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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Nov. 28, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 237       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Nearly ready
for holidays

The structure of the Christmas portal or nativity scene nearly is complete on the flowered lawn of the Teatro Nacional.

Inauguration Monday brings three days of choirs and festivities to the Plaza de la Cultura and thousands of visitors.

portal at Teatro Nacional
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Immigration bill goes on president's priority agenda
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has placed a new immigration bill on the priority list for the Asamblea Legislativa in the so-called extraordinary session that begins Monday.

This is the bill that would require foreigners to demonstrate more financial capability in order to get residency here.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the presidency, released the list Thursday afternoon. During periods when the Costa Rican Constitution does not specify that the legislature can meet, the executive branch can call the 57 deputies into session. During these extraordinary sessions the executive branch sets the agenda.

Rodrigo Arias lumped the immigration bill, which has become controversial among expats, with other measures for citizen security. In all, there are 13 bills or projectos de ley that the legislature may consider and debate.

One, a beefed-up traffic bill, already has received an initial favorable vote in the legislature. It increases the fines for certain traffic violations.

The four other bills listed under citizen security are one against terrorism, one against organized crime, a general citizen security bill and one containing changes in the penal code.
Five economic bills and two energy bills complete

the agenda.  One economic bill modifies the budget. A second provides more money for the cash-poor national banks. Three allow the country to solicit loans from international agencies. One energy bill addresses private generation of hydro power, and the second involves rural electrical coops.

"All the opinion polls show that one of the principal preoccupations of the citizenry is related to insecurity," said Rodrigo Arias of the package of five bills. "This initiative that the executive power is listing and which has ample backing of diverse legislative fractions will be effective tools to help combat this disgrace."

The immigration bill was reported out of a committee Tuesday, and the committee chairwoman said it had wide, bipartisan support.

Some expats are unhappy with the bill because it increases the amount of money foreigners must show to gain pensionado status from $600 a month to $2,000. The money requirements to be a rentista would go from $1,000 a month to $5,000.

The impact still is unclear because the draft piece of legislation is short on details. However, one paragraph suggests that current pensionados and rentistas will have to meet the new requirements when their current residency term expires.

Rodrigo Arias said that he would have other bills to add to the list next week. The extraordinary session of the legislature runs until April 30.

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y Seguridad Pública photo
Sitting in the wet street amid the ridicule of neighbors is the initial penalty after an arrest for drug sales.

Crack raid in Hatillo 5
nets suspected salesman, 71

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police raided what they say was a crack retail outlet in Las Gavetas de Hatillo 5 Thursday. They detained four persons, including a man of 71.

A spokesperson for the Policía de Control de Drogas said that the location, two adjoining homes, was the focus of a number of complaints to an anti-drug line.

Detained was the 71-year-old man with the last names of  Arce Núñez. Police are calling him " Narcoabuelo." Also held was a woman, 41, with the last names of Castillo Hernández and two more men. One, 37, has the last names of Castillo Reyes. The other, 39, has the last names of  Barrantes Chávez.

Anti-drug agents said they confiscated nearly 300,000 colons (about $550) and many small packets they suspect contain crack cocaine.

Agents also made similar raids in Coyolar, Cantón de Orotina, and detained four persons.

Taxi driver who was missing
13 hours appears downtown

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A taxi driver startled downtown shoppers Thursday evening when he got out of his taxi and began shouting that he had been kidnapped.

The man, later identified by the Policía Municipal as José Efraín Araya Castro, 28, told officers he and his taxi had been abducted about 3 a.m. Thursday in llorente de Tibás by three men who bound him, covered his eyes with tape and beat him.

He lost money, his watch and cell phone during the incident, he reported.

Some 13 hours later he said he was liberated and managed to drive to Avenida Central on Calle 1 where he sought help. Hernán Rojas of the Policía Municipal responded.

Araya works for the Cooperativa San Jorge and is what is known as a porteador, a driver who takes passengers on contract from one location to another, said the Policía Municipal. Araya also said he had received threats recently.

He suffered from an injury to his right ribs and other bruises, said the policeman. Police also said the interior of the taxi had been vandalized.

60 years without an army
to be celebrated Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the abolition of the country's military Saturday at the Museo Nacional, the former army fort.

