January, the pricing agency said.

Costa Rica has only one petroleum fuel supplier, the government Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, S.A. All the petroleum is imported.

Marchamo insurance bite
will be lower for 2011

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cost of the annual obligatory vehicle liability insurance is going down an average of 13.8 percent, according to the Superintendencia General de Seguros, the regulating agency.

This is the insurance that is part of the annual marchamo payment. Owners of passenger vehicles will pay 11,677 colons ($22.72), an amount that is 3,994 colons less than last year. For this class of vehicles, the reduction for the 2011 coverage of 6 million colons (about $11,675) is 25.5 percent. Light trucks, on the other hand, will pay 9,621, an amount 35 percent higher than the previous year.

Taxis also are going up about 6.7 percent. Taxi owners will pay 36,966 colons ($71.92) for 2011. The rates reflect the driving experiences of each class of vehicles, which is why motorcycle owners will pay 43,515 colons ($84.66) for 2011.

The insurance is a component in the macharmo, which also contains a road tax based on the estimated value of the vehicle and other fees. Most expats purchase addition liability and comprehensive insurance.

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, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 223

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Nicaragua does not seem to be responding to Tico deadline
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's deadline for Nicaragua to leave its national soil expires today, but the country lacks the capability to enforce the demand.

Still, there were troop movements on either side of the Río San Juan Wednesday and on the Isla Calero that Nicaragua has taken over.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda met Wednesday with legislators, and she received promises of support from even the opposition parties. However, she has said that the country will not use force to remove the invaders. Costa Rica's heavily armed police are outclassed by Nicaragua, which has air power, rockets and heavy weaponry. Nicaragua also has a warship posted off the coast of the island.

Residents of Barra del Colorado, not far from the invaded island, reported seeing Nicaraguan military helicopters in the air there and even in Costa Rican territory. Costa Rican police officials closed the local airport in Barra del Colorado to civilian flights. They are believed to be bringing in reinforcements.

A major Costa Rica television network outlined Wednesday night the obvious conclusion that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is using the territorial incident to generate support to help his candidacy in the national elections a year from now.

Nicaraguan lawmakers met by the Río San Juan in San Carlos province Wednesday and considered renaming the waterway the Río San Juan de Nicaragua.

There is little doubt that the Isla Calero is Costa Rican property. It is on the south side of the main channel of the river and has been considered Costa Rican land even by Nicaragua as late as a 2007 International Court of Justice case.

Local television stations showed video of the Nicaraguan 
flag flying over the island and that country's soliders on guard. The windswept island has as its main strategic value the possibility of being the site of a new mouth for the river, which would greatly enhance the economic prospects of Nicaragua.

Costa Rica has the option of seeking a strong response from the Organization of American States, but the nation's
pacifist philosophy would seem to preclude any military  action. The Washington-based hemispheric organization also has as members a number of countries that will side with Nicaragua, including Venezuela, which is believed to be bankrolling the Rio San Juan operation. The Organization of American States could suspend Nicaragua's membership and impose a boycott.

The activity there has been disguised as a dredging operation, but the real motive is to punch a channel through the Isla Calero to the Caribbean sea so that vessels have rapid access to the river. In the final 30 or so kilometers the river meanders, doubles back on itself and is silted up.

A new river mouth would be important for transportation and tourism purposes.  Historically, Nicaragua and the river have been considered as a possible alternate route between the Caribbean and the Pacific in competition with Panamá. Small boat traffic can now reach Lake Nicaragua from the river mouth with difficulty. The northwest part of the lake is a short distance from the Pacific.

Still the canal would be a gigantic undertaking with locks needed at rapids in the river and a canal with locks between the lake and  the Pacific. Still the job probably would be far cheaper than the $3 billion Panamá is spending to enlarge the capacity of its canal.

Ortega has characterized the military operation at the Isla Calero as an anti-drug push. In fact, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is poorly patrolled and a haven for drug transporters.

