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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012,  in Vol. 12, No. 252                   Email us
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Jo Stuart

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Barra seeks its opportunity
A.M. Costa Rica photos by Kayla Pearson
Carlos Martínez Méndez is one of the residents of Barra del Colorado who is fighting to improve the region with tourism. A local development association feels that is the only recourse because government land policies have
restricted agriculture and because pesticides in the adjacent Río Colorado are damaging fishing. In many ways, this is a part of Costa Rica that has been forgotten. Our story is

Wait staffs and motorcyclists getting a legal break
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers moved Tuesday to lessen the financial impact on two sectors of the population.

First, the full Asamblea Legislativa approved on first reading with 43 votes a measure to exempt tips from income taxes and social charges.

Then lawmakers also approved on second and final action with 36 votes a lower road tax for motorcyclists. 

The agreement with the waiters and waitresses was brokered by the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. The measure had been supported by the legislature's Comisión de Turismo.

The measure involves that 10 percent that is added to restaurant bills as an obligatory tip.

In 2009 the Sala IV constitutional court ruled that such money was salary and kicked off a controversy.

As a salary, the waiters and waitresses, called  saloneros and saloneras in Spanish, are obligated to report the money as earnings. Even worse, employers had to consider the money when they reported the monthly amounts for the obligatory
social charges assessed by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Many persons who serve on wait staffs are below the threshold where they have to pay income taxes. But employers pay the Caja charge on every colon, and employees have about 9 percent of their salary deducted for that reason. Depending on their size, employers pay various percentages around 22 percent. They also have to figure in the tips as salary when they compute the annual aguinaldo or Christmas bonus as well as vacation pay.

Restaurant operators threatened to lay off employees.

The action on the road tax for motorcyclists reduces the amount owners of these vehicles pay and spreads the financial obligation among all drivers. So motorcyclists will pay 7,000 colons as the share that goes to the Consejo de Seguridad Vial, and passenger vehicle owners will pay 9,500 colons, according to a summary from the legislature.

That amount is in addition to what the Instituto Nacional de Seguros charges for obligatory insurance.

The annual marchamo is due without penalty by Dec. 31.

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Our readers' opinions
The mental health system
was what was broken

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest the letter from Ellen Van Dyk on her view of the problem facing the U.S with mass killings, this time, tragically, it was children. But once again a broken mental health care system was the culprit, not the guns used.

The state of Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and it was no help there. The boys mother gave him the guns and taught him to use them fully aware he was mentally ill and paid for it with her life and caused the death of innocent students and teachers because she refused to get help for her son.

The same thing happened in Columbine. The father gave his son a gun and ignored him up until the kid went to school with the gun and killed fellow students. See any similarities here ??? Autos in the U.S. kill way more people than guns many times over, perhaps we should ban autos??

Thousands of U.S. citizens carry guns legally every day for years and never kill anyone. If just one armed guard would have been present, this tragedy could have been avoided or at least minimized.

Until we can come to grips with our broken system of silence about mental health, no gun control will work. Tim McVeigh killed many when he blew up the Morrow Building in Oklahoma with a bomb made out of fertilizer and fuel he bought legally, and never fired a shot. 
Fred Cole
Columbia, Missouri
formerly of Costa Rica

Training for young males
and castration suggested

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Have you ever heard of a mass murder girl, a serial killer women, a bank robbing women? No, what's the problem is boys or men.

What I think we should do is start very early with boys and explain all aspects of male behavior. It should start at home and then in school and have special classes for boys whose fathers are in trouble with the law. These boys are the ones who will most likely to become criminals. We should give welfare mothers a financial incentive to have two to three children. Let's say a $1,000-a-year bonus if they stop at three children, and it can only keep coming if they stop having more babies and stops if they have the fourth baby and it never starts again.

We need to keep working with men and boys adding things that will make them think about what they are about to do. Something like avoiding criminal behavior, job training and skill training. Getting them to learn about the different steps through life. Not that girls don't need help, but its men and boys are who we really need to concentrate on.

Maybe we have to consider voluntary or forced castration. If a man is a rapist, the only way he can get out of jail is being castrated. We do it to all sorts of animals, why not humans ?

John Nutter
Calle Blancos
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 252
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Cabinas Brisas del Río is one of the
local tourist operations that is surviving despite Barra del Colorado not being on the tourism A list.

