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(506) 2223-1327              Published Friday, Dec. 18, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 250            E-mail us
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kids having fun
Casa Presidencial photo
Children from the Projecto Miravalles in Tirrases de Curridabat enjoy themselves at a private party set up just for them by the Departmento Apoyo Social of the Presidencia and the firm Hewlett Packard. Company employees collected 1,600 toys under the 'Adopt
an Angel' Christmas program. Some 300 of the toys will go to the native community of Chumico, but most will stay with the Projecto Miravalles youngsters, who come from families with little resources. There were 150 of them at the party Thursday.


Today marks beginning of 2009 Christmas holiday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the sun passes overhead today, the rumbling will be public and private employees heading out for their Christmas vacation.

Most government offices will be closing, and vital ones will be operating with a limited staff. However, there is no vacation for police, traffic officers and the Cruz Roja. Some workers have piled up vacation days and have already left town.

Those who choose to take the bus to the beach or mountains got some backing Thursday from the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. The regulating agency warned bus companies not to take advantage of the holiday rush by raising prices. And, the agency insisted, reduced fares for senior citizens still are in force. For example, the regular fare to Quepos on the central Pacific is 3,450 colons, some $6.22. But seniors only pay 2,590 colons or $4.67, the agency said.

Bus companies are authorized to put on more vehicles at this time of year, but that should not affect the fare, said the agency.
Those who stay in town can go to a major musical event Tuesday. Banco Nacional is putting on a free concert at the Plaza de la Cultura from 3 to 8 p.m. The group Mal País is among those scheduled to play, as is Big Band and Café Chorale, the bank said. Thousands are expected to attend. This is the third year for the concert.

Meanwhile in Zapote, workmen are erecting tents and temporary structures for the Fiestas de San José, the big Christmas carnival that features, among other activities, the traditional Costa Rican bull fights.

The event runs from Christmas Day to Jan. 3.

Associated with the fiesta is the Tope Nacional that will bring hundreds of horses and riders to the streets of San José Dec. 26.

Hotel and restaurant operators in vacation spots are counting on the local Costa Rican tourists to generate income at the end of what has been a bleak year. International tourists also appear to be arriving at the major airports, but accurate counts are not yet available.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 250

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Legal services

Burke Fiduciary, S.A.
Registered Escrow and Legal Services
Thomas A. Burke, LL.M, Glenda Burke, LL.M
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We offer real estate law, due diligence and escrow services,residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.
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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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Tel: (323) 255-6116
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Dentists and dental surgery

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Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant
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Accountants

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• eFile returns: secure with faster refunds
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Real estate agents and services

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info@realtorcostarica.com
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Investigators have hands full
with four murder cases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators were at the scene of what appears to be a murder-suicide in Guápiles Thursday night as the Judicial Investigating Organization logged its fourth murder for the day. Agents said that a woman was killed and her boyfriend is suspected of taking his own life in the latest crime.

Agents gave this summary of other murders Thursday:

• A 43-year-old man with the last name of Ortiz died in Hospital México Thursday after being shot at least three times in Santa Cruz. The case is believed to be the result of a personal dispute. Ortiz received the fatal bullets while he was parking his car near the Catholic church in Cartagena.

• A 19-year-old man died at Hospital Calderón Guardia Thursday morning. He was identified by the last name of Acevedo. He suffered a bullet wound in the back that he received in Purral de Goicoechea. He was shot down on a public street.

• A male nurse at Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas was shot down while he was riding his bike to work Thursday afternoon.  He was shot three times in the back not far from the hospital, where he died minutes later. Agents are investigating the possibility that he was killed for his bike.