Among those expected to appear are veterans of the 1948 war that installed José Figueres Ferrer as head of the country. It was Figueres who abolished the military and turned over the military headquarters, the Cuartel Bellavista, to the education ministry and the Universidad de Costa Rica for use as a cultural center.

Figueres and his rebel army had just won a war against the country's military and abolishing the losing army made good political sense. Figueres, then the president of the Junta de Gobierno, said that the police were sufficient to safeguard the country.

A year later, after an abortive coup, Figueres added an article to the Costa Rican constitution outlawing an army.

The ceremony Saturday begins at 10 a.m.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 237

Escazú Christian Fellowship

Preliminary flood damages are estimated at $77.3 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The preliminary damage report from more than a week of flooding is in, and the national emergency commission has a preliminary figure of 42.3 billion colons or about $77.3 million.

That figure is likely to go higher as waters continue to recede and emergency evaluators get into more areas to make inspections.

The preliminary figure covers damage in the Provincia de Limón, two cantons in Alajuela and Sarapiquí in Heredia. But the preliminary figure does not cover the personal loss, pain and anguish of those who were flooded.

As an example, emergency crews finally reached Thursday a collection of flood refugees stranded in makeshift shelters along Ruta 36 in Sixaola. These are people forced from their homes by the raging Río Sixaola perhaps as long ago as Sunday night and forced to flee to high ground along the main highway.  They had been cut off.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that lower water levels permitted crews to evacuate 230 persons from this prediciment Thursday and house them in the Escuela Volío in Bribri. It was only Wednesday when a helicopter finally reached the flooded town.

The commission said that the refugees had some 10 tents but no services or drinking water. They were living like animals, said the commission.

At the Bribri school, the flood refugees have running water and basic services and cooking facilities.

This is the third time in six years that Sixaola has been underwater.

The Sixaola residents join some 5,408 refugees counted in
67 public shelters Thursday. This number does not include the thousands who are housed with family or friends.

Although flood waters are receeding in most areas, the commission said that heavy rains Wednesday night in Guácimo caused more flooding and damage there. An estimated 35 communities still are isolated, and some of these are in the Cantón de Guácimo.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas also has been brought into relief service to assess damage and to move people. More than 100 flood refugees have been brought to shelters from isolated communities by coast guard boats, the commission said.

A major job for rescue crews Thursday was the distribution of food and water to those stranded. The commission was using three rented helicopters to do so.

The so-called air bridge to the Provincia de Limón was the most reliable link because Rute 32, the main highway from San José suffered another major slide Wednesday night and is blocked. However, the commission routinely stashes foodstuffs and other necessary survival gear in storage places around the country.

The commission also said that Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries were providing non-perishable food supplies to the flood victims. Most major supermarkets also are accepting such donations for flood victims.

The preliminary damage evaluation cites heavy losses in agricultural products, such as pineapple, bananas, yuca, rice, cacao and corn. That is in addition to the 2,200 wells polluted and the 4,600 homes flooded. Most of them are now filled with mud.

The Cruz Roja said it was looking for volunteers, preferable those with emergency training. Volunteers will need to spend at least five days working with relief teams, an announcement said.

Lots of lights
still to go

Workmen install some of the thousands of lights that will celebrate the holidays on athe famous tree at the Hospital Ncaional de Niños. The lighting ceremony is Thursday at 6 p.m

Each year as the tree grows, workmen need more lights.

Hospital de Niños Chrfistmas tree
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

The love of consumption seems to be moving into here, too
Other than war or poverty there are a number of reasons a person chooses to leave his or her home country to live abroad.

Among the attractions are the desire for adventure, wanting a challenge, a desire to learn about how other people live, even the desire to be a ‘stranger in a strange land.”  All of these reasons were aspects of my move to Costa Rica.  I also wanted very much to live in a country without a military.

But there was another very big reason.  I was not comfortable being considered, above all else, a consumer.  Ever since returning from living on the island of Majorca, where my family and I lived simply, even frugally, and with few modern conveniences, I have been a lousy consumer — not just lousy, but unhappy with the label and responsibility.