Brisas del Rio

Isolated Barra del Colorado struggles to find an opportunity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sherman Johnson was born in the community of Limón.  At age 3 months his family brought him north to Barra del Colorado located in the northeast portion of the country along the Caribbean coast.

In this wildlife refuge, Johnson grew up, married and raised his three sons.  For the middle-aged man, who likes to spend his free time fishing, the area is his home.

“I have family in Limón, but I don't feel like I am from Limón,” he said.  “I am from Barra del Colorado.”

However, according to Johnson and community leaders, Barra del Colorado is in trouble. The area, which used to survive on commercial fishing, is quickly losing its stock and the people are battling poverty and job losses. 

“First there was farming, but we can't do that anymore,” said Johnson, noting that the government turned a lot of the land into protected areas.  “Then there was fishing, but now fishing is finished. The pesticides from the banana plantations have come into the river and killed the fish.  The only thing left is tourism.”

The snook migratory fish that were once found in abundance in the area from November to February have declined sharply in numbers over the years, Johnson said.

Photos and text
Kayla Pearson

“It used to be during this time a person might go out and catch 20 to 30 kilograms of snook.  Now you might catch one to three fish,” he said.

“People say fish don't think, but I think they do think, and they see how it is affecting them and go another way,” he continued.  “If they keep going with the poison, then the fish won't return.”

With few fish, the food and financial source for the population has been cut.  The declaration of much of the area as a wildlife refuge in 1985 by the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Economico de la Vertiente Atlántica prohibited inhabitants from any type of construction or clearing of the land.  Despite the thriving community, Barra del Colorado didn't exist before this time, according to the central government.

“My great grandmother was born here in Barra del Colorado in 1843, but the government said it didn't exist until 30 years ago,” said Johnson. 

The law makes it impossible to create businesses and impossible to farm. The only employment opportunities are the few fishing lodges, but they are only operated seasonally.

“Barra del Colorado is without work,” said Guillermo Cunningham, owner of the Tarpon Land Lodge and community leader.  “We cannot grow rice, beans and bananas because it is prohibited.  We need a liberation of our land.”

Cunningham explained that the majority of the population is poor and the people are starving. 

“The pueblo is suffering,” he said.  “The people don't speak because they have fright.  I am not afraid.  We are equal to the rest of the country and need to be treated that way.”

According to Johnson, there are adults in the community who go without eating for three to four days.  He pointed to children playing nearby, saying that one of the children belonged to a family that was struggling.  The child goes to another person's house and plays all day because she knows when dinner time comes the family will feed her.

“This is the advantage of living in a small town,” he said. “The children don't go hungry.”

With a lack of options, some of these adults turn to selling drugs.  The drugs are not trafficked there in the traditional sense, but instead people find drugs that have been thrown overboard in the ocean and have floated down the Rio Colorado. 

“They go out to fish, and there are no fish, but in the water they find a bag of drugs,” said Johnson.  “To feed the family, they pick the drugs up and sell them.”

This is not all people, but some, he clarified.

“There is a saying that says don't judge a person until you know how tight their shoe is,” he said.

Although citizens say there is no big problem with crime, they have taken matters into their own hands to create opportunities.  Members of the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Barra del Colorado are searching for ways to have better opportunities and better education for the children.

“We have the same opportunity that the metropolitan area has, but the government has forgotten us,” said Ricardo Fernández Hernández, association president.

There is no answer for this, he said. It was the association that invited newspeople to visit the area for two days last  weekend.

To emphasize the point of the government lacking care for the community, treasurer Carlos Martínez Méndez stood at a sign located at the end of the cities new airstrip and told the disappointment of the day of the ceremony.

The sign was from the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration and commemorated the area as a place of peace and nature.  People were excited and stood in the area with signs to welcome the former president, but he never came, Martinez said.

For the most part, the city has been unchanged.  There have been few developments like the new airstrip, a new
Youngsters play on airport runway

lodge and the addition of two Ebais clinics in Barra del Colorado Sur and Norte. 

Alejandro Villanueva, a physician, spends two days a week at each clinic, and the other days he travels to the other areas of the Colorado district.  The main illnesses he treats are hypertension and diabetes, he said.

The equipment in the clinic is basic, and for advanced treatment persons must travel three to four hours to the hospital in Pococí.  This ride includes a one-hour boat trip.

The system works, said Villanueva. Yet at night the travel becomes problematic.

“The problem could be solved if we had oxygen tanks for the boats and lights to use at night,” he said.

