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(506) 2223-1327                               Published Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Vol. 14, No. 247                              Email us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Miriam Vega
The night was wet and cold, but the Festival de la Luz still drew hundreds of thousands of  spectators. Among the floats was this Peter Pan  interpretation fielded by the Municipalidad de San José. The rest of our report is

Solís defends his action lifting labor code veto
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Luis Guillermo Solís praised his rescue of a new labor code as something that is just and supports democracy.

He spoke on during a regularly scheduled presidential segment Sunday on national television. He spoke a day after he reversed a veto of the lengthy labor code that had been imposed by president Laura Chinchilla.

Solís acted on the last day that the measure was active. It had been in the legislature for two session, and Ms. Chinchilla vetoed it in 2012. What remains to be seen is if a president can reverse what appears to be a decisive action by another. Litigation is guaranteed.

Solís praised the measure for giving more protection to workers from abusive bosses and sexual harassment, particularly for those who are pregnant or nursing infants. He also said the measure, which will replace the exiting 70-year-old code, would protect workers against discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

A principal objection to the new code was that it permits strikes in essential public services, like police, hospitals and by workers on public docks.

The president said he soon would issue a decree forbidding strikes in essential services and urged the legislature to fast track a bill to do likewise.

The new code does not go into effect until May 2016.

Solís also said that the new code would speed up
labor cases because it provides for oral hearings. There may be more such cases because the new document also provides for free legal services for low-income workers and orders the Colegio de Abogados to provide it.

Representatives of management were critical of the Solís action. The Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación outlined three other issues with the new code.

In addition to allowing strikes in essential public services, the code also prohibits employers, mainly the government, from contracting temporary workers. Solís did that to end the recent dock strike in Limón.

The chamber also noted that once a strike is declared illegal, there still are no sanctions for workers if they return to work within 48 hours. In addition, the chamber noted, the percentage of workers who can call a strike are not representative of the majority within an institution or company.

The Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria y de Bebidas also said it opposed the action by Solís and said the situation was ironic in that he just returned from the United States where he was seeking investments in Costa Rica and then created such uncertainty in the commercial sector.

Most employers considered the existing code to be stacked against them in favor of the employees and that firing a worker for cause was a lengthy process and expensive.

Reversing the veto was a campaign promise by Solís and his actions received praise from Frente Amplio and his own political party, Acción Ciudadana.

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Perhaps final Villalobos case dismissed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What may be the final legal action generated by the collapse of the Brothers Villalobos investment scheme has been dismissed by a judge.

This was the case spearheaded by Derk Van Dyk, an expat, that sought to target Oswaldo Villalobos, his wife, Ana Isabel Pereira García, and other members of the Villalobos family and business associates. 

Luis Enrique Villaobos still is named in the case, but he has not been seen since 2002.

The case tried to bring into court family members and others who may have profited from the Villalobos high-interest borrowing activities.

Oswaldo Villalobos already has been convicted of aggravated fraud in what prosecutors considered a ponzi scheme. That opinion is not universal.

Van Dyk has been low-keyed about the case and gathered quietly a number of investors to participate. He has not been anxious to discuss his efforts with reporters. The case was generally considered a long-shot.

In an email Sunday to those who participated Van Dyk and others reported that a judge had dismissed the case because the statute of limitations has expired.

The allegations included fraud, illegal financial intermediation and money laundering.

When Oswaldo Villalobos was convicted May 16, 2007, part of his sentence was to pay back the investors who participated in the prosecution.

Some money was paid, but lawyers for the investors accepted a lesser amount. Investors in the latest case thought that the worth of Oswaldo Villalobos was understated and that there was more money to be obtained.

Some of the business associates were named because they seem to have received corporations and viable operations from Enrique Villalobos without paying for them.

A.M. Costa Rica urged in 2002 that a professional asset tracker should be employed to help investors.

Most rejected that idea because they expected Enrique Villalobos to return and pay them off. In fact, there was an extensive effort to cause investors to think that way.

So many of them did not participate in the case against Oswaldo.

Dickey Ray Family photo         
   These youngsters are beneficiaries of more seasonal giving by Gringos. The
    Dickey Ray Family said they brought items for less fortunate children in an
    underdeveloped area in Jacó during Thanksgiving. This is the fourth year. 'We
    took backpacks with school supplies, toys and candy.  We also passed out
    baseball shirts and soccer balls,' the California family said

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 247                 
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The float of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo was inspired by the seven natural wonders of Costa Rica, wild animals of the jungle and tropical beauty.

ict float
A.M. Costa Rica/Miriam Vega

Wet weather fails to dampen the emotions of Festival de la Luz
By Gabriela Vega Barrantes
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

Hundreds of thousands braved wet and chilly weather Saturday to witness the Festival de la Luz, the gigantic Christmas parade.

Although the country may not be facing a wave of head colds and respiratory infections, only some 30 persons were treated by cold -related conditions Saturday. At least two were true hypothermia cases.

Police said they picked up 33 persons, most for fighting and for being drunk or taking drugs in public.

Police estimated the crowd at a million persons. But the number dwindled as the wet evening wore on. There were many children.  Sandra Garcia, San José mayor, also estimated a million.

The event actually started with a 3 p.m. show in Paseo Colón for the youngsters. That is about when the rain started, too.

