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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 233       Email us
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Winds are on the way, weather institute reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hold on to your hat, the weather institute says.
The institute issued a special bulletin Wednesday afternoon to alert the country to high winds that are expected today.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that a buildup of atmospheric pressure in the Caribbean would cause the winds.

They are expected to reach 70 kph (about 44 mph)  in the mountains with lesser gusts in the Central Valley and in Guanacaste.
Winds this time of year typically take roofs off some houses and down trees. Guanacaste is prone to such effects.

The institute said that the weather system also will cause rain in the Caribbean and the northern zone during the day with possible downpours in the Central Valley and also in the central and southern Pacific coasts.

The weather institute bulletin asked residents to take appropriate measures and noted that the winds would cause turbulence and gusts that might affect aircraft.

Country still one of safest but with troubling trend
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government statistics show Costa Rica remains one of the safest Latin American and Caribbean countries in which to live, but there is a recent rising trend in overall incidents of crime and homicides.

Current crime statistics compiled in the annual state of the nation report depict the threat of crime at an all-time high through 2010, the most recent period for which figures were used in the report.

In total, more than 235,000 crimes, for an increase of nearly 2 percent over the previous year, were reported in 2010, the report said.

Of those crimes, 527 homicides brought the country's murder rate to 11.5 persons per every 100,000 residents. Although that is not a significant increase in the figures realized in 2009, when the three-year homicide rate of 2008 to 2010 is compared with that of the preceding three years, 2005 to 2007, the increase is substantial: 46 percent, according to the report.

In comparison, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the United States had a homicide rate of
about 5 persons per 100,000 residents, although that rate is on average twice as high in urban areas.

Among its Central American counterparts Costa Rica has the lowest reported homicide rate next to Nicaragua, whereas countries like Honduras and El Salvador have rates six times greater than Costa Rica's, according to the statistics. Yet, all the Central American countries have experienced significant increases in that category since 2000.

And authorities in Costa Rica at least seem to have pinpointed the cause behind the rising number of homicides within the country. The reports attributes 40 percent of the assassinations in 2010 with professional hitmen or revenge killings related to narcotrafficking, compared to 15 percent of the people killed in the mid 1990s.

Property crime in Costa Rica was also at historically high levels last year with 1,825 reported cases per 100,000 residents.

And corresponding with the increase in crime in Costa Rica is congestion within the judicial system of pending cases, caused by more cases entering the courts each year than are adjudicated completely, the reports show.

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All Central America now
in a trade deal with México

By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica announced it has achieved the goal of expanding and modernizing the system of trade between México and Central America.

Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) signed an agreement which establishes the legal framework to meet current trade and production conditions in the area, the ministry said.

"This new agreement creates a legal and economic space that improves the facilitation of trade and the accumulation of origin in the region,¨ said Anabel González, minister of foreign trade. ¨So we continue to facilitate trade, open new opportunities, strengthen existing trade and contribute to the promoting increased trade and investment flow with México."

According to the ministry, the treaty promotes productive and economic integration among the countries of Central America and Mexico by allowing accumulation of origins, meaning it allows the use of materials originating in member countries of the treaty for the production of a final product.

The Comité de Integración Regional de Insumos was reactivated, under the treaty, to be responsible for determining the best conditions, in terms of origin, of certain textile products, electrical cables and paper bags, in cases where the supply of raw material for México to produce these products is insufficient.

Provisions to market access between Mexico and Costa Rica during times of insufficient supplies included duty-free trading of sugar, yogurt and custard powder, sheet iron, steel, drinks and gelatin powder, as well as vegetable protein hydrolysates, which are used as feedstock in the production process.

Additionally, modernized rules on investment, services, and intellectual property rules were reviewed for the administration of the agreement, in line with existing standards in more recent agreements in order to facilitate its administration, the ministry said. The treaty also included a new chapter on trade facilitation, which provides mechanisms to streamline, simplify and automate customs procedures.

