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(506) 2223-1327                         Published  Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Vol. 14, No. 250                                  Email us
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Dollar weakens slightly despite pressure to contrary
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. dollar is weakening slightly against the Costa Rican colon.

The value still is better than this time last year, and there are significant improvements expected ahead.

Last Dec. 20 the buy/sell rate was 493.29 and 505.78.

The value of the dollar began to improve after Jan. 2 and skyrocketed through February until the rate was 555.79 and 570.79 in March. This was a 65-colon increase in just two months. That was about 13 percent, enough to cause strains in day-to-day businesses.

For today, the Banco Central has posted a 527.72 and 539.49 rate and some entities, such as Banco Nacional, are quoting prices one or two colons lower.

There have been two major changes since the dollar put on muscle earlier this year. In late June the Banco Central de Costa Rica decided that public companies that are not banks could no longer trade on the daily Monex market. Basically the exchange rate is now a banker's monopoly. The bank's board also decided that purchases of U.S. dollars for the public sector would no longer be reflected in the exchange rate.

The central bank made the changes in order to

 reduce volatility, it said. Until late June anyone  with a need for dollars could attend the daily Monex auctions to make purchases. As the U.S. Federal Reserve reduced the purchase of bonds to help the economy there, the dollar increased in value.

Eventually the central bank will have to pay the piper. The bank reported in early December that its dollar reserves have been depleted by some $120 million. The country has an unfavorable exchange rate in that it purchases more from other countries than other countries buy here. That includes foreign Christmas credit card sales that will have to be settled in dollars starting next month.

The big expenses, of course, are petroleum imports, some of which is used for power generation by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

U.S.-Cuban thaw is generally applauded here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans generally applauded the decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to thaw relations with Cuba.

The Spanish-language daily La Nación dedicated the top of its Internet edition and and made the report the lead in the printed Thursday paper.

Additional stories HERE!

Some lawmakers responded to the announcement by placing a floral offering at the bust of Cuban hero José Marti at a local park.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto expressed its enormous satisfaction at the normalizing of relations between what it called its two friends and said that the action was a new step for the entire American community.

Costa Rica ended its shunning of Cuba five years ago.

The jubilation might be premature because much of what Obama sought, including opening a U.S. Embassy in Havana, had to pass through the Congress. which will be governed by Republicans in the new year. And U.S. lawmakers are split on Obama's action and not always along party lines.

Obama said he was expanding but not ending the rules that prohibit Americans from traveling to Cuba. U.S. citizens can now visit Cuba as members of organized groups that receive U.S.
La Nacion
A.M. Costa Rica graphic          
La Nación treated the news as something
bigger than a soccer championship.

approval. U.S. expats here easily evade these prohibitions, with the help of Cuban immigration workers who do not stamp their passports.

Although Cuba has world class beaches and is just 90 miles from Florida, there probably will not be an early impact on the Costa Rica tourist trade. Those who travel on approved groups say that they are under strict rules not to deviate from the reason for their visit. Those on cultural and educational visits, for example, are forbidden to swim, they said.

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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.

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#3: BUYERS’ MARKET: Many properties are at their lowest price ever
           *$179,900 Hermosa Beachfront Community with Ocean Views !
Yes we know Costa Rica: Jeff (21 years here), Frances Winborne (23 years), and Junior Diaz (Jacó born & bred),  and we chose the Central Pacific!

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Toll Free: 1-888-782-1119 or  2643-4334, 2643-3672
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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo       
Anti-drug police prepare to force their way into this home.

Five held in hydroponic marijuana raids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. woman is back in the news because she was detained Wednesday for the second time in less than four months on a marijuana-growing allegation.

Anti-drug police identified her by the last name of Dittrich. She was one of five persons detained as police made raids in Grecia, Alajuela Centro and Santa Ana.

The five are accused of using hydroponic methods to grow marijuana.

Ms. Dittrich, 58, and a 44-year-old Costa Rican with the last name of  Chamorro had been detained Aug. 31 when it appears they were transporting equipment from one location to another. That was in Coyal de Alajuela. The two were identified as a married couple.

The investigation began last May with telephone calls from neighbors, said police.