The official parade marshal was the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the fire fighters. There was antique equipment in the parade. The fire fighters mark their 150th anniversary next year.

Of the eight floats, the one that captured the top prize was sponsored by the Banco de Costa Rica.

The float was designed by Panamanian Edwar Loo and inspired by a magical forest, including  the main characters of ancient fables as Pegasus, Minotaur, dragons, unicorns and princes.   Ivania Saenz, marketing manager of the bank, said that the float gives a positive message.

The festival opened with the float of the Municipalidad de San José, which is not in the prize competition, because the municipality sponsors the parade.

The float was inspired by the story of Peter Pan, the fantasy character. It was a big project of three floats, designed by Orazio Prado and Aldolfo Mendoza.  The first one is the crocodile holding a clock in his mouth, Then a second float containing the ship with all the Neverland pirates dancing and preforming And finally, there was the third float with a giant version of Peter, A team of  60 people artists, actors, models and dancers participated.  According to Mendoza, workers spent one year from creating the blue print of the float until artists applied the last details.

The enormous sculpture of  Peter Pan on the float was driven by a hydraulic motor,  The motor lifted the sculpture up several feet. Unfortunately, a girl dressed as Tinkerbell, who was at the top of the Peter Pan sculpture, became entangled between the electric cables.
old fre truck
A.M. Costa Rica/Miriam Vega
Firemen used this steam pumper starting in 1865.

A.M. Costa Rica/Miriam Vega
A family from Puntarenas wisely brought a tent.

Fire fighters and power company technicians had to lift up cables with long metal poles and support the cables until the float could get unstuck. The parade was held for almost 20 minutes until the float was released from the cables.

The Orotina Band won the top prize in that category.

An AM. Costa Rica editorial
Why so little and so late for tourism promotion?

Two questions arose when the tourism institute announced its $3.3 million promotional campaign for the U.S. and Canada Thursday.

Why so late, and why so little.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said it was using social media to mount a low-cost campaign. That is a strange approach for an entity that has as one of its few reasons of existence to promote the country and a $15-per-head airport entry tax to support it.

Most would agree that the promotion should have started in July. By now, most affluent tourists already have their destinations selected for the high season.

The tourism institute noted that the United States and Canada are the source of about half the tourists who come here each year.

When one considers that Nicaragua contributed 20 percent, the value of the northern countries becomes greater.

The year-long campaign features two Web sites: and The idea is that these populations need to be saved from their boring, overworked lifestyles.

The tourism institute probably should have had these sites, which
may become valuable, in its name instead of that of its Atlanta, Georgia, ad agency, 22Squared.

The ad firm plans to promote the country online with YouTube, Google, The New York Times, Yahoo, Outbrain, Matador, Network, Twitter, Linked-In and Instagram, tourism officials said. No doubt the firm will win another award. It already has won three since 2012 for work with the tourism institute. One came from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

There is a danger in the advertising and news businesses to shoot for awards instead of results.

The tourism institute calls the campaign non-traditional, and that it is. We would have preferred print advertising in the tourism sections of major U.S. and Canadian Sunday newspapers as well as the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons. We would have liked to see spots on DestinoTV and the Travel Channel.

We get the impression that 22Squared is targeting the 13 year olds with smartphones instead of those adults with money who could come to Costa Rica.

Time will tell as will the statistics relating to the Web pages. And most importantly, the money in the pockets of tourism operators.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 247
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Common household chemicals linked to lower IQ in children
By the Columbia University Mailman School
of Public Health news staff

Children exposed during pregnancy to elevated levels of two common chemicals found in the home, di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), had an IQ score, on average, more than six points lower than children exposed at lower levels, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The study is the first to report a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and IQ in school-age children. Results appear online in the journal PLOS ONE.

The chemicals are found in a wide variety of consumer products, from dryer sheets to vinyl fabrics to personal care products like lipstick, hairspray, and nail polish, even some soaps. Since 2009, several phthalates have been banned from children's toys and other childcare articles in the United States. However, no steps have been taken to protect the developing fetus by alerting pregnant women to potential exposures. In the U.S., phthalates are rarely listed as ingredients on products in which they are used.

Researchers followed 328 New York City women and their children from low-income communities. They assessed the women's exposure to four phthalates in the third trimester of pregnancy by measuring levels of the chemicals' metabolites in urine. Children were given IQ tests at age 7.

Children of mothers exposed during pregnancy to the highest 25 percent of concentrations of DnBP and DiBP had IQs 6.6 and 7.6 points lower, respectively, than children of mothers exposed to the lowest 25 percent of concentrations after controlling for factors like maternal IQ, maternal education, and quality of the home environment that are known to influence child IQ scores. The association was also seen for specific aspects of IQ, such as perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. The researchers found no associations between two other phthalates and child IQ.
The range of phthalate metabolite exposures measured in the mothers was not unusual: it was within what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed in a national sample.

"Pregnant women across the United States are exposed to phthalates almost daily, many at levels similar to those that we found were associated with substantial reductions in the IQ of children," says lead author Pam Factor-Litvak, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School.

"The magnitude of these IQ differences is troubling," says senior author Robin Whyatt, a professor of environmental health sciences. "A six- or seven-point decline in IQ may have substantial consequences for academic achievement and occupational potential."

