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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 225       E-mail us
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Quick OK predicted for new, stiff immigration bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new draft of the nation's immigration law was accepted as a substitute Tuesday by the legislature's Comisión Permanente de Asuntos de Gobierno y Administración.

Olga Marta Corrales Sánchez, the president of the committee, said that the bill is a consensus, and she hoped that the committee would approve the bill, No. 8487, and send it to the full legislature next week.

The proposal had been published as a substitute in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

Instead of being a simple immigration law, the proposal is designed to battle corruption, speed
 processing and integrate immigrants into Costa Rican society.

Expats are not pleased with the bill because it would raise the monthly financial requirements for pensionados from $600 to $2,000 and for rentistas from $1,000 to $5,000.

They also would have to become subscribers to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, the country's medical and social welfare plan.

Some have said that financial requirements would keep them from relocating to Costa Rica.

The bill was drafted by a committee of officials and representatives of various organizations, including the Catholic bishops.

French president honors Tico who fought in WWII
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of France honored a Costa Rican who served in World War II as part of the Armistice Day activities in San José.

Honored Tuesday by Nicolas Sarkozy was Jorge Luis (Georges-Louis) Cadet Ugalde, 87, an Alajuela native of French heritage who answered the call of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and volunteered for the war.

Damien Brintet, the acting head of the French Embassy here, called Cadet the last witness to that era. Also mentioned were Costa Ricans Daniel Ratton, Robert Perret, Claude Charbonnel, Bertrand de la Goublaye de Ménorval and Roberto Rivel, who also served in World War II.

Brintet awarded Cadet two medals representing the gratitude of France.

The French diplomat in the company of Costa Rican officials placed a wreath in Parque Francia commemorating the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.  Costa Ricans served in that war, too, officials noted.
Costa rican volunteer
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
Jorge Luis Cadet Ugalde, 87, and his medals

At the Museo Nacional later, participants helped inaugurate the exhibit “La Gran Guerra, 90 años después — Ticos luchando por la Paz,” which recounts the efforts of Costa Ricans on the European battlefields from 1914 to 1918. Some died in action.

High court tells Escazú mayor to clean up the town
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court ordered Escazú to clean up its act after residents complained of too many empty lots piled with garbage and producing sewage.

The court, in a decision released Tuesday, ordered the mayor of Escazú, Marta Gabriela Calvo Venegas, to immediately carry out the orders necessary to reduce the amount of garbage on the streets within the next eight days.

David Humaña, an agent at the Escazú municipality's department of recycling, said that on average, 4,000 kilos of trash are collected for recycling each day. However, most of the waste does not come from street pickups.
“We collect garbage mostly from commercial venues, offices and bodegas,” he said.

An Escazú resident identified by the last names of Bolaños Sasso filed a complaint against the mayor's office Aug. 18, complaining that the government refused to remove excess waste from a private plot of land that he owned.

Empty lots filled with garbage breeding mosquito and fly larvae are a problem most acute in the center of Escazú, said the resident.

The municipality also faced complaints about contaminated groundwater that weakened the foundations of certain houses, causing them to collapse. The municipality was also presented with evidence of a lack of decent drains and canals in the streets.

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More wireless planned
for central city area

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo ICE, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. and the Municipalidad de San José said Tuesday they have joined forces to extend the availability of wireless Internet all over the city.

In addition, the wireless service will be used by the municipality to provide camera surveillance for the Policía Municipal.

City officials also said they would be erecting kiosks in municipal parks to provide Internet service to those who do not have computers at home or at work.

Officials said that the goal was to bridge the digital divide in the city.  Now some areas of Escazú are covered by a wireless cloud provided by Radiográfica Costarricense.

Grupo ICE is the parent firm of Radiográfica Costarricense and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Óscar Arias to go to U.N.
for Security Council debate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will be heading to New York to participate Nov. 19 in an open debate in the U.N. Security Council on collective security and the regulation of arms.

Arias will be pushing his two proposals, an international treaty to restrict the sale and transportation of arms and the so-called consensus of Costa Rica under which wealthy countries would forgive the debts of developing nations that invest in social projects instead of the military.

The arms treaty would not stop the sale of arms but would require better record keeping by countries so they would know where the arms ended up.

Costa Rica is a non-permanent member of the Security Council representing Latin America.

Special luxury car tax
rejected in committee

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of a legislative committee have rejected a proposal that would put a 50 percent annual road tax surcharge of so-called luxury vehicles. The vote was 6 to 3 in the  Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios Tuesday.

The proposal was advanced by the Partido Acción Ciudadana and would have covered vehicles worth more than 7 million colons. That's about $12,700 at the current exchange rate.

Opponents said that most owners had vehicles that fell in that category and that they did not want to encourage Costa Ricans to purchase vehicles worth less than 7 million colons.

