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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 244       E-mail us
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For many, the long holiday begins Friday, Dec. 19
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The vacation for public employees will be about 16 days this year, thanks to Christmas and New Year's Day being on Thursdays.

Many government offices will close Friday, Dec. 19, and will reopen Monday, Jan. 5. But there are a lot of exceptions.

The Dirección General de Migración main office in La Uruca is closing for most business Monday, Dec. 15, because of electrical work, said a news release. Those foreigners who have appointments still may show up during next week. But then the entire agency closes Friday, Dec. 19, for vacation.

Public schools end the year Friday, Dec. 19, too, although graduations take place through Dec. 23, according to the Ministerio de Educación Pública. The central administrative offices close for vacation Tuesday, Dec. 23. The new school year starts Feb. 11. Some private schools follow the Costa Rican calendar, but others are on a North American plan.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, where Costa Ricans go to obtain replacement cédulas and other official certificates, reported that it would close Dec. 23 and reopen Jan. 5.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said it would close its central offices at the end of the workday Friday Dec. 19. The first floor of the 
offices on Avenida 2 will be open Dec. 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 and Jan. 2, mainly to receive payments and paperwork from employers.

The Caja was quick to point out that its hospitals will be open all the time, 24 hours a day.

That also is true of the Judicial Investigating Organization. Although many offices will be closed or on reduced staff, the office where complaints are received will continue to function 24 hours a day, as will investigators.

A.M. Costa Rica will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, although the news will be monitored continually and special editions will be produced for major breaking stories, as usual.

Most retail enterprises will be open through at least part of the Dec. 24 workday. But then San José empties as employees and owners of private businesses go on vacation.

The Zapote carnival and bull-baiting event begins Christmas Day for those still in the metro area.

Restaurants and bars will have schedules consistent with their clientèle with most businesses related to tourism working through the holidays. Real estate firms in particular will be trying to make up for lost time during the start of the high season when many foreign visitors arrive. Lower prices are sure to attract buyers.


Help sought for endangered macaw breeeding center
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local real estate firm that has a scarlet macaw on its logo is encouraging donations to the Amigos de las Aves breeding center and zoological park.

macaw
Margot Frisius
Margot and Richard Frisius ran Amigos de las Aves for 30 years, but Mrs. Frisius died nearly two months ago. She was 86. Richard is 90 "is in need of all of our support to see that this foundation is able to continue on," said Emerald Forest Properties, which is promoting the fund drive.

The couple used their 17-acre aviary in Río Segundo, to breed and reinsert birds into the wilds. They started in 1980.

He is a former Pan American Airways employee raised in California. She was born in Germany but came to the United States when she was 6. They married in 1943.

The scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and the great green macaw (Ara ambigua) are endangered but they also are signature birds for Costa Rica, as in the Emerald Forest logo.

Amigos de las Aves, a non-profit, said that it incorporates breeding techniques, aviary management, environmental and key studies and conservation issues, in order to carry out controlled release programs in conjunction with the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaiones under Costa Rican laws.

Emerald Forest said that donations may be made to Hatchedtoflyfree Trust. c/o Richard Frisius, Apdo 2306-4050, Alajuela, Costa Rica, or via the Web site.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 244

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Lawmakers give final OK
to stiffer traffic code


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa passed on second and final reading Monday a new, stiffer traffic code that punishes drunk drivers, reckless drivers and others who commit lesser infractions.

The vote was 45 to 4.

The bulk of the law will not go into effect until August because traffic officials need time to draw up regulations. The exact date depends on when the law is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper, which goes on vacation Dec. 19.

The law appears to go into effect immediately for drunk drivers and those who are found to be reckless. A $400 fine is possible, as is jail time.

The law also sets up a point schedule so that lesser penalties can result in the loss of licenses.

Also facing stiff fines are those who go through red lights, those who drive while talking on a cell phone and those who do not wear seatbelts.

The stiffest penalty in the law is for drivers who cause death while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The driver can receive from four to 15 years in prison and cancellation of the driver's license for up to 20 years. In case of injury instead of death, the penalty can be four to 12 years in prison.

Reckless drivers can get six months to a year in prison and suspension of the license for a year. Reckless driving is defined as going above the posted speed limits in a way that puts in real or potential danger the life or limb of individuals or of the general security of the road.