"While there has been some regulation to ban phthalates from toys of young children," adds Professor Factor-Litvak, "there is no legislation governing exposure during pregnancy, which is likely the most sensitive period for brain development. Indeed, phthalates are not required to be on product labeling."

While avoiding all phthalates in the United States is for now impossible, the researchers recommend that pregnant women take steps to limit exposure by not microwaving food in plastics, avoiding scented products as much as possible, including air fresheners, and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7.

The findings build on earlier, similar observations by the researchers of associations between prenatal exposure to DnBP and DiBP and children's cognitive and motor development and behavior at age 3. This September, they reported a link between prenatal exposure to phthalates and risk for childhood asthma.

It's not known how phthalates affect child health. However, numerous studies show that they disrupt the actions of hormones, including testosterone and thyroid hormone. Inflammation and oxidative stress may also play a role.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

La Fortuna
Comfort of your home in the campo, 5 minutes from Fortuna Centro of San Carlos, in the shadow of Volcano Arenal, Flat screen TV, AC, refrigerator, free coffee. Local area activities like four-wheeling, horse riding, zip lining, hot springs, jungle walking tours. Bring your camera for great photos of nature, fishing and swimming, canyoning and wireless internet. Harry Hart, proprietor.  Call for reservations  (506) 2479-8670   and (506) 8682-9219  Email:

Will Costa Rica Retirement Work For You?
Find out for yourself on Live In Costa Rica Tours

When you visit Costa Rica, you'll want to discover what you need to know to  make the right choice about moving to this tropical paradise.  Our familiarization tours have won hard-earned credentials that prove general excellence and the right focus.  These are the only retirement tours that are licensed and approved by the Costa Rican government and tourism institute  (ICT). In 2006 we were featured on the NBC Today Show and World News.  In 2010, we won the  prestigious Latin America-Asia Travel Excellence Award for the Best and Most Unique Tour in Latin America.

   * Discover how to make the right choices about moving here
   * Find out how to live affordably
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   * Tours led by Christopher Howard, 34-year resident, citizen,
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Anywhere Costa Rica plans custom vacations, and has the most comprehensive travel services in the country including travel guides, resorts and vacation homesCosta Rica tours
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Call 1-888.456.3212 or 2479-8811 locally.

Largest art gallery in Guanacaste
Drop in to see some of Costa Rica's finest art
at the largest gallery in Guanacaste.

The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is a great place to find quality remembrances of Costa Rica to take home or to decorate your home or office in Costa Rica.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever.  With more than 60 artists on exhibit and fine art in 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we are easy to locate just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport. Visit our Web site at
or contact us by email:   
Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tel. 2667-0592 / 8386-6872; U.S. telephone 702-953-7073. International shipping available.
Every Saturday - Vendor Fair!

Click photo for another video

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.


Here's reasonable medical care
Costa Rica's world class medical specialists are at your command. Get the top care for much less than U.S. prices. It is really a great way to spend a vacation. See our list of recommended professionals HERE!amcr-prom

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Real estate for rent (paid category)
Enjoy living in the middle of wonderful mountains.
Fresh air, gorgeous forest. Near downtown but away from noisy city.  Nature lifestyle.  Beautiful chalet in a large property located in Monte de la Cruz, Heredia. Two bedrooms, two baths, laundry room, fully furnished, security, electric gate. Rate $500 monthly. Phone  2267-6306  Email


Beautiful cottage in San Rafael, Heredia

Cottage in the mountain.  Surrounded by nature.  One bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms. Beautiful balcony and view. Bus line service, security.  $500 monthly.  Phone: 506-8739-0638  Email:

Maneul Antonio
The vacation homes at Manuel Antonio Estates offers luxury, comfort and peace of mind. We have numerous homes to chose from, all within walking distance of the town’s shops and restaurants and just a few minutes to the best beaches and the famous national park. While the homes are secluded and hidden among the rainforest, the surrounding area offers adventures like zip lines, white water rafting, mangrove kayaking and many more. All of the homes are available for short-term rentals, have easily accessible parking, cable TV, and Internet and are fully furnished. We are happy to assist with all your need for the perfect Costa Rican vacation.
Manuel Antonio Estates        TOLL FREE: 1800 346 9724
011 (506) 2777.3339

Beautiful 2-bedroom 2-bathroom American-style apartments with an elevator to your front door in a secure building located in Gringo Gulch the American Section of downtown San José. Costa Rica. Located between the Hotel Del Rey, the Hotel Mona Lisa and the Sportsman's Lodge and The Zona Blue (AKA) Little Habana across the street from Harry's Poas Bar, and next to the Holiday Inn.
apartment view
 There are 15 restaurants and American- style bars on this block and four supermarkets within a few blocks. There are 5 casinos within 2 blocks and dozens of hotels around this apartment. Included in your rental price, fast Internet, the best they have in Costa Rica, cable TV with 80 stations, water, washer
 and dryer. All you pay extra for is electricity. You have your own meter and receive a bill from the electric company every month.  This apartment has a American-style hot water system, hot water in both bathrooms and the kitchen. There is a 25-foot balcony to sit on and watch the people in San José walk by. The neighborhood Barrio Amón is the safest in San José For photos and more information contact:

Organic farm home
$800 plus utilities.
Two-bedroom, two-bath house, fully furnished, Internet included, cable TV available. Inside organic farm, safe and secure. In the country but close to town. Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Email for more info and pictures. Long term, NO DOGS.

Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.
We are offering homes for every budget and every need.
Please visit our Web page at or contact us at
or call at (506) 2654-5442.

MONTHLY $800 TO $1,200

Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.

HP Cattle rentals
Mountain homes or farm for rent
Barva volcano, Heredia province
We offer for rent a gorgeous two-bedroom mountain chalet and a one-bedroom mountain home located on the slopes of the Barva Volcano, Heredia Province. The homes are situated at 7,300 feet altitude and within a working horse ranch just three kilometers from the Braulio Carrillo National Park entrance. From our homes one can hike to the Barva volcano crater-lake.  Enjoy a spacious living room, kitchen, fireplace and breathtaking views of the Irazú volcano and the Central Valley. Observe dozens of cloud forest bird species to include the resplendent quetzal.  The homes are incomparable in beauty and attention to detail within the Barva highland area.  We are only 35-55 minutes from Costa Rica’s three principal cities (Heredia, Alajuela, and San José), less than two hours from the central Pacific beaches, and three hours from the Caribbean beaches. Enjoy the tranquility of the mountains while maintaining quick access to the conveniences of the city and rapid access to other eco-tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Additionally, we can board your horses at a reasonable fee.  We can also offer our clients rental of a small and fully functional farm complete with stables, pasture, and office space.
Mountain chalet: $750.  Basic mountain home: $400.
Boutique mountain home: One-bedroom $850. Two-bedroom $1,000.
Small Farm that includes a chalet, basic mountain home, stables, and 8,000m2 of pasture/green areas: $1,500.

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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2014 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. 
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A.M. Costa Rica's   Fifth news page
Family home

cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 247      
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Ban supports climate text
but environmentalists do not

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon says that a global climate change agreement reached Sunday in Perú sets the stage for a universal and meaningful deal next year, even as environmental groups attacked the Lima pact as weak.

The U.N. secretary-general praised the outcome of the Perú conference, while urging countries across the globe to engage in substantive negotiations ahead of another climate change meeting in Paris in late 2015.

Ban said the world's major economies need to submit their ambitious national commitments for controlling pollution well in advance of the Paris meeting.
The Lima agreement was adopted hours after earlier drafts were rejected by developing countries who accused wealthy nations of shirking their responsibilities to fight global warming and pay for its impacts.

The final draft apparently alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have common but differentiated responsibilities' to deal with global warming.

But environmental groups said the Perú pact was watered down. World Wildlife Fund climate expert Samantha Smith called the Lima deal "incredibly weak."

"This is an incredibly weak text," she said. "The parties have got just through something that is going to lead to all voluntary submissions of information, all voluntary ideas from countries about what kinds of emissions, reductions they want to make. And the big picture is, when they're done, it's going to be very hard to know if we're actually able to avoid dangerous climate change or not."

Delegates had been wrangling over contents for a final draft since Friday when the conference was scheduled to end. Peruvian environment minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal acknowledged that the final text was not perfect.

U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern had warned deadlocked delegates Saturday that failure to reach an immediate compromise on carbon pollution standards could doom chances for a global pact at the Paris summit.

Stern urged delegates to accept a compromise text, and warned that failure to do so would damage the overall credibility of U.N. efforts to slow climate change.

The Paris treaty envisioned for next year would replace the Kyoto Protocol, the global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions that expired in 2012. 

Greenhouse gases are blamed for causing global temperatures to rise.  Scientists warn that more extreme droughts, floods and rising seas are on the way unless the emissions are reduced.

Haiti's prime minister
quits over demonstrations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti's prime minister has resigned after violent anti-government protests.

In a speech early Sunday, Laurent Lamothe said he was leaving with a sense of accomplishment.

Protesters had called for President Michel Martelly and Lamothe both to resign.

Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, has endured a growing number of violent demonstrations in recent weeks. One man was killed in the protests Saturday.

An advisory commission set up by the president to break the stalemate recommended last week that Lamothe resign.

The commission also recommended disbanding Haiti's electoral council and freeing political prisoners.

South African woman
is now Miss World 2014

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 22-year-old South African woman has won the 64th annual Miss World 2014 beauty pageant.

Rolene Strauss, a medical student, was crowned this year's winner at the pageant Sunday in London. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are estimated to have watched the ceremonies on television.

Hungary's Edina Kulcsar came in second and Elizabeth Safrit of the United States was third. More than 120 countries were represented.

This year's pageant was marred by tragedy after the Honduran contestant, Maria Jose Alvarado, was found shot dead along with her sister last month. Police suspect the sister's boyfriend of shooting the pair after seeing his partner dancing with another man at a party.

The new Miss World plans to travel to Honduras to help build a school named in honor of the murdered sisters.

Nationwide marches press
concern over police killings

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

During nationwide marches protesting the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers, families of the victims urged demonstrators to continue pressing for changes to the criminal justice system.