Chinese leader to visit legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of China, Hu Jintao, will make an official visit to the Asamblea Legislativa Monday morning as part of his stay here Sunday and Monday.

Costa Rican officials are expected to lobby for a free trade agreement with China and the visiting president is expected to tour the site of the new national stadium that his country is building here at the northwest corner of Parque La Sabana.

Baby found in hospital trash can

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An attendant at Hospital San Juan de Dios found a newborn who had been stuffed in a bathroom trash can Monday night, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents quickly detained a 27-year-old woman they presumed to be the mother. Agents said it appeared that the woman gave birth in the bathroom and then just left the child there.

She is being hospitalized but under a police order of detention.

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Legislature finally passes the last free trade treaty measure
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, the Asamblea Legislativa has approved on second reading the final measure needed to bring the free trade treaty with the United States into effect.

The lawmakers voted 38 to 13 just after noon Tuesday to approve the bill, which addresses intellectual property protection and some other changes to existing laws to conform to what is required under the treaty that was approved by voters more than a year ago.

The 13 laws were called the implementing agenda, and most were fought by opponents in the legislature. Tuesday each lawmaker had a brief time to discuss the bill, and the approval came from the same coalition that the executive branch has been able to maintain since the 2006 elections. The 38 votes represent two thirds of the 57-seat chamber.

The trade treaty has been the No. 1 priority of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration, and Casa Presidencial quickly produced a press release in which Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia and the president's brother, praised the patriotism and responsibility of those who voted for the measure.

"After four and a half years of debate, after getting two extensions to incorporate the country into the treaty and after an historic referendum where the majority said yes to this commercial accord, finally we are closing this chapter," said Rodrigo Arias. "Now is the time to leave our differences behind,"

Marco Vinicio Ruiz, the minister of Comercio Exterior, said that in the next few days the executive branch will do what is necessary so that the treaty can enter into effect by Jan. 1. Among the work will be the drafting and editing of
regulations that apply to the bill passed Tuesday. The bill
 has to be signed by President Arias, and both the law and the regulations must be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

As a result of the two extensions given by the other nations that are party to the agreement, Costa Rica has until Jan. 1 to complete all the legal work. President Arias hoped to win passage of the treaty in early 2007, but legislative opponents and their demand for a referendum slowed significantly the process.

"Better late than never," the president said in a news release. He learned of the approval while attending the annual awards lunch of the American Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado also applauded the passage and said that the treaty is a window of opportunity for small and medium companies.

The Asociación Nacional de Exportadores de la Industria Textil and the Cámara Textil Costarricense also offered their praise for the positive vote. But the oganizations also said that some 6,000 jobs were lost in the textile industry this year due to delays in getting the treaty into force. A press release noted that the treaty was signed Aug. 5, 2004.

In addition to the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic are parties to the treaty. Costa Rica has just approved a free trade treaty with Panamá that was encouraged by the larger treaty.

Despite the happiness among treaty backers, opponents have said they will seek a renegotiation of the pact with the new Barack Obama administration in the United States after he takes office in January.

Yikes! The neighborhood panhandler was a French fugitive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If we knew that he was a fraud suspect we probably would
not have given the nice old man any money.

Several times an aging, lanky man who identified himself as French came to the gated entrance of A.M. Costa Rica seeking a little help. The stories were different.

One time he had been robbed of his papers at a local bus station. Once there was the suggestion of medical attention that was needed at the nearby Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The man freely admitted that he did
French detainee
not have residency papers for Costa Rica.
The first time employees put him in a taxi and paid the driver to take him to the local Salvation Army refuge. But he turned up again. And again. He probably will not be visiting any more. The Fuerza Pública detained him Tuesday on an international arrest warrant from France.

The allegation is fraud, and the warrant was processed by the International Police Agency.

According to the Fuerza Pública, the man's last name is  Heydari and he was living in an apartment only a few blocks away. He was detained while he walked near the hospital. His age was reported to be 70.

Carlos León, head of the San José centro office of the Fuerza Pública, said that the man entered Costa Rica illegally about four years ago from Panamá. He will be held for return to France. There was no other information about the crime, but if  Heydari is guilty, his conduct here suggests that any money is long gone.

Election tribunal rejects plan for death penalty referendum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has rejected a request to seek signatures to put a question on the ballot seeking the death penalty for murderers, pedophiles and other sexual abusers.

The petition was presented to the court by Clarence Sánchez Jiménez, a private citizen, May 2. Collecting signatures is the first step in a public referendum. Solicitors have to get 5 percent of the number of voters in the last general election. But first the tribunal must authorize collection and specify the style of the signature form.

The proposed ballot question also would have sought death for family members, such as stepfathers, who are convicted of abusing another family member.
The death penalty is currently illegal in Costa Rica.

