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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Dec. 12, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 247       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Weather may be a bit of a challenge for festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those planning on witnessing the Festival de la Luz parade Saturday night better dress warmly and bring rain gear.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that a cold front will bring chilly, windy weather and a good chance of light rain Saturday night.

Municipal officials are expecting an incredible million to 1.5 million persons to line the parade route.

The weather institute said the winds would be their strongest today but the temperature would be colder Saturday. The estimate is 16 degrees C (60 F) during the parade Saturday night but with wind making the temperature seem colder.

The weather institute issued a special summary for the Festival de la Luz.

The parade begins at 6 p.m. from Parque la Sabana. The route is east on Paseo Colón and turning onto Avenida 2 at the Hospital San Juan de Dios. The parade ends at Calle 11.

Those who do not already have their passes for grandstands are out of luck. Some private individuals have set up viewing facilities on their own property, and hotels and other structures overlooking the parade route will have many visitors.

For those not willing to brave the wind and rain (The possibility estimate is from 30 to 40 percent), the event will be on most local television stations. The Municipalidad de San José said specifically Repretel Channel 6, Teletica Channel 7, Channel 13 and Channel 42.

A little known fact about the festival is that companies that enter floats are supposed to downplay the commercialization. The municipality has strict rules on placement of company name and what is to be contained on
festival guy

the float. All of the entries had to be approved in the design stage by Oct. 31.

There are several awards for floats, called carrozas in Spanish. Parents with younger children might want to just view the floats in the afternoon. They will be lined up along the south side of Parque la Sabana.

The parade naturally will cause traffic rerouting, as will the closing of the Autopista Próspero Fernández between la Sabana and Escazú about 10 p.m. that night. There is construction work at the Río Tiribi bridge on the autopista unrelated to the parade, and the road will be closed through Sunday noon. Also affected are the intersections with the Circunvalación and at Escazú. This is part of the Autopista del Sol highway constuction. Workers are widening the bridge.

To provide security and traffic control thousands of Fuerza Pública, Tránsito, Cruz Roja fire, child welfare and other personnel will work the parade route.

The cold front also is expected to bring more rain to the northern zone and the Caribbean coast. That is the area hard hit by 15 days of downpours and flooding in late November and last week. But the weather institute predicts moderate rain.

Much-sought slashing suspect turns up in Quepos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Quepos resident tipped off police and allowed them to capture Minor Alcides Morales Morales, 41, perhaps the country's most wanted man.

He was the man accused of stabbing his former companion, Ana Ruth Campos Esquivel, 31, in  Palmar Norte, Osa, on the south Pacific coast Nov. 24. The woman lived but bears scars and stitched slashes on her face, arms and body.

Agents said she was stabbed 17 times.
The case would not have received the notority it did if a judge did not release the presumed assailant a short time later. Although he was supposed to stay in the area, he fled and appears to have obtained some form of construction job in Quepos, where he was detained. In his absence, another judge overruled the original decision and ordered that the man be jailed for two months for investigation.

The Quepos woman who recognized him said she did so because she had seen his photo in a newspaper.

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Drug agents make move
against criminal gangs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A significant percentage of violent crime in the Central Valley and even at the tourist beach resorts can be traced back to gangs based in Pavas.

The gang members exercise strong control of drug distribution in their areas, and some members leave the security of their turf to commit robberies, home invasions and worse. Others on the wave of criminality are the drug customers of the gangs who are seeking funds to feed their habits.

Some of the murders that populate the television screens and pages of the Spanish-language newspapers are related in some way to gang members protecting the turf, punishing drug distributors or waring among themselves.

An example is Odilia Imelda Salas Abarca, 44, who was gunned down Aug. 3 while driving her car on the Circunvalación. She was on her way to the San Sebastián reception center to see her jailed son. He is associated with the Polacos, one of the major gangs. Two men on a motorcycle fired at least eight times at the woman while she was in a car headed to the jail. That was in the southern San José community of Hatillo 8.