In Washington, relatives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin gathered on Saturday at Freedom Plaza, near the White House, before peacefully participating with thousands of others in the Justice for All march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

"I am here not only for marching for Eric Garner, but for everyone's daughters and sons and nieces and nephews and dads and moms," said Esaw Garner, his widow.

Eric Garner died last July after he was being arrested by police officers in Staten Island, New York, for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Joining the Garners in Washington were speakers from the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old killed in Ohio as he played with a pellet gun in a park, and the mother of Amadou Diallo, who in 1999 was shot and killed in the Bronx by four New York City police officers.

Diallo's mother, Kadiatou Diallo, reflected on how the same issues being debated today were debated when her son was killed more than 15 years ago.

"We've been there so many times," she said. "Today we are standing still and demanding the same thing."

The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the Washington rally, which was part of a planned National Day of Resistance Saturday conducted by the group Ferguson Action. Organizers said at least 25,000 people had attended the event. Washington police do not release crowd estimates.

Marchers in Washington included many parents with children, and protesters chanted "No justice, no peace, no racist police" and "Hands up, don't shoot." Protesters carried signs that said "All men are created equal" and "Black lives matter."

Organizers said the marches, with tens of thousands rallying in cities including Manhattan, San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland and Washington, D.C., were among the largest held recently against the deaths.

Protests have been held nationwide since last month when a grand jury decided not to charge the white police officer who shot and killed the 18-year-old Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri in August.

While some previous protests have turned violent, Saturday’s protests were peaceful, for the most part, with just a few dozen arrests reported in Oakland and Boston late Saturday.

In Oakland, police detained about 45 people for vandalism, failure to disperse, resisting arrest and other charges on Saturday night after thousands took to the streets. In Boston, about two dozen people were arrested for disorderly conduct after scuffling with officers blocking an Interstate 93 onramp near the Nashua Street Jail.

At the University of California, Berkeley, the scene of on-going protests, life-size cardboard effigies of black lynching victims were seen hanging by nooses Saturday.  At least one of the effigies was labeled "I can't breathe," the last words of Garner. 

University officials say the three effigies were removed and it is not clear who was responsible for mounting the images. 

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union” news show, said he hopes the focus on the killings leads to a broader and deeper understanding among police and civilians.

He said government can do more to train police, but citizens also need to listen a lot more closely to each other, The Associated Press reported.

Patrick referred to a mostly peaceful march Saturday in Boston by hundreds of people in which 23 were arrested. He said some didn't seem interested in working with authorities trying to accommodate the protest.

Patrick said beyond disruption, people need to try to bridge a huge chasm of misunderstanding that exists around the fears of unarmed black men and police officers.

U.S. citizen denounces
America from N. Korea

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An American citizen has appeared at a news conference in North Korea to denounce U.S. domestic and foreign policy and its human rights record.

Twenty-nine-year-old Arturo Pierre Martinez from El Paso, Texas, told reporters in Pyongyang he entered North Korea illegally and wants to seek asylum in Venezuela.

"My name is Arturo Pierre Martinez, I'm a 29-year-old U.S. citizen born and bred in the city of El Paso, in the state of Texas," he said. "I have taken up a risky journey to the DPRK so that I can pass on some very valuable and disturbing information I felt that its government would appreciate.''

It was not clear how he got into North Korea or whether he will be allowed to leave the country.  Pyongyang is reported to have said he entered the country from China last month.

Martinez' mother, Patricia Martinez, told CNN her son is bipolar and that he had traveled to China in November, shortly after his release from a psychiatric hospital.

The U.S. State Department says it is aware that an American has crossed into North Korea and stands ready to provide consular assistance. 

It said the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is a top priority and repeated warnings against travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea.

North Korea has released three other Americans in recent months, including two who were in the country on tourist visas.

Sidney hostage situation
continues at restaurant

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Five people have escaped from a restaurant in Sydney, Australia's central business district where a gunman is holding an undetermined number of hostages.

Live television from the scene today showed an employee of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe and two customers running past police who have surrounded the restaurant and sealed off the area.  Later, another two people ran out of the building. It is not clear if the five were set free by the gunman or escaped on their own.

Police say nearby offices have been evacuated as a precaution. Sydney's famed Opera House several blocks away was also evacuated after officials said a suspicious package was found there. Streets in the area were cordoned off and a train line running under the restaurant was shut down.

Other hostages have been standing with their hands pushed up against the windows. A black flag with Arabic writing on it also could be seen through the glass. A Lindt executive said there were about 10 staff and probably 30 customers in the cafe before the operation started, but police say that number is smaller. There are no known injuries from the hostage incident, which has been ongoing for several hours.

A police spokeswoman said contact has been made by the hostage taker but negotiators have not been able to establish a motive for the crisis.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione addressed a news conference but refused to call the situation a terrorist event.

"At this stage the operational advice that I've got is we're still determining what it is that may well be the motivation and at this stage we are still not yet in the position to determine where the individual is from," said Scipione.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a news conference earlier that no one yet knows the motivation of whoever is behind the incident. He said the point of such acts is to scare people out of being themselves, and he urged all Australians to go about their business as usual.

Abbott said law enforcement agencies are responding in a thorough and professional manner.

The cafe is located in the heart of Sydney's financial and shopping district, an area that is packed with holiday shoppers at this time of the year. The New South Wales state parliament house is just a few blocks away.

