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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 245       Email us
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Jo Stuart
American European Realty

Parade of lights montage
A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
The annual Festival de la Luz was a success Saturday with perhaps as many as a million persons attending. More than a dozen  professionally crafted floats and 14 bands helped spectators ignore the chilly and sometimes wet weather. See our story HERE! 

2012 is shaping up to be a really interesting year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With 2012 just a couple of weeks away, the rush to the holidays is in full swing.

Public employees have received their aguinaldo or 13th month pay, and shopping resembles a rugby scrum.

The coming year is shaping up to be one of great interest for expats here.

Then there are those who say the Christmas holiday will be the last because the world is coming to an end next year. And if the Mayan calendar does not do the job, surely global warming will.

Not only that, but bachelors have to be aware because 2012 is a leap year, and that gives women the right to propose marriage. For some confirmed single expats marriage would be worse than world destruction.

The Mayan calendar scare is right up there with invading space aliens. The idea is that when the calendar runs out of numbers, the world will end.

Most real experts report that the Mayans had a tun of numbers and the predictions of world destruction are greatly exaggerated.

Of course, there are some who believe the world will come to an end if Barack Obama is successful in the Nov. 6 election. The venom on the Internet knows no limits.

American expats will have plenty of resources again this year to register and vote in the U.S. election.

Of more current concern would be any required interplay with the government. Although the calendar (the Gregorian) says otherwise, Christmas already has arrived in public agencies.

There are the office holiday parties. There are the religious ceremonies related to setting up the nativity scene. And of course, there are the obligatory Christmas parties at the local restaurant.

The bottom line: Nothing will get done until the middle of January. If then.

With one exception. National lawmakers are still hard at work trying to pass a tax bill that will suck $500 million from the private sector. The lawmakers are threatening to work over Christmas to give President Laura Chinchilla her gift, a brief respite from bankruptcy. Next year's national budget is nearly 50 percent financed with borrowed money.

This is the same legislature that has been working 18 months to make needed changes in the draconian traffic law. That won't be done by Christmas or perhaps not even next year.

Costa Rica does not have a presidential vote until early 2014, but already a few politicians are beginning to sound like candidates. Much of what will be said next year will have to be viewed through skeptical eyes.

February marks the end of the tourism institute's sloth campaign. The idea was to create a big response among Facebook users by offering free trips to Costa Rica. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is investing $2.9 million and plans to invest even more in related campaigns in the United States.

By March or April the figures will be in so that the success of the promotion can be evaluated. Most tourism operators will know long before that.

Of more immediate concern is the luxury home tax, the Costa Rican income tax (due Thursday), patente payments, and maybe the new corporation tax if lawmakers get around to discussing it.

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It is very important that as residents of Costa Rica, we at least learn to speak basic Spanish, especially at the bank,supermarket, etc. We at Epifania Spanish School want to help you.  Our teachers are all courteous professionals and will teach you basic Spanish as well as Spanish you 
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Jeff Fisher, 18-year CR resident & Owner-Broker of CR Beach Investment Real Estate is
pleased to announce the hiring of his new licensed realtor, Peter Van Hussen, former owner of Hotel Canciones del Mar, and long-time Jaco-CR resident.
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Two tourists and driver
die in early morning crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A visit to Costa Rica ended tragically when the driver of a small bus carrying two tourists lost control of the vehicle, killing himself and the passengers.

The two travelers from Spain were headed from San José to the Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela early Saturday when the bus toppled into a riverbed below. They were crossing a bridge over Río Segundo but the guardrails did not prevent the vehicle from leaving the roadway, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported. The small bus plummeted to the riverbed and ended up on its side.

Authorities report that all three died at the scene. The two men from Spain were bound to return that day. The driver was a 50-year-old Costa Rican man.

Korean diplomat seeking
contact with war veterans

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Korean ambassador to Mexico is compiling a list of Korean war veterans who served in that theater during the war.  Information requested is name, address, telephone number and dates of Korean service.  The purpose of this list is to enable the Korean government to extend appreciation to these veterans for their service.

The ambassador has asked The American Legion to assist in compiling this list.  Points of contact for Costa Rica are Melvin Goldberg at 2288-0454 or Kenneth J Johnson, or at 2591-1695.

