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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, Dec. 14, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 246            E-mail us
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For big lottery winners, problems are just begining
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Somewhere this morning there is joy in an undetermined number of Costa Rican homes. Here live those who have been lucky and got a piece of
Lottery canasta
the Gordo Christmas lottery, which was drawn Sunday night.

If the winner bought an entire lottery ticket of 40 pieces, the prize is 725 million colons, about $1.3 million.
There are six such tickets in Costa Rica this morning with the number 90 and the series 892. If the past is a guide, some of the tickets will have been divided up among family members, among friends, sometimes among small communities.

There was a second prize, too: Number 96 in the series 344. One of these tickets is worth 46 million colons or about $81,300.

Third prize goes to Number 75 in series 970. A full lottery ticket with these numbers is worth 27 million or about $47,700.

The Junta de Protección Social, the government agency that runs the lottery, said that the six identical tickets in each winning category are well distributed over the country.

Today happy winners of some major prizes and some lesser ones will be showing up at Junta offices to redeem the pieces of paper for money.
But its in the homes where the big winners live that the drama is starting to play out. For many Costa Ricans a lottery win brings in money far beyond their dreams, and hardly any is prepared to handle the impact. There is no government agency to help winning Ticos safeguard their lives.

Anton Pavlovich Chekov described in his 1887 short story what might happen to a lottery winner. Joy turns to greed and love turns to hatred, he noted in "The Lottery Ticket," a succinct psychological exploration in less than 2,000 words.

Every once in awhile Costa Ricans will see a man shuffling through the downtown. His clothes are dirty. His eyes are sunken.

"There goes Marco who won the lottery 12 years ago," they will say. Tales are legion of lottery winners who go through vast sums in a short period. They have a lot of help. Members of the whole extended family have really good reasons why the winner should lend them money. So do close and distant friends.

Then there are the surprise children and lawsuits by the neighbors.

As to Chekov's protagonist, Ivan Dmitritch, whose life was destroyed even when he incorrectly thought he won the lottery, he said:

"Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!"



Mrs. Clinton warns Latin leaders about flirting with Iranians
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday urged Latin American countries to think twice about establishing links with Iran, which she said is the world's leading promoter and exporter of terrorism. Clinton also expressed concern about democratically-elected leaders in Latin America who later undermine democratic institutions.

Mrs. Clinton's remarks at a State Department public policy forum on Latin America were some of the strongest by an Obama administration official to date about increasing Iranian activity in the region.

Iran has been establishing close political, trade and other relationships with several left-leaning Latin American governments, underlined by recent visits by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia.

In a question and answer session with participants in the event, Mrs. Clinton said the United States has no problem with non-Western Hemisphere countries like China having legitimate business and investment activities in Latin America.

But she said U.S. officials are concerned about what she said was Iran's interest in promoting itself in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia and said allowing Iranian influence to take root is, in her words, "a very bad idea for the countries involved."

"We hope that there will be a recognition that this is the major supporter, promoter and exporter of terrorism in the world today," she said. "The Revolutionary Guard of Iran is increasing its control over the country because of the elections,
which were a stark example of the abuse of human rights in action, is deeply involved in the economy as well as the security issues of Iran. And I think that if people want to flirt with Iran, they should take a look at what the consequences might well be for them. And we hope that they will think twice and we're going to support them if they do."

There have been similar expressions of concern from Pentagon officials including Defense Secretary Robert Gates who in Senate testimony earlier this year said he was concerned about Iranian meddling in Latin America.

U.S. officials have accused Iran of supporting activities in Latin America of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and Tehran is accused of involvement in 1990's bomb attacks on a Jewish center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.

In the policy forum, Mrs. Clinton also reiterated U.S. worry about countries in Latin America where leaders who, after being democratically elected, move to undermine constitutional rule, citing in particular Venezuela and Nicaragua.

"We need to make it absolutely an article of faith that any leader elected must not just further his own position, and his power base, but respect the right of the people who elected him and build up the democracy so that democratic development and economic development can go hand in hand," she said.

Mrs. Clinton said she hoped to see, in the not-too-distant future, a democratic Cuba, which she said would be extraordinarily positive for the hemisphere.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 246

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Vacation time draws near
as do two tax deadlines


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats have only a few days to get official business done until the bulk of the government goes on Christmas break.

