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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 8     Email us
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Jo Stuart
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Next payday means more cash for private workers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Minimum wages went up Jan. 1, but most employees will not see the increase until payday at the end of this week.  The increase is 3.17 percent over the salary paid in the last half of 2011.

The amount was set after negotiations between employer and employee groups before the Consejo Nacional de Salarios. The decree specifying the amount appeared in the La Gaceta official newspaper Dec. 8.

The pay increases involve only private employees. The salary scale for public employees is yet to be determined in most cases. However, the Poder Judicial has awarded some increases of as much as 14 percent. Among these is the job category to which taxes and fines are keyed, an auxiliar administrativo 1.

The Consejo Superior del Poder Judicial approved the increase, which took effect Jan. 1. The new base salary is 360,600 colons or about $714.77, up from 316,200 colons or about $626.76. Many laws cite this job category as the base for financial transactions. That is because historically the Costa Rican colon has been subject to inflation, so a specified amount would erode. This is the base salary to which traffic fines are keyed, for example. And it is the base salary to which the new tax on corporations is keyed.

A 14 percent pay raise represents a significant amount because the Poder Judicial also will have to pay the Christmas aguinaldo at that level. In addition, The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social takes a bite that costs employees 9 percent and employers 21 percent, although the percentage varies slightly based on the size of the firm or agency.
salarios minimos
The government has been under criticism for not paying the amount it owed to the Caja. Union members at the Caja said the amount involved was enough to build a handful of hospitals.

The central government is clearing its debt, but it is paying the Caja in government bonds instead of cash.

Each private job category has its own minimum wage in Costa Rica. With the new pay scale, they range up from as little as 7,883.92 a day for the least qualified worker. That is about $15.63 at the current rate of exchange of 504.5 colons to the U.S. dollar.

That also is the pay of a salonero or waiter, but that person probably will share in tips.

Depending on the job, the salary may be expressed by the day or by the month. Those who pick coffee have a minimum based on the number of baskets they bring in. Another variable is education level. University grads are supposed to get 428,670.94 colons a month regardless of the job. That's about $849.70.

Many workers here are paid the minimum.

The salaries here are in no way similar to those in the United States and Canada. For example, a Costa Rican carpenter has a minimum salary of 8,749.38 colons a day. A tractor-trailer driver gets 10,486.02 a day as a minimum.  That's $20.79 and considerably lower than what the Teamster's Union would consider a fair wage.

The full list of approved salaries is HERE! Another increase is likely July 1.

U.S. Embassy will produce a quarterly newsletter
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica said this week it would begin publishing a quarterly newsletter to communicate with its citizens living abroad in Costa Rica.

The name of the publication is “American Connections,” and the embassy said it is geared to the interests and issues important to U.S. citizens. The first issue was sent out electronically Monday and featured a story about Ambassador Anne S. Andrew's visit to Limón in October where she donated an ambulance, visited with Peace Corps volunteers and met with native groups.

The newsletter also featured practical information soliciting wardens within Costa Rica to facilitate communication between American communities and the embassy during times of crisis. The newsletter includes voting information about new
embassy newsletter

 absentee polling laws and promises to highlight in each edition a different community group. The newsletter said that someone interested in featuring a community group can write to The announcement also asks for suggestions from Americans as to what topics the publication should address.

To subscribe to the newsletter the Embassy requests that readers follow this link: This is the link that allows travelers to register with the embassy in the countries they visit.

The U.S. State Department has embarked on a social media outreach program, and the embassy here has Twitter and Facebook accounts, too.

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Our reader's opinion
Former resident praises
Thai immigration system

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was a former resident of Costa Rica, lived there for seven years and still have business interests and many friends.  I now live in Thailand and we (expats) enjoy a very easy and efficient immigration system. 

As a U.S. citizen, I can obtain a certified letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok stating that I have annual income of $24,000 or have same amount in a Thai bank 90 days prior to applying.  We must have a lease on a residence or a letter stating that we have a permanent place to live. 