Ms. González and her counterparts in El Salvador, Héctor Miguel Antonio Dada; Honduras, Jose Francisco Zelaya; Nicaragua, Orlando Solorzano; Mexico, Bruno Ferrari; and a deputy minister in Guatemala, Raul Trejo, met in San Salvador to sign the free trade agreement between Central America and Mexico, which established the legal framework.

The isthmus FTA is one of seven open trade fronts, all in different stages, on the ministry's agenda over the next year. Among these are agreements with the European Union, Peru, Singapore, Canada and the European Free Trade Association.  Negotiations with Korea are expected in 2012, as well as entry of Panamá into the Central American economy, according to the ministry.

Teacher on her way to school
victim of attack with acid

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Assailants confronted a school teacher while she was on the way to class Wednesday morning and one person dumped acid on her. She suffered serious burns.

The attack is being attributed to a child support dispute. The person who dumped the acid was identified as a woman. She was accompanied by at least one and perhaps two men near the local school in Santa Gertrudis de Grecia where the victim has worked for five years.

Fuerza Pública officers later detained a woman who is in a relationship with the father of the teacher's son. Agents said that this is the second time in a short period that the teacher was attacked.

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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The Christmas season police towers are now manned fully with evening shoppers and homebound office workers under the eye of Fuerza Pública officers on the downtown pedestrian mall and elsewhere in the country.

The vantage point gives police a chance to see more of the crowd and pick out possible crooks. Thefts are epidemic during the holidays because most Costa Rican workers get a bonus equal to  a month's pay.
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Murders of women generate discussion for U.N. initiative
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Femicide is a growing epidemic in Costa Rica said the director of Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres during a discussion Wednesday inside the Sala de Ex-presidentes at the Corte Suprema.

The panel titled “Violencia de Género y Crimen Organizado. Nuevos escenarios de la violencia contra las mujeres” was one of a series of events for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated today. The United Nations General Assembly made the worldwide initiative official in 1999. The date came from the assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic, believed by many to be on the orders of former dictator Rafael Trujillo. They were political opponents.

The panel gathered speakers on the subject of violence based on gender and organized crimes. They were Katina Chavarría Valverde, sub-director of the Fuerza Publica; Eugenia Salazar Elizondo, prosecutor for the Delitos Sexuales y Violencia Doméstica; Rodrigo Salas Rojas, prosecutor for the Unidad de Crimen Organizado; Mishelle Mitchell Bernard, director of Noticias Radio Monumental-Radio Reloj; and Álvaro Campos, director of the Instituto Costarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad. They concluded that the country has symptoms of an increase in femicide with the acceptance of prostitution and an influx in organized crime.

Women are now involved in organized crime and usually become a victim of organized crime, said Rojas. It is not enough that these women usually have to sleep with the entire gang to be a part of the organization, but if they mess up, they are brutally abused, raped and sometimes even killed, added Ms. Mitchell.

Rojas said that 10 percent of the women in prison are there because of their involvement with organized crime, mostly for drug trafficking. Costa Rica has not seen violence against women driven by organized crime like in Ciudad Juárez, México, he said, but there are four striking cases he recalled. There was the case of Ivannia Mora Rodríguez, a magazine journalist who was murdered by two hitmen in Curridabat in 2003, and a female lawyer killed in Desamparados. In 2001, two women and two children were kidnapped in San José and rescued by judicial police in Heredia. This year there was a woman who was kidnapped
and held captive for five days. The kidnappers asked for a $30,000 ransom, he said.

Since January until October there are 63 violent deaths of women here that are believed to be mainly because of their gender in Costa Rica, panelists said. Femicide is the killing of females because they are female by males, the speakers said.

“The violence against women has the same characteristic all over. It's the same as in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras,” said Maureen Clarke, the executive director of the women's institute “We're trying to get to the conscience of people in the community, so women won't be silent anymore.”

There were these statistics:

There are more than 16,200 reported incidents of rape of women between Jan 2001 and July 2011. Since 2007 until this year women have made more than 49,551 reports of abuse. And in Costa Rica one in three women are victims of physical violence. The numbers are smaller in Costa Rica compared to those in Guatemala where there are 3,414 reported female rape victims from January until October, according to the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses de Guatemala.

