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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Nov. 23, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 231       E-mail us
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Country's sagging infrastructure becomes a priority
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Narrow streets, massive amounts of potholes, century-old rotting bridges and two-hour long traffic jams for a trip that should take 10 minutes. Sounds like one dreaded Monday morning? Such is the reality of transportation in Costa Rica, which just last month reached a breaking point. The tragedy Oct. 22 when the bridge that communicated Orotina and Turrubares collapsed has opened perhaps the biggest can of worms: the long overdue and deliberate negligence towards investing and maintaining local infrastructure has become clear.

This country has two major problems: inadequate preparation for its seismic nature and deplorable road-bridge conditions. Both mix to form the perfect recipe for disaster. Sadly, it seems that Costa Rica only reacts after major tragedies claim precious lives. 23 people died in Cinchona Jan. 9, and five died in October in the Río Grande de Tarcoles. Both incidents have shed some light over the historic governmental negligence that has turned Costa Rica into a time bomb.

Roads in Costa Rica are still pretty much the same as 30 years ago. However, during that time, the population has doubled and so has the size and amount of cars. Obsolete rotondas or traffic circles are still used in San Jose although some are being replaced, and a minor traffic accident can cause jams of up to five hours. For a country that strives to become part of the developed group of countries, Costa Rica has to address governmental institutions plagued with problems and delays.

If Costa Rican governments understood that the country would do well to invest primarily in good road infrastructure, natural disaster planning and education, decisions would be easier to make. Improving education will produce better citizens and reduce crime. Decent roads and bridges will reduce the amount of accidents and natural disaster casualties, and good emergency planning and prevention will reduce the loss of life and money.

Costa Rica has three main voices: one from the experts, who make sure they warn everybody about the importance of listening to their recommendations; another from the government, which many times contradicts experts, promises to follow through or excuses itself for not acting; and the third one from the media, which reports both sides. However, for decades, this country has lived on printed and broadcasted words, not actions, and now the voices of the communities are only heard when there are victims to mourn.

According to several government accounts, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has been one of the entities with the most inadequate public budget and the highest level of bureaucracy. Infrastructure has been paralyzed for up to four decades, and due to this year’s tragedies, the current administration is being blamed for what dozens of prior presidents failed to implement. However, this government — despite its mistakes and criticism — is doing what many avoided: it has changed the course of action, taking into its own hands projects that have been paralyzed for months, years or decades, such as the completion of the Juan Santamaría airport (paralyzed 17 months), the highway San Jose-Caldera (paralyzed 30 years), and the Costanera Sur (paralyzed 47 years). It has also rewritten the transportation law, among other projects to improve road conditions, including rationing of downtown traffic.

Even though the ministry has 50 years worth of projects to complete, this administration took the first step, and hopefully future presidents see it as

tire in pothole
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Everyone has a favorite pothole.

a milestone to guide their own path. One problem, of course, is that the country is broke. The San José-Caldera highway project and the Juan Santamaría airport improvements are being paid for by concession contracts. So will extensive improvements of the port of Limón if the government gets its way. The concession holders bring outside money to the country in hopes of making a profit. The average Costa Rican will end up paying more.

Among the most recent successes is the Costanera Sur where the last stretch of asphalt is being put down between Quepos and Dominical. And reports from the Caribbean say that the main highway in the vicinity of Puerto Viejo has been patched. But municipalities are in the same financial boat, and some of the worst roads are the responsibilities of municipal government, who are not getting enough funds from the central government.

The bridge crisis is much more complex than the road situation. Most rural bridges were built during the first half of the last century, many were made primarily of wood, and since they are not major routes of transportation, they have been neglected. Understandably, having such a load of pending issues, the government has been taking care of priority cases, but the latest tragedy evidenced how rural communities are often forgotten, and what is worse, some of those towns are the most visited by tourists. On top of age and materials, the latest study made by the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales determined that most bridges in the valley are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes, and that they will issue a separate seismic code for bridges in 2010.

These problems directly affect the expat community, personally and financially, especially to those who invest in tourism and real estate. A country with deficient road infrastructure and collapsing bridges poses a significant risk for clients, service providers and investors, not to mention the financial set back it creates when visitors or potential residents decide Costa Rica is still not ready for real business.