Agents detained two murder suspects Thursday. The first was a 25-year-old Jamaican who faces judicial action in the death April 3 of a 34-year-old man with the last name of Robertson outside a bar in Calle Blancos, Goicoechea. The man, identified by the Poder Judicial with the last name of  Jermaine, was detained at his home in Residencial Bosques de Doña Rosa in Cariari, Heredia, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Jermaine is believed linked to the band of his fellow countrymen who have been jailed in the last three weeks. The victim, identified by the Poder Judicial by the last name of  Arkics, also was believed to be a countryman. Agents said they found a submachinegun and 500 rounds of ammunition for an AK-47 in the 6 a.m. raid.

Murder investigators also detained a 20-year-old man for the death of a soccer star that took placed Sept. 11 in Parque de la Paz. He is the second to be held for the crime. The victim, identified by the last name of Alfaro, was shot in the stomach by two men who took his mountain bike in the daylight crime. The case received a lot of publicity because Alfaro played for the Barrio México soccer team and because the park is popular with San José residents.

Our reader's opinion
Get rid of toll booths
and regulate bus stops


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was pleased to read that Costa Rica intends to stand by its commitment to reduce its "carbon footprint."  I find it ironic, however, that Costa Rica continues to erect toll booths that cause motorists to burn more fuel in slowing to a stop, waiting while engines idle, and accelerate to their previous speeds. 

While there has been much complaining about the increased price of the tolls (to about $ 0.57), nothing has been said regarding the environmental cost due to the increased emissions or the increase in oil dependency due to the increased amount of fuel burned unnecessarily at toll booths over the amount that would have been burned if drivers had cruised through the area.  Costa Rica should tear down the toll booths and repay whatever party benefits from them, if it wants to be serious about reducing the carbon footprint.

Probably the single worst impediment to smooth traffic flow, and the single most frustrating factor related to driving in Costa Rica, is the fleet of smoke-belching buses that clog the major roadways.  Certainly, the buses, by transporting large numbers of non-drivers, do a great service to the people who depend upon them and to the country's environmental goals, and should not be eliminated. 

There has to be a better way to use them, however.  There have already been efforts to reduce bus traffic within San Jose. However, the other cities of the Central Valley must also be addressed, as should the rural roadways.  Without rural buses, my usual commute into the closest city would take 35 to 50 percent the time it does.  Buses on winding, two-lane (if that) roads that stop far too often and squarely in the lane of traffic can resemble the locomotive of a long train of cars by the time it reaches a city.  Unfortunately, all those cars are not being pulled by the bus, but are independently burning fuel and emitting trails of exhaust. 

I realize that Costa Rica cannot afford to widen all the country roads, but it could restrict its buses from stopping at unauthorized stops, limit stops to no more than one per 500 meters, and provide space for buses to pull over out of the traffic lane at all stops.  The last of these criteria is the most important and would be the most costly, but would allow regular traffic to continue while the buses made their stops, and would thereby greatly reduce Costa Rica's carbon footprint and dependency on foreign oil.

If Costa Rica is really serious about its environmental impact, it should look at the places where it is the most inefficient in its use of fossil fuels.  Anyone who has paid attention to their fuel consumption elsewhere and here has undoubtedly noticed that a tank of fuel doesn't go nearly as far here.
 
Gray Rivers
Santa Barbara de Heredia

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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 weekday.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 250

English teacher vanishes en route to class in Talamanca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An English teacher vanished Tuesday on the Caribbean coast,
missing teacher
Alexander Obando
and investigators managed to locate his car Thursday morning. The vehicle was distant from his proposed destination.

The teacher is  Alexander Obando Campos, who disappeared when he was en route to Amubri, Bribri, Talamanca.

Unlike some of the mysterious disappearances of expats and tourists on the Pacific coast, this case looks like one of robbery.  

The man's Peugeot was positioned facing the Río La Estrella in Penshut, also on the Caribbean coast. The location of the vehicle looked like someone tried to push it into the river but the irregular landscape prevented that.

A laptop computer and a cellular telephone appeared to be missing, agents said.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that anyone with information can call 2798-3936 or 800-8000-645 or the Centro de Información Confidencial.