Congress approves budget
for most of coming year

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Congress has given its final approval for a massive $1.1 trillion government spending plan for most of 2015, ending a threat that the federal government could shut down again if the legislation was not passed.

The measure, approved late Saturday in the Senate by 56-40 vote after a vote Thursday by the House of Representatives, funds the government through the current budget year ending next September.  The bill now heads to the White House where President Barack Obama has said he will sign it into law.

The Senate debate was marked by political maneuvering. Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas with presidential aspirations, had demanded a vote on a proposal to cut funds from the bill that could be used for Obama's executive order easing immigration restrictions.

However, Cruz's action enabled Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, to push through numerous nominees of Obama for administration jobs and appointees for judicial positions who would have had a much more difficult time winning approval in January when Republicans take control of the Senate.

While the bill provides funding for nearly the entire government through September, it only funds the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 27.  Republicans intend to try then to force the president to roll back his immigration policy that removes the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. 

But with the funding approval, the U.S. averted another government shutdown like the one that occurred a year ago.
Real estate-related services (paid category)

Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)

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A Buyer’s Broker offering the best
of Costa Rica Real Estate.
For those looking for quality properties and service at quality prices. Central Valley Rentals. Offering honesty, experience and knowledge. Your Villa Real Expert. Call us now  Toll Free (877) 845-4533. In Costa Rica 4030-5480 or 8339-2112.

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Re/Max, the Pacific coast expert

Re/Max offers comprehensive Costa Rica Real Estate, vacation rental and relocation services. Our award-winning team is the largest in the country, and can show you the best lifestyle and financial investment properties in the most desirable locations including prime real estate in Tamarindo, Langosta, Conchal, Flamingo, Pinilla, Coco, Hermosa and Playa Panama.  Give us a call in Costa Rica at 506-2653-0073, or toll free from the U.S. and Canada 1-800-385-5930. Re/Max, the name you trust for the finest real estate services in Costa Rica.

Moran Arenal
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
The undiscovered jewel of Central America, 35 square miles of blue, pristine, clear water ideal for fishing, swimming, boating, Real estate values still low.
Great lake front, river front land, farms, homes, condos and commercial property. Some with owner financing
This is far and away the most beautiful place in all Central America — cool climate. Try our two-day, all-inclusive discovery tour for $299.

Check with our Web site at
Contact us at the office: (506) 2694-0088
Cell (506) 8880-8888
Phone number from the U.S. (305) 307-0088
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Costa Rica,

Central America
Houses, lots and farms in Grecia,
western Central Valley.
Great climate
and safe communities.

Visit our Web Site:

English calls: (Cristian Arce) Phone: 
(506) 2494-0016 
(506) 8309-0173
English calls :  (Luis David) Phone: 
(506) 6154-1940

Español calls: (Luis G. Jiménez)  Phone:   
(506) 8707-4016
Grecia 884
Beautiful large house in Grecia, Costa Rica, with the best fresh natural weather. The property includes 9 challets and 12.000 m2 of land,  1,000 m2 of construction. Price $498,000. Click HERE!
Grecia 881
Beautiful house in Grecia, Costa Rica,  2 kilometers from the city.   340 m2 of land.
Price $135,000. Click
Grecia 898
Beautiful house in Grecia downtown. Full security cameras. Land 250 m2.  Price $400,000.  Click HERE!
  Send us your request to our email:

Real estate for sale (paid category)

Heredia montage

Cariaria  Los Arcos.
    Lot inside Los Arcos Residence. Absolutely gorgeous right in front of the coffee plantation. The lot is 326.50 meters. Includes the corporation for an easy transfer and the plans for a 170 meter house. Open to all offers.   Architect  plans included (the blueprints). Cost to the seller $4,000 this is included!!   Original Price $97,000 just reduced to $86,000

Also I am selling an Audi A6  2008, 2.0 twin turbo. Full loaded power. Back leather. Full service records at the agency in Costa Rica.  52 kms.  Silver with black. Full computer iPod interface power. Electric moon roof. Everything's a beauty!!  Incredible history and full service at the agency, Costa Rica Audi.

It's a package deal $104.000.  Must sell.  I am moving back to U.S.  Contact me  at my phone:  2260-6979 or cell phone:  8893-8672.

La Fortuna Distress Sale
Divorce forced wife to return to the U.S. with bills to pay. Just wants to get out from under. Modern 2-bedroom home on over 1100m2 intended for apartments or condos. Easy walk to center of town, great volcano view. $140,000 with 50 percent financing arranged. On vacation rental program now producing nice income, but Costa Rica no longer in her future. For details contact

Ringle resort
on one big lot in Esterillos Oeste, (Central Pacific)
Located on a breezy hill just 4 minutes walk to the beach, surf and tide-pools, only 20 minutes drive north to Jacó nightlife and shopping or south to the rural town of Parrita.

First, a 2-storey, 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1½-bathroom house with big kitchen and living room.  Full-width verandah with eating and sitting areas, overlooking lawn, pool and gazebo. Sitting balcony at upper, bedroom level.  Carport. and laundry. 

