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(506) 2223-1327         Published  Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 237           E-mail us
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The fat Christmas bonuses are beginning to flow
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The economy is about to see a major uptick. The Costa Rican law that provides workers with a fat Christmas bonus also covers pensioners and even those who hold certain governmental positions.

Starting today the central government and the other branches will be making their payments. Most will be electronic into employee bank accounts.

The amount is one-twelfth of what the employee has earned between Dec. 1, 2009, and Tuesday. For most this represents a month's pay.

Employers who may be uncertain about the amount, a quick and easy solution is to ask the employee to obtain a list of salaries paid from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. After all, all employees should be on the Caja.

Employers have until Dec. 20 to make the payment. Even household helpers are covered, but not contract workers.

There are other payments that are traditional at Christmas. This may be the only time of the year that urban dwellers actually see a garbage man. Municipal trash workers usually visit homes at reasonable hours, but they also poach on territory handled by their coworkers.

The young man who delivers La Nación at 2 a.m. also deserves a little gift.

Frequently employers cheat workers by classifying the job as a contractual agreement.

The same rules apply in Costa Rica as in the United States. If the employer dictates the work hours or provides the tools and space for doing the job, the employee should be on the Caja and receive an aguinaldo.
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Salespeople frequently are cheated that way. Sometimes the tight-fisted employer does not even pay a salary, although the law requires that they do so if they are not true contract workers.

Employees who feel they have been cheated or shortchanged can report the employer to the Ministerio de Trabajo which takes the complaint seriously.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers are rubbing their hands and awaiting the flow of newly rich shoppers.

The Fuerza Pública also has boosted security on the streets and around banks. Crooks also are out seeking their own aguinaldo, although these days of plastic payments have crimped their style.

And most expats know that there is little chance of getting much government work done until Jan. 3.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 237

Costa Rica Expertise
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Survey says unemployment
declined from 2009 level


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In an unexpected report Tuesday the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos said that unemployment was 7.3 percent and that 21.3 percent of the households in the country are considered poor.

The report came from a national survey of some 13,440 homes in July. Casa Presidencial was happy to accept the estimate that unemployment actually declined from 8.4 percent at the same time in 2009.

The institute is using new methods that were suggested by international experts to better reflect the poverty in the country, it said.

The unemployment is not uniform. It ranges from 6.9 percent in the Central Valley to 9.3 percent in the Chorotega region of northwestern Costa Rica, according to the survey.

Based on the survey, the institute concluded that 275,000 homes were classified as poor. Some 6 percent of the households live in extreme poverty, the institute said.

The report comes at the same time that the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said that the number of employed Costa Ricans had dropped.

Like all surveys there is a range of possibilities around the number reported. The use of the high number of respondents, 13,440, artificially restricts the confidence interval. The Gallup Organization usually uses just 1,200 respondents to estimate probabilities.

However, the institute did not report the confidence interval it used to infer the date to the general population. That is normal in such government reports.


Army's end to be marked
in museum ceremony


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the day that José Figueres Ferrer abolished the national army.

The country has been true to that philosophy since.

Attending a ceremony today at 10 a.m. will be President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, who is trying to turn back an invasion by Nicaragua into northern Costa Rica.

True to the philosophy, Ms. Chinchilla has declined to use force and instead is relying on international organizations to put pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Figueres, of course, successfully led a revolution against the Costa Rican standing army. History said that he abolished the army while he was head of a provisional junta to prevent a coup by some of his followers. However, he has said that he began to believe the army was unnecessary even when he was a student in the United States.

The ceremony today, as is the case every year, is at the Museo Nacional on Cuesta de Mara east of the San José downtown. The museum was the regional military headquarters, and the towers still show the bullet holes from the civil war.

Culture ministry calculates
carbon dioxide emissions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The local operations of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud produced 2,491 tons of carbon dioxide from October 2009 to this September, the ministry said Tuesday.

The estimate includes the Casa del Artista, the Museo de Arte Costarricense, the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, the Museo Histórico Dr. Rafael Calderón Guardia, the Centro Nacional de la Música, the Coro Sinfónico Nacional, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical, the Teatro Nacional and the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar.

Manuel Obregón, the minister, said that his agency was in accord with the government plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2021. The carbon dioxide inventory is among the first steps.

The inventory was financed by the Fundación Bandera Ecológica and the U.S. State Department via the free trade treaty between the United States and Central America, the ministry said.

The inventory involved direct consumption such as fossil fuel use and indirect consumption, such as electric use, said the ministry.

The ministry concluded that some 71 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions came from the use of facilities and that 22 percent came from transportation of individuals to and from the various events.

The ministry will devise a plan to balance the emissions, such as changing illumination, it said. Initially it will seek to cut emissions 30 percent, it added.


Firm doubles its size

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emerson has doubled its operations in Costa Rica with the inauguration of a second service center in Multipark, Guachipelín de Escazú.

The company expects to add 150 new employees as a result of its $3.4 million investment. The firm is involved in the design, engineering and shared accounting services.


 
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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 237

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Solar Costa Rica

More items added by president to legislative to-do list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch's legislative agenda mushroomed Tuesday to 32 separate bills that are being given a priority until next April 30.

