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In This Issue:

1. Broken News (All the News That's Fit to Reprint): 1. A Hellfire of a Toll; 2. Costa Rica Border Now Open to All U. S. Citizens; 3. Protests and Blockages; 4. Bad Timing. 5. Chalk One Up for Tourists.

2. Economic Drumbeat (Costa Rica Business and Economic Happenings): 1. Costa Rica Opens Borders to Central America; 2. Exchange Rate Uncertainties; 4. Gas Prices Declining; 5. Pink Pineapples; 6. Dealing With the Debt; 7. Three European Airlines Resume Flights.

3. Latin American Updates (Major Events in Neighboring Countries): Chile - The Plight of the Miners; Cuba - Foreign Currency Stores Open; Nicaragua - Special Cyber Crimes Law; Panama - Covid Test Fee Announced; Venezuela - Diaspora Continues.

4. Rumble and Weather Talk: 1. Nothing of Significance in the Rumble Area; 2. Rainy Season in Transition.

5. Feature 1: Profiles in Quepos Series: Alejandro Arquedas Monje (Working Technology to Make Technology Work)

6. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Gecko or Iguana?

7. Feature 2: Los Linces (Quick Response Policing)

8. Health Stuff: 1. Watching the Covid-19 Surge In Costa Rica; 2. Relaxing the Entry Rules; 3. New Assembly Building Infections; 4. Health Service Adds Staff to Fight Covid.

9. GGC Bookshelf and More: 1. Books from GGC Publications; 2. Golden Gringo T-shirts and Coffee Mugs; 3. Books from the Quepos-Manuel Antonio and Other Writers Groups.

10. What's-in-a-Word: 1. ¿Answer to Que es Eso?; 2. Dios Te Bendiga.

11. ROMEO Corner: The Falls Garden Restaurant, Manuel Antonio.

 

 

 


Wisdom of the Ages

Steve Jobs dropped out of college, designed video games for Atari for a while and then built Apple Computer from his garage into a company. That company has now become the all time biggest corporation in history by virtue of its recent market capitalization: $1.8 Trillion. Jobs died in 2011, at the age of 56, of cancer.


Holiday Watch

Billed as the calm before the tourist season, there are no national, paid holidays in November in Costa Rica. That won't stop Ticos from making a splash one way or another such as November 2's Dia Day de la Muerte (day of the dead) when citizens honor their relatives who have passed by making visits to cemeteries, holding candlelight vigils, and adorning gravesites with elaborate decorations. 

On a little brighter front, during the last week in November there are parades of very colorful, even elaborately painted wagons originally used to transport coffee to the railroads and ports. To read more about these go HERE.

 



Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

A Hellfire of a Toll

 

The Video Can Be Seen HERE.

Near the end of September a pick-up truck passed through the toll booth in Escazu heading west on Route 27 towards the Pacific Coast. Almost immediately after exiting the toll booth, it caught fire and shortly thereafter began to roam unmanned and uncontrolled around the toll area, which is on a slight grade. Evidently the owner did not set the emergency break when he abandoned the truck. When you watch the video (link below the photo left) note how the fiery truck is parked next to a petroleum tanker which never moves.

 

The video brought to mind a number of questions like: Where is the driver of the fuel tanker which is an obvious hazard and why didn't he move it?, Why didn't the toll area administrators close down the toll booths immediately? Were there no fire extinguishers, which are supposedly required by law, in any of the vehicles (including the fiery one)? Was there no basic fire fighting equipment in the toll booth office/garage?

 

More to be revealed; I'm just glad the roaming truck didn't hit the fuel tanker.

 

Costa Rica Border Now Open to All U.S. Citizens

 

When Costa Rica began to reopen its borders to tourists and visitors on September 1, the U.S. was excluded. Pressure from U.S. Airlines and local Chambers of Commerce got that changed by mid-September to six selected states but excluding the top three most populous states of California, Texas and Florida. That list was gradually (in weeks) expanded to 12, then 15 states by mid-September.