The 31-year-old man has been teaching English in the Talamanca community for several years. He also has been giving classes in several public universities in their regional offices on the Caribbean coast. On the Pacific an expat in Ostional and two tourists have vanished since last Feb. 18.


Homeowners get a 15-day break on filing luxury tax forms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and residents got a small break this week when the Ministerio de Hacienda announced that the deadline for filing luxury home forms would be Jan. 15 not Dec. 31.

The ministry also said it was planning to use a Banco de Costa Rica account for payment. Previously the ministry and its Dirección General de Tributación wanted the right to deduct the appropriate amount from taxpayers' accounts. Some snowbird residents argued that they did not have bank accounts in Costa Rica.

The paperwork establishing value was supposed to be filed by Dec. 21 and the taxes from Oct. 1 paid at that time. Jan.
15 was the date for paying the tax, if applicable, for 2010.
The ministry said Thursday that very few persons had paid the tax. Some expats are simply ignoring the tax, although Tributación has been taking lessons from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which is not known for its laxity or humor.

The tax covers homes that a calculation specified by Tributación determines is worth more than 100 million colons. Based on today's rate of exchange, that would be a home worth $180,180. However, the calculations are based on square footage and have nothing to do with the market value of the home or what the owner paid.

The new tax has spawned a cottage industry of experts who will help homeowners navigate the complex forms and requirements. One expert even has written a book. A.M. Costa Rica has links to a number of news stories HERE!


Stalking the graphical fish through the barrios of San José
Some of my happiest times have been when I have been on the move.  I seem to be cut out for the nomadic life.  I remember well the three times I traveled across the United States in a station wagon, stopping for food and lodging (sometimes the lodging was in the station wagon), my train trips across the U.S. and in Europe from Athens to Oslo.  There is something relaxing and peaceful about the idea of moving along, seeing the world and being concerned only with the next place to eat and sleep.

But I have not always been able to do that. So I move a lot.  I have done that about 60 times since I was 18.
Since coming to Costa Rica, I have pretty much settled down, remaining, for the most part in the city of San José. But even here, I have moved eight times and twice elsewhere in the Central Valley.  This makes me something of an authority on the different barrios of San José.

The east side of San José (from San Pedro to downtown), has a more youthful vibrant energy. Perhaps because that is where the University of Costa Rica is with its population of young people, its free concerts and classes available to older people.  And it’s also where you’ll find the Centro Cultural (in Barrio Dent) with its language classes, the Mark Twain library and the Eugene O’Neill Theater offering concerts, plays and the Metropolitan Opera live via satellite TV. There are a number of fine restaurants, like Il Ritorno and Le Chandelier, and I am sure others have opened since I left. 

There are good shopping centers in the area with the largest and most visually unattractive being the San Pedro Mall next to the traffic circle.  An architect friend of mine said that if he were told he had only six months to live, he would do two things:  one was blow up the San Pedro Mall.  He didn’t say what the second was; probably find a good lawyer.

The west side of town has the Sabana Park, which is like living near a mini New York Central Park. My son tells me that I live in the suburbs.  That thought chills me to the bone.  I am a city person, I say.  But he may be right. There is more of the feel of the suburbs on the west side. Maybe the atmosphere will change if the new high rise condos and apartment buildings being built fill up.  The north and south sides of the Park are very different.  The north side has some upscale condos, a few businesses and lots of luxurious homes (some now for rent or sale or housing businesses).  We also have very nice restaurants and a number of fast food eateries. The south side has  much smaller homes and more small businesses to cater to people’s needs.  Then there is Rohrmoser with its main street along Pavas road and two main shopping centers. I  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
shop mainly in Plaza Mayor on Rohrmoser Boulevard.

But describing the city is not the intent of this column.

