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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 247       Email us
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Year will end with spike in number of street crimes
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The car may be safer, but residents may not be. Costa Rica crime statistics indicate crooks may be leaving the goods on wheels alone and, instead, targeting those traveling by foot.

Officials said that this year the number of reported car thefts have reached a new low, down to a smaller number than the number of thefts reported in 2005, despite an increase in the total number of vehicles in the country. The Judicial Investigating Organization also said the number of unreported car thefts is generally very low.

The crime of choice may be robbing pedestrians. Overall the number of reported pedestrian robberies has risen since last year. Despite an effort of law enforcement to saturate urban areas with police officers, the only thing that appears to have slowed the trend in robberies during this year was copious amounts of rain in November.

Except for November, every month in 2011 had more reported incidents of this type than the same month in 2010.

In addition, unlike car thefts, many robberies go unreported.
In 2008 there were 6,625 reported car thefts. This year's projections place the end of the year total at around 4,500, a 30 percent decrease in reported incidents. Meanwhile robberies of pedestrians in 2011 have already surpassed by more than 500 all those that took place last year. As of Nov. 30 this year, the total number of reported pedestrian robberies was 7,156.

And if the number of pedestrian robberies in December is an average number, 2011 will finish with 1,000 more reported crimes of this type than last year. Typically the month of December has the most reported robberies. This is attributed to the influx of Christmas bonuses into the pockets of workers. December was the highest month for street robberies in 2010.

The concentration of the pedestrian robberies over the past two years took place overwhelmingly in the province of San José. During that period the province accounted for more than 50 percent of all pedestrian robberies in the country, and was home to 1,000 more reported incidents than more than all the other six provinces combined.

The decrease in the theft of vehicles follows a number of raids on shops where stolen cars were dismantled. This may have cut off the locations where car thieves could sell their ill-gotten vehicle.

Embassy buys a Mitsubishi electric car for city use
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U. S. Embassy in San José has bought a fully electric Mitsubishi MIEV to add to its fleet.

“One of the ways to drive change forward is to get in the driver’s seat,¨ said Anne Andrew, ambassador to Costa Rica, as quoted on the embassy Web site. ¨The electric car presents an opportunity for the embassy to lead by example, so that’s what we’re going to do — get in the driver’s seat of this electric car.¨

In Costa Rica, a 2011 MIEV off the lot goes for around $45,000 and the 2012 costs around $65,000. According to Mitsubishi Motors North America, a 2012 i-MIEV costs around $30,000, and that number is before importation costs.

¨I hope it’s the first of many for the embassy in San Jose,” Ms. Andrew added.

The embassy Web site said the vehicle was purchased locally and will be used by employees in the general services office whose job requires frequent trips around town.

It can travel at speeds up to 90 kph (56 mph) and has a range of about 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) per charge.

According to Ms. Andrew on the Web site, full-size electric cars like the MIEV have a future in Costa Rica. “It would be the perfect vehicle for a taxi,¨ said Ms. Andrew. ¨As the price of oil goes
Electric car
U.S. Embassy photo
Ambassador Andrew pats the new electric car in this photo with staffers.

up, electric cars become more and more affordable.” The vehicles became available for sale here in February.

Immediately before becoming an ambassador to Costa Rica, Ms. Andrew was a founder of New Energy Nexus, LLC, a consulting firm advising companies and investors on strategies related to clean energy technology.

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Heavy rains, flooding
evict more than 500

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The canton of Sarapiquí bore the brunt of the unexpected mid-December storms. But problems also were reported Tuesday in the cantons of Guácimo, Matina y Pococí.

One man died when his vehicle left the road in heavy rain and plunged several hundred feet. The impact was so great that the vehicle broke up into large pieces. That was in Vera Blanca near Cinchona north of Heredia. Another person was reported missing in the Río Sarapiquí, said the Cruz Roja.

At least four communities were cut off and in others water was knee high, waist high and in some cases reaching the eaves of homes. The Cruz Roja sent 125 workers into the field to help with evacuations and to provide needed supplies.

The national emergency commission said that there were 544 personas displaced in the communities of Naranjales I and II, Flaminia, Caño Negro, El Tigre and Chilamate. The Cruz Roja said its workers counted 650 persons in public shelters.