We have to report to immigration every 90 days, which only takes 5 minutes.  This total process takes only 1 day and costs less than $150.  No lawyer or outside agency is required.  I suspect our criminal record is checked through INTERPOL.  We have the best hospitals anywhere and compared to the U.S. is very cheap, maybe 80 percent less.

Thais are very smart. By requiring us to have a good income, we add greatly to the economy.  Crime is very low. We have an excellent police department, and they enforce the law.  Cost of living is much less than Costa Rica, and for golfers, its paradise. I have 26 excellent golf courses within 1 hour of my condo which is in a highrise 200 meters from the ocean.

Costa Rica could make it easier for people to obtain legal residence there by following the Thai system.
Jim Bryan
Pattaya, Thailand

U.S. man in Sámara likely
slipped and died from a fall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen living in Sámara died from an apparent fall in his rented room. He was identified as Bruce Corbitt, 59.

Investigators suspect the man slipped and fell and suffered a fatal wound to the head early Monday.

Only days earlier Corbitt had seen a doctor about problems he was having, and that doctor had prescribed him medications. Luis Eduardo Jiménez, chief of the Judicial Investigating Organization's office in Nicoya said that Corbitt might have been experiencing a dangerous mixture of the alcohol and the drugs. Jiménez said the actual cause of death can't be determined until the autopsy is complete.

Investigators reported there was no sign of robbery or foul play. Jiménez said all the man's belongings including his money in cash, credit card and computer were still present in the residence. He said Corbitt had rented the room in which he died for a full month from Cabinas Bahía but had been living in Costa Rica since 2007 

Jiménez said he was not aware of any family Corbitt had in Costa Rica.

According to a social networking Web site,, on which Corbitt had a profile, he was an artist and a writer in Costa Rica. He wrote on his profile page that he loved Costa Rica and called it a beautiful peaceful place.

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 HERE!
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Tourism hotels report slightly better Christmas occupancy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism chamber said that hotel occupancy during the last half of December was 4 percent higher that the year before. The chamber based its report on a survey of hotel operators.

That two weeks is the beginning of the greatest tourism demand, noted the organization, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo. The chamber received reports from 113 hotels all over the country.

Five-star operations that cater to foreign tourists reported 78.4 percent occupancy, while hotels in the one-star category reported 82.4 percent, said the chamber.

Combined, all the hotels reported an occupancy of 70.6 percent, said the chamber.

According to a survey, some 63.3 percent of the visitors staying in hotels across the country were foreigners while  36.7 were Costa Ricans. Tourism officials reported that overall these figures were in line with historical data with foreigners predominating and driving the tourism economy, but the actual results varied regionally and by type of hotel.  Many Costa Ricans do not visit hotels over the holidays. Many stay with relatives in vacation areas while others simply camp on the beach.

Regionally speaking, Costa Ricans occupied about half of the rooms in the beach hotels meanwhile they only rented one out of every five hotel rooms in the mountainous regions. However foreigners, for example, accounted for nearly 90 percent of occupants in hotels in the northern zone and the north Caribbean.

At the five-star Punta Islita Hotel south of Sámara on the Nicoya peninsula's west coast, a room with a king size bed, air conditioner, ocean view, jacuzzi and minibar costs more than $500 per night. Whereas a double room at the one-star Hotel Zullymar in Tamarindo costs around $70 per night during high season.
Southern Guanacaste
Northern Guanacaste
Northern zone
Central Pacific
Puntarenas and vicinity
South Pacific
Northern Caribbean
Central Valley
Southern Caribbean
Source; Cámera Nacional de Turismo

Overall, 92 percent of the businesses questioned across the nation reported finishing the end of the year with either normal or high business results. One of the highest showings came in the beach areas where many hotels reported room occupation rates as high as 80 percent in the last two weeks of December.

Guanacaste seemed to fare the best, but the beach communities as a whole reported about 76 percent of their rooms filled during this time.

