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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 259       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Traffic case ruled not sufficient to affect residency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A foreign woman has avoided being expelled from Costa Rica because the Sala IV constitutional court found that a conviction after a traffic accident does not warrant canceling her immigration status.

The decision was summarized Tuesday by the Poder Judicial. It is relevant for other expats here who might have some trouble with the law yet still seek residency.

The woman, identified in the decision as Mónica Drews Casas, appealed when the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería refused to give her a permanent residency card or carnet and ordered her out of the country within three days. She appealed for relief to the Sala IV.

The summary said that the woman was sentenced by the Tribunal Penal del I Circuito Judicial in San José Feb. 18, 2003, to jail in a case stemming from the accident. Without further explanation the summary said she had been convicted of causing lesiones culposas. Under the penal code that means causing injury to someone so that they are incapacitated for at least 10 days.

The charge could be either a delito, a felony, or a contravención, a misdemeanor, according to the
penal code. There are various degrees of delitos depending on the seriousness of the injury.

The conviction carried a three-month jail term, according to the Sala IV decision, but the woman said that she had not been told of the effects of this case and of her right of due process to defend against it.

The Sala IV court decision said that the action by the immigration department was an erroneous application of the law.

Mrs. Drews said she only became aware of the decision by the immigration department when her husband and two children obtained permanent residency renewal but there was no cédula for her, according to the summary.

The immigration department acted according to Article 123 of the current law which outlines reasons why foreigners may face termination of their stay of residency. Among the reasons is a conviction involving a crime against someone's life. The section also lists crimes like treason or drug trafficking that appear to be much more serious than being involved in a vehicle accident.

The court ruled that the woman should again be given the status of permanent resident.

First appeal filed against new drunk-driving law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A section of the 9-day-old traffic law already is under judicial attack.

The Poder Judicial confirmed Tuesday that a Sala IV constitutional court appeal has been filed that questions the penalty of jail time for drunk driving.

The law only went into effect Dec. 23, but police agencies already have detained at least 100 persons. They are expected to do a land office business over New Year's.

The appeal, filed by a man identified by the last name of Fuentes, said that jail time is not warranted because alcoholism has been defined as a sickness by the World Health Organization and that some other penalty, such as treatment, should be applied.

The law provides a 227,000-colon fine, about $420, for someone caught driving with a concentration of
more than .5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. That could be as little as three beers.  Persons whose blood alcohol level measures .75 grams or more per liter face from three to 15 years in prison. The prison term is four to 20 years if someone is killed in an accident.

The Poder Judicial emphasized that the Sala IV appeal only challenged the prison sentences and not the fines. The court can accept the filing for a full review or just dismiss it.

There are likely to be many more appeals involving drunk driving because the new penalties are much higher than the 20,000-colon fine that was the norm before Dec. 23.

Also being penalized is excessive speed and engaging in drag races.

Other new penalties and rules in the revised law take effect from six to nine months from now.

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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía  
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   Police officers question some of the men detained near
   Paso Canoas.

Police break up effort
to import nine Chinese

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers at a checkpoint halted an effort to bring nine illegal Chinese citizens into the country.

The checkpoint was on the Interamericana Sur between Paso Canoas and Ciudad Neily.

Police said two vehicles approached the checkpoint and then turned suspiciously onto other roads. Officers gave chase and managed to stop one vehicle driven by a Costa Rican identified by the last names of Díaz Sánchez. In the vehicle were five Chinese citizens, and they had no papers demonstrating their legal right to be in Costa Rica, said police.

The driver of the second car stopped the vehicle and fled on foot, as did his four passengers, later also identified as Chinese citizens. The four fled to the brush and later tried to cross a river. They were captured covered with mud and wet, police said.

Police are stepping up efforts in the area to counter illegal immigration and shipments of drugs and contraband, they said.

Central America among
regions with many murders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Southern Africa, Central America and South America are the three areas of the world with the highest homicide rates, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime , which has just published the first comprehensive set of global statistics on such violence.

The data, drawn from 198 countries and territories, also shows that West and Central Europe, East Asia and Southeast Europe are the three areas with the lowest rates of homicide — acts of unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person.
The new statistics aim to fill a critical gap in data and launch further research and analysis to improve the availability of crime and criminal justice information and crime trends, according to the agency.

The agency notes that homicide statistics are crucial in research and policy making.  They are collected by both criminal justice and public health agencies, which may measure slightly different phenomena and are therefore unlikely to provide identical numbers.

“They represent a robust crime indicator and are — in theory — available in all jurisdictions,” the report states.

“In practice, a comprehensive collection of international homicide statistics has never been available and the present database represents a first attempt to overcome this gap,” it adds.