One of the resolutions to regress the epidemic was to re-educate men, said Campos. As director of the Instituto Costarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad, he explained that the focus there is on teaching men a culture of peace and respect for life. He referred to the effort as ternurizar or tenderize.

“Men should be allies in eradication and prevention. There has to be changes in masculine mentality,” said Campos.

Many women are repeat victims of abuse.

Prosecutor Salazar said that many of the victims are the ones that put a halt to the investigation of their case. The process of the investigation is not immediate, it takes anywhere from weeks to months for the process to even begin, she said.

“By the time it starts these women are either back together with their abuser, have lost interest in the incident, disappeared or simply lost faith,” she said. “Time lost is evidence lost.”

Women prisoners face off with knives, and four are injured
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Simmering anger between inmates at the nation's women's prison El Buen Pastor in Desamparados, exploded into a knife fight about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

A Cruz Roja worker said four persons suffered injuries and that two were hospitalized.

The confrontation appears to have started with a fistfight in the morning and culminated with a situation that required the intervention of nearly 100 police officers.
There was no immediate detailed report from the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz that operates the prison system through the Dirección General de Adaptación Social.

The prison system's September statistics report that there are 23,328 persons in prison. Some 900 of these are women, although 184 of these are what the system calls semi-institutionalized, meaning they can leave the prison and perhaps work in the community. Some 729 are jailed, and all of these would be held at El Buen Pastor, the nation's only lockup for women. The prison itself is in need of replacement, officials agree.

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Former passengers on a truck cool their heels at a lockup in Upala awaiting transportation back to Nicaragua.
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Frontier police fighting fireworks and illegal immigrants
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican frontier police grabbed a load of illegal fireworks and a truckload of illegal immigrants while carrying out searches under its new operation Navideño.

The 61 undocumented foreigners were packed in the back of a large truck driven by two men. They are suspected of being coyotes, individuals who specialize in transporting illegal aliens across the border. Police stopped the truck at a checkpoint in Upala Tuesday night.

The group of Nicaraguans contains four children under the age of 10. The would-be immigrants are being detained until they are transported back to their own country, said police. The two men are of the last names Alvarado Enríquez, who is 37, and Dinarte Pasos, who is 28, are suspected of illegal human trafficking and are being detained, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

At a different checkpoint stop in Santa Cecilia de La Cruz early Tuesday morning border police seized more than 5,000 units of illegal fireworks on a bus headed from Managua to San José. Authorities said a 35-year-old Nicaraguan man with resident status in Costa Rica and the last names Medina Martínez, is suspected of concealing the explosives, including 102 quarter-sticks of dynamite under the bus in his luggage.

Authorities say the man endangered the lives of all the passengers aboard the crowded bus.  The penalty for importing illegal fireworks into the country is up to six years in prison.
Upala truck
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
This truck held 61 Nicaraguan immigrants

Former pastor here pens book to support foreigners overseas
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A book written to provide encouragement and support to those
who live overseas has been released in print and electronic versions.

“Singing the Lord’s Songs in a Foreign Land, Biblical Reflections for Expatriates,” was written by Kenneth D. MacHarg, a pastor who has served seven international English-language congregations in five countries, including in Escazú. The book provides inspiration and insight for those who know both the excitement and struggles of living in another culture far from home,
Pastor's book
according to a summary by the publisher, Global Village Press.

More than five million Americans live abroad, not counting military soldiers serving around the world. Added to those are five and a half million British citizens who live overseas, or around 10 percent of the British population. One million Australians, almost three million Canadians and an estimated seven million Chinese live outside of their own countries, plus others from every nation.

Those often adventuresome people are commonly known as expatriates or expats for short. They live in teeming cities and small mountain towns. Others live in jungle communities or along the beach. And they are found in every country of the world.

The most common expats are diplomats, business people, oil workers, educators and students, missionaries, relief workers, employees of non-profit organizations, U.S. Peace Corps volunteers or those who serve as maids, nannies, tutors or laborers.