Perhaps the next president should take a look next door and see how much revenue Panamá is collecting by investing wisely in optimizing the city’s landscape and usability. Costa Rica’s biggest competition in Latin America is Panamá, and its threat is growing. Realizing that soon this country will be known as the backyard of Panamá might just do the trick.

Garland M. Baker is a 37-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2009, use without permission prohibited.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 231

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lead boat
File photo/Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI. Used with permission
The lead mono-hulled Safran

Lead boat Safran due
in Limón within 24 hours

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The lead boat in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Safran, was about 240 miles from the finish in Limón. Based on the craft's speed of 13 knots, arrival should be sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

The boat's captain, Marc Guillemot, said he and his colleague  Charles Caudrelier felt relieved because they had a significant lead on the no. 2 boat, Groupe Bel. Also close to the leader is the multi-hulled Multi 50 Crepes Whaou! Safran is a mono-hull and competes in a different class, but there always is interest in the battle between the mono- and multi-hulled boats.

"The wind is getting lighter and so we need to make the maneuvers to balance up the boat for the lighter winds and so we have to move the kit around below," said Guillemot by radio early Monday. He estimated his arrival in Limón at 1:30 to 4 a.m. Tuesday, but it was not clear if he was speaking of local time.

Costa Rica has invested more than $1 million in having the race finish here. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has invested 500,000 euros. That's about $740,000. Government agencies in the Limón area also have invested a similar amount, the tourism institute said. Much of the money went to construct docking facilities for the sailboats. 16 remain in the race.

The race will terminate in Limón also in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the tourism board said. Officials hope to generate a return of 20 million euros or nearly $30 million.

The tourism board has constructed a series of promotion stands near Muelle 70 where the boats will tie up. Various companies and organization will be demonstrating their wares. The tourism board expects a great number of tourists to see the race finish. Officials were hoping that the lead boat would arrive Sunday afternoon.

The race is a true test of seamanship, although luck plays a role, too. The Hugo Boss had to find the nearest dock when it hit something floating in the Atlantic. In addition to the complex boat handling, the racers chart their own courses within the limitations of the rules in order to take advantage of the most favorable winds.

So are there special permits
for a Tyrannosaurus rex?


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even dinosaurs need health permits and business licenses in Escazú.

Municipal officials closed down an exhibit of a Tyrannosaurus rex for a time Friday because they said that the organizers did not have all the necessary permits.

The replica of the giant lizard, nicknamed Sue, is being exhibited at the Centro Comercial Avenida Escazú.

The municipality said that lawyers representing the exhibit showed up near the close of business Friday and obtained additional permits and paid additional money. Marco Segura Seco, the mayor, signed the papers permitting the exhibit to continue.

The original Sue, named after discoverer Sue Hendrickson, is in the Field Museum in Chicago. It is said to be the most complete skeleton of the dinosaur ever found. It came from South Dakota. The creature lived some 85 million years ago.

Nokia warns about chargers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that Nokia cell phone chargers models AC - 3U, AC - 3E and acessories AC - 4U can lose their plastic top and leave electrical components exposed. The manufacturer is offering to make exchanges and has set up an explanatory Web site,

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A.M. Costa Rica
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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 weekday.

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.

Searching

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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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.

Classifieds

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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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 231


Lawyer continues to press to put Luis Milanes in detention
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The lawyer for a group of Saving Unlimited investors is asking the Corte Suprema de Justicia to step in and take action against Luis Milanes and his assets to protect her clients.

In August the lawyer asked the nation's chief prosecutor, a judge and other prosecutors to put Luis Milanes in jail so he will not flee the country. But the lawyer was not satisfied with the response.

Milanes is accused of fraud in the November 2002 collapse of his high-interest borrowing operation that was housed in Edificio Colón. He was a fugitive for six years.

The lawyer also wanted a number of steps taken to insure that Milanes assets are safeguarded for possible distribution to her clients. She is María Elena Gamboa Rodríguez, who has been working with a small group of investors for years in an effort to get some of their money returned.

