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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 249       E-mail us
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Immigration bill is not likely to go to a vote in 2008
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed bill that would change the current immigration laws probably will not see discussion in the legislature until next year.

Lawmakers are involved in a discussion to fill two seats on the board of directors of the  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones. They rejected two of four names Friday, and now they are hurrying to fill the slots because the panel may be key to whether the free trade treaty with the United States goes into effect Jan. 1.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos sent two more nominations to the legislature Monday to replace the rejected candidates. Lawmakers decided Monday to spend two hours of their regular session today discussing the candidates.

The new nominees are Maryleana Méndez Jiménez, who has been named to a three-year term on the board, and Wálter Herrera Cantillo, who has been named as a substitute board member for five years.

The Asamblea Legislativa also decided Monday to meet in special session Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But the immigration bill seems unlikely to come up.

The legislature decided to put in the first position on the calendar a proposed law to protect victims and witnesses of crimes. This is No. 16.973, and it contains a controversial new tax on bonds and commercial paper issued in currencies that are not the colon.

Lawmakers also blocked out time Wednesday and Friday to discuss No. 17.235, an addendum to the national budget.

Because the legislature goes on Christmas vacation at the end of business Friday, discussion, much less voting, on the proposed immigration bill seems unlikely. To be approved a measure must receive
favorable votes on two non-consecutive days.

Expats are concerned about the immigration bill because as written it would dramatically increase the financial worth foreign residents must show to become a pensionado or a rentista. It also contains language that would subject current pensionados and rentistas to the new financial requirements when their term of residency expires.

Some lawmakers are seeking to reduce the drastic increases in financial status, and some have been asked to eliminate the section that would affect current residents.

The two new Superintendencia candidates, if approved, would join two persons who did receive approval Friday. The three-person board would control access to telecommunication networks and services, award authorizations and administer and control the efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The panel also would resolve conflicts between telecom firms and set technical standards as well as set rates.

The regulating authority which made the nomination said that Ms. Méndez has a master's in the administration of information technologies and has extensive experience with networks in Costa Rica and elsewhere. She also has worked for the Contraloría General de la República and private firms.

Herrera, who was nominated as a substitute member, is an electrical engineer and holds a master's in administration and regulation. He worked with lawmakers to create the new telecommunications law and is now director of telecommunications in the regulating authority.

The telecommunications law that created the  Superintendencia did so because it also removed the monopoly on telecommuncations held by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, opening wireless communications to private competition.

Arias to make brief visit to flood-ravaged Sixaola
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has plans today to visit flood ravaged Sixaola and to meet with small agricultural producers also affected by a series of heavy rains.

Casa Presidencial said that Arias would visit Sixaola briefly this morning and then travel to Limón where he would present police equipment purchased with banana taxes.

The president also has plans to visit Matina that also was a center of the flooding emergencies at the end of November and the first days of December.

The flood hit Sixaola so hard that residents were reduced to living in unsanitary tents along the higher ground adjacent to the main highway for several
days until they could be transported to emergency shelters.

The national emergency commissions said that the series of storms spawned by cold fronts forced 6,096 persons from their homes in the Provincia de Limón and the northern zone.

Arias left for a round-the-world trip as the storm hit, and this is his first visit to the stricken area since his return. In addition to flooding in the communities, agricultural areas suffered millions in losses due to the bad weather, and even the Caribbean cargo train that hauls bananas to the docks in Puerto Limón sustained damage to tracks and bridges.

Sixaola is in southern Limón province not far from the border with Panamá.

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Court tells regulator
to move Limón rate hearing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered that the public hearing on possible bus rate increase be held closer to those who might use the service.

The decision, released Monday, came in response to a case filed by a man identified by the last names of Correa Garita against the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. The appeal said that a hearing on a Limón bus route has been scheduled for Guápiles and not Limón. He said that the distance would prevent Puerto Limón citizens from entering testimony.

The court ordered that the hearing be rescheduled at a place within the bus route.

The decision does not have direct affect on other similar hearings, but the decision suggests that a citizen might receive a favorable vote from the court if the same issue were raised for another hearing.

Our reader's opinion
Tourism stats questioned
by Grecia B&B operators

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In your article on the supposed two millionth tourist based on the unreliable statistics put out by the tourism Institute, you use the words "visitors," "persons," "arrivals," "tourists" to describe the number of "tourists" visiting Costa Rica. So are the "visitors," "persons" and "arrivals" really "tourists," or are they returning residents and Costa Ricans?

Has the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo done a breakdown of where these "tourists" come from? Has anybody asked ICT if their sales tax income has decreased because of fewer tourists? That would be a definite indicator of the number of "tourists" who have visited.

You say some hotels are predicting a 20 percent increase in business in 2009. What planet are they living on? What makes them think Costa Rica is immune from a worldwide tourism downturn? Do they know the global economic reality? Do they understand that if people are losing jobs in the U.S.? What makes them think it won't affect Costa Rica?