Highway work stalled by relocation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials are putting the brakes on design work for the northern section of the Circunvalación because residents of the low-income Triángulo de Solidaridad in Tibás are in the way.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the land must be cleared for engineers and others in the design work so they can see the topography.

The Triángulo de Solidaridad is a well known area of substandard housing, and the Ministerio de Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos has the job of relocating the residents.

The design work is being done by the Consorcio Estrella-Hernán Solís, and it appears that work will be stalled until March while the 181 families are moved to other quarters.

The Circunvalación Norte will run from the end of the existing highway at an intersection in La Uruca to Calle Blancos and then to Ruta 32.  This is a $147 million project that will take 18 months.

When done, the new highway will expedite motor truck traffic and allow drivers to skirt the metro area to go to and from Ruta 32, which is the main highway to Limón and the boat docks there. Such drivers might be carrying pineapples from the southern zone or industrial supplies from the docks to a factory in Puntarenas. Now the drivers have to leave the four-lane Circunvalación for secondary highways in La Uruca and Tibás.

Tourist police get transportation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's tourism institute has presented the Policía Turística with equipment worth 60 million colons, some $114,000.

The equipment includes 12 motorcycles and a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has been investing in the tourist police force since 2011.  Officials created the force with members of the Fuerza Pública to stem waves of thefts at tourism locations.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Third News Page
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 250             
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This is a rendering of how the completed stage two of the terminal will appear
$1 billion Moín container terminal gets environmental approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's environmental agency has given a green light to the $1 billion container terminal proposed for Moín.

The decision is far from final because opponents of the terminal are expected to challenge the decision and eventually carry the case once again through the country's courts.

The decision came from the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental. APM Terminals Moín S.A., the local subsidiary of a Dutch firm, plans to build the project as a concession. Eventually the terminal will revert to government management.

The job involves building an artificial island in the harbor, constructing protective breakwaters and dredging a channel for container ships.

The project is favored by the government, but workers on the public docks and some environmental activists oppose it. The dock workers fear the competition of a modern container handling facility.  Some 
of the environmentalists have opposed nearly every new project.

The Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental said there were more than 100 deficiencies in the environmental impact statement presented earlier. The approval was of a rewrite.

The consortium Van Oord/BAM International said that it already had been contracted to build stage two of the project. This Dutch firm estimates that this will take three years.  A world-class sustainable container terminal that modernizes the port system to help Costa Rica achieve its economic ambitions, the firm said on its Web page.

In challenging the decision, the lawyers for the dock workers union will have to seek administrative remedies first. The central government shuts down most offices for Christmas on Friday, so there will be no action on this until January. However, the Sala IV constitutional court is open 24 hours a day even over vacations, if opponents choose that route.

The project already has been the object of a handful of appeals in the nation's courts.

More protection sought for rivers that run through metro area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although many of the metro area's rivers are protected by trees, there are some problems, the Contraloría General de la República said in a study summarized Wednesday. And some of these problems are big enough to be life and property threatening, it said.

The rivers are the Torres, Siquiares, Uruca, Cañas and Toyogres. Some 127.61 hectares of 150.14 hectares of property along the banks are tree-covered, but the land that is not needs to have some planted, the report said.

Some 6.22 hectares mainly along the ríos Torres, Cañas and
Toyogres have been invaded for crop cultivation and structures, said the report, adding that these are illegal uses.

Part of the problem can be blamed on inadequate maps that do not show correctly the official river protective zones, it added.

The Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, which has the responsibility to protect the rivers does not have a policy to do so, the report said.

And in the case of primarily invasive slum housing along the rivers, there continues to be risks and eventually the situation will generate damage to persons, goods and the environment, the report warned.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 250
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Illegal money flows taken from developing countries put at trillions
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Poor countries lose a lot more money each year from corruption and corporate tax evasion than they receive in foreign aid. A new report called the losses a structural cause of extreme poverty.

The non-profit research organization Global Financial Integrity says developing nations lost $6.6 trillion between 2003 and 2012.

Eric LeCompte, head of the Jubilee USA Network, said it’s a problem growing by nearly 9.5 percent each year.