Milanes served a day in jail when he returned form El Salvador to face the fraud charge. He appears to have made some agreement with Francisco Dall'Anesse, the chief prosecutor. Representative of the International Police Agency spotted Milanes as he was about to board a flight to San José. Ms. Gamboa noted in her August filing that the man was carrying a false Costa Rican passport. She also notes that he has a U.S. passport and an expired Cuban passport. He is a dual Cuban-U.S. citizen.

In her filing, Ms. Gamboa asked that all the passports be confiscated to prevent Milanes from fleeing and that he be placed in jail.

The filing reflects the frustration of the investors. Ms. Gamboa and other lawyers representing other small groups have been negotiating with Milanes representatives in an effort to come to some financial agreement. Milanes said June 19, 2008, shortly after he arrived in Costa Rica, that he was going to try to make a deal with his investors. However, the Milanes representatives are offering a very small percentage to pay off the investors, A.M. Costa Rica learned.

At the time he arrived, a judge allowed Milanes to put up some holdings as a form of property bail. Ms. Gamboa questions the value of these properties and said that a judge released some property in exchange for property of lesser
value. She wanted the court to put a notation on all of the property owned by Milanes to prevent its sale. This is a process at the Registro Nacional which would tell someone looking at the records that the property is involved in a court case.

In addition, the lawyer seems to be going after the extensive holdings that Milanes has in the casino business. He runs at least the Tropical in the Hotel Morazán, the Royal Dutch and the Río in the Hotel Europa. She asked the prosecutors and judges to conduct what basically is a full audit of the Milanes holdings, including the Hotel Europa where he has one casino.  She also said she would like to know from where the money came to purchase the casinos and the equipment. She suggested the money came from the funds Milanes took from her clients.

She also noted in August that Milanes continues to live and conduct business here. And she said in the filing of some 18 pages that she fears Milanes is spending the money that should be returned to her clients.

She asked the court and the prosecutors to notify all of those who have filed as victims in this case about what is taking place to see if they would join in the requests she has made.

When Saving Unlimited folded, the estimate was that investors lost about $200 million. Ms. Gamboa estimated $100 million in her filing.  She noted in the same filing that a former lawyer of Milanes went public after he quit and said that Milanes only was prepared to return $1 million to investors.

She said it was absolutely necessary to stop Milanes from decimating the money that would be used to satisfy her clients and from enriching himself with the money he got from them.

The lawyer also asked for an oral hearing to present her petition in more detail.

It is unclear exactly when part or all of the petition was denied. Most procedural hearings are closed, and the judicial files are not public record. However, an investor said that the appeal was being made to the high court.

Investors have been surprised at the easy treatment Milanes has faced since he returned. They note that two presidents were handcuffed and kept in jail for months.


Argentina decriminalizes libel as Costa Rica was ordered
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The senate in Argentina has approved a bill that would eliminate prison terms for libel and slander.  The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas said that the action comes 10 years after the Argentine government signed an agreement with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights saying it would do so.

Costa Rica also has been ordered by the Inter-American court to eliminate the criminal penalties for the crimes which are called injurias y calumnias in Spanish. The law mostly is applied against news reporters. The last conviction here was of a reporter for La Nación. The Inter-American court is based in San José.

The chamber of deputies in Buenos Aires already had approved the bill, so all that is needed is a signature by President Cristina Fernández

The Committee to Protect Journalists praised what the senate had done. “We commend Argentina’s authorities for passing this bill, which strikes down criminal sanctions for libel and slander,” said Carlos Lauría of the journalist advocacy organization. “It is an important step towards
advancing free expression in Argentina, and a landmark  decision in the campaign to repeal criminal defamation in the Americas.”

Such crimes frequently are used as weapons against newspeople even when what they write is correct. In the Argentine case, an author, Eduardo Kimel, was convicted of the crime in 1995. He was sentenced to a year in jail and fined. His book is "La masacre de San Patricio," a report on murders of priests during the dictatorship in that country. A judge brought the case.

The Inter-American court, which has jurisdiction in many countries by treaty, ordered that Kimel's sentence be thrown out.