Casa Presidencial listed a handful of bills Monday, but a decree signed by President Laura Chinchilla Tuesday increases the number of legislative bills.

Among them is a measure to move telecommunications oversight from the environmental ministry to the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología. That would eliminate the awkward name of Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

Another is a reform of the nation's weapons law that is expected to dramatically tighten the requirements for gun ownership and possession. Ms. Chinchilla has said she wants to reduce to two the number of weapons any person can own.

The proposal to tax casinos and games of chance also are on the president's list. A report from Casa Presidencial
 Monday said that a proposal to tax corporations was on the list but it said nothing about the casino bill. The decree did.
The measure would impose strict oversight on physical casinos and also online operations.

Another proposal would penalize what the legislative list said is the irregular transport of motor fuels by water. That is a nice way of saying that the government wants to crack down on those who supply drug smugglers with fuel on the high seas.

The list also contains a proposal to penalize computer fraud. The legislature passed that bill Tuesday night on first reading.  A subsequent vote is needed, which is why the bill is on the list.

After Nov. 30 lawmakers can only address measures approved by the president during the so-called special sessions that continue until April 30.

The computer fraud bill would penalize online bank thefts, identity theft and sabotage of computer systems. The measure reforms and makes additions to the criminal code.


Under-the-counter cigarette sales snuffed out by police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cartons do not contain crack cocaine, but for some the cigarettes are nearly as bad. Not only that, they probably were smuggled.

So the Fuerza Pública accompanied by individuals from an anti-cancer association raided a series of small stores or pulperias in Tirrases de Curridabat Tuesday afternoon.

What they confiscated were 58 cartons of cigarettes. The packages inside did not contain the mandatory warning that smoking is not a good idea during pregnancy and that cigarettes can cause lung and heart diseases. The packages also did not show signs that taxes had been paid.

Smuggling cigarettes is big business and not as dangerous as moving traditional drugs. The cigarettes usually come in over the unprotected southern border.

Municipal officials also participated in the raids to make sure that the five stores visited had licenses.  The store
cigarette haul
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Police officers check the confiscated cartons

operators were told that they could risk losing the business license if police found more contraband, the Fuerza Pública reported. Officers promised to continue their sweeps.


High schooler picked the wrong place to set off fireworks
By the Å.M. Costa Rica staff

A Parrita high school student picked the wrong place to explode fireworks Tuesday morning. He set them off in the park in the center of town.

Fuerza Pública officers heard the blasts and investigated.
The basic rule in Costa Rica is if it explodes, it is illegal.
Police found the 18-year-old with 60 unexploded large firecrackers, called bombetas in Spanish.

Police said the youth will get a court hearing and that they are on the trail of those selling illegal fireworks to youngsters.


Del Rey accommodations

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 237


Our readers express their opinions

Home invaders allergic
to weapon in the house


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your article about the Canadian women's problems with break-ins in the central Pacific.
 
The home invasions are totally out of control in Costa Rica.
 
I live in North Georgia. Nice, hard working, God fearing mountain people. Everybody has a weapon in the house. We have no home invasions. Guaranteed death.
 
If an invader is in the house in the middle of the night, there is really not much else to do.
 
In Costa Rica you will be going to jail, no questions asked. Most of the people that come to Costa Rica to live will not endure it. After five years 70 percent bite the dust. Never pay rent in advance.
Scott Bartlett
North Georgia


Where is CNBC signal
and where is Amnet?

 
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

CNBC, the elusive Amnet program, is still in hiding
 
It has now been a full five weeks since CNBC, the business information channel carried on Amnet, went off the air without explanation.  For two days, Amnet presented only a black screen.  When I called Amnet during the dark period, their representatives stated that Amnet was having some difficulty with the "signal" from CNBC and that their engineers were working on the problem. 

After two days, Amnet began to substitute Bloomberg in lieu of CNBC, explaining only that CNBC went off the air for "reasons beyond its control" and that Bloomberg would be aired in its stead "temporarily."  Isn't it time for Amnet to explain what it means by "reasons beyond its control" and why it fails to deliver its promised programming even after 5 weeks.
David Jackson
San José
Second residency firm
did the job properly


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Delighted, I received approval of my application for a pensioner's residency. I was ripped off by my first so-called "immigration" lawyer, but I was overjoyed with the performance of my second one, which I got through an ad in A.M. Costa Rica.

The ad is always on page 2: Residency in Costa Rica, a full service immigration agency. Javier Zavaleta is located in California and Mayanye Zavaleta is located in San José. Their knowledge, helpfulness, and kindness are superb.

Barbara C. Johnson
Atenas

Reader is seeking boycott
of invading Nicaragua


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While most of us expats who live in Costa Rica deplore the invasion of Costa Rica territory by Nicaragua, we feel that there is nothing we can do to stop it.  Probably not, but what we can do is to boycott Nicaragua and ask our friends abroad to do the same. 

