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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 238        E-mail us    
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Typically long lines at the swamped Dirección General de Migración will be reduced, thanks to the decree granting extensions.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Residents get a break on renewal of their cédulas
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department has extended for a year the legal residency of some 55,000 foreigners whose right to stay here either has expired or will within the year.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said that the two-year renewal requirement has saturated its facilities. It promised to take steps to find a permanent solution to the renewal crisis.

No action by residents is required.

The extension was by way of a decree signed by President Óscar Arias Sanchez and Fernando Berrocal Soto, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The measure was explained in detail Wednesday by Mario Zamora, the immigration director. Berrocal's ministry contains the immigration service.

Thousands of foreigners, including North American expats, have expired cédulas of residency but cannot get appointments to renew them for months, sometimes a year.  These include rentistas, pensionados and inversionistas, typical categories chosen by expats.

Zamora said that a new system of digitized documents will speed up the renewal process and eliminate long waits. He also said that immigration's legal department was seeking damages against a guarantee posted by the companies that just installed a system to make plastic cédulas for residents. The system produces a cédula similar to that carried by Costa Rican citizens. However, the end product turned out to be faulty. Some cédulas quickly became unreadable because the ink faded and the magnetic information on the reverse also deteriorated.

The firms are T.D.M and LaserCard Corp. The amount sought is $260,000, said Zamora.

The specifics of the decree are:

Those whose residency expired through last June 30 have until next July 1 to renew them.

Immigration Director
Mario Zamora

Those whose residency expired between last July 1 and today have until the same expiration date in 2007. For example, someone whose residency expired today has until Nov. 30, 2007, to renew it.

Those whose residencies expire next month have until the same date in in December 2007 to renew the documents.

The decree seems to cover all forms of residency, but an exception are those, mostly Nicaraguans, who benefited from a 1999 special rule. Deadlines for renewal for these individuals are slightly different.

Zamora and the decree said that no fines would be collected from those who benefit from the extension.
The immigration service can accommodate about 250 residency renewal appointments a day, Zamora said. He did not mention it, but the immigration department in La Uruca and branches elsewhere will be closing for a long Christmas holiday.

Cédulas of residency are vital for doing every form of business in Costa Rica. One is needed to get a cell telephone line, order checks at a bank, fill legal documents and get a residency discount from museums and travel providers. They also can keep a resident out of jail if they are questioned by immigration police during a sweep for illegals.

The immigration department will try to get the word out to banks and other agencies.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 238  

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Desamparados councilman
reports bribe try over fiesta

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A regidor or councilman in Desamparados said he was offered a million colons by a cell phone caller if he voted to approve locating the end of year fiesta in that municipality.
The lawmaker is Carlos Alberto Agüero Alfaro, a newspaper publisher who is a member of the Partido Acción Cuidadana. He made his allegation in an e-mail and later confirmed the contents in a telephone call.

Agüero also said he made a recording of the bribe offer being made and played it at the last council meeting in Desamparados where the festival proposal was discussed. The idea was to locate the festival in the municipality's Villa Olìmpica. The Sala IV constitutional court ordered that the event not be held in Zapote, its traditional San José site, because of health and safety concerns.

Agüero, who published the local La Piculla newspaper, said he knew the name of the caller and would bring the situation to the attention of the Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecutor.

When the motion to locate the event was under discussion, Agüero said he played his tape to report the attempted bribe, and the measure died.

His revelation "fell like a bomb," he said. "After an absolute silence, continuing, I indicated that to corroborate my words I had the recording with me and continuing I put the recorder to the microphone, clicked it and made the recording run so it was heard by all the municipal council."

Agüero, who lives in Dos Cercas, noted that there is big money tied up with the fiesta, which runs about 10 days. Channel 7 puts on its Chinamo, a fiesta variety show where space is sold for commercial sponsorship. There also is the bull fight that draws many spectators and the live feed is sold internationally as a television show. There also is the Frente Frio of Imperial, a beer garden where substantial quantities of the alcoholic beverage are sold. There also is significant income from the public who buy carnival rides and the tons of food that is served up by various concessions.

German Embassy hosting
organ and trumpet yule event

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The German Embassy is hosting a Christmas concert that will feature such artists as the famous Russian organist Elena Keylina and Costa Rican trumpet player Luis Miguel Araya.  The free concert will be held Dec. 10 in the Parroquia Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes in Grecia at 7:30 p.m.