It always amazes us that the Costa Rican powers-that-be like to believe what they want to believe and spout "optimistic" utterings which have nothing to do with reality. We have been running a B&B in the Grecia area for 15 years, and 2008 is the worst year we have experienced and have no reason to think 2009 will be any better.

We have talked to other hotels, car rental companies and real estate companies, both in the Central Valley and at beach locations, and everyone says the same: business is drastically down. So who knows how the "survey" mentioned in your article came to the conclusions they did. Billions of dollars have been lost worldwide, stock markets are volatile, people have lost retirement income, so where are the "millions" of tourists going to come from?

All the hype  surrounding the supposed 2 millionth tourist is just sand in the eyes, and we do not believe it for a second!

Tessa and Martin Borner
Grecia, Costa Rica

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our reporters have been unsuccessful in obtaining 2008 data that shows the country of origin of those entering Costa Rica. We have not had this trouble in previous years. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo blames immigration officials. We do know that several hundred thousand of supposed tourists are from nearby Central American countries and are not tourists in the traditional sense. The survey was by the Cámera  Nacional de Turismo.

Jamaica will make loans
to ailing tourism sector

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jamaica's prime minister has announced a $6.4 million loan for the tourism sector as part of a huge economic stimulus package to stave off some of the side effects of the global financial slowdown.

In a televised broadcast Sunday night, the prime minister, Bruce Golding, said the measures would mostly be aimed at small businesses and manufacturing, as well as the ailing tourism industry.

The plan includes tax cuts and at least $6.4 million in loans for the tourism sector to help with cash flow, he said. Some $4.5 million more will go toward small businesses.

Golding also pledged to help workers who have lost their jobs and borrowers who are having difficulty making their mortgage payments. Golding said the moves would help weather the crisis, but that further re-structuring would be needed to make Jamaica more business and investment friendly.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 249

Christmas standby, the tamal, is about 20% more expensive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

According to the unreconstructed Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December.

But even the enlightened Scrooge, illuminated at the end of the 1843 Dickens novel, would say "Bah, Humbug" at the price increases the economic ministry found in toys and the traditional Yule dish, the tamal, this year.

The ministry, in twin surveys, compared prices. For tamales the ministry surveyors visited 56 commercial outlets and checked the price on 15 products that usually are part of the tamal. They found price differences of 263 percent for similar items and differences of 56 percent in identical items. The biggest difference, 263 percent, was in 100- and 250-meter spools of string used to tie up the uncooked tamal in banana leaves. But even with sweet peppers (170 percent difference) and plain old carrots (150 percent differences) prices varied wildly.

Even routine items like potatoes (137 percent) and onions (121 percent) failed to show consistency in price.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio conducts surveys all year, but the Christmas results generally are better publicized and considered an decent index of inflation.
Using the figures gathered from store visits, the ministry  estimated the cost of making 50 tamales to be 19,946 colons or about $36.40. That's 32 percent higher than a year ago, the ministry said with potatoes showing a 194 percent increase for 2008.

Coincidentally potatoes are not included in the free trade treaty with the United States.

Rice also showed a jump of 62 percent, and chicken breast was up 31 percent.

Even counting the devaluation of the colon, which has a 12 percent drop against the dollar for the year, the 32 percent increase equates to a real increase of about 20 percent.

The toy survey involved visits to the major outlets. The study found differences between types of board games of 390 percent and 205 percent for similar radio controlled cars.

For identical items, the differences were less. Parker Brothers Monopoly sets were found with just a 13.4 percent difference in price, and prices of Lego sets were just 10.7 percent different, the ministry said. However, buyers should shop around if they are buying a Nitro 2424 radio controlled car. The ministry found a 114.9 percent difference or 6,891-colon ($12.58) variation between outlets on the identical product.

Sports fishermen hope to clarify longline rules Wednesday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Though no final decisions were made at the Costa Rica fisheries institute’s board meeting Friday, The Billfish Foundation reported that it is cautiously optimistic that changes needed for the protection of sailfish and other sport fishing resources will finally be approved this week.

The foundation seeks to correct what it characterizes as errors in a Dec. 5 resolution by the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura.

After passing the resolution, the institute announced expansion of conservation measures to protect sailfish from commercial fishing. Upon examination, sport fishing representatives said that the resolution was flawed with inconsistent wording.

Herbert Nanne, Central American conservation director for the foundation, is credited with catching the errors.

The Billfish Foundation seeks to create a 30-mile zone south of Quepos where longlines cannot be deployed from January through March. It also wants to prohibit the use of live bait on longlines and also prohibit the export of sailfish.

The longline and export provisions are aimed at commercial fishermen. The foundation also is backing a new regulation prohibiting removing sailfish from the water to take photographs prior to release. This mainly is directed at sports fishermen.

The foundation has said that commercial overfishing of the
game species was jeopardizing fishing tourism in Costa Rica.