Our reader's opinion
Child prostitution estimate
appears to be overstated

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A response to the letter from Salvando Corazones.  In the last 21 years, I have spent at least three months per year in Costa Rica, mostly in and around San José.  Only once was I ever approached by child prostitutes.  On the way to my hotel in the late night, there were three teens near the metal school in Parque Espana who approached me for paid sex.  I told them to go home to their mommies. 

My question is,  "Where are the other 2,997 child prostitutes?"  Looks to me like the Salvando Corazones "facts" are well overcooked.  Have any of them ever visited Beautiful Costa Rica?  If not, I recommend that they try it.

John Bucher Herr
Holtwood, Pennsylvania

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, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 245
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Second luz montage
A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
Coca-Cola FEMSA's reindeer are an annual feature while younger children were dazzled by clowns
Police say they grabbed 42 suspects during Festival de la Luz
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officials report that revelers did less damage this year during and after the popular Festival de la Luz parade.

The event was Saturday, and police report that 42 persons were detained as suspects in separate crimes through midnight. There were persons with fireworks, cocaine, firearms and knives.

There were no reports of aggression, although the Cruz Roja said it treated nearly 200 persons and took about two dozen to local hospitals. Nearly 200 Cruz Roja workers were assigned to the annual event.

There were more than 400 police officers on duty at the parade, in part because previous years had seen disorder from intoxicated teens.

One of the 42 persons held Saturday night was the subject of an arrest warrant for aggravated robbery and computer fraud, said police.
As expected, about a million persons braved chilly weather and occasional sprinkles to view the event in person. Many others watched the three and a half hour parade via the television or on the computer feeds of the major television stations. 

Repretel said it had more than 150 workers on the job to cover the event. They ranged from camera operators and technicians to on-air commentators.

New floats this year came from Claro and Movistar, the cell telephone companies that have begun operations in the last year.

The security ministry fielded a drill team of coast guard members as well as one of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta open boats that was towed in the parade.

The Fuerza Pública fielded a Santa Claus dressed in a traditional fur-trimmed suit, except the suit was blue, the police force color. Blue Santa participated in the pre-parade festival that began at 3 p.m. for the benefit of younger children.

Teenage home invaders outgunned on Caribbean coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two brothers got a lot more than they had bargained for when they broke into a home in Las Vegas de Cerere, province of Limón.

The two teens, 16 and 17, planned to stick up and rob the couple living in the home. One brother had a knife and the other had a firearm.

Unfortunately for them, the owner of the home also had a gun, and he shot one in the head and one in the arm and back. Both brothers died at the scene.

The drama played out about 5:30 a.m. Sunday. The Judicial Investigating Organization did not report any arrest.

There were other weekend deaths. In La Carpio, La Uruca, a 2 a.m. gang fight resulted in a shootout that sent two young men to Hospital México. And two hours later, perhaps as a spin off of the earlier confrontation, a man with the last name of Portoblanco suffered fatal injuries when he and two other persons were attacked. The victim died later at Hospital México from bullet wounds.

In Lomas de Ocloro a 42-year-old man with the last name
of González suffered a fatal knife wound during an argument with another man about 7 p.m. Saturday. A 25-year-old man was detained.

Sunday afternoon about 1:30 p.m. agents based in San Ramón were called to the body of a 20-year-old man in an area known as Santo Sepulcro. He had been stabbed to death. Agents identified him by the last name of Jiménez and said he lived in the area. The body was in a vacant lot. He had been reported missing by his family.

An Atenas man died early Sunday during an argument at a bar. The victim, a 20 year old with the last name of  Zeledón died about 1:30 a.m. when the other party in the argument pulled a gun and shot him three times, said agents.

Earlier in La Carpio seven persons attacked a man boarding a bus and stripped him of his cloths and shoes. He suffered three stab wounds and was hospitalized. That incident took place about 7:30 p.m.

Agents also reported that a home in Barrio Jiménez, Guadalupe, was the target of invaders Friday night. About 8:30 p.m., an occupant was leaving the home when robbers took advantage of the open gate to rush into the home. They took a small safe and about $3,000 in cash, agents said.

Del Rey green season

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 245
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Cheap international calls with Localphone

Holiday is the time to bring
cheer to lower-income kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cops are calling it a blue Christmas as they carry the holiday celebration to children from lower-income neighborhoods in San José and Heredia.