One of the motivations of the embassy for having the concert is to draw attention to the inherited wealth of church organs that exist in Costa Rica.  Many of the organs were imported here from Europe at the begining of the last century.  The history of these organs has been a rough one. Of the 14 E.F Walcker organs that were brought here between 1881 and 1958, six of them have disappeared and three are quite damaged. 

Luis M. Araya is one of the most active musicians in Latin America, said the announcement. He plays a diverse range of musics from Mozart to salsa.  In 2004, he was the winner of the 2004 Ellsworth Smith International Trumpet Solo Competition.  He started his musical studies at the Conservatorio de Castella and went on to study at the Universidad de Costa Rica.  Araya has worked with such talents as Gilbert Johnson, Rod Franks, Josef Pomberger, The Empire Brass, and Stephen Burns.

As a soloist, he has performed with numerous symphonies, including the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta de Cámara Latinoamericana, the Orquesta de Cámara de Uppsala, the Orquesta de Cámara de la Universidad de Loyola, the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de Costa Rica and the Banda Sinfónica of the Instituto Nacional de Música.

Miss Keylina graduated from the State Conservatory of Moscow in 1990 and went on to gain an international festival music diploma while studying with José Luis Uriol in Zaragoza, Spain.  Miss Keylina travels with a band which includes trumpet soloist Andrey Ikov, singers Valeri Popov, Valentina Sharonova, Jochen Kowalski and Irina Zhurina, as well as cello player Vladimir Tonkha, violinist Zorya Shikhmurzayeva and the Spanish guitarist Sergio Vicente.

Between 2004 and 2005, Miss Keylina lived in Jordan where she organized a series of classical presentations under the sponsorship of Queen Rania Al-Abdallah, in cooperation with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Russian Embassy.  Miss Keylina has produced 16 compact disks.

The two headliner musicians will also be accompanied by El Café Chorale, which over the last 12 years has gained national and international noteriety.  The choir has received many distinctions, among them the 2003 national cultural person of the year award, from La Nación, as well as the 1999 and 2003 national music awards.

Tamarindo restaurant plans
grand opening Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new restaurant in Playa de Tamarindo will hold a grand opening Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  La Laguna Del Cocodrilo, situated in the Hotel Cocodrilo across from the Best Western, will be providing free appetizer samples of their main courses and complimentary wine.

Chef Dylan Montano, who studied under chef Tracey Desjardin in San Francisco, described the food as California-French cuisine and often uses fresh tropical ingredients.  The restaurant also features an extensive wine list with bottles available from Chile, Spain, France, Italy, and more, he said.  Price ranging from $19 to $180 U.S.

Montano, former chef of the Taboo restaurant in Tamarindo, opened the business with his associate Benjamin Ziggler. 

Election hotline now in service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has set up an election hotline that will field calls and complaints through Tuesday. Municipal elections are Sunday all over the country.

The line is in service from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 800-ELECTOR (800-353-2867). Voters can complain about polling places that have not opened, the illegal sale of alcohol or any other election irregularity, the tribunal said.

Garza, Nosara to be interrupted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad crews will be working again to repair the fiber optic network in Guanacaste today. The communities of Garaza and Nosara can expect service interruptions for two hour beginning at 1 p.m., the company said.  
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 238

Malaria mosquito not likely to be encountered by tourists
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An outbreak of malaria in the Matina area continues to worsen with more than 2,000 cases reported in the country so far this year. While few expats or tourists are likely to have the misfortune to spend the night in Matina, or anywhere else in the banana zone north of Siquirres and Guápiles generally, exposure to tropical mosquitoes is worth avoiding.

Mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles transmit the Plasmodium parasite which causes malaria. There are several hundred species of Anopheles in the world, with taxonomy regularly revised by further study. Only a few are effective hosts of Plasmodium, either preferring non-human prey or providing little opportunity for the internal development of the parasite. There are about a dozen species in Costa Rica, of which the primary vector for malaria is Anopheles albimanus.

A. albimanus is a lowland species, so the Central Valley has never been much affected by the disease. It is not coincidental that many of the main cities of Latin America are in highland valleys. Theoretically, all of Costa Rica below about 1,000 meters is at risk, though in recent years only Matina and the Caribbean side of the Talamanca mountains have seen regular outbreaks. The area registers about 98 percent of the cases.