To those can be added millions of refugees fleeing violence or poverty and others dislocated by war or natural disaster.

No matter where they came from, each expat has experiences of unparalleled joy and excitement, new adventures, fascinating cultural differences, wonderful food and supportive new friends from around the world, said a news release.

Each also faces the challenges of living in another culture, learning a sometimes difficult language, feeling homesick,
experiencing grief at the loss of what is familiar while asking God why He seems to have taken them so far away and why life is so difficult, the release notes.

Said the release:

“The Bible speaks to these and other emotions. The Israelites lived in exile and felt deeply the pain and hurt of being in unfamiliar territory. Yet they found confidence in the Lord who, they discovered, was with them in the foreign land just as much as He was with them back home. Their perspective away from home was different, but God remained the same.
In this book of reflections the reader finds biblical insight into those feelings and questions that they have while living overseas. They were written to be read on an extended but regular basis such as one a day or a week.”

The 144-page book's topics include adjusting to a new culture, dealing with loneliness, cynicism, keeping pure in a tempting situation, preserving in the face of challenges and remaining faithful to the Lord in a foreign setting, according to the summary.

The author has served as either the pastor or interim pastor of the Margarita Union Church and Gatun Union Church in Panama, First (International) Baptist Church and English Fellowship Church in Quito, Ecuador, Escazú Christian Fellowship west of San José,  International Christian Fellowship in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and the International Church of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.

In addition MacHarg and his wife were missionaries with HCJB Global in Ecuador and the Latin America Mission in Costa Rica and Miami, Florida.

He has written seven previous books. MacHarg and his wife live in Carrollton, Georgia, when they are not serving a church outside of the United States. 

The print edition may be ordered for $8.95 from or from

It is also available for $4.95 for electronic readers from Kindle HERE. Other electronic versions may be ordered at

For more information and a sample chapter readers can see: or write to

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U.N. issues report to guide
cuts in greenhouse gases

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new United Nations study released Wednesday provides policymakers with technical and economically feasible guidelines on how to cut down greenhouse gas emissions so governments can meet their environmental targets by 2020.

“Bridging the Emissions Gap,” released by the U.N. Environmental Programme, argues that the world already has the solutions to avert damaging climate change, and gives specific recommendations to put these into action, highlighting the need for changes in the energy system and examining various economic sectors such as electricity production, transport, aviation, forestry and agriculture to consider for emissions reductions in the next 10 years.

“The annual UNEP Gap Report is a vital contribution to the global effort to address dangerous climate change,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “It shows that we have much to do, both in terms of ambition and policy, but it also shows that the gap can still be closed if we act now.  This is a message of hope and an important call to action.”

The report also examines research on the gap between the pledges made by countries to cut their greenhouse gas  emissions and what measures will be needed to keep the global temperature rise below the two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) target by 2020.

“This report puts into the hands of governments and policymakers vital information about their options if the world is to meet the climate change challenge,” said Achim Steiner, program executive director. 

In particular, the report cites aviation and shipping as important sectors to focus on as they account for 5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. However, these sectors fall outside the Kyoto Protocol, the emissions reduction treaty, whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.

“Options for reducing emissions from both sectors include improving fuel efficiency and using low-carbon fuels. For the shipping sector, another promising and simple option is to reduce ship speeds,” says the report.

Some of the report’s recommendations for policymakers include agreeing to implement the emissions reduction pledges with stricter rules, deciding to target their energy systems using more non-fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, and putting in place long-term, specific-sector policies to achieve the full emissions potential of the different economic sectors.

The provision of the guidelines, which involved 55 scientists and experts from 28 scientific groups across 15 countries, comes just a few days before the start of the U.N. Climate Change Convention in Durban, South Africa, and seven months before the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Time is short, so we need to optimize the tools at hand,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and a Costa Rican.