A measure in the Costa Rican Asamblea Legislativa has been in the hopper for eight years. Lawmakers are reluctant to move on it, in part, because the elimination of the criminal penalties would be an incentive to investigative reporting.

In the United States libel and slander are usually civil matters, although a few states have a criminal libel law on their books that is used infrequently.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 231


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More reader responses to living here and consulates

Why move to Costa Rica
just to complain about life?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have read many e-mails in your readers opinions section about the various inconveniences the U.S. expats  are suffering through because they retired to Costa Rica. New luxury tax, home break-ins, need to start packing guns, visa problems, bad roads, brake & jake noise, etc, etc. So my basic question is, why did you consciously decide to retire there? 
 
Over the years I have witnessed first hand many Americans, mostly bachelors, who have retired down there for a "new lifestyle." New lifestyle ? That's a joke:
 
1. Besides Spanish being the spoken language in Costa Rica,  these perpetual tourists (some seeking residencia status) make no attempt to learn proper Spanish because their bad "Spanglish" is enough to get them by as most Costa Ricans nowadays speak some English. Hell, they spoke bad Spanglish here in the U.S. on occasion as well. No mucha diferencia.
 
2. Most of the Gringos I've known here in South Florida moved out of a gated condo and bought in a gated community in Costa Rica. Trading one gated community for another. Wow, how adventurous ! ¿Que es la diferencia?
 
3. Most of these adventurer's had a more or less predictable lifestyle here in South Florida. Already retired, they arose, fixed breakfast, went for a brisk walk and/or kayaking or to the beach each morning. Then in la tarde or early en la noche they drifted over to their favorite watering hole for some beers. Yikes, that's EXACTLY what these "adventurer's" are now doing in Costa Rica, except the beers are called cervezas. Sometimes on the weekends, they timidly venture out of their gated communities to shop at the local Supermercado.  Hmmm, otra vez, no mucha diferencia.
 
As far as cheap medical care, anyone over 65 will lose their Medicare coverage in Costa Rica, a significant down side. I imagine I am like most retirees in that I was relatively healthy up until I was 65. So my Medicare coverage along with my personal hard earned medical insurance "es muy importante." I enjoy relatively low medical and prescription costs right here, no need to go south of the border to achieve that.  Just hope Osma bin Obama doesn't screw that up.
 
But lets face it, it costs $1,500/month to live comfortably in Costa Rica now, ( assuming no mortgage or car payment ), not the $500/month as was the case 25 years ago. My present monthly cost of living here in SW Florida is basically the same.
 
And with my monthly income of $1,650 social security and $1,200/month pension/mutual funds, I enjoy  a monthly income of approximately $2,850, — way more than I'll ever need with no home mortgage or car payment.  Enough to VISIT Costa Rica and lay on a beach for three months each year enjoying the howler monkeys and jungles, as well as visit anywhere else in the world I choose. And I don't have to worry about my home being broken into while I'm gone.
 
I have to believe its a better way to go than buying a home in Costa Rica and retiring there only to stew about the various overly hyped injustices being visited upon "us poor American expats " Just my take on what I am reading.
Joe Furlong
Cape Haze, Florida

Costa Rican L.A. consulate
treats visitors badly, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have heard all of these horror stories regarding people dealing with the U.S. Embassy here.  I do feel there is real reason to be very upset with the way many things are handled.  I know The Ticos feel like second class citizens when going to the embassy.  They should at least be treated with dignity and respect.  So my feelings go out for all that have gotten the run around or been mistreated.

I would like to make it clear, this problem also occurs in the Costa Rican consulate in Los Angeles.  The employees are very arrogant and give you the runaround as much as possible.  Everyone in the office treated you worse if you spoke English and they even questioned me why I don't speak Spanish.   I explained because I was in the United States and I prefer to speak English.  I then went on in Spanish so they knew I was fluent enough in Spanish and I might be treated better.  That was wishful thinking.
 
Nothing is explained entirely so sometimes when you return with what you think is everything you need, there is something that you found was left out or not complete.  They then look at you like you are some kind of idiot.
 