Canada has offered to help provide technical support to Costa Rica.

Atenas art show has its roots in informal café gatherings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A transplanted Canadian woman has been sharing her artistic talent with Atenas residents, and now the result is an art show.

The woman is Mary Park, a South African native who lived for years in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she was involved in music and art. She and her husband, Graham, moved to Atenas a year and a half ago, friends said.

Her students gather at a local café each Monday for instruction and enjoy each other’s company while creating their own masterpieces as watercolors or in oils.

The art show is Dec. 4 and 5 at the local Catholic church, and organizers hope to make it an annual event. A release said that 10 percent of the sales will be donated for leatherback turtle conservation.
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Mary Park (standing) discusses art with Hisano Bell and  Ana Castillo.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 223

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Water pools up as much as 20 feet deep behind a landslide that blocked the course of the Río Barranca. Officials say there is no immediate danger.

Emergency crews manage to reach many isolated towns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency crews managed Wednesday to reach 38 communities that were cut off by slides and destroyed bridges and roads. They said they had at least 39 more to go and hoped to reach them quickly.

The effort was by land, sea and air. Among the communities getting the assistance were the tourist destinations of Nosara and Ostional, which had been cut off on the Nicoya Peninsula. Emergency officials said they delivered food sufficient for 15 days.

In another tourism area, Manuel Antonio, workers predicted that the main road, damaged by a subsidence and landslide, would be ready by the weekend. The national park there continues to be closed because slides and trees block the trails.

At least eight areas continue to be challenging for emergency officials. Communities that workers hoped to reach before the sun set Wednesday were Drake, Rancho Quemado and Los Planos in the canton of Osa, Pitales in Acosta, Caraté in Golfito and Los Plancitos and Santa Rosa in Corredores.

In some cases the emergency crews are using quadracycles to delivery food and water.

In Acosta, the deliveries were by air to Hondonada,
Chirraca, Cedral, San Pablo de Palmichal, Zancudo, Tiquiris, Tiquintos and Bijagual. Air crews also were making deliveries to the native communities around Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

Emergency officials expressed concern when they learned that a landslide Tuesday created a natural dam on the Río Barranca above the community of that name. The  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said its crews, including geologists, inspected the area and determined that the situation presented no risk to persons living below. The concern was that the water, which is as much as 20 feet deep, might breach the dam and flood areas downstream. However, residents below noted that the river is broad near where it meets the sea so a slug of water would not be critical.

The Interamericana Sur remained closed Wednesday between Palmar Norte and Paso Real as cleanup of slides continues.

Also closed were the Guatuso-Colonia de Puntarenas highway, Ruta 4, in Upala, Ruta 136 near Llano Limón between La Garita and Puriscal and the Orotina-Turrubares highway, Ruta 137, all due to collapsed bridges. They will be blocked for weeks.

In all there were five canton roads and 16 national roads closed due to slides or damaged bridges. The updated list is HERE!

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Rio police seek real change
in pacifying suspicious slums

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the World Cup and Summer Olympics starting in four years, an ambitious program is under way to pacify some of the city's drug ridden neighborhoods. 

It's afternoon physical education at a day care center in the Rio slum, The City of God.  But, with a twist.  The teacher is a police officer, a member of Rio's Police Pacification Unit or UPP.  It's part of an ambitious program to improve relations with residents in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods. Capt. José Luiz de Medeiros runs the program in The City of God.

"With the work that we are doing with children, we can guarantee that pacification can become a more permanent thing," said de Medeiros. "Particularly with children from the age of four months to four years, that don't have any memory of a violent past in the community."

For decades, the City of God was ruled by violent drug gangs. When the police entered, there were shootouts, and residents were often killed by stray bullets.  Residents are afraid of the police, who have been accused of corruption and even murder.  But that is changing.

Today, the drug gangs are gone, forced out by police.  The job of mending a frayed relationship with the community has begun.