We can avoid making our 90-day visa runs to Nicaragua, and we can stop buying Nicaragua products.  We can ask our friends to not visit Nicaragua and to stop buying things from Nicaragua. Some may say that this is an idle gesture, not likely to stop Comrade Ortega, but boycotts can and have contributed to change by errant nations, such as the boycott of South African goods at the time when Nelson Mandela was held in prison.

If you support this effort to boycott Nicaragua, please send me an e-mail at james.twomey@yahoo.com and I will keep a count of those who will participate in this effort. I will not keep a list of names nor will names be published, but I will keep count of the hundreds, possibly thousands who will boycott Nicaragua.

Thank you for your support.

Jim Twomey
Santo Domingo de Heredia


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 237

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Population boom expected
by Haitian quake refugees

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Since a January earthquake in Haiti, tent camps have become home to hundreds of thousands of people, including newly pregnant women. Some Haitians fear unplanned pregnancies in the camps may fuel a baby boom in the capital.

Denise Cheristal, 35, knows that she and her teenage son were lucky to escape with their lives from the January earthquake in Haiti.  She now lives in a tent camp where residents are packed together tightly with little access to clean water or health services.

Amid all the other changes, Cheristal says the quake also affected her outlook on the future.

She says her son was nearly killed in the quake and that, without him, she would have no other children. So she and her husband decided to have another child. Cheristal's baby is due in a couple weeks.

More than nine months after the quake, Cheristal sees other, younger women around the city who also are pregnant.

She says right now there are a lot of pregnant women, but they may not have planned it like she did.

Around Port-au-Prince, some Haitians express concern about the number of young people getting pregnant without planning for it. Some fear that pregnant women and newborns face major health risks in a city where the quake made resources and public services scarce.

At one tent camp in the Delmas neighborhood, Lifrane Herold runs a small medical clinic backed by a local church. He says, with limited resources, they struggle to offer pre-natal care to about 40 pregnant women there.

Herold says some of the women are nearly ready to give birth, and others are about three to four months pregnant. 

Herold pointed out three pregnant women nearby, who are in their early 20s. When asked if their pregnancies were planned, all three women said their babies were a gift from God.

Dinette Delon says she already has one child, and her baby is due in February.

Delon says most women do not want to have babies in the camps, because the living conditions are so difficult. She says the tents are very hot, so she plans to leave the capital and return to her hometown after the baby is born.

Health workers say condoms are available to adults in the camps to help prevent unplanned pregnancies. But some young people admit they do not always take precautions.

St. Louis Jean Reynold and his girlfriend are expecting their first child in a few months. He said they were doing nothing to prevent pregnancy, so it was only a matter of time.

Reynold says he was not surprised about the pregnancy, because they sit around all day in the camp and eventually you have an urge to be intimate with your partner.

His girlfriend, Vesia Louis-Dour, says she is worried about how they will care for their child, because neither of them has a job. She said given the conditions in the camp, she had not been planning to start a family.

Ms. Louis-Dour says she does not want any more children, because life in the camps is hard enough for adults, let alone a baby.

After her baby is born, Ms. Louis-Dour says she plans to investigate different forms of contraception. But she says it may be hard to find, as Haiti's health system struggles to rebuild from the earthquake and give assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 237


Latin American news
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Binding agreements asked
to cut greenhouse gases


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U. N. Climate Change Conference got under way in the Mexican beach resort of Cancun with calls for decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide as part of an effort to curb global warming. But participants are looking for advances on a handful of issues rather than an overall agreement that would legally bind nations to reduce emissions.

Delegates from more than 190 nations, and representatives of various non-governmental groups, are in Cancun for two weeks of discussion aimed at forging a comprehensive agreement not now, but at some future meeting.

But in his opening remarks, Mexican President Felipe Calderón said the world may not be able to wait much longer for decisive action.

He said climate change is already a reality for Mexico and the whole planet. He cited recent deadly floods in Mexico, Guatemala and Pakistan, as well as disasters in Russia and Africa as evidence that climate change is already disrupting life for many of the world's people.

The threat is especially keen for small island nations – rising sea levels caused by global warming threaten their very existence.

The chairlady for the group representing 42 of those nations is Grenada's ambassador, Dessima Williams.

"Our environmental integrity is at risk," said Ambassador Williams. "Our peoples' livelihood remains at risk and the very credibility of the multilateral system to which we are pledged and to which, as small states, we depend – all are at stake."

These nations want the world to commit to keeping global temperature no higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – an ambitious goal given that world leaders struggled to commit to a 2-degree limit at last year's climate summit in Copenhagen.

But while people attending this conference agree on the gravity of the problem, they are not all of one mind when it comes to what exactly needs to be done.

The European Union is urging China, the United States and other large emitters of greenhouse gases to put aside differences and commit to a legally binding agreement.

The head of the U.S. Climate Change delegation, Jonathan Pershing, says any agreement on cutting emissions worldwide must be verifiable by all nations involved.

"It is extremely important to have a clear sense of understanding about what countries are delivering, what they are doing," Pershing said. "How do you know? How do you create confidence in the process and for one country in the actions of the other countries."

Whether negotiators can move a little closer to an agreement based on such transparency is one of the questions that will be answered when this conference comes to a close on Dec. 10.






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