Technology has also been introduced to Barra del Colorado.  The high school has a computer lab that the community uses.

“I know how to work the computer and have email and Facebook,” said Martinez, the treasurer.

After high school, many of the youth leave to go to universities or to find work, said Johnson.

With a health care system and slightly improved resources, the next necessary step, according to the agency, is to promote ecotourism.  Barra del Colorado is located on the Rio Colorado, Rio Chirripó and the Rio San Juan which is Nicaraguan territory.  The rivers connect with an interweaving system of channels, lakes and lagoons and are surrounded by various flora and fauna.

It is also the home of the West Indian manatee, caymans, crocodiles, monkeys and many types of birds.  The area has everything its neighbor Tortuguero has, except for the turtle nesting, said the community leaders. 

“It is no reason Barra del Colorado cannot have big business like Tortuguero,” said lodge operator Cunningham.

Yet, a pulperia owner admits that no one comes to Barra del Colorado for ecotourism, just for sports fishing of the local tarpon.  His sentiment is echoed by the empty airport runway that conveniently serves as a soccer playground for local children.

That hasn't stopped citizens from trying and turning their homes into lodges.

Johnson used his construction experience and four years to build his own place of lodging for tourists.  Joruki Hotel Lodge, which opened a year ago, is in an ideal location with the river in the front yard, and beach in the back.  He uses his son in the States and family spread across the country to advertise, he said.

Yet, like the small town, it remains desolate.  The 56-year-old stands on his property, smoking a cigarette, looking out and  dreaming after the day when his business will be prosperous.

Like Johnson, the community maintains hope because they know that a failure to advance tourism would mean a death to their homeland.

“To me this is the best place to live,” he said.  “We don't have problems, we don't have the smoke like the city and everyone is friends.  But to live here you need jobs.”

Barra de Colorado served as a base when heavily armed Fuerza Pública officers assembled there in late 2010 and early 2011 to counter an invasion from Nicaragua on mostly deserted land to the east. Since then the government has made some improvements along the border, which is the south bank of the Río San Juan. But there really has not been any job development.

wood stove and
Some residents still opt for old fashioned cookery.

Controversial Óscar Arias sign and a fishing lodge, one of the few businesses at Barra del Colorado

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 252
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New bird
for police

The security ministry's air arm took delivery Tuesday of a new, $3.7 million McDonnell Douglas helicopter. The craft can carry up to eight persons and can cruise at 135 knots with a maximum speed of 155 knots, said the ministry. The helicopter has a ceiling of 17,500 feet or 5,334 meters. In addition to police work, the helicopters are used for searches and as an air ambulance.

Photo from Vigilancia Áerea and press office of Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguidad Pública

Hotel chamber estimates 74 percent occupancy for rest of month
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A chamber representing Costa Rica's hospitality industry released the results of a survey Tuesday in which hotel operators predicted that 74 percent of their rooms will be occupied over the rest of the month.

This survey by the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles predict that beach hotels, especially in Puntarenas will be the most popular destination while hotels on the Caribbean and in the Central Valley will be the least popular.

The results of this survey are very similar to the results of another survey released last week by the Cámara Nacional de Turismo.

Also last week, officials of the chamber of hotels announced that they would be parting ways with the chamber of tourism.

However, the two factions appear to still be working together for now as a press release containing the results of the chamber of hotels' survey was distributed by a spokesperson from the chamber of tourism.
In an email, that spokesperson said that the survey by the chamber of hotels is conducted every month and not specially designed for the current time and situation.

Both of the chambers conducted these polls by asking a certain number of hotel owners across the country what percentage of the rooms in their establishments they expect to be occupied in the final half of December. The chamber of hotels polled 104 hotel owners and the chamber of tourism polled 141.

Both surveys predicted that beach hotels, especially in Northern Puntarenas and Guanacaste will be the most popular destinations. Conversely hotels in Limón and in the Central Valley as well as urban hotels will be the least frequented establishments.

Even so, the survey results said that city hotel owners, who have the lowest expected numbers, will fill more than two-thirds of their rooms during the rest of the month.

The projections were: Caribbean, 69 percent; Guanacaste, 76 percent; northern zone, 77 percent; central Pacific, 72 percent; south Pacific, 71 percent; Puntarenas, 85 percent, and the Central Valley 71 percent.

Agents say prisoners have found way to rob by long distance
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators warned citizens and especially job-seekers of an extortion scam that agents suspect is being conducted by prison inmates.