I had one interesting encounter with the jefe (head guy) of the consulate, several years ago.  I needed a timbre (a worthless little stamp) for a document to be approved.  He quickly got out the little timbre put it on my document and asked me for $40.  I said in Spanish why forty dollars?  He responded, because that is what I am charging you.  I said is that the standard price?  He just repeated,  that is what I am charging you.  He knew he had me by the huevos.  So I got out two twenties and handed it over to him.  He then blatantly pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and put the two twenties in his own wallet.   Then abruptly asked me to leave.

So for those that get frustrated by the U.S. embassy, let it be known it happens in the Costa Rican consulates in the States, too. I am sure many of these employees get this feeling of power and use it abusively on the innocent public dealing with them.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Rude embassy worker
denies Tico visitor visa


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was just reading the story of the person's whose wife was treated terribly at the U.S. Embassy trying to get an emergency visa to assist her injured husband and so this has prompted my memory of our experience.

In July of 2006, my 83-year-old father was gravely ill in the States, hospitalized, my mother in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. I had already been there several times to be with them, and I was faced with taking care of their home, clearing it out as neither would be returning.

My partner here, who is Tico, was going to come with me for two weeks to help me with what was needed. I also wanted him to meet my parents before they died. We had all the documents needed. We have a tourism business here. He has property, work and family here. He has no reason to remain in the U.S. All our ducks were in a row, so we thought as we waited in a four-hour line before the final interview.

I went with him up until that final moment but was able to stand behind him at the window. He was quite nervous, but we were excited for the opportunity for him to come to the States despite the circumstances. An Asian woman was the interviewer. Her Spanish was limited, and he could only speak in Spanish to plead his case. This woman would not look through the documents, pushed them aside. She asked the reason for his going to the States. We also had letters of invitation for him to stay with my parents' neighbors. 

In less than two minutes she told him he had no reason to go to the States. Friends of my family were not friends of his and again there was no reason for him to go. He was denied. It was the way she did it. She was extremely rude, cut him off while he was talking, told him to stop talking. He was given a form and told he could reapply in a year. He was humiliated by the experience, by her manner of talking to him.

Working with many Americans as tourists, he has always treated people extremely well. As an American, I was outraged and embarrassed by her treatment of him. People here would not consider treating another person like that. Even if he were to be denied, there should be some common courtesy and finesse of how to deal with those applying for a visa. This woman could care less how she treated people. How could this woman be our representative of the U.S.?  Here we are in a country that welcomes tourists. People here will go to any length to assist Americans, others foreigners.  I was reminded, too, that this woman is a foreigner living here.

So I went alone to the States. Since that interview, both of my parents have since died. I was dealt with the huge task of fixing up and selling their home alone. It would have been great for him to have met them and to have helped me.  My partner has yet to reapply, what is the point to again face this same kind of encounter and trauma.

Would I ask for assistance from this embassy, never!

Susan Jody Mangue
Desampardos de Alajuela
First mate got a U.S. visa
without any problems

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have only been to the U.S. embassy here in Costa Rica once. I am a manager for a sportfishing boat here in the country. I am an American citizen.

Myself and our first mate were invited by the owner who lives in Florida to come on a fishing trip with him in Florida. The mate and I went to see about getting a visa for him. He did not own a house or have a big bank account. We were asked a few questions and were treated very well. The mate received a 10-year visa. Certainly we can't be the only people who have had a good experience.

Dennis Evans Arnold
Quepos


Tico consulate in Denver
is rude and unhelpful


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have read the letters about the rude and crude U.S. Embassy staff, and I am reminded of what happened to my wife here in Denver (U.S.A.). Three years ago (she was a greencard holder then) I wanted her to see Costa Rica and fall in love with it as I had.

There was (probably still is) a local Costa Rican consulate office in Denver. I contacted them time and again and they were the most rude and unhelpful people I had ever come across. 

They told me that the online forms were not acceptable and that they will mail me a "special" form. It turned out to be the same form (except it was in black ink rather than in color)! It took repeated calls and four weeks to get this form. We filled it out and sent it in with copies of our airline tickets and other documents.

