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Leaked Wikileaks Embassy Cable – Costa Rica

April 7th, 2011

I am sure one of the jobs of any United States Embassy regardless of location is to constantly evaluate the host country in terms of  law, infrastructure, political persuasion, stability, attitude towards the USA, geographical considerations and probably a bunch of other stuff of which I have no idea…. like maybe the cool spy stuff! They likely collect info in many ways, but I am not at all sure of the accuracy of their sources.

In fact, one of my favorite sources for pretty excellent info regarding Costa Rica is the good ol’ CIA!  Their World Factbook Costa Rica is handy and is quite accurate. A lot of the info can be really useful to folks studying Costa Rica, planning to move or relocate here, considering opening or moving  a business operation to the country and for many other reasons.

Costa Rica newspaper La Nacion recently made a deal with those idiots at Wikileaks to get copies of various cables sent by various US diplomats to the State Department that pertain to Costa Rica.  If you wish to download a copy of the cable I will be discussing, just click here. Now when you do that, you will supposed see the actual document submitted 4 April 2007, by Laurie Weitzenkorn, an official of Public Affairs U.S. Embassy, but other news sources (La Nacion etc)  have published  lists of comments that do not appear on that document and while I am pretty sure they are accurate, I have not been able to track down the actual Wikileaks document.  All have been published in various online or actual newspapers. The comments by Weitzenkorn and others are a few years old, and perhaps my readers would like to know my thoughts as to whether some of these issues are still valid. Cables like these give the viewpoint of a single person whom we do not know. Did they live here for a a few weeks. months or years? Where did they get their info?  Was/is it biased?  Quien sabe?

Anyway, here are excerpts… some topics I think might be of the most general interest.  If interested, read on!

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US Veterans in Costa Rica

August 21st, 2010

Costa Rica US veterans medical services availableI receive a fair number of inquiries from US veterans who are considering a move to Costa Rica. We also have a fair number of US vets living down here now. I do not have a handle as to exactly how many, but is has to be a few thousand or so with many more coming every year. I know this as I have met many on my private tours.

One vet who has lived here for a while is reader Rick Deahl who asked me if I would like to publish some information regarding medical and hospital services available to United States veterans living here in Costa Rica.

I jumped all over that, and this post is the result. If this topic is of interest to you, read on! Continue reading »

Bird Saves Dog – No Film at 11

June 13th, 2010

One of the things about living in the tropics is that here we have animals, insects and reptiles that can hurt our pets… and people as well. This is not to say that this is not true in the US, but our threats are a bit different. I know friends who live in the Southwestern US who have lost pets to snakebites, and I know others living in the foothills around Los Angeles who must constantly be on guard against coyotes who will snatch a dog or cat if the opportunity presents itself.

We live in the central valley not far from San Jose  so we are not troubled by snakes or wild animals. We do get the occasional scorpion (venomous but not life threatening), the occasional tarantula, but not much more. Killer bees live here, of course, and once in a while there are news reports about an attack… seldom fatal. The poison darts frogs of Costa Rica are quite famous and we can see them all the time near the river on my wife’s property in Limon Province, but they are not found in the central valley. Folks living near the beaches or in other truly tropical areas have told me of brushing against or handling certain varieties of caterpillars that can cause amazingly serious and painful injuries.

Here though, and right in our back yard, we get toads.  Big fat fellows that emit a serious poison through their skin when threatened. I must say I completely underestimated the danger of this reptile, and my lack of understanding almost cost the life of our dog, Piro. She would be dead if not for our parrot (lora). a yellow naped Amazon.

If this story interests you, read on!

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Easy Money!

June 6th, 2010

For many years, the largest currency denomination in Costa Rica was the 10,000 colon bank note (billete). At today’s exchange rate, that is a bit over $18.00.  Thus, carrying just the equivalent of $1,000 required you to carry FIFTY-FIVE  10,000 colon notes… quite  a wad.

That will soon change as the Costa Rica Central Bank, Banco Central de Costa Rica, does a complete do-over of the country’s national currency.

Changes to all bills (including the existing currency!) are drastic. Changes will include not only the standard anti-counterfeiting techniques standard on the Euro and the new US bank notes, but also two new denominations; the 20,000 and 50,000 colon bills. That is a Godsend!  Additionally,  the new bills will come in different widths… from 125 mm to 160 mm… truly important for the visually challenged.

If this topic interests you and you would like a peek at the new bills, read on!

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Ley de tránsito – Results Day One

March 2nd, 2010

Typical of Costa Rica, news reports differ as to how went day one following implementation of the new ley de tránsito (traffic laws). One English language online stated that more than 300 fines were handed out in San José  alone. This was kinda amazing as the transit officers union stated in pretty clear terms that their membership would not be handing out tickets except for violations that could be dangerous to other drivers.

I normally only read La Nacion or some other Spanish language newspapers as they tend to get it right… and as I suspected, the information reported was not quite accurate.  The actual number of tickets was far less.  By 4 PM yesterday,  218 tickets had been handed out nationwide.

These tickets were for:

Using mobile phones without a hands free device or failure to use seat belts. (¢ 220,050  or $400.00)  (Yeah!!)

Driving in San José in violation of vehicle plate restrictions (¢ 29,340 –   $53.00)

Driving with polarized (darkened) rear window (¢ 117,360 – $213.00) and finally,

two people who were caught driving without a driver’s license (¢ 293,400 – $533.00 ) and whose cars were impounded on the spot. Wow!