In the United States, as we are learning more forcefully now, the economic health of the country is measured primarily on how much people buy and consume.  Two-thirds of the GNP of the U.S. is based upon the activity of consumers.

Modern economics has figured out that the more one has and consumes, the happier and better off one is. This leads to the idea that the sole function of economic activity is consumption.  I have read that this approach works best if the human traits of greed and envy are stressed. But I think it has gone beyond that.  People have come to truly believe that more is better, buying and having brings happiness, and they are as addicted to shopping in order to feel good as anyone who takes drugs for the same reason. Conspicuous consumption is the unfortunate result.  Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, has become as much a national holiday as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

From the approach of the bailouts that are happening in the U.S., they are not yet ready for E.F. Schumacher’s theory of economics as detailed in “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.”  Money and financial institutions are the first to get help.  The next step was making credit available so that people can buy big items, like cars and even homes.  Probably last of all will come jobs, not necessarily meaningful work, that will
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

make people feel useful and proud, but just jobs that will bring in money so that they can get credit to buy things to make them happy. 

Costa Rica was my escape from being a consumer.  But it looks like my haven is disappearing. One of the reasons, I read, that they are raising the income requirements is that to encourage foreigners to spend more money here, thus help Costa Rica’s economy.  Like more money than is necessary to live a happy and comfortable life?  Unfortunately, the label of consumer has followed those of us who don’t believe that more is better.
However, some purchases do improve life and make you happy.  Besides some used books, I bought a brand new copy of “Kitchen Pleasures,” the latest edition of the cookbook published by the Women’s Club of Costa Rica.  It is full of recipes from their members.  The books were on sale at the annual bazaar the Women’s Club holds.

It not only provides good reading, some great economical and easy-to-make recipes, it is in both English and Spanish.  This means that while trying a new recipe you can learn some very practical words in Spanish — words to live by, so to speak.  Besides these benefits, for 5,000 colons (a bit more than $9) I am also contributing to the club's philanthropic work.

Last year the Women’s Club was responsible for giving $34,000 back to Costa Rica, mainly in the form of educational help for its young people.  A lot of the people who contributed to these funds are not necessarily well off.
For information about buying a copy of “Kitchen Pleasures,” you can call Grace Woodman at 2249-1208.  They make great Christmas presents and you don’t have to buck Black Friday to get them.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 237

Drop in petroleum price puts crimp in 'resource nationalism'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The plummeting price of oil is having an impact on nations that restrict oil exploration and production to state-owned companies. Analysts say many use the revenues to further their ideological objectives and expand their influence, and falling prices could affect such policies.

And analysts say this is having an impact on petroleum-producing countries that have used oil revenues to further their ideological ambitions.

Russia's new military resurgence is considered to be fueled by petrodollars. Iran has used its oil revenues to extend its influence in the Middle East and defy sanctions aimed at blocking its nuclear ambitions. And, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has gained power and influence to counter U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere because of the steady flow of oil money.

But falling oil prices could weaken a government's hold on power, says energy analyst Kenneth Medlock at Rice University in Houston.

"It makes it very difficult for the government to remain solvent, basically," Medlock said, "and continue the types of programs that they've had in place when oil prices were higher, or initiated when oil prices rose. And that, of course, for the politicians who are in power, puts them in a very tenuous position."

In Iran, concern is rising that the country could face an economic crisis because of declining oil revenues.

This comes as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks re-election next year.

In Venezuela, spending on social programs and other initiatives to build President Chavez' socialist-inspired state could be affected — though he recently downplayed the effects of falling oil prices.

"We're not singing victory, no," Chavez said. "But we have the capacity to resist the crisis. And not just resist it, but to continue investing."

Yet Venezuela's opposition scored significant victories in
local elections Sunday, in part because of fears the country's oil-fueled economy is sputtering.

Venezuela's oil, like that of many countries, is tapped exclusively by its state-run company, PDVSA.

Many of these nations have shut out major Western oil companies from accessing their petroleum-rich regions in a policy known as "resource nationalism."

The so-called petroleum "majors" like ExxonMobile now control much less oil, says Conoco-Philips head James Mulva.

"The state-owned oil companies represent the top 10 reserve holders internationally, and the western international oil majors control less than 10 percent of the world's oil and gas resource base," Mulva said.