Lawmakers had little choice but to pass the measure because of a groundswell of support to any action that would end the continual accidents and deaths on the highway. For example, of the 78 pedestrians killed so far this year, at least 13 died because of a drunk driver.

Meanwhile traffic police in the hundreds have taken to the road to conduct sweeps and roadblocks through the end of the Christmas vacation Jan. 5.


Two die in shootings
blamed on groups


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men died of multiple bullet wounds Sunday in separate attacks which the Fuerza Pública believes were carried out by a group of people, rather than an individual. 

An argument among neighbors in the center of Hatillo quickly turned bloody at 4 p.m., resulting in the death of Juan Gerardo Campos Pérez, 29. He received several gunshots in different parts of his body. Two of his neighbors involved in the confrontation were also injured. Alexander Ramirez Bodilla received a bullet in the legs, while Bryan Cerdos Porras was shot in the neck, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.

In Alajuela, a 56-year-old man was also killed by a group of people, possibly neighbors, said the Fuerza Pública. Roger Vega Cubero died at 9 p.m. on Sunday, after receiving four bullet wounds in separate parts of his body.


Security guard implicated
in office supply looting


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública detained six men, including a security guard, in La Uruca Sunday for investigation in the theft of approximately 20 million colons worth of electronic goods from an office supply store.

According to reports by the Fuerza Pública, the men are accused of breaking into the office equipment store with the help of the store's security guard, identified as Omar Vargas Monge. While two men waiting in a minivan parked at the curb, the other four loaded armload after armload of laptop computers into the vehicle.

After looting the supply room, the thieves started drilling a hole through the store's roof, intending to break into the office supply store next door. Before they could break in, the Fuerza Pública arrived and arrested suspects.

Two of the men, Alejandro Salazar Ramirez and Diecit Ríos Machado, are Colombian, while the other three, Luis Salazar Calderon, Reinaldo Cruz Umaña, and Gerardo Gonzalez Perez, are Costa Rican, the Fuerza Pública said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 244



He's going batty over his new homeowner problem
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A reader was so impressed by responses to a question about mold and mildew that he has posed his own homeowner question: " How about the problem of BATS?"

The reader with the problem is Steve Petretti of San Buenaventura. He writes:

"The bats moved in before we did.  They were even flying around inside the unfinished house.  We have a corrugated metal type roof.

"Wood tongue and groove ceiling, is attached at the bottom of the rafters.  So there is space in between there. You can hear them moving around making lots of noise.  Squeaking, walking around like they have comBAT boots on.  The dung is starting to come through the slits in the ceiling wood.  Even in the daytime, they are making a racket.

"The worst part of it all, I am still getting eaten up with mosquitoes and no-see-ems, their favorite food.  Some one told me I can throw some bat-eating snakes up there.  But my kids didn't sit to well with that idea.

"I don't know if these are the same bats that are nibbling on my dogs ear at night.  And I have noticed nibbling on my horses too.
bts in the house
"It would almost be impossible to seal every crack, nook and cranny.  Especially not trapping them in there causing a foul odor of rotting mammals.  Then you got the ants that will probably want to clean up the mess for you, invading your house afterwards.

"So here is one for your readers.



Sabana art museum will be getting a makeover in 2009
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Arte Costarricense closed its doors Monday to begin a year-long, 350 million-colon restoration and repair job. The museum is in the former international airline terminal on the east side of Parque la Sabana.

Museum officials, in a release, said that this does not mean there will be no exhibitions in 2009. The museum has 17 scheduled, including four outside the metropolitan area, official said.

The jobs that are planned are extensive. The entire roof of the structure will be replaced as will the electrical and telephone systems. A security system will be installed, too.
At the current rate of exchange, the job is valued at about $634,000.

The first task will be to install a new roof and the restoration of the old airport control tower. That will begin in January, the announcement said.

Also included in the job is making the various terraces waterproof and the installation of new interior floors. One goal of the job, officials said is to recapture the historic character of the building, and that concern will be involved in the choice of materials.

This is the airport where John F. Kennedy landed in 1963 before the airport became a municipal park.


Caja told to pay disability despite existence of other insurance policies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's social welfare agency has to pay disability even if the person receiving the money has a parallel insurance policy that also makes payments.