Store owner attacked
and collapses hours later

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 74-year-old owner of a small store in El Cementerio de Tarrazú remains in Hospital Calderón Guardia after being attacked by two men as he closed the business Saturday, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The man, identified by the last name of Mora, has been declared neurologically dead. He was treated after the 8:30 p.m. attack at the local clinic and then transferred to Hospital  Max Peralta in Cartago where he underwent a checkup. He returned home about 5 a.m. Sunday and then collapsed two hours later, agents said.

The man owned a pulpería, a small grocery.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 259

This is just a different sort of hybrid vehicle
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A mechanic near San Carlos has found a way to seek a profit during hard times.

He is Carlos Braga in La Tigra de San Carlos, and he is manufacturing motorized bikes.  Normally he is a motorcycle mechanic, but as fuel prices continued to rise, he began to experiment.

He purchases bikes and motors in San Ramón and puts them together in his shop in downtown La Tigra.

According to Braga, the gasoline-powered bike is a better economic solution than an electric bicycle or moped because the battery for an electric bike is costly to replace.  And electric vehicles tend to choke on inclines. 

A gasoline version can handle inclines, especially if the operator uses pedals on major grades. 

The two liter gasoline tank for his bicycles can last for more than 100 miles.  Top speed is about 40 mph. 

One version uses a mountain bike with 21 gears and a front-wheel shock absorbers. With a muffler, hand brakes, horn and signals such a bike can be made street legal, Braga said.
gasoline powered bike
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Norton
Carlos Braga show off a gasoline-powered bicycle.

Free trade treaty takes a beating from the left and the right
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
via The CAFTA Report

While a group opposed to the Central American Free Trade Agreement wants Barack Obama to suspend the pact, a key spokesman for the right insists that his administration is tilted strongly in favor of such international agreements.

The Stop CAFTA Coalition released a third yearly report this month on the impact of the trade agreement. Predictably the group labeled it a failed agreement.

The negative impacts of the free trade agreement in three countries studied are not simply growing pains or the inevitable transitional problems associated with altering a country’s economic system, but they are fundamental flaws in the economic theory that drives the treaty and will likely not improve, said Elliott Jones of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, an editor of the report.

But Phyllis Schlafly, the long-time opponent of globalization and head of the Eagle Forum, said in an analysis Friday that Obama has selected key administration figures who are favorable to such agreements. She said the treaties are a violation of U.S. sovereignty.

"Obama plans to use his presidential power to get the Democratic-majority Senate to ratify a series of treaties that would take us a long way toward global rule over our money, our laws, our military, our courts, our customs, our trade, and even our use of energy," said Mrs. Schlafly. She is best known for her opposition to the U.S. Equal Rights Amendment.

She pointed out that Obama's choice as U.S. trade representative is Ron Kirk. "He is an enthusiastic supporter of the 'global economic community' (which means open borders for 'free' trade), of NAFTA, and even of the NAFTA SuperHighway, which he calls the 'true river of trade between our communities.'" she said. NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement among the United States, México and Canada.

She said that the New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, Obama's choice as secretary of Commerce, is another aggressive promoter of free trade.

She opposes the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a new global warming treaty, the U.N. Treaty on Women and the U.N. Treaty on the Rights of the Child. Several of the treaties have been signed by former president Bill Clinton but await action in the U.S. Senate.

The Stop CAFTA group says it is a coalition of social justice and solidarity organizations. Consequently much of its concern is the treaty's impact on the poor and marginalized.

Patterns of growing inequality and ongoing poverty within
the signatory countries have only become more extreme, contrary to the promises of supporters of the agreement, said the group. According to Katherine Hoyt of the
Nicaragua Network, “unless there is a significant shift in the economic model, employment opportunities will continue to be scarce, agricultural prices will continue to fall, the poor will become poorer, and immigration will increase.”

The report also illuminates other trade agreements, either proposed or already in effect that relate to Central America and provide possible alternatives to the Central American Free Trade Agreement model.

One model the group suggests is the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, known as ALBA for its name in Spanish.
The regional trade group is led by Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chávez. ALBA is a cooperative trade agreement that focuses on development and mutually beneficial policies, eschewing the false promises of neoliberalism, said Stop CAFTA.

One of the most recent converts to ALBA is Honduras, which also is a member of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Nicaragua also is a member.

Since the trade group formed in 2004, ALBA countries have signed agreements to build joint factories, form a joint bank an emergency food fund, and exchange cheap Venezuelan oil for food, housing, and educational investments, according to, an online news source based in Caracas.

The Stop CAFTA report focused on El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, countries which adopted the treaty early.

The report said that although employment has been created since the agreement entered into force, many are dangerous, exploitative, and unstable jobs in factories, or maquilas, of the multi-national corporations that have moved into Central America as a result of investment incentives. In addition, the report said that many farmers have been forced to take factory jobs because of a lack of options and that some have emigrated, lowering the unemployment numbers.

The treaty also  represents a threat to thousands of families who work in the informal sector of the economy: those who sell unauthorized audio and video discs, knock-off garments, and other products, said the report. The report also said drug prices have increased. And gains in exports have mainly benefited large international companies, it said.