He said that illicit financial flows refers to the amount of money that leaves countries that’s untaxed. In general, that money is anything that ranges from tax evasion to the monies that are leaving through corrupt practices. And because of the types of money and because many countries don’t have protections in place, countries around the world are losing annually almost a trillion dollars due to illicit financial flows, he said.

The Global Financial Integrity report said a record $991 billion was lost to illicit financial flows in 2012 alone.

Jubilee USA Network is a coalition of 75 U.S. organizations, 400 faith-based communities and 50 international partners. It lobbies for global financial reforms to bring debt relief to poor countries. It works with Global Financial Integrity to propose reforms to end illicit financial flows.

LeCompte said despite ongoing efforts and statements by G-7 and G-20 nations, the problem persists.

“Around the world, many policy makers and decision makers are still learning about this reality – that a trillion dollars is leaving countries untaxed. And although there’s movement, there’s still needs to be a lot of education around the issue. And I think for the first time we’re looking at processes where we could actually start to curb this kind of illicit money.”

The report compared the illicit outflow of money to the inflow of aid dollars.

“The amount of money that is leaving some of the poorest countries in the world is 11 times the amount of aid they receive,” he said.

The Jubilee USA executive director said that illicit financial flows are making a bad situation worse in Ebola-stricken West Africa.

“The three countries that have been affected and hit hardest –
 Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia – currently are losing $1.3 billion a year to illicit financial flows. That dwarfs what is for these countries a budget that is less than $300 million to deal with health issues. When this money leaves it’s not addressing some of the important infrastructure concerns in the developing world,” he said.

And LeCompte said even some prominent G20 countries are being affected.

“In terms of the recent report by Global Financial Integrity, the top five countries around the world losing money to illicit flows between 2003 and 2013 were China, Russia, Mexico, India and Malaysia,” he said

So, if all that money is coming out of the developing world, where’s it going?

“We don’t totally know who is benefitting. We know that it’s a whole range of actors,” he said.

He said those that could benefit from illicit financial flows include the extraction industries and banks.

“Essentially, 80 percent of all illicit financial flows are caused through a process called trade mis-invoicing, where money is sent out, capital is sent out of the country. When materials leave the developing world they’re not being taxed properly for the actual value of cargo that’s leaving.”

LeCompte added that it’s a problem that can be solved, for example, by ensuring customs authorities know the true price of goods.

Global Financial Integrity estimated it would cost each country a one-time charge of two million dollars to establish such a mechanism.

“If this process were put in place, it would literally generate billions of dollars for some of the world’s poorest economies every year,” he said.

Jubilee USA and its partners will push for financial transparency mechanisms at next July’s International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.

They’ll also lobby to make them part of the sustainable development goals, which build upon the expiring millennium development goals. If successful, they say, developing countries would have billions of dollars more each year to invest in health, infrastructure and education.

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
   * See how other expats live. Meet other expats who have made
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   * Informative two-day seminar given by local experts in their
          relevant fields.
   * Tours led by Christopher Howard, 34-year resident, citizen,
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Click HERE  to learn all about our Association of Residents (ARCR)  approved tours at

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
and car rentals.  
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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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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A.M. Costa Rica's   Fifth news page
Family home

cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 250       
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U.S.-Cuban freeze had
a long, dangerous history

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In a few short minutes Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro took the first steps toward ending decades of hostility and struggle between their two countries.

Washington’s policy toward Cuba since the 1960s has been punctuated by economic embargoes, diplomatic isolation and covert efforts to undermine the Cuban government.

For its part, Havana never stepped back from its 1960s socialist policies after nationalizing all U.S.-owned businesses, including oil refineries, banks and telephone companies.

In a historic announcement Wednesday, Obama moved to reverse U.S. policy by easing travel, financial and other restrictions.

At the same time, in Havana, Castro announced the release of a number of political prisoners, and signaled his willingness to negotiate trade and other issues. The policy reversal followed a prisoner swap between the two countries.

Relations between the two countries first soured after Fidel Castro seized power in a revolution in 1959, causing then pro-Washington dictator President Fulgencio Batista to flee the country.

Castro swiftly began expropriating international business properties, farmland and land owned by foreigners.

