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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 255       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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happy holidays
Christmas montage
Photos by José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
El Robot is competing with the Virgin Mary and Christ child this year in local stores which have been featuring Christmas gifts since Nov. 10. As parents wrestle with oversized Teddy bears, Fabian Valverde, 12, heeds his mom's instructions to only select educational toys like
Legos. El Robot "Tri-bot" 86990 has a price tag of nearly $100. The nativity scene is free, and it is at the Teatro Nacional or about anywhere else in Costa Rica. Few homes or offices would be without one. Despite eonomic concerns the downtown has been very active this year.

Bush certifies that Costa Rica has met treaty goals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. President George Bush issued a proclamation Tuesday to implement the Central American Free Trade Treaty with Costa Rica.

This was the last action necessary to bring the agreement into force Jan. 1.

The proclamation was contained in a summary of presidential activity on the White House Web site. A little while later Bush took off for Camp David in the State of Maryland for the Christmas holiday.

Certification was a Christmas present for many in Costa Rica. Costa Rica had notified Washington earlier that all was prepared here for the treaty to take force. This was done in an exchange of diplomatic notes. Some 13 pieces of legislation were passed to conform local law to what was required in the treaty.

The developments were greeted with happiness and satisfaction in Casa Presidencial.

"It is time to send the rest of the world positive signals over our capacity to work united, said Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia. "It is time to demonstrate once more our reliability as a county to take decisions and our determination to participate in the globalized world with excellence and success."

Rodrigo Arias in the statement noted that Costa  Rica had received two extensions from the other
countries in the agreement and that the treaty had survived a public referendum.

In the same proclamation Bush removed Costa Rica, effective Jan. 1, from the Caribbean Basin initiative that provided similar trade benefits for the country.  The initiative, a Cold War measure, awarded Costa Rica much of the market access as found in the trade treaty. But the treaty is permanent.

How expats will benefit from the agreement is yet to be seen. The Costa Rica customs service is known for setting its own rules. Officials already have said that U.S. manufactured automobiles and trucks still would be subject to a heavy import tax. Costa Rican officials characterize this tax, which may be as much as 90 percent of the vehicle's value and shipment costs as what they call an internal tax. The U.S. Embassy commercial staffers seem to be in agreement.

U.S. wine is not assessed a customs duty under the treaty, but local alcohol taxes continue. Potatoes, which have showed a sharp increase in price this year, are not covered by the treaty. Cartago growers managed to keep the product out of negotiations.

The treaty opens up the Costa Rican telecommunications and insurance markets to outside competition, and it sets up an international arbitration system for investors who think they have been wronged by the county. Canada already has arbitration in its treaty with Costa Rica.

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New, harsher traffic law
goes into effect. . . maybe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tránsito police began arresting drunk drivers Tuesday under the new traffic law, based on the belief that the law had been published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The situation was confusing because officials had said that three aspects of the law would take effect 10 days after publication. An additional confusion was that the electronic edition of the La Gaceta, the one consulted most frequently, did not contain the required publication of the law. The action by traffic officers seems to have been instigated by an order from a criminal court judge.

Tránsito officers set up a checkpoint on Avenida 2 at the main Banco de Costa Rica office and began making arrests Tuesday morning. One of those detained was a taxi driver who registered 3.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood.  He may have had more but the breath device police use to check the alcohol content only goes to 3.5 grams. Under the new law legally drunk is .75 grams, about three to four beers depending on the individual.

The taxi driver was so drunk that he could not stand up after he got out of his cab and had to be taken away in the back of a pickup where he remained horizontal for the trip to court.

There was also some confusion if the higher fines in the new law would take effect. A criminal charge that puts a drunk driver into prison is separate from the civil fines in the law.

German Marín, director of the Policía de Tránsito and an aide were on television explaining the new law. And everyone accepted the statement that the law had been published.

Beside drunk driving, the new law penalizes immediately with jail excessive speed over 150 kph (about 93 mph) and engaging in drag races. Other penalties in the new law take effect in nine months. These include offenses like talking on a cell phone while driving or failing to use a seatbelt.

Our reader's opinion
Put new taxes into road
to attract tourists here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Why is it that their seems to be no public official in Costa Rica with any foresight or common sense. They are adding $22+ million in taxes at the airport to the already $40+ million in departure taxes. It is my understanding that they are going to spend $40 million on ads and ect. to promote tourism in Costa Rica.

If they would take the money and fix the roads, do something about all the traffic violations and do something about all the violent crime, they would not have to be putting out ads promoting Costa Rica. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can have.

For the last few years I have been inviting all my family and friends to come visit Costa Rica. But no more. My wife, a Tica, has told me that with the shape the country has gotten into to, never ask anyone to come again, and I will not until things improve.
When I left here in April, there was a one block long street close to me with one speed bump. When I came back in November the street had holes big enough to tear off a front wheel and two new speed bumps added big enough to tear out the bottom of your car.

There was plenty of asphalt to have fixed the holes, but that would make sense. If the streets were in good enough shape and didn’t have a speed bump every few meters where people could drive at steady rate of 30 or 40 kph, maybe they would not be
so inclined to drive so fast.

Of course if the police would ever start giving tickets for speeding, running red light and driving on the wrong side of the road I am sure things would change, but I don’t have much faith in that when I see the police drive the same way.
Bob Woodrow

No paper for Christmas

A.M. Costa Rica will not be published tomorrow, Christmas Day. But publication will resume for Friday, Dec. 26. No paper will be published for Jan. 1, either.