“In Durban, governments need to resolve the immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol, define the longer path towards a global, binding climate agreement, launch the agreed institutional network to support developing countries in their response to the climate challenge, and set out a path to deliver the long-term funding that will pay for that,” she said.

Brazil suspends drilling
because of Chevron leak

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Brazil are suspending the oil drilling activities of U.S. energy giant Chevron following an oil spill off Rio de Janeiro state.

The country's national petroleum agency made the announcement Wednesday, saying Chevron is banned from drilling until the causes of the leak are fully known.

The decision comes two days after Brazil fined Chevron $28 million in connection with the spill and said the company could face more fines in the coming days.  Brazilian officials also say the national government will ask Chevron to pay for damages caused by the spill near the Frade oil field.  Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 370 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Rio when the spill occurred.

The company's top official in Brazil, George Buck, Wednesday apologized to lawmakers for the leak, which regulators say is now under control.

Chevron has said it underestimated the pressure in the reservoir being targeted.  Chevron has taken responsibility for the leak, saying the problem was discovered Nov. 8 and the situation brought under control a few days later.  Chevron, however, has rejected accusations it did not notify local authorities quickly enough or properly manage the cleanup.

It is estimated the leak caused 200 to 300 barrels of oil per day to seep into the Atlantic Ocean over a period of about one week.

Noriega gets approval
to face charges at home

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A French appeals court has approved the extradition of jailed former Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega to his native country, to serve time for embezzlement, corruption and murder.

Noriega ruled Panamá from 1983 to 1989, when he was ousted by U.S. forces.

After his overthrow, he spent two decades in prison in the United States on drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering charges before being extradited last year to France, where he was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to seven years in jail.

Noriega told the French court Wednesday that he wants to go back to Panamá to prove his innocence. His lawyer said it is now up to the Central American nation to send police or a military plane to carry out the extradition.

The United States also gave its approval to authorize Noriega's return to Panamá, where he is accused of murdering political opponents.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said last week that Noriega will go to jail when he arrives in Panamá. But the president also acknowledged that the one-time U.S. ally, now in his late 70s, could be granted house arrest by law because of his age. He also is reported to suffer from health problems.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 233
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Strike by physicians ruled
illegal, but appeal likely

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A labor court has ruled illegal the long-running strike by anesthesiologists who work for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The ruling was by the Juzgado de Trabajo del Segundo Circuito Judicial, and the Poder Judicial said that all parties to the case had been notified.  There was no indication if the anesthesiologists would return to work. Nearly 2,000 operations at public hospitals have been delayed by the strike which began at mid-month.

The case is of interst to expats because foreigners with the various types of residency are required to join the Caja health services. One expat accident victim had to use private insurance and received treatment at Hospital Hotel la Católica last week because he languished for five days at Hospital Calderón Guardia without a needed operation.

For every expat there are hundreds of Costa Ricans who have had needed medical work canceled.

The labor court said that the work by the physicians was essential and therefore was covered by a section of the labor law and that health also was a constitutional right enshrined in the Costa Rican Constitution.

There are about 100 physicians who are members of the striking anesthesiologists association. An appeal of the labor court decision is likely. If the ruling is upheld, the physicians could suffer financial penalties.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda already said that representatives of the Caja are seeking replacements in Colombian and Cuba.

Utility rate hikes frozen
by ruling from Sala IV

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's price regulator has its hands tied because of a Sala IV constitutional court ruling.

The head of the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, Dennis Meléndez Howell, complained Wednesday that some 31 price adjustments are pending. He predicted an avalanche of price increases once the legal situation is resolved.

The Sala IV ruled Sept. 29 that final rate decisions could not be made. The process under which the agency determines rates is being challenged.

The agency said that there are 17 pending increases for bus services. There also is one for Correos de Costa Rica S.A., the postal service.

The pending increases with broad implications include seven for electricity and four for fuel. There also are rate increases pending for Puerto Caldera and Puerto Limón dock services

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad seeks an 18 percent increase in the rate for generating power, 24 percent for transmission and 33 percent for street lighting. One electrical cooperative seeks two increases, and the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia seeks one.

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