Also, La Nacion staffers apparently did a bit of reconnoitering around the country and found that many transit officials had apparently not even been on duty, prompting the response “Promise Fulfilled” by Joselito Ureña, secretary of the Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionales en Tránsito the transit officers union.  Interestingly…. Those officers did give out tickets  were officers who were working directly  under the supervision of Marin Germain, transit director aka the big cheese. Guess that confirms who is the real boss.

So the verdict?  None of the big cheeses (transit bosses nor the diputados) are thrilled about the officers not obeying orders and  handing out those tickets…  still it would be wise to keep your foot under control, not talk on your cell phone,  use your seat belts and generally be good little boys and girls!

The Road To Caldera

February 7th, 2010

Click photo to enlarge. Dotted line is now completed

San Jose to Caldera HighwayThe long awaited (30+ years) highway from San Jose to Caldera opened a couple of weeks ago. I had a hunch that anything that long in the making would draw the curious and traffic would be a disaster.  Turns out that I called it, and the touted 45-60 minute trip to the Port of Caldera (Puerto Caldera), Costa Rica’s only commercial and cruise terminal on the Pacific coast, took up to three hours for much of last week

Not so yesterday!

Yesterday, I thought it might be worth a chance, so my wife Maria Luisa, my sister Pamela and I jumped on the new highway and found ourselves pretty much alone with pretty minimal traffic.  Better yet, we were in Orotina in 45 minutes and in  Caldera in 60.  Another 15 minutes put us in Puntarenas and walking on the beach. this is a big deal to expats and Ticos and will certainly have a positive commercial effect in all those locations.

Thirty years or not, this was worth the wait.  Interested?  Read on!

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Happy Thanksgiving from Costa Rica

November 26th, 2009

moooI really miss Thanksgiving!

There are two or three US holidays that are not celebrated  here… well more if you add all those goofy ones like President’s day where nobody does anything special.  Of them all, Thanksgiving is the worst for me maybe followed by the 4th of July. No fireworks.

First, everyone is working on a Thursday… everyone meaning everyone in my family who would normally be invited to celebrate, so we celebrate it on the following Saturday.

Turkey is easy to buy, but ludicrously expensive.  I cannot buy sage here, required for traditional sage and onion dressing. I also cannot find rutabagas! I know rutabaga is not for everyone, but it is an integral part of my family tradition.  One nice person brought me **ONE** from the USA a couple of days ago. I am hiding it.  We have maybe 8 people coming Saturday and one is not enough to split 8 ways.

I miss the Thanksgiving day TV stuff too.  Football, parades, you know, all the things we do.

It may be the only day when I really miss living in the USA.

Worse, today is the day my wife is having surgery. Just another Thursday.  That was at 7 AM this morning, supposedly no biggie, maybe 45 minutes, but no one has called to let me know she is OK.  It is 10:30 AM I am worried and after posting this, I am heading out to the hospital to find out what is going on.

To all my readers… I have much to be thankful for, and I wish all you you the very happiest of Thanksgivings!

I especially wish a happy Thanksgiving to anyone serving in the armed forces who cannot be with their families.  You are very special people, too many times not appreciated, but by me, you are very appreciated.

Be well and be safe.

Renewing My Residency and Ummm Groveling

August 18th, 2009

23minBack in July, I  blogged about the new cedula renewal process (this also applies to lost cedulas). The days of visiting Immigration (migracion) are over… at least that was what I was told.  I have lived far too long here to think that any process here can change literally overnight.  Overnight in Costa Rica can mean anything less than two years

Well.. I was wrong.  It seems there is a process in Costa Rica that can take less than a decade to change for the better.  Today was my appointment for my cedula renewal at at the American International Mall branch of Banco de Costa Rica in Alajuela.  It went without a hitch… and if this interests you… read on!

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Email from Readers

May 4th, 2009

Good day faithful readers. Here is another addition of “My Readers Write” Here you will find a few emails asking questions not covered in The REAL Costa Rica or this Blog…. or maybe they are but there is some other twist that I think might be of interest.

As some of these were sent more than 5 weeks ago, I do appreciate your patience. I am just bombarded with email, especially now that readership in The REAL Costa Rica and this Blog is exceeding 60,000 visits per month.

If this interests you, please read on.

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Swine Flu Arrives in Costa Rica

April 29th, 2009

maskCosta Rica has confirmed two cases of Swine Flu. The infected parties are a 21 year old woman and a 29 year old man, both returned recently from trips to Mexico.  Costa Rica receives daily flights from Mexico. The woman traveled with 92 others on her flight home.  Both persons were treated at Calderon Guardia Hospital.

Incredibly, the infected woman decided to ignore health officials and broke quarantine so she could attend classes at her university.

Thirty-five others are under watch.

A third person, a youngster, has flu symptoms (not yet confirmed as Swine Flu) possible infected by her father who recently returned to Costa Rica from Mexico. If confirmed, that would be the first case of swine flu caught within the borders.

The Ministry of Health this morning asked the passengers of two other flights, TACA LR 631 and Mexicana  387, to call 911 emergency so they may be tested.

Employees at the San Jose airport are wearing surgical masks, and many incoming passengers are having their temperatures taken upon arrival.

I am not going to go into this swine flu deal because unless my readers are living on another planet, you have been deluged with probably more information that you want to know.

I am more concerned though as my wife works at Calderon Guardia Hospital.

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