Second, a completely private single-storey. 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1-bathroom home with big back yard at a lower level on the same, big fully titled 1,100M2 lot.. Full security bars at all doors and windows, plus locking vehicle access and pedestrian gates at the street. In a very safe neighborhood, with private and natural surroundings

Well maintained, fully and tastefully furnished and equipped, hot water, local phone, cable TV/DVD and high speed wireless internet   The houses have been rented for both long-term and vacation for $100/$80 per day and $1,500/$1,200 per month respectively. See this place, you will love it! Then make an offer. E-mail or call (506) 8386-8825.  Rodney, asking $350,000.

Condo montage
Cariari luxury condo for sale
 PRICE REDUCED FROM $235,000 to $195,000
This is not an ordinary condo. Completed one year ago, a $45,000 renovating made it an exquisite dwelling. As soon as you walk in you know it is a special home. No detail has been overlooked, even minuscule ones. The owner has a need to move on, and someone lucky will be the beneficiary of the fine detailed work. The home itself has three bedrooms, two and half bathrooms plus a maid’s quarters with its own bathroom. Also, it has a living room, dining room and a gorgeous kitchen with a kitchenette. There’s also a small outdoor patio. Being the end unit of this four-home condo complex, there’s parking space for three vehicles.  Approximately 240 sq. meters. All this near the Cariari Golf and Country Club and its renowned Tom Facio golf course. The club also has amenities such as a fitness centre, exercise room, Olympic swimming pool, sauna, 12 tennis courts and many other benefits. Tel:  8384-9608 or 2293-9054  Price $195,000.

Atenas home
This developer's prime lot with super house is being offered in Roca Verde, 7,006 M2 of gentle grade, all landscaped for tropical effect, 3 bedrooms 2 baths with tile floors and hardwood kitchen, near the entrance of the neighborhood. Great floor plan on this one! There is a double carport, and a large patio and pool, wheelhouse style living room and many other features. View, large usable lot, close to town, nice, oh yeah. $495,000.

More photos HERE!
Another 'live in the view' home in Puriscal
$179,900 includes:
Lot on river, concrete road, custom kitchen & bath with granite counter tops, PEX plumbing, 2” Styrofoam, sandwiched in steel roof, 4” concrete/recycled Styrofoam & steel walls, laminated, bronzed windows, custom wood doors, appliances and all transfer taxes, and fees.

2, 900 sq feet under roof, 1,250 sq feet inside walls, 2 bedroom, 2 ½ baths, laundry room, three separate patio areas, covered carport, shade trees, in upscale, secure project.  This project has river with protected areas & walkways. It is only 10 minutes on all paved roads to Santiago de Puriscal, 45 minutes to La Plaza Mall/Hospital CIMA and SJO airport, and 1 ½ hours to Pacific Beaches. It has recently upgraded public water supply and dependable ICE electric and high-speed internet.
Please come visit our projects and meet four new homeowners who have recently moved into their new “live in the view” homes to verify how happy they are and that they all came in under budget. CONTACT: George Lundquist  Home phone: 2417-1041 Cell phone: 8888 4543 Skype glundquist.
To see more Photos of this house, click HERE!

Maneul Antonio
Manuel Antonio Estates focuses on building vacation homes for clients within Manuel Antonio Estates and Palmas Pacifica. We take care of the details from permits and design to supervision of construction and management of the rentals, if needed. We provide privacy and security, and our gated community offers shared common recreational facilities, beautiful landscaping and parking areas. Our homes and lots are located just minutes from the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. If you've ever considered buying a second home, just minutes from the beach, do not hesitate, if you have any questions or would like to request more information please take full advantage of our Costa Rica real estate services and contact us today!
Manuel Antonio Estates    1 800 346-9724  (506) 8815-9606.

Ciudad Colon
Great Deal!! Apartment in condo with pool and extensive green areas:
Ciudad Colón, San José $112,000
The apartment has a master bedroom with a large ensuite bathroom with bath tub, and a smaller second bedroom/office with air conditioning. It has a second full bathroom, living/dining room, laundry room with hot water tank and storage area. The kitchen comes with granite countertops, a breakfast bar and new dishwasher. It has 82 m2 of construction. 2 balconies with beautiful views of the river and mountains. Private parking for one car. Elevator and a well presented reception area. Located in a very quiet and private neighborhood just 400 meters from the centre of Ciudad Colón. Within minutes to all major amenities in Santa Ana and Escazú. Easy access to the beach (less than 1.5 hrs).  24-hour security, visitor parking, pool, extensive and lush green areas, BBQ area, children’s playground and its own water treatment plant. Contact (506) 6022-9294 or 6022-9967, for further info or to arrange a viewing.

Suenos montage
Outrageous blowout prices on oceanfront condos in Los Sueños!

Located in the private Bay Residence enclave overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Los Sueños Resort and Marina, there are three gorgeous units available at unbelievable bargain pricing from $589,000.  All of these beautiful units are three bedrooms and two baths, 2,200 square feet, fully furnished and ready to move in.  Development includes a gym, access to 3 pools, jacuzzis, BBQ areas and the Beach Club.  If you’ve always wanted to own in Los Sueños, now is the time!  Contact  or call 8702-0778.  From U.S. call 209-482-1788.