Over the weekend more than 400 children were treated to gifts, music and other holiday traditions at the Museo de los Niños.

Juan José Andrade, Fuerza Pública director general, was among those distributing gifts. The weekend activities are just some of what the security ministry plans for the holidays.

Several vocal groups, including the Oratorio Don Bosco, participated.

In keeping with the Navidad Azul theme, Santa showed up in a blue suit instead of the traditional red one. The color, of course, is representative of the Fuerza Pública. Other officers donned wigs and clown costumes to entertain the children.
blue santa
Minsterio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa

 Juan José Andrade hands out a gift under the professional
 eye of Santa in blue.

Durban climate conference appears to have come up short
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Negotiators at the U.N. climate conference in South Africa have approved a package of agreements to combat global climate change. While the deal is a step forward, observers say more should have been accomplished.

After hours of political wrangling and compromise on all sides, delegates emerged from an all-night session Sunday with a way forward on climate change.

Going into the last-minute negotiations, the South African president of the conference, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, told delegates the package of deals would not please everyone.

“I think we all realize they're not perfect, but we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good and the possible,” he said.

Among the biggest achievements was the approval of a European Union plan to negotiate a future legal deal to combat climate change.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard lobbied fiercely for the so-called EU roadmap, saying, “We are on the brink. It is within our reach to get what the world is waiting for and what only few thought would happen now: a legally binding deal,” said Ms. Hedegaard.

The agreement calls for parties to end negotiations on a future pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and to implement the new regime no later than 2020.

Emotions ran high in the middle-of-the-night plenary session about plans for the future agreement.

Karl Hood of Grenada, representing a coalition of small island states took issue with the language in the draft text, which did not specify what legal form the agreement would take.
“And if there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions then, Madame Chair, I'm saying that we are relegating vulnerable economies to the whims and fancies of beautiful words like 'self-determination' like 'access to development'; while they develop, we die in the process,” said Hood.

The future deal will replace the Kyoto Protocol, an existing legal framework that was enacted in 2007 and was due to expire next year.

Governments that are part of Kyoto, including the EU, agreed in Durban to a second commitment period to the protocol that will last five to eight years, though Russia, Japan and Canada have said they will not take part.

The conference did not produce any immediate promises to further cut emissions blamed for climate change.

Tim Gore, the climate policy advisor for Oxfam, said developing countries will not benefit much from the deals passed here in Durban.

“They didn't get a great deal out of this. I think this was largely an agreement which was struck between the big boys, between the U.S., the European Union, perhaps some of the emergency economies did a deal on a future legal agreement, and that's significant, but it hasn't necessarily delivered the action that the very poorest countries, and the poorest people within them, need here and now,” said Gore.

Parties also agreed in Durban to put into operation a Green Climate Fund, which is to provide assistance to developing nations for environmental projects.  However, there was no agreement on how to actually finance the Fund, so, for the time being it remains an empty shell.

Some of these issues will likely be addressed again at the U.N. climate conference next year in Qatar.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 245
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

At least two are reported
dead in Mexican quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican officials say a 6.5 magnitude earthquake has killed at least two people after hitting western Guerrero state Saturday night.

Authorities say a house collapsed, killing one victim in the town of Iguala, located between Acapulco and the capital, Mexico City.  Another person was killed on a highway between the two cities.

The quake was felt in Mexico City, but there are no immediate reports of deaths or injuries there. However, witnesses report power outages and people running into the street in the capital.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was centered 166 kilometers south-southwest of the capital at a depth of 65 kilometers. Authorities are still assessing possible damage across the impacted areas.

In 1985, a powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least 10,000 people in Mexico City.

Peruvian minister quits
in wake of mine protests

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has replaced his prime minister in the first cabinet shakeup of the president's new administration.

Humala appointed his interior secretary, Oscar Valdes, to replace Salomon Lerner, an ally who resigned after less than five months on the job.

There are reports Lerner's departure has been linked to his unsuccessful attempts at negotiating an end to environmental protests that slowed the $4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mining project. Lerner's resignation comes just days after President Humala declared a state of emergency in the Cajamarca mining area last week.

The president's declaration gives police and the military more authority to shut down protests of the Conga mining project, which he says will bring thousands of jobs to Peru.