Nevertheless, the news will be monitored continually and the paper will publish a special edition and notify subscribers to the daily digest in the event of a major breaking news story.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 255

people backed up
Bus passengers not only have to stand in line but must carry their luggage too, to pass through Costa Rican exit controls and to enter Nicaragua.
Tractor-trailers were backed up more than 5 miles at the Peñas Blancas border crossing. Costa Rican officials blamed most of the delays on Nicaraguan agents.
trucks backed up
Making a run for the border is harder than you think
Those thinking about making a land trip to Costa Rica better wait until after the Christmas holidays.  Officials said they are handling some 10,000 exits a day as many Nicaraguans head back home for the holidays. These Guillermo Solano photos from the Ministerio de
Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública show the long lines of tractor trailers and of bus passengers. The truck line was more than 5 miles long at one point. The scene will repeat itself after Jan. 1 as the vacationers return to Costa Rica and their jobs.

Sala IV constitutional court will hear appeal of Nicole Kater extradition order
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court said Tuesday that it would hear the case of the U.S. fugitive mom Nicole Kater and ordered a temporary halt to her extradition.

The woman is wanted in the United States to face a federal charge of international child abduction.

The court was reacting to an unusual request by the nation's chief prosecutor, who said that an appeals court hearing that resulted in an order for her extradition violated her rights.

The court also ordered that the appeals court, the Tribunal
de Casación Penal de San Ramón, to send it the file on the case.
The woman was arrested April 22, and the child, Tierra Zion Gehl, now 8, is believed to be in California with her father, John Gehl.

Ms. Kater has been fighting extradition and even sought refugee status. The request from the chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz, said that she had been a victim of domestic violence. However, law enforcement officers said that she had not been living with the father for at least a year before a custody hearing in Humboldt County, California, Superior Court.

Ms. Kater left California in August 2005, just before the custody hearing. Subsequent to her flight, a judge ordered that the father have full custody. And then the FBI stepped in.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 255

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Human Rights Commission gets cases of two murdered journalists in Bolivia
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A hemispheric journalism advocacy group says it has submitted two Bolivia journalist murder cases to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The group is the Inter American Press Association, and the cases are those of Juan Carlos Encinas and Carlos Quispe Quispe.

The submissions were made on Dec. 19.

Encinas, 39, was a freelance journalist. On July 29, 2001, a clash erupted between members of two local cooperatives engaged in limestone mining in the Catavi district of Los Andes province, in Bolivia. Encinas was carrying a video camera and tape recorder to cover the incident.

Several shots rang out and he was injured, but the ambulance intended to take him to hospital for treatment took three hours to arrive. He died from internal bleeding.

A year earlier, on July 5, 2000, his camera was smashed amid a shoot-up as he was covering another incident for the “Enlace” news program broadcast by La Paz television station Canal 21. Eight people were arrested and then released on bail. A court later ordered the arrest of three other people but now, seven years after the crime, they still remain at large.

Quispe, 31, was a fifth-year communications student at the San Andrés University’s School of Social Sciences in La
Paz. He had been hired as a trainee at radio station FM 90.7, Radio Municipal in Pucarani while still at school.

On March 27 a demonstration by 300 people against the local mayor erupted into an invasion and destruction of the radio station, located on the first floor of the city hall. Quispe was identified as a Radio Municipal reporter. He was beaten with sticks and whips. The radio station was destroyed, and Quispe died from his wounds two days later. Over six months the case changed public prosecutors five times.

The Inter American Press Association holds that in both cases there was violation of the principles of the American Convention on Human Rights contained in Articles 4 (right to life), 8 and 25 (right to access to justice) and 13 (right to freedom of expression).

With these new Bolivian cases and in the framework of its Anti-Impunity Project the Inter American Press Association submitted a total of 22 investigations into murders of journalists since 1997.

The autonomous Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is based in Washington, D.C.  The other hemispheric human rights body is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in San José. The commission sometimes refers cases to the court.

The commission will accept a case if there has been excessive delays in the home country or if justice has been denied.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 255

A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Brazil and France sign
$12 billion arms deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil and France have signed a $12 billion defense deal that could lead to Latin America's first nuclear submarine.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva signed the agreement Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was in the city on a two-day visit. 

The submarine deal will involve Brazil's purchase of the technology to build four conventionally powered attack submarines and a nuclear-powered submarine.

Separately, Brazil is expected to buy 50 Cougar transport helicopters built locally by the subsidiary of the European aerospace group EADS.

Last week, Brazil presented a new defense plan which shifts the focus of its military toward protecting the Amazon and newly found massive, off-shore oil reserves.

El Salvadorian troops
coming home from Iraq

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca says his country is ending its military presence in Iraq at the end of this month.

President Saca said Tuesday that El Salvador has fulfilled its mission in Iraq, and that the troops will leave sometime after Dec. 31, when the United Nations resolution that authorized the international coalition there expires.

However, at about the same time Tuesday the Iraqi parliament in a quick voice vote followed to approve the presence of non-U.S. forces to remain in Iraq until July 31. This includes troops from Britain, Australia, Estonia and Romania, as well as El Salvador to remain in the country. It was not certain if this might cause Saca to change his mind.

El Salvador has had troops in Iraq since 2003, as part of the coalition led by the United States. El Salvador is the only Latin American nation that still has military forces in Iraq.

Fighting in Iraq has killed five Salvadoran soldiers and wounded 20 others since 2003. Some 200 Salvadoran troops are stationed in Iraq.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us
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