Investigators said the victim of the scam is a person who thinks that they have just gotten a job who then unwittingly helps the scammer rob stores.

Investigators have received more than 30 reports of this scam-robbery combination, according to a bulletin from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Similar scams have been reported by agents in the organization involving newly hired drivers and other types of jobs.

Although the bulletin did not say that agents have caught any suspects, investigators believe that the orchestrators of this scam are within the Centro Penitencial La Reforma, meaning they are technically already in the custody of law enforcement.

Investigators gave this description of how the scam and robbery unfolds:
The scam starts with a classified advertisement being placed in newspapers calling for resumes to be sent to a specific email or fax.

Eventually, the scammer calls the job-seeker back and informs that person that he or she has been hired. The scammer then tells the person to go pick up a package at a specific business.

When the victim of the scam arrives at the business, the scammer has the victim hand a cell phone to the cashier or store operator. The scammer informs the individual that the messenger has a gun and will shoot if he or she does not put money into an envelope and surrender it.

The messenger walks out with the envelope of money unaware that he or she has just helped rob the store.

The bulletin said that this scam has cost the stores that have been robbed about 9 million colons or $18,000.

Investigators suspect that some stores have not reported being victimized by this scam, and they urged these store owners to come forward to better help the organization better investigate this particular modus operandi.

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House speaker outlines plan
to prevent tax increases

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is proposing a backup plan in case he and Democratic President Barack Obama fail to reach agreement on a deal that would prevent massive tax increases and spending cuts from automatically taking effect on Jan. 1, a combination of measures economists are calling the fiscal cliff.

As negotiations between the most powerful Republican in Washington, Boehner, and the president have intensified and appeared to be making progress.  Boehner met Tuesday with his Republican caucus members. He told reporters afterwards that he is preparing to introduce a bill on the floor later this week in case the talks falter.

"So at the same time that we are going to continue to talk with the president, we are also going to move Plan B. I think we all know that every income tax filer in America is going to pay higher rates come Jan. 1 unless Congress acts," he said.

"Our Plan B would protect American taxpayers who make a million dollars or less, and have all of their current rates extended," he said.

Boehner stressed that he is still hopeful his talks with the president will lead to an agreement, but said the president is asking Republicans to agree to $1.3 trillion in tax increases, while only offering them $850 billion in spending cuts. During the negotiations, Democrats have insisted on raising taxes for the highest income earners, while Republicans are calling for substantial cuts in social spending programs.

The Senate, which is controlled by a Democratic majority, already has passed a bill that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. Analysts say the Senate would probably not accept Boehner's bill, which puts the income level exempt from tax hikes at $1 million a year.

In a written statement, the White House responded quickly to Boehner's backup plan, saying the president has put a balanced, reasonable proposal on the table, and that the speaker's Plan B cannot pass the Senate. The statement said the plan does little to address the nation's fiscal challenges because it has zero spending cuts.

Asked about the threat of automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, set to take effect Jan. 1, Boehner conceded his bill does not address them. Economists have warned that the combination of spending cuts, tax hikes and other measures could send the U.S. economy spiraling back into a recession.

For now, both the president and the speaker say they are still hoping to reach an agreement in negotiations, but both are calling on each other to give up more ground.

Obama reported backing
new assault weapons ban

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The White House says President Barack Obama is actively supportive of planned legislation reinstating a national ban on assault weapons — one of several demands by gun control supporters revived in the wake of last week's school massacre in Connecticut.

White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke Tuesday, as the shattered community of Newtown, Connecticut, continued the grim task of burying its dead. Twenty-six people, including 20 young children, died Friday when a 20-year-old gunman barged into a crowded elementary school and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle.

Funerals were held Tuesday in the small town for two 6-year-old classmates who died in the shootings. The first two victims, 6-year-old boys, were laid to rest Monday. More services are planned throughout the week.

Outside Washington, the powerful National Rifle Association — the nation's largest gun rights organization — broke its silence on the carnage. In a written statement, the NRA said its members were “shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders.” It also said it wanted to give families of the dead time to mourn before making additional statements.

Pressure also mounted Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — a staunch ally of gun rights groups — said for the first time that Congress should pursue a legislative response to mass shootings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the author of an assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, said she will introduce new legislation at the start of the next Congress in January.