Anti-drug police took steps to crack down on the free-wheeling gangs Thursday.  Agents arrested 10 persons, including two daughters of Ms. Salas, who they said now run the family drug distributing monopoly in Villa Esperanza de Pavas.

Agents said they confiscated 971 doses of crack cocaine and more than 1.3 million colons, about $2,350, vehicles and at least one firearm.

They also arrested a man with the last names of Campos Porras, who goes by the nickname of "Pepón." He is 33 and since 1995 has been arrested at least nine times for investigation of crimes such as auto theft, sale of drugs, aggravated robbery, extortion and carrying illegal weapons, investigators said.

Also detained was his wheelchair-bound younger brother, who has the same last two names and is 29. He, too, has been detained at least 10 times for mostly violent crimes.

Both are members of the gang known as the Los Renata.

In all, agents conducted 10 raids. Five were in the vicinity of the La POPS ice cream store in Villa Esperanza, turf of Los Polacos. At least two were in Alajuelita, the base of Los Renata.

Another gang did not figure in the arrests and raids Thursday. This is Los Diablos. It is this gang that is being blamed for the drive-by killing of Ms. Salas.

More criticism directed
at Sardinal water project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A watchdog agency, the Contraloría General de la República, has taken issue with some of the permits for water service granted for the controversial Sardinal-Playas del Coco water line. The permits were approved by the national water company, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados,

The Contraloría said that the water company has already transmitted connection certifications for water services for 22 projects, including condos, villas, apartments and commercial centers.

The permits for water services are essential for obtaining permits to begin construction from the municipality, as well as approval from the national environmental organization, the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental.

Many environmentalists and students agree with the watchdog agency in that there is a danger that constructing new beach view condos and villas would take water away from residents in the town.

The Contraloría cited a study it had completed Nov. 12,  which found that Acueductos y Alcantarillados had failed to complete sufficient studies on the viability of such a water line. Before Acueductos y Alcantarillados does so, these permits for water services should not be consider valid, the Contraloría said.

The water line is being financed by developers but being built by a private contractor under the authority of Acueductos y Alcantarillados. There have been protests in Sardinal and efforts to block construction. Some of the structures that would be serviced by the line already have been built and are standing vacant.

Head of Monetary Fund
says that country is sound

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the International Monetary Fund visited Costa Rican officials Thursday and pronounced the country financially sound due to its good economic policies, said Casa Presidencial.

The visitor was Dominique Strauss Kahnn, who also warned that no country in the world is immune from the impact of the world financial crisis. He also said that the International Monetary Fund was standing by in case Costa Rica needed aid.

Car theft suspects caught

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have detained 11 individuals believed linked to car thefts in Grecia, San Ramón, Palmares, Sarchí and Valverde Vega. The Judicial Investigating Organization and  a prosecutor based in Grecia conducted raids Thursday at several points in Alajuela province. These crimes did not involve robbery but theft of the vehicles when they were unattended, investigators said. The vehicles were then dismantled to be sold as repair parts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 247

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Sala IV discounts age as a barrier to getting home mortgage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Folks who may never live to see their mortgage paid off can still get one, the Sala IV constitutional court has ruled.

The case involves a woman, identified by the last names of González Trejos, who was denied a home mortgage because she is more than 60 years old.

The court made the ruling against Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito CoopeAnde Número Uno R.L.,  and told the managers of the cooperative that they had a month to do a credit analysis on the woman without consideration of her age. The cooperative had a policy of not making mortgage loans to persons over 60.

In addition, the court said that the cooperative should set up
  a lending program for older individuals within three months.

The court frequently takes broad steps in establishing policy for private entities.

A key point in the decision is that the court already has ordered the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, until recently the country's insurance monopoly, to write life policies on older residents. The woman presented information on this development to the cooperative officials suggesting that the debt could be covered by a life insurance policy, but she was denied a loan anyway, said the court in its decision that was released Thursday.