Female Anopheles bite mostly in the evening and early morning. The mosquito in question is readily identified by posture when biting, as she “stands on her head” with the thorax nearly vertical. Other mosquitoes keep the body horizontal while biting. Anopheles breeds in still water of any sort, favoring drainage ditches and ponds. Larvae are identifiable by their resting posture parallel to

the water’s surface, while they feed on bacteria in the surface layer of the water. They will dive mostly to escape a disturbance. Other mosquitoes breathe through the head and let most of the body hang below the surface tension. The three stages of egg, larvae, and pupae take about 10 days, while an adult can live 2-4 weeks. As the malaria parasite requires about 14 days to develop, not many individual mosquitoes are thought to transmit the disease.

The main mosquito pest in the highlands of Costa Rica is Culex quinquefasciatus, the house mosquito. This species is well adapted to urban living, breeding in most any accumulation of water, no matter how dirty, in small containers or ditches. It is not the vector of any disease. Also found countrywide below about 1,500 meters is Aedes egypti, which transmits dengue fever.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control travel advisory unhelpfully describes Alajuela and Heredia provinces as areas of malaria presence. This is because most of those provinces’ territory is in the northern lowlands where there have been scattered cases, while most of the human population is in the towns of the same names in the highlands.

Tamarindo civic group will join battle against dengue fever
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tamarindo betterment association plans to buy its own spray equipment to keep at bay mosquitoes that carry dengue fever.

The organization, Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo, said that a plan and a budget will be advanced at the next meeting of the group, Dec. 16. The target is the Aedes egypti that carries the disease.

The association notes in an announcement that 1,856 cases of the disease were reported already this year in the Cantón de Santa Cruz where the beach town is located.

In all of Guanacaste some 3,126 cases have been reported,
 but the statistics from the Ministerio de Salud do not show how many of these cases were in Tamarindo.

Aedes egypti mosquitoes are day biters, and that is a time when Tamarindo is alive with tourist activity.

The spray equipment, basically a pump, will cost nearly $2,000 and will be used by members of the group, said the association. The basic strategy will be to eliminate places with standing water where mosquitoes breed and to spray.

The same strategy adopted countrywide by the health ministry has cut hospitalization for dengue by 60 percent, officials reported this week. 2005 was a bad year for dengue because the central government did not keep the pressure on mosquito eradication.

National budget for next year passed by lawmakers and rejected by Sala IV
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The controversial 2006-2007 national budget of 9.2 trillion colons won final approval in the Asamblea Legislativa Wednesday, but then word arrived that the Sala IV constitutional court had found the document faulty.

The second of two required votes drew affirmative responses from 26 of the 51 legislative deputies present. The amount is $17.7 billion.

The document is controversial because Movimiento Libertario legislators consider it to be sloppy and wasteful whereas others, such as Frente Amplio's José Merino del Río consider it a continuation of failed neoliberal policies.

Some 64 percent of the proposed budget would be financed
with current income like taxes and customs duties. The remainder, an estimated $6.1 billion would be financed with bonds, increasing the country's deficit. A good part of the budget is debt service.

The Sala IV found two technical errors within the document. One involved the failure to list the total going to certain social expenditures.

The advisory constitutional appeal was filed by the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the national ombudsman because of what was seen as low spending on social programs.

The budget is prepared by the Ministerio de Hacienda, part of the executive branch. Then legislators must approve it. Now they must make changes to eliminate the faults.

Early morning quake seems to have been near Heredia, according to sensors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strong earthquake struck in the Heredia area shortly after midnight today. There was little information available except that the quake was felt throughout the country even on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The automatic sensors of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y
Sismológico de Costa Rica Showed that the greatest shock was at the Heredia station.

Shocks were moderate elsewhere in the country.

The quake has a duration of about 3 minutes and started about 12:07:30 a.m. But much of the earthquake was of a low magnitude and could not be felt by humans

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 238

Two more men arrested in Guanacaste robbery wave
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A band of violent home invaders along the Guanacaste Pacific coast began to unravel when a 75-year-old U.S. citizen in Sámara shot an intruder Friday.

The wounded robbery suspect gave police firm leads, and a companion was grabbed the same night a short distance away.

Investigators continued the roundup Wednesday when they detained two men described as the gang leaders in Guardide Liberia. One man was in his home. The other was walking. A fifth man is still at large, investigators said.

Investigators said they think they have cleared up some 30 reported home invasions, many of them involving expats.

One woman tourist was raped during a robbery. The gang took a number of victims to nearby automatic tellers where they were forced to withdraw money from their accounts.

The gang was unique because after breaking into a home at night and robbing the occupants, they would dine on the contents of the refrigerator.
The gang involved Liberia and Central Valley residents, agents said, noting that the growing wealth on the pacific coast is attracting criminals from San José and its suburbs.