Tuesday is the deadline for filing the annual taxes for the 2008-2009 fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Many expats are worried about the Dec. 31 deadline on filing the valuation of a home for the luxury home tax. That also is the date that the taxes have to be paid, but the situation is complicated becausee the Dirección General de Tributación appears to have made no effort to advertise the deadlines to the Costa Rican public. There still is no word of a legal challenge to the complex law.

Friday is the last working day until Jan. 4 for much of the central government, judiciary and legislature.

Many municipalities are working through Dec. 21, although they may be short staffed.

Tourism operators on the other hand are hoping to be very busy this high season. They will be working with less staff than last year because government sources say that some 3,000 employees have been laid off in the tourism and hotel industries.

The season appears to be receiving about 80 percent of the business of prior years. Some upscale hotels are at 50 percent reservations for Christmas and New Year's. In previous years they would have been filled, but price appears to be a major factor this year for foreign and national tourists..


Police prevent mishaps
in Festival de la Luz patrols

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were some strange happenings at the Festival de la Luz Saturday. The Fuerza Pública said officers found several bags full of rocks that it appeared spectators were going to throw at the participants in the Christmas parade.

There also were rocks of another kind, crack rocks. Police said they detained 19 persons, and among them were individuals who were carrying crack cocaine and also baggies of marijuana.

Another individual was detained for trying to sell beer illegally. The man had 12 cans in a bag. Officials prohibited alcohol at the parade to cut down on the rowdy behavior. Still waves of youngsters were seen causing problems.

Police also stopped young men who were trying to remove the bolts from a grandstand. The Fuerza Pública said that had they done so they would have put the persons watching the parade from that vantage point at great risk.

Most of those detained were held for minor crimes like being drunk in a public place, disturbing the peace or not having identity documents. But one man was found who had an outstanding arrest warrant, police said.

About a million persons filled up the streets in San José to see the parade, and police were out in force. There were no reports of crimes with injuries, and police confiscated only one knife.


U.S. finances new clinic
in community of Bambu


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States has financed a new medical clinic in the community of Bambu, Talamanca. The $62,000 clinic was constructed as part of a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored humanitarian assistance project. The work was done by local contractors. The 984-square-foot clinic includes a waiting room, emergency room, records room, consultations room, immunizations area, lavatories, kitchen and storage area, the Southern Command said.

According to Bambu inhabitants, the previous clinic was about to wash away with the heavy rains that fall during the rainy season. The clinic will offer general medical care, dental care as well as pediatric and gynecological services. The majority of the residents are BriBri.

The clinic will serve more than 2,000 inhabitants in the community of Bambu, as well as people of neighboring communities including Panamanians who live along the Costa Rica-Panamanian border, U.S., officials said.


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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 weekday.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 246

Costa Rica pushes for funds at U.N. Climate conference
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Costa Rica is seeking appropriate opportunities for financing, transfer of technology and resources from the developed countries to support and strengthen policies and programs of adaptation and mitigation of climate change, according to Casa Presidencial.

The country has a delegation of 20 at Copenhagen, Denmark, for the U.N. climate conference. Eight of those members are official, and 12 represent non-government organizations and universities, Casa Presidencial said.

Absent is President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was said to be too wrapped up in end of year activities to attend. Heading the Costa Rican delegation is Jorge Rodríguez, minister of Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

Casa Presidencial said that Arias has instructed the delegation to establish the obligation and commitment of the developed countries to assume the major responsibility for the carbon emissions that they generate. Arias noted that Costa Rica is unique in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions  so that the country is carbon neutral by 2021.

However, the Costa Rican expectations may be optimistic. Delegates to the climate conference held informal talks Sunday, during a one-day break from negotiations aimed at crafting a new global climate change treaty. As the 12-day conference entered its second week, analysts reported little progress in replacing the current treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. 

They say the conference gained sharper focus on Friday, with the release of a draft charter outlining ambitious carbon gas reductions over the next four decades.

Under that draft, industrialized nations would reduce carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 25 to 45 percent over the next decade.  Major developing economies such as China and India would reduce theirs by 15 to 30 percent.  Further cuts would be mandated until 2050.

However, the draft does not specify how much money rich countries will give poorer ones to cope with the effects of global warming. Costa Rica is expecting compensation.

Funding proposals are a key point of contention between delegates from industrialized countries and those from
pledge site
This is the U.N. pledge site keeping track of promises by nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Click graphics for larger image.

developing economies.  Some analysts have predicted those differences are great enough to wreck any chances for a meaningful pact this week.