The Sala IV orders carry criminal sanctions if not carried out.

Children in hospital will get a colorful present Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sick youngsters at Costa Rica's famous Hospital Nacional de Niños will be getting a brightly colored early Christmas present from some of the best artists in the country.

The gift is a 4-meter-by-1.2-meter  (13.1-by-3.9-foot) mural stressing the rights and protection of children.

The artists are instructors at the Escuela Casa del Artista, the nation's 5-decades-old public training school for artists.

José Edwin Araya, director of the Casa del Artista, said that the idea originated with planning for the recent telethon, which raised funds for the hospital last weekend.

The teachers used their own time to plan and execute the mural, which is acrylic on canvas.
hospital mural
A thumbnail version of the mural

Roberto Salazar, recently named teacher of the year, was a principal promoter of the idea, Salazar said.  The project received the blessing of Dr. Rodolfo Hernández, hospital director.

The mural contains visual elements that relate to the theme of the rights and protection of children: family, education, health, recreation and personal contact in a society of peace.'
The work will be presented formally to the hospital Sunday.

There are some advantages to this season of transition
It looks as if the rainy season is finally over.  There have been blue skies in the morning the last couple of days. From my living room windows to the right I can see the entirety of my volcano (also known as Irazú), and to the left I can see the church in Heredia and the top of the mountain range behind it.  Even the nights have become balmy again, although this weekend may see a brief return to wet and chilly.

The only downside is that the sun now rises further to the south and no longer are my living room and balconies flooded with sunshine all morning.  They face the north.  I must wait for the rainy season to return to get the morning sun.  Sometimes there are drawbacks in change.

And sometime when I wasn’t looking, Christmas lights were hung, even along the Avenida de Las Americas, the avenue next to Sabana Park.  There are fiestas and music everywhere, indoors and out.  All of this is in preparation for Christmas.  I am not a Christmas person, so I don’t get caught up in the festivities, and certainly not in the crush of shoppers in the stores in downtown San José.  But I can appreciate the charm of the colorful lights, the variety of crèches on display everywhere, and even the lavishness of some of the decorations.

All of this will come to a halt, for some, the day after Christmas, for others even earlier.  They will be headed for the beach or perhaps back to their hometowns, but mainly the beaches. There it will be crowded — beyond crowded — and the festivities and the music will continue, and the city will be deserted.  The banks and government offices and many of the restaurants will be closed.  It is going to be very quiet.  A nice time to have or be invited to long, leisurely lunches with friends who haven’t left. 

I got a taste of this this past week when I was a guest for lunch of some neighbors who are good friends, and great cooks. (In Costa Rica many expats have our main meal in the middle of the day.)  There were the ideal number of people — six, and it was a leisurely feast served in courses – six delicious courses marked by their creativity, not because they were expensive.  The conversation ranged far and wide.  That’s my kind of dinner.  It began at 12:30 and it was dark when I left. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Of course, beyond that comfortable scene, all was and is not happy and serene.  There are a number of human traits and activities considered vices.  High on the list is avarice, although there is no vice squad that goes after greedy people unless these people break the law in their uncontrolled search for more (usually in the form of money).  The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich has crossed that line big time, to tarnish once again the less than shiny badge of politics, according to federal prosecutors.

In Costa Rica, yet another president has been on trial for activities prompted by avarice.  At the bottom of the financial crash is too many greedy people wanting more than they could afford or needed.  Greed, like those other legally termed vices such as sex for profit, gambling and drugs (in places that have laws against these activities) may also be an addiction.  The governor is behaving as if he were in the throes of a real bender.

As I have mentioned more than once, although pimping is illegal in Costa Rica, prostitution is not. Nor is gambling.  Both of these ventures will no doubt suffer in the coming depression.  Even now, I recently read that there are 4000 working girls here, and although it is a profitable, if temporary pursuit, many foreign women are coming here to compete with the locals.  Coming to this country and then staying here can involve illegal methods for these women, which means a criminal element gets involved and trouble with the law.