One call center,, that handles reservations for many of the major hotels around La Fortuna, reported in the period between Christmas and New Year's day the 24 hotels it operates for had 95 percent occupancy.

One of the owners of the reservation center, Juan José Corella, told a reporter that his company registered 50 percent more sales than last year during the high season period. The owner attributed the success to better marketing strategies and partnerships with travel agencies in the foreign countries.

New directive designed to tighten rules on gun ownership
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry said Tuesday that in the future it will be a lot tougher for criminals to get their hands on firearms because of a directive that has gone into effect with the goal of tightening gun restrictions and fixing gaps in the national gun registry.

The directive came from Vice Minister Celso Gamboa and went to the department within the ministry in charge of issuing permits pertaining to firearms and explosives. Some of the highlights of the new regulations will be to curtail acquisition of firearms by persons with criminal backgrounds. Law enforcement officials at a press conference Tuesday said registered criminals frequently are turning up with guns registered in their names even though people with criminal backgrounds should not posses firearms.

Gamboa characterized the national gun registry as having irregularities and pointed to a statistic that half of the gun homicides in the past year were committed with registered guns. There were 276 homicides committed with guns in 2011, and the ministry reports to have confiscated 33,000 guns used to commit crimes in Costa Rica. Reports indicate there are approximately 200,000 registered guns in the country.

Gamboa said starting Tuesday, even if a gun is registered to an owner, if that owner has prior convictions, the gun can be seized from the owner by authorities. The directive states persons with police or judicial records of robbery, assault, homicides, domestic violence,and drugs, among others, are excluded from gun possession.

Gamboa asserted that owning a gun in Costa Rica is not a right but that it’s a privilege. The directive also attempts to further regulate the sale of guns used in sport and hunting and is written to limit to three the number of guns any one person can legally own. In addition, the directive orders armament and explosives department personnel to investigate more thoroughly the executives and owners of security firms which hire armed employees. The directive came after a weekend in which police detained an owner of a security firm who also was found to be a suspect in an auto theft ring. The suspect had a criminal record as well.

The point of view of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública is not shared by everyone.

An employee of a downtown gun shop, Mundi Armas de San José, took the exact opposite position: Rather than trying to diminish the amount of guns on the street, he said it was time people thought about protecting themselves. He laughed at the thought that the Fuerza Pública would be there in time to protect a person or his or her family in a home invasion or other time of need.
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Press conference included a display of confiscated arms.

The employee characterized the police on the street as too few and poorly prepared. He also claimed the ministry had not informed the shop of the directive but claimed that it was already standard procedure not to sell guns to people with prior convictions. Moreover he said a large amount of guns are stolen from rightful owners or come from Panamá or Nicaragua, and these guns can be bought on the street with cash without a background check.

At the press conference, Gamboa acknowledged the illegal importation of firearms as an obstacle to gun enforcement. Also, included in the directive are requirements to investigate when guns are reported stolen or taken from a rightful owner to determine if that person was negligent in keeping the firearm safe.

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Carbon dioxide concentration likely to delay start of new ice age
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The next ice age could be delayed by tens of thousands of years due to excessive amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which disrupts Earth’s natural cycle of warming and cooling, according to a study in Nature Geoscience.

Researcher Jim Channell analyzed ice core and marine sediment data from one million years of geologic history.

Channell, a distinguished professor of geology at the University of Florida, says one period, around 780,000 years ago, is remarkably like the one today.

“It looks very similar because the orbital characteristics of the Earth, which is known from astronomers, is a dead ringer for the orbital states that we have today. And we can use that as an analog to say, 'When will our interglacial state, which we’re in right now, go into the next glacial period?'”

Those orbital features - how the Earth revolves around the sun, the shape of its orbit, the tilt and wobble of the Earth on its axis - undergo long, cyclical changes. Those changes directly affect the amount of radiation Earth receives from the sun, which in turn affects the climate.

Based on these natural cycles, the current warming period should end within 1,500 years. Channell says what’s different from 780,000 years ago is that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back then were 240 parts per million, compared with 390 parts per million today. 