My children did not inherit my nomadic ways; both are content to stay in the part of the country where they were born.  (They claim they had enough traveling when they were with me.)  But they do visit periodically, and sometimes go home with a souvenir of Costa Rica.  Well, one year my son bought a T-shirt and liked it so much, I guess he wore it out. He has written several times to ask me to find another like it.  I have looked on the west side of town, the east side of town and downtown and asked friends to be on the lookout, but I cannot find a duplicate.  There are lots of T-shirts with swordfish on them but none with the fish he wants — it doesn’t exist, on or off the T-shirt.

He has seldom asked for anything, and I’d like to come through with this request.  It is, after all, Christmas time.  In desperation I am posting a picture and if anyone has seen this shirt, please let me know where.  I would like him to be able to say, “I visited Costa Rica and all I came back with is this T-shirt – and my Mom went to a lot of trouble to get it for me.”

fish shirt
Have you seen this fish?


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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 250

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Tico boxer returns

home at last

His mother greets comatose  Alejandro Timón Martínez, who returned to Costa Rica Thursday. He was injured in a boxing match July 25 in México. The security ministry provided the airplane for his return. The welterweight, 24, went to Hospital Calderón Guardia where he will be given a full examination and rehabilitation.
injured boxer
Ministerio de Gobernacíon, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo



Villalobos backers plan a belated suit against Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The moribund group of Villalobos supporters has sprung to life against and resurrected the idea of suing the Costa Rican government for cracking down on a ponzi scheme.

The informal group, which has the name of United Concerned Citizens, Residents & Friends of Costa Rica, contains the dwindling number of former investors who expect Luis Enrique Villalobos to show up in 2012 and hand back the money he took.

In an Internet posting and in a posting to its Web site, the group said it wants to hire a local lawyer to sue the Costa Rican government. The lawyer is David E. Romero Mora, who said in an accompanying report that he thinks the former investors have a high likelihood of success in the suit, according to the group.

There are certain problems. Luis Enrique Villalobos is still an international fugitive if he still is alive, and his brother has been sentenced to 18 years for fraud and accepting money illegally for his role in the scheme.

Some investors have talked about a suit since the July 4, 2002, raid on the high-interest borrowing operation and the money exchange houses operated by the Villalobos family. This is not to be confused with a suit already in international arbitration in which other investors blame the Costa Rican government for not cracking down soon enough.

The trial of Oswaldo Villalobos failed to establish the outline of a legitimate business operation with which Luis Enrique Villalobos was able to pay his investors about 3 per cent a month. The high interest attracted investors from all over but mainly from North America. Some investors had up to $16 million in the scheme.

According to the group, the lawyer ruled out negotiations because that would involve Luis Enrique Villalobos showing up, going to jail and entering negotiations. Villalobos fled Oct. 14, 2002, after faxing an explanatory message to A.M. Costa Rica. Periodically United and Concerned Citizens claim to have received letters from
him, but most observers dismiss them as a forgery. Villalobos did sent a New Year's Eve 2002 e-mail to A.M. Costa Rica in which he said that if he were jailed no one would get anything. It came from Guatemala.

Some of the United and Concerned Citizens are convinced that Villalobos will return in 2012 after the statute of limitations on the crimes expire and distribute investments for those who kept the faith. They claim that he cannot now do so for certain technical banking reasons. Romero is quoted as confirming that Luis Enrique Villalobos will be off the legal hook July 4, 2012.

In the past, Villalobos supporters have raised a number of arguments against the law enforcement action that triggered the end of the scheme. The Oswaldo Villalobos trial disclosed that the operation had been under investigation for years. The United and Concerned Citizens strongly urged investors not to join the criminal action against Oswaldo Villalobos, and some who did not were miffed when the court awarded money judgments to those who did join.

Losses to Villalobos investors may have been as much as $1 billion. Prosecutors have estimated the loss at $600 million. Some have applauded the action by prosecutors and investors because it kept many more victims from losing their money.