 

They're Coming Back

On Friday, October 2 the Minister of Tourism announced that visitors from California, Texas and Florida October 15th and all other states would be allowed beginning November 1. I presume you'll still need a recent, negative Covid-19 test but during the intervening period the insurance problem was worked by most airlines to include the cost of such in the ticket price.

 

UPDATE: As of November 1 the requirement for a recent negative PCD test has been dropped.

 

In the meantime, the surge in new cases that started in early June has abated and signs point to a downward trend (see Health section below). This is a welcome change for many here as it comes at the beginning of the high season although no one believes if will be as strong as last year, yet it could attract as much as 35-50% of the 2019 volume.

 

Current entry requirements (per Ministry of Tourism):

 

"Residents and citizens of the United States of America who wish to visit Costa Rica must meet three requirements:

  1. Complete the digital form called HEALTH PASS and available at https://salud.go.cr
  2. Take the COVID-19 PCR test and obtain a negative result; the sample for the test must be taken a maximum of 72 hours before the flight to Costa Rica. (Not now required)
  3. Mandatory travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19 illness. This insurance can be international or purchased from Costa Rican insurers. Recently some airlines have been working this into the price of a ticket.

Slowly we are getting ourselves back to normalcy but we still need to be cautious with this serious and relentless disease. Some have suggested that eliminating the insurance requirement would be best and they cite the fact that the first 6,000 tourists that have visited since the borders were reopened generated a total of zero new cases of Covid.

 

Shortly after Costa Rica decided to open its border to all U.S. states, they added that, starting November 15, the border will be open to flights from all countries around the world. In addition, shortly after the complete opening was announced, low-cost airline Volaris announced it will be resuming flights from Costa Rica to other Central American countries and elsewhere including Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Los Angeles, Washington, New York, and Cancun.

 

Sure seems to me that we will shortly be completely open for the first time in ten months.

 

Late October Update: It wasn't long before the Ministry of Health, certainly pressured by the Tourism Institute (ICT), bought the argument about no case load resulting from the first tourists (above) and the Covid-19 PCR test requirement effective was eliminated October 26.

 

Protests and Blockages

 

jui
The Poster Says:
"Costa Rica Demands No More Taxes"

Last month it was reported that the Costa Rican government was planning a 0.3% tax on all bank transactions (debit/credit cards, money transfers etc.) as one of the requirements to obtain an IMF (International Monetary Fund) loan of $1.75 billion. That amount is over 10% of the CR national budget and is intended to help get the country over the economic slowdown caused by the Coronavirus.

 

But that was not the only increase. The property tax, which is low by North American standards at 0.25% of the assessed property value would triple to 0.75%. To someone owning a a home valued at $100,000 that would be a $500 annual increase (correction, it`s actually $500).

 

It wasn't long before demonstrations in the form of road blockages sprung up all over the country, a large number of these disrupting the flow of commerce by road and truck and causing substantial delays to anyone trying to use the road. The government was slow to react to the blockages ("los bloqueos" in Spanish).

 

Yeah, That'll Block Her

A local inn owner in Manuel Antonio told me that, during the bloqueos, a trip by one of their guests from San José to Manuel Antonio, normally a two hour car ride, took nine hours. Attempts to clear the stoppages in critical areas were met with strong resistance to the point of rioting and several police personnel were injured.

 

By the early days of October the government had withdrawn it's proposal with the IMF and called for a national debate amongst all political parties to come up with a solution to the money crisis.

 

Injured Police Officers in Paquita

That wasn't enough for the demonstrators who took on the name of "Movimiento Rescate Nacional” (National Rescue Movement). Some of the demonstrations, which at that time were estimated to be over 90 blockade locations around the country) turned violent including the one in Paquita, a suburb of Quepos on the coastal road to the north. This is the main trucking route along the coast and demonstrators blocked all commerce from using the road and backing up trucks by the dozens. Nationally, thousands of trucks were held up and millions of dollars were lost due to spoiled goods and deliveries that couldn't be made.