This community center features classes in karate, music, and computers, all taught by police officers.  Some have been taken off foot patrol to teach. Larisa Santos is taking English.

"Before, I was very scared of the police.  But now I come here, and I take lessons and it changed my mind."

The police say they are working to change their methods as well.  Officers still have the same physical conditioning and self defense regimen as other military police.  But their training is different.

"We go through the same training methods as the military police," said de Medeiros. "But there is much more emphasis on community policing, human rights, and conflict resolution."

De Medeiros says he instructs his officers to take a respectful tone in the community.  But after decades of confrontation, earning trust is not easy.  Ulysses Dacosta lives in The City of God. He says police conduct is still a problem.

"They come out of training to combat drug trafficking which doesn't exist anymore in a UPP area," said Dacosta. "It doesn't feel like they have sufficient training to stop and search.  So they treat a resident like a drug dealer.  I feel the police need to be pacified first."

"It is legal to do stop and search under certain conditions," said de Medeiros. "But it must be justified.  And it must be conducted in a professional manner.  The humiliation is something that we worry about.  Performing a stop and search in a humiliating manner will not be tolerated."

De Medeiros says his best chance to end the cycle of violence in communities like The City of God are social services like a day care center that serves working mothers whose children spend up to 11 hours a day there.

Director Vania Ricci Winzap says it would have been impossible to bring social services like this into the community before the police program.  There was too much violence.  She says fears that the police will disappear after the World Cup and the Olympics are irrational.

"It is impossible that UPP won't continue," she said. "Because if the drug traffickers come back, they will come back with so much force that it will be a disaster."

Police officers say it could take a generation to bring real change, but they are committed, one step, one child at a time.

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Latin American news
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Baggage handling firm
gets Liberia airport job

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A leading global provider of airport baggage handling systems, Glidepath, has secured a contract to provide an automated baggage system to Daniel Oduber Quirós airport in Liberia. The terminal development project is aimed at improving the facility, which is a gateway to some of the most spectacular and exclusive destinations in Costa Rica and the second largest airport in the country. Glidepath is contracted to the airport concessionaire Coriport S.A. which holds a 20-year contract to operate the airport.

New facilities are being constructed under terms of the concession.

“South and Central America is a key market for us,” says Glidepath’s chairman, Sir Ken Stevens. “We have committed to the region by hiring dedicated Spanish-speaking sales and technical staff in order to provide local support and technical assistance to our valued customers.” Glidepath has completed over 30 projects to date in the Latin America region and Costa Rica becomes the 63rd country that Glidepath has installed its product and sold services into.

The Liberia project began in October and has a total budget of $35 million with the baggage system due to be commissioned by July. The system comprises 27 international check-in desks, plus one for oversize items, a conveyor matrix and other system parts. Two reclaim carousels are provided for inbound arriving passengers.

Costa Rica designated
one of six HP hub nations

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

HP Enterprise Services Wednesday announced the expansion of Best Shore, its global services delivery model, by designating six countries as global delivery hubs that will grow to support increasing client demand for cost-efficient, scalable services for business needs. One of the hubs is Costa Rica.

This expansion is part of the $1 billion investment the Palo Alto, California, firm announced in June to transform and increase its Enterprise Services business, according to Hewlett-Packard Development Co., L.P.

In addition to Costa Rica, Bulgaria, China, India, Malaysia and the Philippines are the designated delivery hubs. These centers will offer multiple capabilities in each location, including applications, infrastructure technology and business process outsourcing services.

HP brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure to solve customer problems.

Global delivery hubs are designed to improve the client experience by offering access to industry and technical expertise that can tailor sophisticated solutions to meet unique client requirements, said the company. They also provide more options for cost-efficient services. Additionally, the hubs will help reduce delivery complexity by providing multiple services from a single location.

In addition to providing more access to skills and scale, the hubs allow HP to address the growing domestic markets in these regions.

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