“And so we can be fairly sure that we have, whether we like it or not, delayed the possibility that we will revert from our
present interglacial into a glacial state.”

Channell says the findings underscore the dramatic effect of carbon dioxide - released by the burning of fossil fuels in our cars, power plants and buildings - on the Earth’s natural climatic systems.

“In other words, the orbital characteristics of the Earth, which [determine] the amount of radiation which over millions of years have controlled the climate state on Earth, are no match for these excessive levels of CO2 in our atmosphere,” said Channell.

Cooling that would naturally occur in response to changes in the Earth’s solar orbit simply cannot keep up. 

While a delayed ice age may sound like good news, Channell says, it isn’t. 

The high concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is beginning to destabilize ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

“Once you slough off the continental ice into the ocean, of course the consequence is sea level rise," said Channell.

"And it’s not being, I think, over-dramatic to say that considering the proportion of the world’s population that lives close to sea level, the implications of this sort of accelerated sea level rise are enormous,” he said.

Channel says those ice sheets are expected to continue to melt until the next phase of cooling begins. And when that will be is now in serious doubt. Sea levels have risen about 200 feet in the last 10,000 years.

Traffic police have new multimedia radar devices with cameras
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Palmares festival goers will be the first to be subjected to a new radar device that contains a camera.

The Policía de Tránsito is getting 19 of these machines. They include audiovisual components, and officials said this means that motorists will not be able to appeal their speeding ticket.

The Fiestas de Palmares begins today, and traffic police will be out with their new radar devices that replace the traditional ones with the pistol grip. Those who get tickets will also get a photo that is produced by the device showing the speed, time, location and similar data, officials said. The device is connected electronically to a GPS network to determine location.

Some 140 traffic officers will be on the roads connecting Palmares with the rest of the country today. Police also will beef up their operations Sunday where there are concerts and also the days for the horse parade and carnival at the festival.

Traffic officers will have their central control at the Naranjo toll station, and they will be on the job 24 hours a day,
new radar setup
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Traasnportes photo
Officials say that by incorporating a camera into the radar device, the speeding tickets will not be appealable.

officials said. They also will be seeking motorists who violate other laws, including those relating to alcohol and seat belts. There also will be checkpoints in the night where every vehicle will be inspected, they said.

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Romney, as expected, wins
New Hampshire primary

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has claimed victory in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire.

With more than half of the precincts reporting, Romney has a double-digit lead over anti-war advocate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman. Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is in third place with former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-U.S. senator Rick Santorum battling for fourth place.

Romney told supporters the state had made history. He would be the first non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since the 1970s, when the two states became home to the first contests of the presidential nominating season.

Romney also took aim at Barack Obama, calling him a failed president. He criticized Obama's approach to a range of policy issues and said he would lead the country down a different path.

“Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. He believes that America's role as a leader in the world is a thing of the past. I believe a strong America must and will lead the future. He doesn't see the need for overwhelming American military superiority. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it. He criticizes our friends like Israel. I will always stand with our friends. And he apologizes for America. I will never apologize for the greatest nation in the history of the earth.”

Many political analysts predicted Romney would win New Hampshire. But the battle for second and third place also is important, as it could help determine which candidates stay in the race.

Paul said New Hampshire also represented a victory for him.

“Now, I called Governor Romney a short while ago, before he gave his talk, and congratulated him because he certainly had a clear-cut victory. But we're nibbling at his heels. But there was another victory tonight. He had a victory, but we have had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight.”

Speaking to his supporters, Huntsman vowed to continue on to the South Carolina primary Jan. 21, calling third place a ticket to ride.

Voting in New Hampshire got under way Tuesday just after midnight local time in Dixville Notch, near the Canadian border. Romney – who held a large lead in public opinion polls – won two of the town's nine possible votes, tying him with Huntsman. Voters headed to gymnasiums, town halls and even churches to cast their votes.

Romney drew criticism from some of his Republican rivals after a speech Monday in which he said “I like being able to fire people.” The statement was directed at health insurance companies that fail to provide good service, and Romney said it was taken out of context.