All the adult victims were women and included the school's principal, who is widely credited with efforts to stop the gunman, and a teacher who tried to save lives by throwing herself between students and the gunman. The gunman, the son of a teacher, died at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Friday's attack was the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history — topped only by the 2007 rampage that killed 32 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known widely as Virginia Tech.

Leahy put in succession
after death off Inouye

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A long-time U.S. senator, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is now third in the line of presidential succession in the country.
Leahy, a Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1975, was sworn in Tuesday as the president pro tempore in the upper chamber of Congress. It is a largely ceremonial position he is assuming after the death Monday of Hawaii's Sen. Daniel Inouye.
But the position, by law, also puts the 72-year-old Leahy third in line to the U.S. presidency, behind Vice President Joe Biden, another Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican.
In the U.S., no one below vice president has assumed the presidency upon the death or resignation of the president.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 252
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Veterans planning to meet
Saturday in Playas del Coco

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Guanacaste Veterans Association will meet in conjunction with Birth 2012 at 10 a.m., Saturday, in front of Beach Bums in Playa del Coco. 

The veterans association said that it seeks members who have served in the military or support the military.   If those who plan to attend have any military items they could bring for display, it would be appreciated, the organization said.  The group says it offers camaraderie, fellowship, and a chance to offer services to the adopted country of Costa Rica.

Those that are interested can respond for planning purposes to Karen and Quinn Slack at 8938-3251, 8708-1325 and, or Dave Reynolds at

The Birth 2012 event is one of many around the world that is designed to "Celebrating our Global Unity," according to organizers. It is keyed to the Friday end of an age in a 5,125 year-old Maya calendar. In Playas del Coco, that would appear to be another excuse for a good time.

Suspects in expat burning
jailed for three months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A criminal court judge has jailed two men who are suspects in robbing, stabbing and trying to incinerate a U.S. expat. But a woman involved in the case was freed on the condition that she sign in with prosecutors every 15 days.

These are the suspects in the Mark Lester Metz case.

Metz was lured to a meeting by individuals who said they wanted to buy vehicles or property. That was Nov. 7. The persons who are suspected of attacking Metz were identified by the last names of Ricon Gallega, a 30-year-old Colombian, Brown Vega, a 43-year-old Costa Rican and Ugalde Vasquez, the 40-year-old Costa Rican woman.

The two men were jailed for three months each of preventative detention, said the Poder Judicial.

The woman was identified Monday as the girlfriend of the Colombian man.

Metz was abducted in his own car from a parking lot in Alajuela. Eventually the crooks had him pull over, at which point they stabbed him at least three times in the chest, locked him in the trunk of his car and set the vehicle on fire. He survived.

Agents said they thought the abductors arranged the meeting because they incorrectly thought that Metz would arrive with a lot of cash.

Dead woman identified

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents have identified a woman murdered in Heredia last week as Molly Jean Salmon. She was found dead at her home Friday morning by a gardener, said agents.

Ms. Salmon was a long-time expat and was 69 years old, they said. Someone broke into her home in San Isidro de Heredia through a glass window in a door, agents believe. They said they think the motive was robbery.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 252
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This is the building that Walmart will occupy.

Walmart in L.A. Chinatown controvesy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Following months of controversy and attempted legal injunctions, a Walmart store is scheduled to open soon on the edge of Los Angeles' Chinatown.

"This story has so many angles and so many layers, that it's very complex in my opinion," said Philip Young, past president of the Chinese Americans Citizens Alliance, Los Angeles Lodge, and a former resident of Chinatown. "If you ask me, 'Do you think you need a store in that location?,' the answer is definitely yes."

The store is located about 500 meters from the center of Chinatown, and will contain a grocery store and a pharmacy. It is considered a Walmart neighborhood market, which is about a quarter the size of the usual store. It is also on the ground floor of a building containing apartments for senior citizens, many of them Chinese Americans.

Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo says the store will fulfill a need.

"When you look at that area of downtown Los Angeles, it's clear that folks don't have enough grocery options close to their neighborhoods, so we think this Walmart neighborhood market can really be part of the solution for residents who just want more choices in their own neighborhood," he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said last week he would not stop Walmart's move to Chinatown, despite protests against the store.

"I am not going to use the city's powers to deny something that they have a right to do with or without us. They would've sued, and they would've won," said Villaraigosa.

Although the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an emergency ban on chain retail stores in the historic Chinatown area in March, Walmart surprised the Council by obtaining the building permits it needed the night before. The city's issuance of the permits is currently being appealed by unions and some Chinatown business owners and residents.