The weather emergency is being blamed on low pressure systems that brought unseasonable rains mostly to the Caribbean, the northern zone and the Central Valley. The same is predicted for today, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. Some afternoon downpours were even predicted for the Pacific coast.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias called a meeting Tuesday afternoon because of predictions of more rain through Thursday. Aid workers said that one problem was that individuals in the affected area were declining to leave their homes for fear of robberies.

The commission called on storm victims to consider their own lives and move to shelters.

Rescue teams were using boats to reach stranded residents.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that work was underway to reopen Ruta 126 about a kilometer south of the La Paz Waterfall.

There were at least four landslides there blocking traffic in the vicinity of Vera Blanca and San Miguel.

The Río Sarapiquí also has flooded out of its banks blocking the same highway, the ministry said. The work could be done quicker if the weather cooperated, it added.

The emergency commission issued a yellow alert for the canton of Sarapiquí and the Caribbean as well as a precautionary green alert for the northern zone.

The Río Reventazón at the communities of Hamburgo and Islona was running out of its banks, and the community San Martín de Freeman was being flooded by the Río Madre de Dios, said the commission.

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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banners on the march
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Marchers continue their wet walk up Avenida Segunda to the legislative complex.
Unhappy crowd rallies against the proposed tax proposal
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hundreds of dissatisfied Costa Ricans occupied the front of the Asamblea Legislativa Tuesday to voice their anger at the proposed tax plan.

“Judas! Traitors,” yelled a group of protesters to a few legislators who joined the rally. The lawmakers mounted a truck with speakers that was being used by organizers of the demonstration. The truck was in front of the south entrance to the Assembly building on Avenida Central. The representatives that participated were from Movimiento Libertario and Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión. There also was the single representative of Frente Amplio. The sight of the lawmakers drove the peaceful crowd into a frenzy, since they believe these similarly minded politicians aren't doing enough to stop the proposed 14 percent value-added tax.

At one moment protesters were so upset they began to boo and violently shake the truck. That was when Mireya Zamora Alvarado, a legislative deputy from the conservative Movimiento Libertario, got the microphone to express her discontent in the proposed tax plan. She made the point and said she was in solidarity with everyone else. The crowd settled once she stopped talking, and Mariano Rodriguez Pacheco, vice-secretary of the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, started a chant opposing the tax plan. The crowd repeated it after him.

Regardless of the heavy rain, protestors gathered to chant and march earlier Tuesday with the goal of derailing what is being called the Ley de Solidaridad Tributaria. The meeting point was at the Parque Central where around 100 people gathered underneath a bandstand roof to try and stay dry. The energy of the people was kept upbeat with music, drumming, passing out of banners and balloons, as well as handing out white collared T-shirts that read Yo defiendo mi derecho de exonerar or “I defend my right to be exempt.” Vendors took advantage to sell umbrellas and plastic ponchos.

There was even one person on horseback.

At 9:30 a.m. the crowd took over Avenida Segunda in front of the Ministerio de Hacienda and across from the Teatro Nacional. They stood in the rain for about an hour giving time to fellow protestors to show up and for the rest of the avenue to be cleared of buses, taxis, and cars. Fuerza Publica officers stood along the sidewalk in pairs watching over the peaceful protest. One man on a motorcycle stood at various intersections blocking traffic heading south, so the protest could continue without any obstructions. He did this after he noticed that cars were disregarding the people protesting and continued to drive through the crowded street almost hitting a few at one time.

What began with a hundred people ended with a couple hundred at the door of the Asamblea Legislativa where the sweeping tax plan awaits an approval or rejection. The
yelling protester
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
These protesters became angry when legislators mounted a truck and tried to talk. Some of the cries were 'Judas' and 'Traitor.'

people fear the approval of the Ley de Solidaridad Tributaria because the most affected will be the middle class, and not the rich, according to the chants, and the signs.

“We want to defeat the fiscal plan! The people don't want the fiscal packet,” said Rodriguez.