When I didn't hear from them for two weeks (remember this is a local office so it can't be as busy as a single office in a country — at least thats what I assumed) I called them and talked to the wife (the husband was the officer and the wife ran the office). She would refuse to let me talk to anyone when I would call to find out what I needed to do. She finally told me (without looking at our file/papers) that we can not apply for a visa ahead of time — we have to apply within 30 days of our travel (I wanted to argue the stupidity of such a rule with the officer, but of course she didn't let me talk to her husband).

I then waited and 31 days before our trip I called the office. They were closed. I called the Houston office, and no one answered the phone. I called the Washington, D.C., office and finally got hold of someone who would answer my questions. What I found out was even more bizarre but now jives with the bureaucratic nonsense that Costa Rica is full of. The woman did confirm the rule of 30 days (how the heck do you make airlines, hotel, car reservations if you have only 30 days to do it, and how do you ever find decent rates?) 

She also told me that we cannot send the application to Washington, D.C., or another office. But we have to go in person to get this visa. And that the Costa Rican office is closed for six weeks, and we will need to go to Houston (which would add $800 or more to this trip's cost) and that my wife cannot be issued the visa because she was flying to Costa Rica from Colombia and not U.S.A.  (I, of course, wouldn't need a visa because of my U.S. citizenship).

We wanted to attend her mother's birthday in Colombia first and then go to Costa Rica on our way back home. Those were the rules of the Costa Rican consulate - seemingly against their own kind (my wife is Colombian).

I canceled our tickets, losing $600+ because of this and the rescheduling was only possible with higher priced tickets.
I compared this to our visit to Panamá, Mexico and UK: no visa required for a greencard holder. They just stamped the passport giving her the same footing as a U.S. citizen.

When I posted my anger about this on a Costa Rican Web site, most respondents told me "Tough, if you don't like it go elsewhere" or "You need to follow our rules not what's convenient to you" and other such comments.

So, my wife and I have not set foot in Costa Rica since then. She is a U.S. citizen now and doesn't need to deal with such idiots as were in the Denver office. But the bad taste left in our mouths lingers and the horrible state of Costa Rica (crime and prices) has made our choice to visit other countries (Panamá, Mexico, Colombia etc.).

It has been a lot more fun and convenient and we may move and settle in another country. Some day when the crime is down in Costa Rica, we may visit Costa Rica, but for now we are staying away.
Raman Jalota
Denver, Colorado


EDITOR'S NOTE: The Costa Rican representative in Denver is an honorary consul, meaning that those working there probably are not Costa Ricans. The office is notorious for delays and other problems.



Internet censorship begins
with the anti-porno law

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is interesting to read that also in Costa Rica the first step to complete censorship of the internet is starting. [Story HERE!]

A similar law was passed in Australia a few years ago under the influence of "child protection." Officially the intention of the new law was to stop child pornographic sites on the Internet. But this was only a very small part of the truth. Nowadays you still get sites with child pornography on their Internet but many critical sites have disappeared.

It is not without reason that the Swedish "Pirate Party" got about 8 percent of the votes and secured two seats in the European Parliament with their policy of "freedom of the internet."

Sites with child pornography could be stopped with the existing laws, if the government really wanted to do something. But they are not interested in using the existing laws. They need this banner to carry before them as something that has to be fought with new laws. These new laws are the first steps taken for complete control of the Internet. In the next step or just by doing so, the governments can without a real reason, switch off sites that reveal uncomfortable FACTS, like for example on *Wikileaks.* Getting control on or over the Internet is the modern censorship many governments want.

In Germany the Pirate Party was started only a few weeks before the last election in September. Even without posters and advertising they got over 2 percent of all the votes. It might not seem much, and they therefore did not get a seat in parliament, but there is a slight awakening of the public. It can only be hoped, that the Costa Rican government uses the newly planned laws for the reasons named.

On the other hand if the state is to or wants to provide the software to filter sites, I personally become electricated. The danger of abuse is imminent. They (might) thereby have the complete control over the internet, better than they want or could only dream of. It could be the first step needed to get rid of critics and critical sites. And the parliament will have passed the laws for this. The bill might have been for another (good) reason, at least on paper. But there is the danger that it is the first step needed for complete control and censorship. In Germany some important law-changes are hidden behind the name of changing an unimportant law, there then being one more paragraph changed, which critics see too late. The bill could be only one step away from then slowly changing little by-laws, which then give the government the right to switch off sites. Often they then give themselves the right to do this without having to name a reason and without the possibility of repeal.