More than 100 heads of state and government are due to attend the final days of the conference, which ends Friday.  U.N. officials and world leaders have said they are confident a workable draft will be in place by then.

Police in Copenhagen have released hundreds of activists detained Saturday during a mass demonstration demanding progress at the conference. Police detained about 200 others Sunday.

Some 40,000 people joined the mostly peaceful protest march toward the assembly hall where the delegates from 192 nations are meeting. Similar protests were held in Australia, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and other countries.  

U.N. officials launched a new online tool to keep track of what developed countries pledge.

The so-called pledge tracker is being updated as new proposals are made. The tool compares and consolidates all the national pledges made so far with the scientific goal of getting the world at or under a 2 degree C. rise compared to pre-industrial levels.

Experts estimate that what is needed is to bring emissions of greenhouse gases down to 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020 in order to give the world a 50 percent chance of meeting that temperature target.


Banco Anglo being reborn as national heritage center
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats have have their Hermanos Villalobos and Savings Unlimited scandals, but for Costa Ricans nothing can top the collapse of the Banco Anglo Costarricense in 1994. The state bank was closed by decree after officials ran up losses that may have been as much as $140 million.

Now the Avenida Central structure is becoming the home for the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural. The culture ministry dependency has invested 300 million colons, some $530,000 in restoring the neoclassical structure.

This is the building that stands opposite Librería Lehmann on the pedestrian boulevard. It has been closed since the
bank failed, although periodically there has been some restoration work done. The structure will be inaugurated Tuesday with a visit by President Óscar Arias Sánchez,  María Elena Carballo, the minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, and Sandra Quirós, the director of the centro. The center tries to preserve the nation's heritage architecture as well as intangible heritage like myths, stories and recipes.

The structure has access to buildings along Avenida 2 through the back door.

Some nine officers of the former Banco Anglo have received prison terms for their role in the disaster. The bank management invested heavily in Venezuelan bonds at prices that may have been excessive.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 246


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U.S. moves to increase anti-drug activities in Caribbean

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States military is beefing up its efforts to catch drug smugglers in the Caribbean.

From the Costa Rican perspective, the bulk of illegal drugs moves via the Pacific or overland hidden in trucks and cars. But this is not true, according to the U.S. Southern Command, which is in charge of military operations in both oceans.

Southern Command leaders met with Caribbean security officials last week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for an annual conference that aims to improve security cooperation in the region, the U.S. military said.

Some 90 percent of the cocaine and 40 percent of the heroin from South America that makes it into the United States passes through the Caribbean, according to Southern Command estimates.  Also, officials from the State and Defense departments believe the Caribbean is becoming a convenient avenue for transnational criminals trafficking contraband into the United States – a potential vulnerability that could threaten U.S. homeland security, the Southern Command said.

The conference focused on drug smuggling and illicit trafficking of humans and weapons in the Caribbean and the way forward as the United States and regional partner nations work to better address those threats, the Southern Command said.  A major goal of the conference was to begin laying the groundwork for an integrated U.S.-partner nation counter illicit trafficking strategy, it added.

Security leaders from 17 nations and representatives from various regional organizations were invited to take part in the conference. The top two military commanders of the Southern Command, U.S. Air Force Gen. Doug Fraser,
commander, and Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander, represented the U.S. military contingent at the conference.

With the help of federal and state government efforts, the program has given seven Caribbean nations improved radar, communications systems and high-speed interceptor boats that far outperform anything they have in their current arsenals, the Southern Command said.  The command said it hopes the program will eventually yield a foundation for maritime theater-wide information sharing and coalition operations.  So far, the regional military force has provided more than 20 boats along with the communications and tracking packages to seven nations, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Panama, it said.

Costa Rica also has benefited from various programs to increase its interdiction efforts. However, the bulk of the cocaine confiscations have been at sea in the eastern Pacific or at various land checkpoints. There are some indications that many drug shipments come ashore in the Caribbean for eventual transportation by land routes north.

There also is a geographical consideration that limits Costa Rica's anti-drug efforts in the Caribbean. Most drug shipments by boat there use routes far to the east and never approach Costa Rican soil.

The command's Joint Interagency Task Force-South in Key West, Fla., also leads a multinational and interagency contingent that monitors suspected air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and eastern Pacific.  This organization works closely with 40 countries.

So far in 2009, the task force's efforts contributed to the disruption of about 202 metric tons of cocaine, the Southern Command said.