Instead of the proposed tax plan protesters repeatedly said that lawmakers should tax the rich and raise wages. Frente Amplio's José María Villalta Florez Estrada said that there should be a reform that is more beneficial to the masses.

“There should be a reform that is more integral. A reform that steers away from corruption. A reform that increases the taxes of the big businesses and the rich. There should be a just reform,” said Villalta.

Still a coalition of the Partido Liberación Nacional and Acción Ciudadana appears to have enough votes to pass the proposals with floor debate and other technical matters can be cleared away.

Meanwhile, inside the legislative complex the Asociación Unidos por la Educación and some lawmakers linked to the opposition Alianza Nacional presented a document seeking to eliminate a 2 percent tax on private education. That proposed tax is in the draft of the bill. Originally majority lawmakers wanted to assess the full 14 percent tax on private education.

European Union reducing aid to richer Latin countries
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The European Union has decided to eliminate guaranteed aid to various Latin American countries in its 2014 - 2020 budget. Costa Rica is one of the countries.

According to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Costa Rica, due to its relatively high level of development, was not considered a priority country for cooperation by international donors. Costa Rica, nevertheless, is allocated 34 million euros ($44.8 million) from the European Union budget of 2007-2013.

Regarding the budget for 2014 - 2020 the Union said all across Europe, governments, businesses and families are choosing carefully where to spend their money. And it is a time to think carefully about where to cut back and where to invest for the future.

The Union calls the strategy the "Agenda for Change." It is intended to focus aid in fewer sectors where it can have the highest impact supporting democracy, human rights and good governance and creating inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Union stated that it will not stop providing aid to developing countries. All developing countries will remain eligible under proposed development instruments. The European Union will only stop giving money to countries
they deem as wealthier with economies on what they called a sustained development track.

Andris Pielbags, the European Union’s development commissioner, said because these countries have become  upper-middle income countries, their gross domestic product growth can ensure their own development.

This includes Costa Rica, as well as the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The countries that can generate enough resources to ensure their own development will graduate from a category where a percentage of 23,295 million euros ($30.7 million) were guaranteed, to another category where 1,131 million euros ($1.5 million) will be a blend of grants and loans. And more use will be made of innovative financing arrangements set up with international financial institutions, with European Union funds acting as a catalyst for leveraging investment in infrastructure, according to a European Union announcement.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores could not comment on the amount of funds expected from Costa Rica´s new status.

The package will be transmitted to the European Parliament and the European Council and is expected to be adopted in 2012.

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Chicken fighting arena
Policía Muncipal de Escazú photos
This is the cockfighting arena police and animal health officials raided and some of the rescued fighting birds
Escazú raid targets arena where chickens were made to fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Chicken fight fans in Escazú will have to find another arena.

The Policía Municipal raided an illegal arena last week in  Corazón de Jesús. Although fighting chickens is a Latin American tradition, such combats are illegal in Costa Rica, according to the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal.

Municipal officials said that the owners of the property were given eight days to tear down the small arena.

They were not identified.
The setup included a chalkboard in which the rules of the combats were listed. Basically the male birds wear steel spurs, and the fight continues until one is wounded fatally.

The police reported that 20 birds were confiscated. There may be legal actions coming. Police said they found evidence of the possible sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises. They also said that by shutting down the operation, a source of noise in the neighborhood had been eliminated.

Usually such chicken fights are staged on the weekends, and participants bring their own birds to fight. Of course, the spectators bet on the outcomes.

Holidays bring a respite from center city license plate fines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After Friday, motorists can drive into the San José center city without regard for the last number on the vehicle' s license plate.

The dreaded license plate restrictions will not be in force again until Jan. 13, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. In all, motorists will have nearly a month without restrictions over the holidays.

The fine for ignoring the restrictions is a stiff one. It is 41,098 colons or about $82. And the ministry was quick to point out that the fine will increase as of Jan. 1.
Many fines in Costa Rica are a percentage of the salary of an administrative assistant in the Poder Judicial. That is called the base salary. Salaries go up Jan. 1, so the fine does, too.