You might say I have been reading too much of "1984" or similar books. For all of us I hope so as well! It can only be hoped that the new bill and the law following this are really used for the good of all and that the dangers I see are without reason.
Klaus Ebeling
Germany



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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 231

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Opposite sides march
to express Ortega views


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 40,000 anti-government demonstrators march against what they called Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's attempt to set up a dictatorship.

Thousands of pro- and anti-government protesters took to the streets of Nicaragua's capital over the possible re-election of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

At least 40,000 anti-government demonstrators rallied Saturday in one area of Managua, marching against what they called Mr. Ortega's attempt to set up a dictatorship.

The rally marked the anniversary of last year's municipal elections.  Opposition supporters say President Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front won the elections by fraud.

In another part of the capital, Sandinista party supporters held a separate rally to show their continued support of President Ortega.

Nicaraguan police stepped up security, but there were no reports of clashes between the two groups.

The country's supreme court ruled last month that Ortega could run in the 2011 presidential election, striking down a constitutional prohibition on a president running for a second consecutive term.

Nicaragua currently allows its presidents to serve two non-consecutive five-year terms.  Ortega served his first term as president starting in 1985.  He was defeated for re-election in 1990, but began serving a second term in 2007 after winning a second term in national elections.

Uribe promises to avoid
Venezuelan confrontation


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says his country will not be provoked into a confrontation with neighboring Venezuela despite Venezuela's dynamiting of two cross-border pedestrian bridges. Uribe made the comment Friday, one day after Venezuelan soldiers blew up the suspension bridges that crossed into Colombia's Norte de Santander province.

In an interview with Colombia's RCN radio, Uribe said his country will not make gestures of war toward Venezuela, which he described as "our brother."  He said Colombia's goal is defeating terrorism.

Venezuela says the bridges were built illegally and used by smugglers. But, Colombian officials have said they will denounce the incident before the U. N. Security Council and the Organization of American States.

The border between the two countries has long been a source of friction.  Last month, the bullet-riddled bodies of several men, most of them Colombians, were found on the Venezuelan side.  Venezuela said the men were mainly Colombian paramilitaries. Venezuela also closed its border crossings recently after officials blamed Colombian paramilitaries for killing two Venezuelan soldiers.

Separately, relations have been tense since Bogota signed a military agreement allowing U.S. forces to use Colombian bases for anti-drug operations.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called the deal a threat to regional stability, but the United States and Colombia say the agreement does not pertain to other Latin American countries.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 231


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Another reporter is missing
in dangerous Mexican state


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Mexican reporter who had recently covered corruption and organized crime was reported missing last week in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, according to local news reports. The reporter, María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe, was last seen Nov. 11 near her home in Zamora.

Ms. Aguilar, a reporter for the daily El Diario de Zamora and local correspondent for the regional daily El Cambio de Michoacán, was last seen leaving her home in Zamora, 89 miles (144 kilometers) west of the state capital Morelia, Nov. 11, after she received a call on her cell phone, according to news reports. A spokesman at the Michoacán State Attorney said her family reported her missing last week.

Ms. Aguilar, a reporter with 10 years of experience who has worked with several regional outlets, had recently broken a series of stories on local corruption and organized crime for El Cambio de Michoacán, according to the paper. Oct. 22, she reported on a military operation near Zamora where at least three individuals, including the son of a local politician, were arrested on suspicion of participating with organized crime groups. Oct. 27, she published a story on local police abuse, after which a high-ranking official was forced to resign. Three days later, she reported on the arrest of an alleged boss of the Michoacán-based drug cartel La Familia Michoacana. According to a colleague at the daily, Ms. Aguilar did not use her byline on any of the stories for fear of reprisal.

Ms. Aguilar is the eighth Mexican reporter to have gone missing since 2005, according to CPJ research.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 39 newspeople have been killed since 1992 in Mexico, one of the most murderous places in the world for journalists. At least 18 were slain in direct reprisal for their work. Most covered organized crime or government corruption.

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