President Humala has not commented on the shakeup in his Cabinet.  There is no indication whether there will be more changes in his Cabinet.

Snake experts report
deaths are under-reported

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Neglected tropical diseases such as dengue, leishmaniasis, and trachoma are getting more attention these days, but other health threats are almost completely off the radar.

One example is the deadly toll taken by venomous snakes, which was discussed by experts at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in Philadelphia.

"Snakebite envenoming is a very acute and life threatening and complex condition," says Ulrich Kuch of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, who co-chaired a symposium on snakebite last week.

The extent of the problem is a little unclear. A 2008 study found poisonous snakes cause as many as 94,000 deaths a year. But Kuch says that may understate the problem.

"New numbers from very rigorously designed and well-conducted studies in India and Bangladesh have come up with numbers that suggest that the real death toll of snakebites at the global level is much higher."

Many people die needlessly from the bites of poisonous snakes, Kuch says, because many snakebite victims consult traditional healers or otherwise fail to seek medical attention.

"Either because there is no treatment available, or because health care staff do not know how to treat snakebites, or because transportation to get to a health facility is not available or too expensive."

There is no generic antivenom used to treat snakebite. A patient must be treated with an antivenom specific to the each particular species of snake. The life-saving antidote is often expensive, but cost and availability vary widely.

Despite the challenges, Kuch says the atmosphere at the symposium on snakebites was positive.

Because using the right antivenom is critical, rapid diagnosis tests are being developed to help health workers determine which to administer. The tests are designed to be used in poor, rural areas.

Kuch also mentioned the experience of a community-based clinic in Damak, Nepal, which showed it is possible to save lives by treating snakebites locally with specially-trained paramedics, working in a facility that treats only snakebites.

Pope expected to visit
México and Cuba in 2012

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Senior Roman Catholic officials say Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba and México next year, his first Papal visit to the two Latin American nations.

Monsignor Jose Felix Pérez, one of the Vatican's top officials in Cuba, said Thursday the exact dates have not yet been determined. Pérez said he thought the pontiff's visit would energize Cuba's Catholic community and perhaps be a chance to discuss reforms with Cuba's government.

Relations were long strained between the Roman Catholic Church and Cuba under former president Fidel Castro, but began to improve in the 1990s. After Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba in 1998, Castro declared Cuba a secular state in which the government takes no official stance on religious matters.

This allowed Cubans greater religious expression in what had been a largely atheistic society..
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Steady rains inundate
much of the country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will continue to be under the influence of a high pressure system today, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. This means that there will be rain on the Caribbean coast and rain in the afternoon in the central and south Pacific. The northern zone and the Caribbean can expect rain continuing into the evening, said the forecast.

The weather institute warned earlier Sunday of high winds and heavy rain along the Caribbean coast.

The Central Valley saw rain off and on during much of the afternoon followed by a steady rain into the evening. However, there was little wind. Still the continual raid has been generating some concern among rescue agencies because of the potential for slides.

Weekend work at two sites
designed to improve roadway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway workers have been on the job at Ruta 2 near Casa Mata and on the Florencio del Castillo highway over the weekend.

At Casa Mata, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said it expected that the highway, the Interamericana Sur, would be open to heavy vehicles today. The road was opened to passenger vehicles last week after a landslide took a bit bite out of the highway.

On the Florencio del Castillo highway the workers are repairing broken concrete. The highway agency said it expected the job to be finishing by Dec. 23.

Noriega finally returns
to face possible house arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The former dictator of Panamá, Manuel Noriega, has returned home, after spending more than 20 years in prisons in the United States and France.

Noriega arrived Sunday evening after being extradited from France, where he served time for money laundering.

The former strongman now faces three separate sentences in Panama for the slayings of political opponents, including the 1985 beheading of Hugo Spadafora.

Noriega ruled the Central American nation with an iron hand during the 1980s, when he also was on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  But he was overthrown by a U.S. invasion in 1989. 

After being imprisoned in the United States on drug trafficking charges, Noriega was extradited to France. 

Noriega, who is 77, qualifies for house arrest because of his age.

During the years Noriega was serving as a CIA informant, he also was cooperating with Colombia's powerful Medellin drug cartel, laundering money and allowing Panama to serve as a transfer point for illegal drugs.

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