 

In Paquita when Fuerza Publica Police tried to break it up they were peppered with rocks and even a Molotov cocktail. One officer was beaten while helpless on the ground and several wounded officers had to be hospitalized (see photo above). The Director of the National Police, Daniel Calderón and the Minister of Security characterized the actions of the crowd in the Quepos incident, which had been video recorded by bystanders and press, as being "absolutely criminal actions". No announcements of arrests from the Quepos incident were made but 13 people were arrested on Route 32, the main road between San José and Limón, in a blockage there. Later press reports claimed that the rioters had been infiltrated by a significant number of protesters who had connections with drug traffickers.

 

Jose Miguel Corrales

The day after the Quepos incident some calmer heads prevailed. One of the leaders of the Movimiento Rescate Nacional was Jose Miguel Corrales, an 82-year old former legislator and one time presidential candidate who apologized for his "naivety" in that he had always opposed the drug trafficking trade but didn't realize it had penetrated the movement. "I apologize especially to those who have been direct victims of the violence unleashed and to all those who have lived days of anxiety and fear.

 

At the end of 10 days of "strikes" (or riots) authorities counted 101 cases of injured police with the Quepos incident being one of the most serious.


A not untypical story about these blockades concerned a citizen who tried to return to his home near Peñas Blancas near the border with Nicaragua from La Fortuna on October 1 but ran into two different road blocks along the way. After hours of waiting he was forced to return to La Fortuna for food, water and gasoline and take back roads to get home. In mid-October, on his behalf, a writ of habeas corpus (unlawful detention or imprisonment) was entered as a complaint to the Sala IV (Costa Rica Supreme Court for Constitutional Matters) who in turn issued a condemnation of the government:


"In summary, the Court determined that the Executive Branch failed to comply with the obligations imposed by Article 140, paragraph 6, of the Political Constitution (maintain order and tranquility of the Nation, and take the necessary measures to safeguard the freedoms of the public as well as the provisions of the cited judgment."


By Wednesday, October 14 the government announced that all road blocks had been removed but on Thursday it was reported that there still was a substantial road block in Perez Zeledon near San Isidro. We'll see what action we get now in the wake of the most powerful court in the country calling for action.

 

Late October Update: At the moment the government and Nacional Rescate Movement (NRM) people are negotiating. In mid-October the NRM announced that there would be only five bloqueos around the country and listed them including one on the input road to Puntarenas. GG is happy to report that, on a trip to that town's hospital which services certain tests and procedures that we don't have in the local hospital, we encountered no bloqueos nor impediments other than normal traffic slowdowns.

 

Bad Timing

 

New (left) and Old Assembly Hall (Castillo Azul)

The Costa Rica Assembly is made up of some 56 legislators who are more often called Deputados or Deputies. For a long time now they have met for formal, law passing sessions at the Castillo Azul (Blue Castle), a San José landmark and classic structure that is easily found by a quick walk east on Avenida Central from the National Theatre.

 

The problem, however, has been that, as the country grew, so did the legislature and its responsibilities. By 2020 the many different offices and staff found themselves spread out over 10 rented locations around the city. So, a few years ago a project was conceived to bring all these offices and staff together in one building and this October was the month of moving and consolidation into the new Assembly Building (the new one is the big block next to the Castillo Azul in the photo above right).

 

The New Legislature Executive Session Hall

The move into the new facility will result in rental contract cancellations at the other facilities which will partially offset the cost of the new building ($130 million). It's just that the event happened right in the middle of the Covid recession and aggravated the difficult times as demonstrated by the blockades happening around the country.

 

Justifying an expenditure of that size while also trying to justify tax increases that support a $1.75 Billion loan from the International Monetary Fund just to keep the country running is an irritant to many people and those more vocal have organized serious road blocks as mentioned in the article above.

 

The new 18-story legislature facility is first class with an executive session chamber (photo), plenty of office space for all the deputies and their staff and all the electronic gadgetry a modern office building would expect. Let's hope it's used well, maybe to figure out how to reduce the cost of government. Just to add vinegar to the porridge, the move week added 14 new cases of Covid amongst the legislature staff and movers.