By the early 1960s, Fidel Castro started reaching out to the Soviet Union, reaching a number of trade deals. The United States, under President Dwight Eisenhower, reacted by placing embargoes on Cuban products.

Those decisions started decades of antipathy between the two countries, separated by only 145 kilometers (90 miles) of water.

By 1961, Washington had cut diplomatic relations with Havana, and desperate Cubans who were seeing their businesses and properties taken over by the Communist government started trying to escape the country. Some 1 million Cubans left.

A failed CIA-led attempt to overthrow Cuba, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, conducted with the approval of then-U.S. President John Kennedy, further deepened the mistrust between the two nations.

Relations reached an all-time low in 1962, when the U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union was planning to build a missile base on Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis ended with Moscow pledging to remove the missiles and Washington pledging not to invade Cuba and also to remove its missiles from Turkey.

Since the 1960s, successive U.S. presidents have maintained a crippling economic and diplomatic blockade on Cuba, driving more people out of the island nation. Fidel Castro, who stepped down in favor of his brother, Raúl, in 2008, recently called for a civilized relationship with Washington.

The United Nations has repeatedly condemned the embargo.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to extreme economic hardship in Cuba but did not force a change in Fidel Castro's policies.

Relations between the two countries started to ease under Obama and Raúl Castro. Castro has taken steps to allow a private sector to develop, including in the agricultural sector.

Critics say Cuba still has a long way to go to end political repression.

Wednesday, Obama announced the U.S. intent to move toward restoring diplomatic relations, a move echoed by Castro on Cuban television on the same day. The deal followed months of secret talks brokered with the help of the Vatican and Canada.

Obama said Wednesday that the past policies had failed to advance U.S. interests.

Travel, remittances and financial transactions have been eased. But the U.S. embargo, although eased, stays in place.

Many lawmakers do not fall
in line with Obama's proposal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba drew sharp and sharply differing reactions across America’s political spectrum, among Cuban exiles in Florida and from the international community.

While the return of imprisoned American contractor Alan Gross to U.S. soil was universally welcomed, reaction to a thaw in relations between Washington and Havana was decidedly mixed.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, one of three lawmakers who flew to Cuba to bring Gross home, called Obama’s announcement a positive step away from a policy of isolation that failed to drive Cuban Presidents Fidel and Raúl Castro from power. Leahy is a democrat.

"The fact is, they are there, fact is Cuba is still there," Leahy said. "We ought to face up that we will have differences, but that we can improve the lives of Cubans … by stopping this idea of a closed door. …"

By contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican whose parents came to the United States from Cuba in 1956, called Obama’s announcement "a victory for the oppressive Cuban government, but a serious set-back for the repressed Cuban people."

"The White House has conceded everything and gained little," said Rubio, who will chair a Senate foreign relations subcommittee on the Western hemisphere.

Negotiators "gained no commitment on the part of the Cuban regime to freedom of the press, or freedom of speech, or elections," Rubio said. "No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or even begin the semblance towards a transition to democracy."

Rubio represents Florida, home to a large and vocal Cuban-American community.  Historically, Cuban-Americans have nursed anti-Castro sentiment, but polls show an erosion of support for the U.S. trade embargo – particularly among younger generations – and a growing desire for normalized relations between the two countries.

A Twitter account linked to Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, asked: "Why is Obama so impatient? We need to give the sanctions some time to work."

Reaction did not fall entirely along partisan lines. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat and also a Cuban-American and the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said, "President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government."

But a Republican senator, Jeff Flake, said renewing ties with Havana should not be seen as a concession to the Cuban government.

That view "is simply wrong," he said. "The policy we have had in place for the past 50 years has done more, in my view, to keep the Castro regime in power than anything we could have done. I am pleased these actions have been taken. I think they will improve the lot of ordinary Cubans, and it is good for Americans, as well."

Obama’s desire to end the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba would require cooperation from a Congress that will be Republican-controlled beginning in January.  The topic is likely to be fiercely debated by lawmakers in 2015.  At the end of his news conference, Rubio said flatly, "This Congress is not going to lift the embargo."

In Miami’s exile community, there were similar accusations of betrayal.

"Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community, reacted with a collective shock," the Miami Herald said of Wednesday’s announcements by Obama in Washington and by Raúl Castro in Havana.

"The Cuban exile community that has made a foundation out of standing firm against the Castro government has been, in essence, sold out," Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo, a Republican, complained to the Herald. 

The paper’s Web site Wednesday prominently featured a photo of angry demonstrators outside the Café Versailles, a hot spot in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, bearing signs complaining of an Obama administration conspiracy.

The plan to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba drew approval from at least several other countries.

Russia also lauded the measure. “We see this as a step in the right direction. We do not believe that imposing sanctions by the U.S. on whatever country has legitimate  basis and legal grounds,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, applauded the “very good news in these times rich with conflict.”

Likewise, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius cheered the lifting of the embargo. “France remains by the side of the Cuban people as it enters this new phase in its history."

Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, hailed the measure as a gesture of courage and called it “perhaps the most important step of his presidency.” Caracas and Washington have had strained relations, with the U.S. Congress voting earlier this month to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials over free speech violations. 

Sony pulls movie over fears
of attacks on theatergoers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Media reports say the U.S. has determined that North Korea is behind the hacking of Sony Pictures, which on Wednesday canceled the release of a film about a fictional plot to assassinate Pyongyang's leader, Kim Jong Un.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, U.S. officials said investigators have connected North Korea to the cyberattack, which has resulted in the leak of tens of thousands of documents and has escalated to threats of terrorist attacks over the film "The Interview."

It is not clear how investigators made the determination or how the White House will respond. The National Security Council said the FBI is leading the investigation and will provide an update at the appropriate time.

In a statement Wednesday, Sony said it is scrapping the Dec, 25 release of "The Interview," after several major theater chains chose not to show the film. The statement said Sony shared those safety concerns.

The so-called Guardians of Peace on Tuesday released a statement promising a bitter fate to those who see "The Interview," which had been set for nationwide release on Christmas Day.

In broken English, the brief statement invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the U.S. and warned potential movie-goers to keep yourself distant from theaters that show the film.

It also included another round of leaked emails that appear to be from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it is analyzing the message, but insisted "there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters."

The film's main actors, Seth Rogen and James Franco, canceled their public appearances on Tuesday.

Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust, said he believed it was the first time a film screening had been pulled in the wake of a high-profile cyber attack.

In the film, Rogen and Franco play the part of frustrated television journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader.

North Korea has strongly denounced the comedy as an act of terrorism and called for Sony to cancel the film. It has praised the hacking as a righteous deed but has said it is not involved.

It is not clear whether the Guardians of Peace, or GOP, is linked to Pyongyang, which is known to have a very capable group of Internet hackers at its disposal. Some suspect the hackers may have been aided by an insider at Sony.

Since the initial hacking attempt surfaced in late November, the group has released several rounds of sensitive, internal Sony e-mails that include everything from financial figures to squabbles between company executives and Hollywood actors.

The leaks also include private employee data and high-quality copies of yet to be released films.

Current and former Sony employees have started two class-action lawsuits against Sony over the leaks, claiming the company did not adequately protect its computer systems or warn its employees of the leaks.

Lampoon of  Kim Jong Un
might endanger his status

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After major American theater chains decided not to run a new Hollywood comedy about a U.S. plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, its financial backer, Sony Pictures Entertainment, decided not to release it. The decision follows a threat by mysterious computer hackers to attack theaters showing the movie. North Korea's reaction to the “The Interview” underscores its intolerance for any ridicule of the country's young leader.

Inside North Korea, Kim Jong Un, like his late father and grandfather, is depicted as infallible.

The state-controlled media jubilantly reported that he won an election to the Supreme People's Assembly last year with 100 percent of the vote. Of course, his was the only name on the ballot.

So it is not surprising that North Korea is angry about “The Interview,” a dark comedy that ridicules the leader before depicting his assassination. The Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang called the film an act of war and promised retaliation.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea, says Pyongyong is very protective of its leader’s image.

“North Koreans react to satire very sensitively and there were some cases that they complained about it harming the dignity of their leader in the past,” says Kim Yong-hyun.