This is not the first time that the United and Concerned Citizens has sought to hire a lawyer. Two weeks after Luis Enrique Villalobos fled, hundreds of investors met at the downtown Holiday Inn. Some agreed to pay what amounted to $150,000 for a lawyer who later ran for president. Little came from that effort.

The current effort is more modest. The organization is asking from $25 to $100 from those who would like to join the legal case. The amount depends on how much they lost.

". . . filing a lawsuit could eventually facilitate a political negotiation with the new government, as it may have an interest in negotiation to prevent a potential sentence against the state," said the organization.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 250

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Climate conference faces
decisions on its last day

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama was due to head to Copenhagen overnight to join the leaders of over 100 other nations for the final day of the U.N. Climate Change conference in the Danish capital.

"The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

The question remains what sort of compromise they can agree on to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to help the most affected and less developed nations of the world cope with global warming.

For the past two weeks thousands of delegates have been meeting in a conference center on the outskirts of Copenhagen.  Their task was to come up with a global plan to deal with climate change.  

But, agreement has been elusive.  Many of the sessions were taken up with finger pointing and rhetoric of who's to blame for global warming, who suffers most, and who needs to do more.

Addressing the conference, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned that, as he put it, no one has come here with "clean hands."

"The inescapable truth is that we, the developed world, carry the overwhelming historical responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Rudd said. He meant the carbon dioxide in the atmostphere. About 75 percent of so-called greenhouse gas is water vapor. Scientists say that the carbon dioxide content has increased.

Prime Minister Rudd's message was that the developed world must set things right. But, he also admonished emerging economies to not continue to spew out greenhouse gases.

There have been major differences here at the conference between developed and developing nations and with major emerging economies.

Mrs. Clinton announced a major funding initiative with a promise to contribute to a global fund of $100 billion annually to help poor nations deal with climate change.  But, she said that could only happen if all major economies agree on emissions cuts and on proper monitoring of implementation.  She made a clear reference to China, with whom the U.S. has been at odds over the issue.

But, Prime Minister Rudd reminded delegates that everyone has a stake.

"The truth is that unless we all act together because we are all in this together there will be limited prospects of development because the planet itself will no longer sustain development," Rudd said.

That was much the message from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who admonished his fellow world leaders that failure is not an option.

He warned them they would all have to answer before global opinion and public opinion at home if they failed to act.  Science has said what must be done, he said, and we are the last generation to be able to do it.

In an impassioned speech, President Sarkozy said everyone would have to compromise.  He appealed to world leaders to sit down and work out their differences.

Initial hopes had been the Copenhagen conference could come up with a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which mandates emission cuts for most developed nations.  Developing countries are adamant that they want Kyoto extended beyond its 2012 expiration date.  Leaders here have indicated they are looking for a political framework agreement from Copenhagen, with another summit to be held in about six months to work out details and turn it into a legally binding accord.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 250


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Top Mexican drug lord
cut down in shootout


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One of Mexico's most-wanted drug gang leaders has been shot dead.

Mexican navy officials said Wednesday that Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of one of the most powerful drug crime syndicates, was killed by security forces in a shootout in a high-end residential complex in the city of Cuernavaca.

At least three other gang members were also killed in the clash, while a fourth committed suicide, the navy said.

Beltran Leyva's death is a victory for President Felipe Calderon's drug offensive as gang-related violence is jumping.  Despite deploying nearly 50,000 troops against the cartels since taking office in 2006, more than 14,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence.

Beltran Leyva, called the "boss of bosses," ran the Beltran Leyva drug cartel along with his four brothers. It was a spinoff of the Sinaloa cartel.

He was wanted by both the U.S. and Mexican authorities.

In August, he was among several suspected drug cartel leaders charged by the U.S. attorney general with funneling drugs in to the United States.

Twelve indictments stemming from investigations in Chicago and New York accuse the cartel and others of importing nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine into the U.S. since 1990.

Authorities seized more than 32,000 kilograms of cocaine and $20 million worth of cash during the course of the investigation.
 

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details