Some public officials such as U.S. Rep. Judy Chu have stepped forward to oppose the new store.

​​"Chinatown is a tourist destination, and people go there because it has a unique characteristic," Ms. Chu said. "To think that some cookie cutter company's going to go in there and take over the functions so that people go and get their 99-cent cake there rather than shop at the local bakery in Chinatown is just too horrendous to contemplate."

Lisa See is the author of many books, including "Shanghai Girls" and "On Gold Mountain," which chronicle the Los Angeles' Chinese American community. Her family has historic ties to Chinatown, and she served as grand marshal of the 2012 Golden Dragon Parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year. She opposes the plan because she believes the new store could change the nature of the ethnically diverse area.

"I think this is a terrible mistake, just a terrible, terrible mistake," See said. "I think as we look back a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now, we're going to look back and think this was not a good thing. You can never erase Walmart."

But Philip Young, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 from Guangdong Province, China, believes the Walmart store will be a much needed addition to the neighborhood. He said residents have to drive long distances to shop for household products that can't be found in Chinatown stores.

"When I used to live in Chinatown, other than going to the Chinatown commercial area to get the Chinese groceries, and what not, if you want to get anything mainstream, normal, good old U.S.A. things a person would use, you would have to drive outside of my neighborhood to shop," Young said.

Walmart says the new store will create about 65 jobs, for which it has received about 2,000 applications, and intends to hire people from the area.

Restivo says Walmarts often improve local economies, and he expects the new store to do the same.

"If you walk around the vicinity of our planned Walmart neighborhood market, there are lots of empty store fronts," he said. "I think everyone can agree that a vibrant store front is always better than an empty, dormant building."

But one passerby, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the new Walmart could hurt local businesses, such as a nearby liquor store.

"I grew up right in this area, so I'd rather see that liquor store than a Walmart," he said. "From what I know, all these little stores hired people from the community in this Chinatown area, so I'm pretty sure that Walmart's not going to hire most of us, maybe a couple of us, but I doubt it."

This past summer, The Los Angeles Times endorsed the proposed store, saying Walmart had complied with the city's zoning rules and that the retailer would bring needed jobs and business opportunities to the neighborhood.

U.N. economic report is pessimistic

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

World economic growth has weakened considerably during 2012 and is expected to remain subdued in the coming two years, says a new United Nations report, which calls for policy changes to spur growth and tackle the jobs crisis.

The "World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013," the first chapter of which was published Tuesday by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, says that the global economy is expected to grow at 2.4 per cent in 2013 and 3.2 per cent in 2014. That is a significant downgrade from the U.N.’s forecast of half a year ago.

“This pace of growth will be far from sufficient to overcome the continued jobs crisis that many countries are still facing,” said a news release on the report. “With existing policies and growth trends, it may take at least another five years for Europe and the United States to make up for the job losses caused by the Great Recession of 2008-2009.”

Noting that weaknesses in the major developed economies are at the root of the global economic slowdown, the report stresses that most of them, but particularly those in Europe, are trapped in a “vicious cycle of high unemployment, financial sector fragility, heightened sovereign risks, fiscal austerity and low growth.”

Several European economies and the euro zone as a whole are already in recession, and euro zone unemployment increased further to a record high of almost 12 per cent this year. Also, the U.S. economy slowed significantly during 2012 and growth is expected to remain meagre at 1.7 per cent in 2013. Deflationary conditions continue to prevail in Japan, it noted.

The economic woes in Europe, Japan and the U.S. are spilling over to developing countries through weaker demand for their exports and heightened volatility in capital flows and commodity prices.

“A worsening of the euro area crisis, the fiscal cliff in the United States and a hard landing in China could cause a new global recession. Each of these risks could cause global output losses of between 1 and 3 per cent,” warned Rob Vos, director of the agency's analysis division and team leader for the report.

Stating that present policies fall short of what is needed, the report calls for changing course in fiscal policy and a shift in focus from short-term consolidation to robust economic growth with medium to long-term fiscal sustainability.

It also recommends avoiding premature fiscal austerity, while noting that the reorientation of fiscal policies should be coordinated globally and aligned with structural policies that support direct job creation and green growth. In addition, it recommends that monetary policies be better coordinated globally and regulatory reforms of financial sectors be accelerated to stem exchange rate and capital flow volatility, which pose risks to the economic prospects of developing countries.

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