Large-scale industrial development projects, such as open-pit mines or hydroelectric dams, are entering the region in increasing numbers due to the treaty's stipulations regarding foreign investment, said the report. Countries that host these foreign mega-projects are required to lower any barriers to investment, which usually means any tax or other type of benefit the country would receive from the project, said the report.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 259

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Florida Cubans hope for some change in policy with Obama
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One controversial issue president-elect Barack Obama will face after he takes office is whether to change the government's decades-old policies toward Cuba.

Recent studies in Miami show that Cuban-American support for the U.S. embargo and other tough measures against Cuba's Communist government is declining, including among Cuban-Americans. The sentiment is changing in a community that once was dominated by harsh criticism of Havana.

Former Cuban political prisoners hold a vigil once a week outside a popular Cuban restaurant in Miami. The aim is to highlight the plight of dissidents in Cuba who are being persecuted.

Self-described exiles like these are some of Havana's harshest critics. They also are strong supporters of the U.S. embargo and other tough policies aimed at weakening Cuba's Communist government.

Joel Rodríguez who is a supporter of the embargo, stated "For the people who support the embargo and will continue supporting, we feel it is necessary. There is no reason to help the Cuban regime."

Cuban Americans — pro and con — say they are aware the embargo has failed to produce democratic change in Havana. Now, some feel it is time for a new approach.
"The policy of isolation and confrontation have been and continue to be massive policy failures," said Carlos Saladrigas, who is with the Cuba Study Group, a research institute in Washington, DC. He points to a recent study by Florida International University. Its shows that, for the first time, more Cuban-Americans oppose the embargo than support it.

Part of the change is due to the growing numbers of young Cuban immigrants in Miami, says sociologist Guillermo Grenier.

Grenier of Florida International University said "The new
arrivals, as you see in the results, have a more conciliatory view, a more realistic view. They do not think change is going to come overnight."

For 17 years, Florida International researchers have documented the anger and frustration of Cuban-Americans about Washington's failure to weaken Havana's government.

This year's poll found something different, says Hugh Gladwin who led the survey. "There was a real optimism. The number not only said there should be engagement but expressed it in a positive way, like maybe this is time for something new," Gladwin said.

Obama's election has energized those seeking change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. During the campaign,
Obama said he was open to meeting Cuba's leaders and lifting some U.S. restrictions.

Few expect the new president to end the nearly 50-year-old economic embargo, but advocates of reform say Obama should work to reverse Bush administration policies.

Wayne Smith of the Center for International Policy was the top U.S. diplomat in Havana in the early 1980s. He explained, "Lifting the embargo is a very complicated issue. I see Obama moving toward improving relations with Cuba. Lifting restrictions on Cuban American travel, and lifting restrictions on educational travel."

Reversing a 2004 rule that ended teaching exchanges is a top priority for Smith and a group of U.S. academics. Others want restrictions lifted on how often Cuban-Americans can travel to the island and how much money they can send to family members there.

For Cuban-Americans who support tough measures, accepting change may be difficult. But embargo supporters like Ozzy Hernandez remain hopeful. "Fifty years with the same problem, and we have been unable to do anything to liberate Cuba. Maybe Obama can accomplish something finally," he said.

Still at issue is whether and when the Obama administration will address the Cuba question.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 259

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.

Lower Yule sales causing
chains to close stores

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The final numbers are not in yet but, this year, U.S. holiday sales have been disappointing.  Industry analysts say preliminary data show total retail sales declined compared to last year's holiday season.

With the economy weak, many American consumers are spending less and that has prompted retailers to slash prices in a bid to survive.  

U.S. retailers face a wave of store closings, bankruptcies and takeovers after poor sales.

Clothing retailers Ann Taylor and Talbots are among the chains planning to close underperforming stores. A news report quotes a chairman of a retail consulting firm, Davidowitz & Associates, as saying that retailers will close about 12,000 stores in 2009.

Spending Pulse, an organization collecting consumer-spending data from MasterCard Advisors says consumers spent about 20 percent less on electronics, women's clothes and jewelry in November and December in comparison with the same period last year. It says total retail sales declined up to 8 percent during this holiday season.

Meanwhile, the online retailer has boasted the best holiday season ever.

Sex tourist pleads guilty
in U.S. sting operation

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An Arizona man, Richard Hendryx, 78, of Morristown, has pleaded guilty to traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children, said the U.S. Department of Justice.

During a plea hearing, Hendryx admitted to arranging a two-day trip to Mexico in April in order to have sex with two boys under the age of 12.  Unbeknownst to Hendryx, while placing telephone calls and sending e-mail messages to arrange the trip, he was actually communicating with undercover law-enforcement agents, the Justice Department said. 

Hendryx’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 6.  At sentencing, Hendryx will face a maximum of 30 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release following from prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us
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