Conservative gets the most votes in Chile's first round

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Conservative Chilean billionaire Sebastian Pinera has garnered the most votes in Sunday's presidential election, but fallen short of the outright majority he needed to avoid a run-off.

With about 60 percent of the votes counted, Pinera had just over 44 percent of the vote, with former president Eduardo Frei garnering 30 percent. Frei ran the country from 1994 to 2000.

A run-off election between Pinera and Frei will be held Jan. 17.  If Pinera wins, it will be the first time a
conservative has led the country since it returned to democracy 19 years ago.

The winner will replace the popular outgoing President Michelle Bachelet, who cannot run for a second consecutive term.  Pinera lost to Ms. Bachelet in the last presidential vote in 2006.

Pinera, a Harvard-educated economist, owns a television station, a soccer team and a stake in Lan Airlines.  If elected president, he is expected to steer Latin America's most stable economy toward more free-market policies.
The government coalition known as the Concertacion has been in power in Chile since democracy was reinstated.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 246

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Jobless educated youth
topic of new U.N. report


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Even though young people aged 15 to 29 in the so-called Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are better educated than ever before they are more likely to be unemployed, while a Latin American youth is 30 times more likely to be murdered than one in Europe, according to a United Nations report released Friday

“The threat of exclusion, which is nearly implicit in the transition process to the labor market, has been expressed by the young generation as the most unbearable, especially when contrasted with the greater expectations of social mobility generated by inclusive education,” said Rebeca Grynspan, U.N. Development Programme assistant administrator, at the report’s release in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The gap between expectations spurred by access to education and vulnerable job placement is the core source of malaise for the age group, with those under 30 representing almost 60 per cent of the total unemployed in Brazil and Uruguay, and 70 per cent in Paraguay. In addition, today the younger generation feels more insecure due to the increased exposure to violence as exemplified by the murder rate comparison with Europe.

The report, "2009-2010 Mercosur Human Development Report – Innovating for Inclusion: Youth and Human Development," views strengthening young people’s capacity to act within and transform the region as a critical element in human development, and pushes for public policies that favor this type of participation.

It was prepared with the support of the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo and is one of a series on Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The challenges facing the youth in terms of human development are not mere obstacles to their own development,” Pablo Mandeville, the Programme's representative in Uruguay, said. “They are real knots in the overall development path of the societies concerned.”

Women in Mercosur, the southern market, countries must also be among the leading agents of action and change in the region. “Young women have shown a greater ability of social involvement: on average, seven out of 10 women have participated in at least one political or social action,” report director Fernando Calderon said, adding:

“The effects of motherhood on performance on the job market for young people should be neutralized with social protection policies. It is also crucial that such policies address the high vulnerability of single-parent households, especially those headed by women.”

Among reasons why youth are becoming strategic agents of human development within Mercosur, the report cites their social heterogeneity and cultural diversity, leading them to increasingly play a leading role in innovation in the world of technology and communication.
Moreover, they are “native-born citizens” of the techno-social environment of the new digital world and tend to focus on specific local actions geared toward concrete results.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 246


Latin American news
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Weekend haul of drugs
totals eight kilos of coke


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers intercepted two shipments of suspected cocaine Sunday. An estimated six kilos of the suspected drug was in a briefcase in a car in which a man, his companion and a 2 year old were traveling.

That arrest happened on Ruta 31 near the Zurquí tunnel. Officers said they were tipped off by someone who called the 176 anti-drug hotline.

The man, identified by the last names of Miranda Delgado, was traveling north in a red car. Police said that he works as an informal taxi driver.

Police also detained a man identified by the last names of Romero Solano between Río Frio de Heredia and Guápiles in Limón. They said he was transporting two kilos of suspected cocaine. This shipment also was in a briefcase, police said.

Navy captain goes on trial
for murder of French nuns


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A former Argentine navy captain has gone on trial in Buenos Aires for his alleged involvement in the disappearance and torture of dissidents during the country's 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship.

Alfredo Astiz, known as the "Blond Angel of Death," is accused of multiple crimes that include the killings of two French nuns and the disappearance of an Argentine journalist.  Eighteen other former military officers are also on trial with Astiz in the Argentine capital.

Astiz was tried and convicted in absentia by a Paris court in 1990 for the nuns' murders.  They were apparently kidnapped and killed for helping anti-government activists in Argentina.

Official estimates say some 13,000 people died or disappeared during the military crackdown on leftist activists known as the "dirty war."  Human rights groups put the toll at 30,000.

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