One reason for this is the belief by some countries that nationally-owned companies can better protect a nation's oil wealth. But energy analyst Jerry Taylor of the libertarian CATO Institute says there is another reason.

"When you have large private corporations generating revenue, you are creating potential pockets of resistance in society to the political regime," Taylor said. "And since a lot of these countries find that oil extraction is the major source of income for their economies, owning those industries actually helps crowd out the potential development of opposition."

Taylor says while Saudi Arabia's ARAMCO is an example of an efficient and productive state-owned oil company, many others are like Mexico's PEMEX inefficient and unproductive.

According to Medlock, "they've demonstrated in many cases an inability to develop those resources in a timely, efficient manner. And the international majors have the ability to do that. They have adequate commercial incentive to go in and make these things work."

And the prospect of pumping more oil and increasing revenues could be attractive to governments, opening opportunities for the western oil majors while eroding resource nationalism.

Russian president is ending his Latin tour with a visit to Cuba and Raúl Castro
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is visiting Cuba to revive ties with the former Soviet Union's Cold War ally.

President Medvedev arrived in the capital, Havana, Thursday on the last stop of a Latin America tour. His schedule includes a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro and a visit to a new Russian Orthodox cathedral in Havana. It is not clear whether the Kremlin leader will also meet ailing former President Fidel Castro.

Russian officials say Medvedev's tour, which also took him to Venezuela, Brazil and Perú, is meant to boost trade. They deny it is meant to provoke the United States in its traditional sphere of influence.

This marks the first visit to Cuba by a Russian leader since 2000, when then-President Vladimir Putin traveled to the   island. Russia had been Cuba's main benefactor during the
Cold War, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 battered Cuba's economy.

Medvedev traveled to Cuba from Venezuela. Wednesday, Russia and Venezuela signed a series of agreements, including a deal to work together to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Russian warships that sailed into a Venezuelan port Tuesday are also scheduled to conduct joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy beginning Dec. 1.

In Brazil, Medvedev met with President Luiz Inacio da Silva. Both leaders agreed that Russia should host a summit of the world's four leading emerging market nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China next year.

The two presidents also agreed to boost military cooperation and diversify trade. Medvedev said he hopes to double trade with Brazil in the coming years. Medvedev was also in Perú during the recent summit of Pacific Rim countries.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 237

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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.

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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.


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Food and fuel crises raise
concern for Latin poor

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The current financial crisis, coupled with volatile food and fuel prices, threatens to undo years of hard-earned growth, stability and human development in Latin America and cast millions more people into poverty, a continent-wide meeting at the United Nations has been warned.

“Next year, the social impact may be even harsher if governments and the international community do not bring forward adequate and effective responses,” said Rebeca Grynspan, U.N. Development Programme regional director. She was speaking this week to more than 30 social policy ministers and authorities from 18 Latin American countries gathered for the Second Forum for Social Strategic Thinking in Latin America.

“Crises may affect the most vulnerable groups disproportionately, hitting hardest at the poorest and marginalized,” she said at the New York gathering.

Latest projections by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean indicate that 10 to 15 million more people in the region will slip below the poverty line in 2008 as a result of food price volatility.

Globally, 100 million people were driven into poverty this year due to the food and fuel crises and the number continues to grow, according to World Bank estimates, said the U.N.

Security guard is detained
in Atenas assault case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have detained a man suspected of raping a 60-year-old Spanish tourist in Atenas, Alajuela.
The suspect was on parole, after he was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison after committing two previous assaults in San José, said a source at the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents have detained Jorge Ramos Badilla of assaulting Claudine Devalle Saturday in Barrio Jesús de Atenas. Police did not state what time the assault took place. Agents said that the assailant, who masked his face with a handkerchief, overpowered Ms. Devalle in the front door of her own home, where she lived alone. Afterwards, he took her cell phone, binoculars, currency, including dollars, a gold bracelet and her return ticket to Spain, which she carried in her wallet.

Ms. Devalle received treatment at the Hospital Calderón Guardia, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Officials said that Ramos worked as a security guard at a house under construction, close to where the assault took place. He was ordered to preventative detention.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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