Romney's rivals also have been hammering him on his previous career running a private investment firm. They allege the firm laid off hundreds of employees in an effort to boost already large profits.

In his speech Tuesday night, Romney hit back.

“President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. And in the last few days, we've seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our party, and for our nation. The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We have to offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.”

Santorum lost to Romney by only eight votes last week in the Iowa caucuses.

All the candidates have been seeking to highlight their conservative credentials against the more liberal President Obama, a Democrat. Obama faced no major challengers in his party's primary vote Tuesday.

Detroit auto show showcases
a reformed U.S. industry

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 2012 North American International Auto Show has opened in Detroit, Michigan.  The annual showcase is the auto industry's premier event to showcase new cars and technology. This year's show comes amid stronger sales for Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. But despite new growth, analysts say business is not entirely back to normal as high unemployment nationwide continues to weigh on potential customers.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally's message at a launch event for the newly redesigned Ford Fusion sedan was direct: His company is profitable and growing.

"We are committed to 12,000 new jobs in our U.S. manufacturing facilities and we are on plan to have them filled by year end," said Mulally.  "We are also adding 3,000 new jobs in Asia-Pacific."

Ford's expansion comes after several years of profitability and marks a dramatic change in an industry that shed tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade. But, under new contracts ratified in 2011 with the United Auto Workers union, the Big Three Detroit manufacturers - Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler - are all bringing more people back to U.S. assembly lines.

"The fact that we were able to bargain to have all these jobs and investment here in this country I think is positive overall for all the manufacturing," said Bob King, president of the auto workers union.

King says some shuttered facilities in the U.S. will re-open under the new agreements and more cars will leave the U.S. for foreign buyers.

"For many years, there was not much export of vehicles to other parts of the world. All three of the companies will be doing major exporting of vehicles from the U.S.," added King.

Although it seems like good news for the American auto industry, in the wake of several government-sponsored bankruptcies, University of Michigan Economics Professor Bruce Pietrykowski says the turnaround is incomplete and that auto economics are in danger of faltering once again.

"Most Americans don't have the kind of disposable income that they had in 2000," said Pietrykowski.  "Most Americans are either unemployed or have seen their wages actually fall from when the auto industry was reaching its peak sales year."

Scotland may get chance
to vote on independence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain has set out conditions under which Scotland can decide whether to sever centuries-old constitutional ties with Britain.

The British government said Tuesday it will remove legal hurdles so Scots can hold a referendum on gaining independence from Britain for the first time since the early 18th century.

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond wants to delay the vote for several years so the independence movement in Scotland can gain momentum.

But British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging Scotland to hold the referendum as soon as possible. Cameron opposes any breakup of the United Kingdom.

The parliaments of England and Scotland voted more than 300 years ago to unite in a single kingdom called Great Britain.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2011, Vol. 12, No. 8
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Sports minister leaves
after flap over tickets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's sports minister resigned Tuesday after he became involved in a scandal over free tickets for a weekend soccer event.

The former minister is William Todd, who sought 2,130 free tickets for the “90 minutos por la vida” event Saturday in the Estadio Nacional. The event was organized by the  Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda said she accepted the resignation and noted that Todd sought the tickets frankly and openly. He had been on the job eight months.

The president said she wanted the awarding of any free tickets at the stadium to be suspended, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial.

U.S. Embassy closed Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy will be closed Monday, which is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday in the United States. King was the leading figure in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Escazú power outage today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz plans to suspend electrical services to a section of Escazú that is south of Multiplaza in order to change main power lines. The outage is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sabana Sur turns banned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic engineers have made a major change at the intersection just north of the Iglesia Perpetuo Socorro in Sabana Sur. Vehicles headed east are now prohibited from turning left toward Parque la Sabana. Vehicles headed north are prohibited from turning left. This is the challenging intersection of Calle Morenos and Avenida Campos.

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Jo Stuart
What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2011 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details