Top floor unit: $649,000   Second floor unit: $675,000  Garden unit: $589,000

Newly available in Roca Verde
Well-built home of 215 m2, 3 bedrooms, two bath on 1,150 m2 of lot, with attractive rock retaining wall, carport, and a pool. Indoors there are high, vaulted hardwood ceiling, bright rooms, a laundry room.  The floor is ceramic tile in pastel shades. $247,000. Photos: 2446-5587.

San Ramon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya.7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 ft. elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 baths, appliances included. High-speed internet installed, Direct TV via sling box on Internet. $199,000 Contact   Check out slide show HERE!


Beach Front Home - Central Pacific Coast
Pristine condition, recently renovated. The best surfing and boogie boarding in the country. The most magnificent ocean and sunset view. New 20-year, fully registered concession on one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Easy access from San José (1 hour 25 minutes) located between Jacó and Manuel Antonio, in Esterillos Oeste.  2 or 3 bedrooms. Center room can be living room. House with 2 1/2 baths. Separated rancho with kitchen and large entertainment patio. Landscaped garden with no water shortage. Has both municipal and well water with automatic watering system. Direct access to the beach as no road is in front of property. Protected land on one side of the property for additional privacy.  Alarm system and complete shutters for security while away. Lot approximately 1,725 square meters, Asking price: $385.000.  Contact to Paul at local phone 506- 2637-8858  Cell phone 506- 8823-8550 .  US Mobile 908-400-9772  Emails:  and


Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:

ARenal property
Location: Near Arenal        Price: $2.7 million
Size: 113 acres
Web site:

The farm is at the highest point on a stunning ridge bordered by pristine Costa Rican primary forest on all sides of the property, with active wildlife all throughout the area. On each of its gently rolling terraced lomas you get a glimpse of Volcán Arenal from a distance. This property has four different lagunas, a working organic farm and nursery, mature fruit trees, sheep corral, ideal for grazing horses with stunning views from all the hillsides. The Northern Zone of Costa Rica is the country's best kept secret, providing a perfect home base location to travel the country's many destinations while still maintaining the best climate at 400 meters above sea level.

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call center
Call center for rent ready to go !
13 work stations, good equipment, good location, Rohrmoser, two blocks from Plaza Mayor. $4.000 per month. Call Kevin 8366-6861.

Live the dream!
Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 247
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News from the BBC up to the minute

BBC news feeds are disabled on archived pages.

Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Mystery plants and change of climate

When we lived in the States, I was pretty confident with my “flower power.”  If you pointed at it, I could probably tell you what it was.   Violets and day lilies, daffodils and lilacs, lily of the valley and
Victoria torley
hyacinths, they were all old friends.  If I spotted something unfamiliar in a yard, I could always knock on the door and the owner would usually be able to tell me what was growing.  If not, I could look it up in a seed catalogue or another book. 

Now, here I am, transplanted to Costa Rica and not one of my old 
friends lives here.  And, if I knock on  a door, the owner can’t tell me the name either, since “it was just growing there when we moved in,
mystery plant
Mystery plant
and my gardener has no idea what it is.” 

Just as an example, I took a 10-minute walk in Coco today and found this little fellow growing in a hedge of hibiscus (yes, I can tell my hibiscus from other plants).

A nicely scented flower about 1 cm. (less than ½ inch) across.  Do I know what it is?  Not a chance.  And, since I was in Coco without my books I had only a small chance of naming him.  I could look him up, but the Internet is spotty….

I had ‘mumble-mumble’ years to learn my flowers and trees in the
States, and
I don’t think I have enough time to learn the names of the flowers in my adopted country.  This was brought home to me when I read that there is a park here in Costa Rica that has brought in experts to check their trees because they don’t know what they are.  Hey, that works for me!  If they have lived here all their lives and can’t name the local flora, maybe I am off the hook?

The problem is I don’t want to be off the hook.  I really would like to know what’s growing in my yard.  Maybe not my whole yard (which is 11 acres), maybe just the part near the house.  It would be especially nice to know the names of things I am planting on purpose, not just what sprang up.  I always ask when I buy something at a vivaro but sometimes I only get the local name – better than nothing, but not usually a name I can check out in a book or on the web.

Still, I keep at it.  Someday there will be little signs in indelible ink on my plantings with a scientific name, a common name, and a local name.  Or maybe I’m just dreaming…..

Plant of the Day

Despite its name, porterweed (stachytarpheta frantzii) is a nice native shrub with year-round flowers.  It is often planted as a hedge because hummingbirds are attracted to its flowers as are moths and butterflies.  Plant your porterweed in full sun and it grows rapidly to 2 meters (6.5 feet).  Propagate from cuttings.

If you would like to suggest a topic for this column, simply send a letter to the editor.  And, for more garden tips, visit the Arenal Gardeners Facebook page.
A.M. Costa Rica/Victoria Torley

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From Page 7:

United adds four more Houston flights

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

United Airlines has added four red-eye flights a week from Juan Santamaría airport to Houston, Texas. The flights will leave at 1:45 a.m. Friday through Monday, the company said.

United now operates 85 flights a week from San José to Houston, Washington/Dulles, Newark and Chicago.

Tourism officials think that the new flights will be an advantage during the high season. The flights also are expected to help the management of the Juan Santamaría airport, Aeris Holding Costa Rica, continue with its plans for 24-hour operations.