Under the restrictions vehicles with the license plate ending in 1 or 2 cannot enter the center city on Mondays. Tuesday, the unlucky numbers or 3 and 4 until Friday when the numbers are 9 and 0. The period of restriction is 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The ministry itself seemed confused by the suspension. Earlier Tuesday, the ministry emitted a press release saying the suspension would be from Dec. 22 to Jan. 1.  A later release contradicted the first one.

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Apple ad
Apple ad in Spanish says the servcies has arrived for Latin America

Apple debuts Latin iTunes
for 16 countries there

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S.-based technology giant Apple has launched its iTunes store in Costa Rica and 15 other Latin American countries.

Apple announced the launch Tuesday, saying the Latin version of the store offers more than 20 million songs by both local and international artists.

Most of the songs are priced at just under $1, with most albums at just under $10. The service also includes movies to buy or rent.

In addition to Costa Rica, the iTunes store is being made available in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. Other countries to get the service are Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú and Venezuela.

The Brazilian iTunes launch marks what Apple calls the “digital debut” of the music catalog of Roberto Carlos, a popular Brazilian singer.

Apple also was the company to bring the music of The Beatles to the Internet. The iconic British band was one of the last music groups not to make its songs available digitally, opting instead to sell them exclusively on CDs, tapes and records.

The iTunes services has been available in English on the Internet, and expats could purchase music and movies with Stateside dollar accounts. Now the service also will be in Spanish with local billing.

Canada's decision to quit
Kyoto pact upsets China

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China is calling Canada's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol regrettable and says it goes against the efforts of the international community. Canada's move comes days after climate-change negotiators met to hammer-out a global deal in Durban, South Africa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed China's dismay at the news that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

He says the timing is particularly bad, because negotiators at the just-concluded Durban conference made what he described as important progress on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period.

Liu says Canada's move goes against the efforts of the international community and is regrettable. He says Beijing hopes Canada will face up to its obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in international efforts to fight climate change.

Canada Monday announced that it is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty hammered out in 1997 that calls for major industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The accord recognizes China as a developing country and so does not impose mandated emissions reduction targets on Beijing.

China and the United States are the world's two biggest emitters of carbon gases that many scientists say exacerbate global warming.

Liu indicated that Ottawa's decision will not affect Beijing's actions.

Costa Rican Christiana Figueres also said that the Canadian move was surprising and regrettable. She is the executive secretary of U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Whether or not Canada is a party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort,” she said. “Industrialized countries, whose emissions have risen significantly since 1990, as is the case for Canada, remain in a weaker position to call on developing countries to limit their emissions.”

Canada stands to be a beneficiary of global warming because of a milder climate for agriculture.
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Latin America news
Judicial Investigating Organization photos
Two types of grenades were found in the searches, including the type that is shot from a firearm.

Search for evidence uncovers
fragmentation grenades

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement agents have detained two Colombians who were suspects in a kidnapping. This took place over the weekend.

The Judicial Investigating Organization reports the two kidnappers demanded $2 million from the victim's family in exchange for release. Agents report the hostage was freed without paying the sum, and the two suspects were arrested.

Tuesday agents searched two homes in search of evidence in the case and seized 40 fragmentation grenades. Agents also found camouflage suits of the type used by snipers. The homes were in Escazú.

Body of swimmer found
by family and rescue crew

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers and family members of a 21-year-old man reported missing while swimming in the sector Dominicalito over the weekend, retrieved his body from the water Tuesday.

Sunday morning the man, identified by the last name Fallas, entered the ocean with four friends. A wave washed all of them partially out to sea, but the other four were able to swim back to shore. Fallas never returned.

His body was discovered four nautical miles away from the site where he went missing. Fallas was a resident of Palmital del Guarco en Cartago.

Fed sees moderate growth
for United States economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials of the U.S. central bank say the economy has grown moderately, and they kept the key interest rate steady at ultra-low levels, a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it has been for about three years.

Tuesday's report from the Federal Reserve also said global growth is slowing, perhaps a reference to Europe's debt crisis that has troubled financial markets and worried investors.  The Fed statement said the housing sector is depressed and called unemployment elevated.  Fed officials predict the U.S. jobless rate will decline slowly.

The central bank has been trying to ease problems in the housing and job markets by bolstering economic growth with low interest rates.

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