North Korea protested the movie “Team America: World Police” that comically depicted Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, when it came out a decade ago. But the country never took any provocative action in response.

That may have changed with the cyber attack on Sony. Pyongyang denied any involvement, but the unknown hackers who released confidential company information had threatened to release more unless the studio cancelled the release of “The Interview.”

Korea analyst Victor Cha with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington says Kim Jong Un’s weeks-long disappearance earlier in the year and the execution of his uncle indicate the young leader may be struggling to solidify his grip on power.

“The leadership transition is now three years old. We still don’t know if it’s entirely complete. There continue to be purges inside the country, which gives one the sense that there’s some turn inside the system,” he said.

Cha says lampooning Kim Jong Un’s carefully managed image can undermine the regime in a way that sanctions or hostile actions cannot.

“They can always rally the people around western hostility but western ridicule is harder for them to rally their people around because it raises questions about the leadership,” Cha said.

The commotion over a comedic film is adding to the tension in the region as international talks to curb North Korea’s nuclear program remains deadlocked and the United Nations continues to pressure the regime on charges of human rights abuses.
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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 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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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 250
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Drug store manager latest robbery victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers killed the manager of the La Bomba pharmacy in Guayabos de Curridabat Wednesday evening. The dead woman was 24 and identified by the last name of  Córdoba. She leaves a 3 year old.

The bandits arrived on motorcycles and one shot the woman in the head. She died at Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The chain, La Bomba, is well known to expats because it sells drugs and medical equipment at low prices. The main store is in San Pedro.

The woman become the latest fatal victim of a growing wave of robberies not only in the Central Valley but, it appears all over Costa Rica. Stores, pedestrians, lottery vendors  and buses are the main targets.

There are several arrests
by judicial agents for robberies each day.

There also are crimes. But most that do not concern expats never make this newspaper. For example, a business that provides goods imported from Internet sales in Guadalupe was the victim of a stickup Monday.

In an unusual twist a bus driver ran down and killed one would-be robber Monday night. A pair of masked bandits tried to stop the bus at Finca Londres, Cariari de Guápiles. One robber threw a stone that broke the windshield, and the driver told investigators that he thought the missile was a bullet so he stepped on the accelerator and ran over one of the crooks.

New York moves to halt fracking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State of New York is moving to ban the oil and gas drilling technique known as fracking, following the release of a report highlighting health and environmental risks.

Hydraulic fracturing has created a fossil-fuel boom in the United States, raising domestic energy production and reducing imports. But reports of polluted water and leaking fumes near fracking wells have fueled vigorous opposition. Many New York towns had already restricted fracking. 

The state report cites potential impacts on air and water quality, uncertain health effects, increased risk of earthquakes, and noise and traffic problems linked to fracking projects. It says there is not enough information to decide whether the risks are worth the benefits.

"I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done," said the state health commissioner, Howard Zucker. "I asked myself, 'Would I let my family live in a community with fracking?' The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else's family to live in such a community, either."

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping high-pressure water, sand and chemicals into rock formations deep underground. Fracturing the rock releases oil and gas trapped inside.

New York sits on the northernmost section of the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation containing huge amounts of natural gas. Most of the formation lies beneath Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which are peppered with thousands of fracking wells. Pennsylvania has the nation's second-largest proven natural gas reserves.

The New York State Petroleum Council called the ban politically motivated and misinformed. It said Wednesday that regulations already protect health and the environment, and that hydraulic fracturing could have brought major economic benefits to the state.

"This is a missed opportunity to share in the American energy renaissance, and for New York’s future prosperity," said executive director Karen Moreau.

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From age 7:

Price regulator hands out fines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has assessed a natural gas provider, bus companies, service stations and even the nation's rail system with fines for various infractions. The agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said the total fines were 32 million colons, a bit more than $60,000.

The firm Gas Tomza got one fine for 4.5 million colons for refilling substandard cylinders.

Transportes Alfaro, a Guanacaste bus firm, got a fine for charging unauthorized fares and services, said the agency.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles got a 1.9 million-colon fine for charging unapproved fares to carry pilgrims to the annual Cartago religious festival.