It was a U.S. citizen named Anderson who shot the home intruder twice in the chest, agents said. That led to the arrest of men 20 and 23 years of age.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the two men detained Wednesday were 26 and 27 with the last names of Sotela and Duarte.

The agency said that the gang would raid a home at least twice a week and in various sectors of the pacific coast. The minimum take was about 500,000 colons, the Judicial Investigating Organization said. That's about $980. Also taken were computers and household appliances.

In addition to Sámara, where at least two home invasions took place, crimes were committed in Liberia, Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Tamarindo.

The frequency and the brutality of the crimes terrified residents of the area.

Tension mounts in México as election loser plans to create disturbances
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tension is mounting in Mexico two days before the scheduled inauguration of President-elect Felipe Calderón, who won that nation's presidential election by a narrow margin in July amid charges of fraud by his main opponent. Losing candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is calling on his supporters to prevent the inauguration from taking place.

Final preparations are under way for Friday's inauguration, which will be attended by a number of international dignitaries, including former U.S. president George Bush, Spain's Prince Felipe and leaders of a number of Latin American nations. What those guests are likely to observe, however, has become a great source of chagrin for many Mexicans.

Tuesday, there were fist fights and shoving between rival deputies in the Mexican congress where the inauguration is to take place. Members of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional, fearing a move by leftist parties to seize control of the podium in advance of Friday's ceremony, took control of the area themselves. Members of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, joined by other leftist party members, repeatedly tried to break through the lines.

Hours before the inauguration is to occur Friday, López Obrador plans to rally supporters in Mexico City's main plaza, the Zócalo, and instruct them on tactics to use in their attempt to block the inauguration. While police can block demonstrators from the congress, they cannot prevent
acts of physical violence carried out by duly-elected members of the congress itself. Under the Mexican constitution, the president-elect must swear the oath of office before the congress, which must have established a quorum. If this does not happen, then the constitution calls for the congress to designate an interim president.

Calderón has ignored the scuffles and threats for the most part, naming cabinet members and continuing to plan for what he will do after assuming the presidential sash from outgoing President Vicente Fox. He has also pledged dialogue with the opposition.

He says the government he will initiate Dec. 1 will engage in dialogue with all political forces and all sectors of society to advance the nation of Mexico.

But critics note that, so far, all of his cabinet appointments have come from his own party. His appointment of a former governor of Jalisco known for taking a firm stand against protesters has also been seen as a sign the new president will be less tolerant of dissidents who break the law.

Human rights organizations have expressed concern over the appointment, but Calderón supporters say they hope he will take swift action to end the tumult in the state of Oaxaca that President Fox has allowed to fester for months. What began there as a teachers' strike has now deteriorated into street fighting and the burning of buildings and vehicles. President Fox recently sent in federal police units to establish control, but the situation remains volatile.

Bolivian senate approves land distribution plan proposed by Evo Morales
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Members of the Bolivian senate have ended a week-long boycott and approved President Evo Morales' controversial plan to redistribute land to the nation's landless poor.

The plan was approved Tuesday night when three opposition senators voted with 12 senators from the president's ruling Movement Toward Socialism party.

The vote came after thousands of Bolivia's indigenous Indians marched on the capital city of La Paz to support the measure. Many of them had marched for several weeks across several hundred kilometers.
Conservative lawmakers walked out of the Senate chamber last week to block the reform, which is opposed by large landowners from Bolivia's eastern agricultural region of Santa Cruz. The landowners fear the government will confiscate their property. But Morales says only unproductive land held by wealthy families will be redistributed to the poor.

The president, Bolivia's first indigenous head of state, campaigned on promises to redistribute the wealth from the nation's vast natural resources. He issued a decree in May of this year to nationalize Bolivia's oil and gas fields. He told the Indians who marched on La Paz that he would issue a similar decree if the boycott continued in the Senate.

Shannon meets with Ortega to improve relations between Nicaragua and U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top U.S. official met with Nicaraguan president-elect Daniel Ortega Tuesday, hinting at a possible thaw in relations between the former Cold War enemies.

The official, Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of State, talked with Ortega in the capital city of Managua. Shannon said the two sides are engaging in dialogue aimed at improving relations.

The incoming president is returning to power 16 years after
he was voted out of office. His Marxist policies had plunged Nicaragua into economic chaos.

His Soviet-backed Sandinista government also fought a lengthy war against U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

But Ortega has openly disavowed his previous Marxist policies and has pledged not to meddle in the private sector.

The White House says U.S. support for the incoming president's administration would hinge on his commitment to democracy.

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