Wendy Gonzalez, a lawyer at the tribunal who handled the case, said that the resolution was rejected because it failed to fulfill basic requisites for a proposed referendum, meaning that Jiménez did not include sufficient documented evidence that would have justified turning his proposal into a national referendum.

She added that the groundbreaking nature of such a proposal also caused the tribunal magistrates to hesitate.

“This topic would have involved constitutional reform because it would essentially establish the death penalty in Costa Rica,” she said. “So to create such a referendum, it would have been necessary to create a project that would first have to be approved by the Asamblea Legislativa.”

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Turtle protectors protest advancement of tuna-raising plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental organization said Tuesday it had appealed a decision that once more puts in motion a project to raise tuna in ocean cages in the Golfo Dulce on the country's Pacific coast.

The organization is the Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas which has an interest in the project because it said the cages and contamination represent threats to turtles.

The organization reported that the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental recommended last week that the project by Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. continue. The company plans to purchase live yellowfin tuna from local fishermen and then fatten them in at least 10 holding tanks in the ocean.

The Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas and Golfo Dulce residents were instrumental in having the Sala IV constitutional court suspend the project May 9, 2007.
In a press release Tuesday the organization said that the concerns of the court expressed in the suspension decision have yet to be met despite the action by the Secretaría Técnica.

The organization cited inconsistencies with the Secretaría Técnica's decision and a report by the Centro de Investigación Marina y Limnología of the Universidad de Costa Rica which said that more studies need to be done of the local ocean currents and the final location of the waste products generated in the holding tanks.

In addition there still is no plan to mitigate the impact on marine turtles, the organization said.  Turtles nest on the beaches of Punta Banco, Estrechura and Río Coco, and newly hatched turtles enter the sea there. The tuna cages would impair their travel, the organization said.

The organization said the appeal went to the Secretaría Técnica and to the minster of Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunications in whose agency the decision was made.

U.S. Navy retiree George Thorn remembered by his friends
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fellow expats gathered Tuesday at a local bar to bid farewell to George Thorn, a U.S. Navy retiree.

Thorn died last week in a local hospital due to an infection incurred while undergoing therapy for cancer. The chemotherapy had rendered him so weak that his body was unable to fight off this latest complication, said friends. He was known as "George, the Mailman" among his expat buddies because of his second career with the U.S. Postal Service.

Thorn spent a career in the U. S. Navy, retiring as a petty 
officer, first class.  As an intelligence analyst specializing in East Asia and the Pacific, Thorn spent much of his overseas time stationed in Japan, said a friend.  

After his Postal Service retirement, Thorn came to Costa Rica.  He spent much of his pension supporting a Costa Rican family, friends said.  In his personal life he was known as a Scrabble champ and an advanced computer user, a friend said.

For a time, Thorn worked as a greeter at the New York Bar in downtown San José, where his friends gathered Tuesday. He is survived by a daughter who lives in the United States. Funeral services are pending.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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 week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

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.


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.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Tourism slowdown cited
by U.N. monitoring agency

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International tourism has started slowing rapidly since the middle of the year, reflecting consumer concern worldwide and rising inflation in many countries, the United Nations reports in its latest measure of the health of the global travel industry.

The regular barometer of the U.N. World Tourism Organization, released Monday, found that growth in the number of international tourist arrivals fell below 2 per cent in June, July, and August after averaging 5.7 per cent between January and April.

The agency said its initial forecasts indicate there will be an even more modest performance in the tourism sector in 2009 as the effects of the global financial crisis continue to take their toll, with many consumers finding that their travel budgets are being squeezed.

But overall growth for 2008 is still projected to reach about 2 per cent, thanks in part to ongoing robust growth in the Middle East and a better-than-expected performance in the Americas. Europe, the Asia-Pacific and Africa have recorded weaker results.

Between January and August this year, 642 million international arrivals were counted, a rise of 23 million on the same period last year, according to the organization.

The Madrid-based agency noted in a press release that tourism has so far resisted the global economic downturn better than many other sectors, such as construction or car manufacturing.

However, the average length of stay for many holiday-makers is set to shorten, cheaper destinations are becoming more popular, and many consumers are turning to destinations closer to their homes, it said.

The barometer was released a day ahead of the international gathering in London of government tourism ministers, and this meeting is itself being followed by a series of regional response groups, starting with the Middle East later this month.

Ex-president's son shot in back

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators in Liberia are trying to learn the circumstances that led to the shooting of Luis Oduber, the 45-year-old son of the former president, Daniel Oduber.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that Oduber entered the Hospital de Liberia Tuesday morning suffering from a shotgun blast to the back. Agents said that he had been hit with shotgun pellets but they did not give the size of the projectiles.

They said that the shooting appeared to have happened in the family home.

Daniel Oduber, whose name the Liberia international airport bears, served as president from 1974 to 1978.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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