Officials were supposed to make the corrections in the resolution Friday, the foundation said, but new issues arose regarding disposition of the sailfish already caught, processed and stored frozen to be checked by the institute for future exportation. The foundation is working with the institute to develop means to inspect and certify currently frozen inventory and track this product as it leaves the country.  After these sailfish are sold no further export will be allowed, it said. 

The chief of the institute's legal department has recommended meeting with sport fishing representatives Wednesday to again draft the agreement on sailfish conservation measures and to resolve the new issues.

Nanne said the foundation is working to get the final document drafted Wednesday for a meeting with the leaders of the sport fishing sector and the president of the institute. Nanne said he hopes the revised resolution can be approved at an institute meeting Thursday. That is the last meeting of the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura for 2008.

Ellen Peel, foundation president, said that the errors in the Dec. 5 resolution would have negated the effect of the live bait ban.

Established in 1986, The Billfish Foundation says it is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to conserving and enhancing billfish populations worldwide. The world headquarters are in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

U.S. asserts legal authority over Canadian living in Thailand in child sex case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Department of Justice has claimed jurisdiction over foreign nationals who help U.S. citizens engage in child sex tourism.

The case involves a Canadian who is charged with helping U.S. citizens engage in illegal activity in Thailand.

The man, John Wrenshall, 62, was arrested Monday on charges of conspiring to travel in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children; aiding and abetting sex tourism; and conspiracy to produce, production of, and distribution of child pornography, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The case is relevant to individuals in Costa Rica who would profit from child sex tourism involving U.S. citizens.

Wrenshall, a Canadian citizen living in Thailand, was arrested at London’s Heathrow International Airport early Monday by London’s Metropolitan Police Service based on a U.S. warrant, the Justice Department said.

A grand jury in New Jersey returned an indictment against Wrenshall Aug. 25, 2008. Wrenshall is charged with one
count of conspiracy to engage in sex tourism, two counts of aiding and abetting sex tourism, one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography, seven counts of production of child pornography, and seven counts of distribution of child pornography.

The charges stem from Wrenshall’s alleged involvement with U.S. citizens who traveled to Thailand to sexually abuse children and produce visual depictions of that abuse, the Justice Department said.

According to the indictment and court documents, Wrenshall had frequent access to Thai boys, some as young as 6 years old, at his Thailand home. As charged in the indictment, from at least as early as May 2000, Wrenshall helped arrange trips to his home during which U.S. citizens and others paid Wrenshall money to engage in sexual acts with the boys, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Wrenshall’s customers were allowed to videotape their abuse.

If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of sex tourism, a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of child pornography production, and up to 15 years in prison for distribution of child pornography. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000 per count.

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Youth unemployment and frustration seen increasing crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The world financial crisis could increase violent youth behavior in Latin America because unemployment and frustration among the young also will increase, said the
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The assessment was part of a report, "Social Panorama of Latin America 2008," which dedicates a chapter on the issue of youth and family violence in the region, and stresses the importance of maintaining a permanent dialog with youths.

Violence has increased in most of the region over recent years, and youths are clearly over-represented in terms of the incidence and gravity of violence, as both victims and perpetrators, the report said.

In many countries in the region, young people are committing violent crimes at increasingly early ages and are dying at increasingly early ages as a result of such crimes, the report said, adding that governments should adopt policies to address the causes of this escalating violence.
During 2008, the Economic Commission said it conducted a survey among interior ministry officials of Latin American 
governments on their policies and programs to tackle youth violence. The survey found that the main problem is organized youth violence — ordinary offenses, gang activity, street violence, and possession of weapons — in specific urban areas in a number of countries in the region.

Street gangs (commonly referred to as pandillas, but also maras in Central America and quadrilhas in Brazil), rising crime in the Southern Cone, and violence in the Andean region all reveal a need to determine specific areas of intervention. Of particular concern is the involvement of youth gangs in drug use, drug trafficking and human trafficking, the report said.

The authorities also stated that the greatest problem affecting young people of both sexes was poverty, said the commission. Young males saw unemployment as their worst problem, whereas for young women, the most serious problem was domestic violence, the report said.

Preventive policies and measures should be combined with punitive ones to sanctioning the effects while addressing the causes, said the commission. Reducing youth violence also requires more educational activities, programs to strengthen first employment and adequate social reinsertion for rehabilitated youths, it said.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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U.N. official from Nicaragua
says his life is threatened

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.N. General Assembly president, a Nicaraguan politician, said Monday that very serious threats have appeared on the Internet against his life and the matter is being looked into by the pertinent authorities.

He is Miguel D’Escoto, and a statement critical of Israeli diplomats. The nature of the threats was not defined further.

D'Escoto said Israel’s detention and denial of entry of the independent U.N. human rights expert for the occupied Palestinian territory “reflects a dangerous decision by individual countries to rebuff U.N. mandates and U.N.-appointed mandate holders.”

In a statement issued by his spokesman, he said the action by Israel is “not helpful or conducive for the climate of international harmony that he is trying to promote.”

The statement said U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk was denied entry to Israel when he arrived at Tel Aviv airport with staff members from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on an official visit.

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