That was the ruling announced Monday by the Sala IV constitutional court. It decided that the agency, the Caja  Costarricense de Seguro Social, has to make payments even if there exists a jobs hazard policy or a separate vehicle accident policy.

The court threw out a rule by the Caja that said it only
would pay after funds from the other policies were exhausted.  The measure was made retroactive, but there was no indication Monday what this decision would cost the Caja.

The case was brought by a man who has the last names of  Ramírez Morales. He said that the Caja exceeded its authority in passing its rule. He also alleged a litany of violations of rights, including the right to human dignity.
At this point all individual insurance policies are issued by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. However this will change with the opening of the insurance market to private competition.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 244


Caribbean leaders call for end of U.S. embargo of Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leaders of 14 Caribbean nations called Monday for the United States to lift its decades-old embargo against Cuba, as they gathered in the Cuban city of Santiago to discuss economic ties.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, said the Caribbean community, or Caricom, hopes the incoming administration of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama will relegate that policy to history. He noted that many members of the United Nations have called for the elimination of the embargo.

Cuban President Raúl Castro has said he would be willing to meet with Obama in the future. Obama has said he
would like to lift travel restrictions on Cuban Americans and revisit other U.S.-Cuba policies.

But Obama has said he would maintain the nearly 50-year-old embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the Communist-led island.

Participants at the Caricom meeting are also expected to discuss the regional impact of the world financial crisis. Food supplies, energy, and climate change are on the agenda as well.

Officials plan a tribute to Castro's older brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since July 2006, when he underwent emergency intestinal surgery.


Former hostage Betancourt holds meeting with Venezuelan President Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt has met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to discuss Venezuelan support for freeing other hostages held by rebels in Colombia.

Ms. Betancourt met with Chávez Monday at the presidential palace in Caracas.

The French-Colombian politician has been on a tour of South American countries to solicit regional support for persuading rebels with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia to release their captives. The  rebels are holding some 700 hostages for ransom or political leverage.
Ms. Betancourt's tour, which began last month, included her native country as well as Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and now Venezuela.

Ms. Betancourt was a presidential candidate in Colombia when she was captured by rebels in 2002. She was held for more than six years before being rescued by the Colombian military in July.

Chávez has been accused of helping the Colombian rebels and allowing them free passage along Venezuela's western border with Colombia.

He also is believed to have provided financial support. But he did make several initiatives to free the hostages before Ms. Betancourt was liberated.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 244




A.M. Costa Rica

users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 


Contacting us

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

Visiting us

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



Honduran chief executive
wants to keep eye on media


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Honduran government has announced a plan to sponsor the creation of a national news media watchdog whose objective would be to assess and keep an eye on editorial content.

Enrique Flores Lanza, minister of the Presidencia, announced that President Manuel Zelaya’s government is promoting “the setting up of a national watchdog on news media in which different sectors of society could assess how news of national interest are handled objectively and professionally or on the contrary are manipulated, tendentious and irresponsible.”

Enrique Santos Calderón, president of the Miami-based Inter American Press Association and editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, said “It is not the responsibility of the government to oversee, assess or evaluate the content of information that the media disseminate. When the authorities assume the role of watchdogs over the press they act contrary to freedom of expression and of the press guaranteed under the constitutions of our hemisphere, and such action thus becomes an interference.”

The minister said the watchdog unit would be made up of various community organizations and would not be run by the government. He added that the body would have as its goal the production of reports on “the manner in which some news media conduct themselves” and “it will determine which news media outlets become enemies of the general interests of the population by tendentiously manipulating information and systematically harming the image not of the government but of the country.”

The Argentine government tried to create a similar media watchdog group earlier this year. Following public debate and criticism by international free speech and human rights organizations, the government finally dropped the idea.

Condoleezza Rice visits
Panamá with delegation

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice goes to Panamá today for a two-day round of discussions.

She was invited by President Martin Torríjos Espino, according to the U.S. State Department.

Ms. Rice and Torríjos will discuss issues, including trade and education, said the State Department. She will lead an interagency team to participate in the first Pathways to Prosperity ministerial meeting.

President George Bush and leaders of 11 Western Hemisphere countries launched the Pathways initiative Sept. 24 to ensure that the benefits of trade more broadly reach all citizens, the department said, adding that discussions by officials will focus on the establishment of a plan of action to develop policies and programs to achieve these goals.

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