These topics were not the subjects of conversation at the dinner party.  Prostitution and gambling are not good subjects for dinner conversation.   I probably would have brought up the scandal in Illinois, but I have just recently mastered pronouncing Ahmadinejad.  I was not ready to risk Blagojevich.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 247

Concern voiced over decline in developing world exports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

World trade is expected to shrink for the first time since 1982, according to a new study by the World Bank. The "Global Economic Prospects" report says the current financial crisis has caused a sharp decline in commodity prices and will likely mean less investment, slower growth and fewer exports for developing countries.

The financial crisis that has roiled markets in rich countries is now hitting developing countries hard. Banks are at risk, many currencies are weak and foreign investments are down.

World Bank analyst Hans Timmer said countries that performed strongly last year are seeing record declines.

"Our forecast is for four-and-a-half percent growth in the developing world, that still seems high but that is more than three percent lower than in 2007, and that is one of the sharpest declines in growth on record," Timmer said.

The decline is blamed on weaker demand from developed countries. That has resulted in a slump in global trade, the first in 25 years. Less trade means losses in manufacturing and export markets, which in turn, have led to growing unemployment.

"Slower growth means also slower income growth for everybody in developing countries, including the poor, and
higher rates of unemployment in developing countries," he stated. "That means that the benefits that we have seen over the last five, six years with record growth in developing countries will be on hold for a short period of time."

The report says developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa will enjoy faster economic expansion than most industrialized countries next year. 
But many countries in Africa and East Asia will face difficulties raising money as credit tightens around the world. 

Bank economist Andrew Burns says countries that rely on profits from oil and metals will fare better.

"The positive story there is that when we observe what commodities exporting countries have done over the last 20 years, they've been much more prudent in terms of the management of the windfall revenues they've received as compared with the 1990s and 1980s." Burns stated.

Although the recent decline in oil prices has resulted in lower energy and food costs, Burns says poor countries will need help from rich countries to survive the economic fallout.

The World Bank has not ruled out the possibility of a global recession but the report says the worst should be over by 2010.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 247

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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.


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.


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.


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Chávez foe faces count
of illicit enrichment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan authorities have formally charged opposition leader Manuel Rosales with corruption stemming from his tenure as governor of the state of Zulia.

Federal prosecutors took action Thursday against Rosales, nearly three weeks after he was elected mayor of Maracaibo, the country's second-largest city. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said Rosales was charged with "illicit enrichment," but did not elaborate. Rosales, who was accompanied by supporters, denied the allegations, calling them a political lynching.

Rosales served as governor of Zulia prior to his election last month as Maracaibo mayor. He has been a leading opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and ran unsuccessfully against Chávez in the 2006 presidential election.

In local elections last month, the Venezuelan opposition made modest gains, winning five of the country's 22 states and the mayor's seat in the capital, Caracas.

Chávez has been pushing for a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay in office as long as he can keep winning elections.

Last year, Venezuelans narrowly rejected such a proposal in a referendum.

México to cut emissions
in half by year 2050

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

México is pledging to cut its carbon pollution in half by 2050 in an effort to address climate change.

The environment minister, Juan Rafael Elvira, made the comment Thursday during United Nations climate talks in Poznan, Poland. He said Mexican President Felipe Calderón will provide more details in February and that the target is half the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in Mexico in 2002.

Separately, a new World Bank report calls on Latin America not to sacrifice efforts to confront climate change in the midst of the global economic slowdown.

The report "Low Carbon, High Growth: Latin American Responses to Climate Change" says while Latin America is not a major polluter compared with others, its carbon emissions are increasing and that its countries and citizens, especially those living in extreme poverty (less than a dollar a day) are highly vulnerable.

Jo Stuart
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