 

One of the first bills that was introduced in the new building was for the elimination of annuities for public officials. These are sort of annual bonuses to the swamp and amount to about $75 million (₡44 billion) in total. The annuity is an annual payment equal to an additional one month of salary for every year the public official is in the job. Yup, that's right, a person in the job twelve years would be given an annuity of one year's salary in addition to his salary or a total of two years just for hanging around. Not bad eh? The annuity elimination bill passed as one of the first bills introduced in the new assembly in October 19, 2020 and purportedly is only in existence for the next two years (the swamp wants its goodies back after that).

 

Chalk One Up for Tourists

 

Any country where tourism is a big part of its economy as it is in Costa Rica must expect that some tourists will experience bad, even violent confrontations with criminals. So when a robber confronted a German tourist recently in San José at the Caribbean bus terminal, and grabbed his cell phone at knife point, he expected quick success.

 

Don't Mess With This German

Unbeknownst to the robber was that the tourist was a German policeman on vacation here with his wife. On being threatened, his military training kicked in and before the robber knew it he found himself on the ground, pummeled by the German, with a black eye practically closed by swelling, a split lip and a mouth full of blood.

 

The Bruised Robber
Waiting for Police Van

Several bystanders ran to the aid of the tourist and recovered the the cell phone for the tourists. Señor Robber was identified by name in the press report but the tourist was not identified.

 

Tourists 1 - Robbers - 0

 

I must say that in the twelve years that GG has lived here plus the eight trips here in the five years prior to moving I have never once been accosted. I have been asked for money by those down and out, sure, but never threatened. I hope it stays that way.

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

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Economic Drumbeat
(Costa Rica Business and Economic Happenings)

Costa Rica Opens Borders to Central America

 

"Look Ma, Costa Rica Isn't An Island After All"

In conjunction with the Costa Rican border being open to all U.S. citizens as of November 1, the government also announced the opening of the border on October 15 to all Central American countries. The six Central American countries besides Costa Rica are: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama (see map left).

 

ICT, (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo), the tourism institute, counted almost 150,000 arrivals from these countries in 2019 with an average stay of 8 days. These visits are labeled Business Tourism and are important to both the tourist industry and doing business in a region which encompasses nearly 50 million people.

 

Exchange Rate Uncertainties

 

The national bank BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) on October 16 listed the dollar/colon exchange rate at Compra (buy) 597 and Venta (sell) 610. In other words if you want to buy colones using dollars you will get 597 colones for each dollar and if you want to sell colones for dollars you will have to give 610 colones to buy each dollar. Contrast this with the buy rate in 2008 when GG arrived here which was about 360 colones/dollar. This is one reason why many locals (like landlords) prefer to receive payment in dollars as a hedge.

 

A couple of financially astute people recently suggested that we may soon see a further increase in the colone/dollar exchange rate due to the uncertainty of the financial condition of the country and the failure to get financing from the IMF. In the three weeks leading up to October 15, the Central Bank of Costa Rica has had to infuse some $57 million in dollars just to prevent a run up in the rate. Then, in a single day, October 27 the Central Bank had to intervene in the markets with another $42 million to keep the exchange rate from running even higher.

 

The US$ exchange rates on October 30 were: Buy Colones/ Sell Dollars: 603; Buy Dollars/ Sell Colones: 616. That's the highest it's been since GG moved here in 2008.

 

Gas Prices Declining

 

Both because of the Covid recession and an excess of oil internationally, the price of gasoline has been declining recently. The latest posting as of Wednesday, October 28 is shown in the table to the right.

 

Although we always welcome reductions in prices that help stimulate the economy this change is a result of declining economic conditions and a surplus of oil worldwide. The prices are still relatively high compared to other places. A spot check of gasoline prices on Wednesday, October 28 revealed that Super grade in Florida was averaging about $2.73/gal and regular was $2.07.

 

Pink Pineapples

 

The New Del Monte Pink Pineapple

Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc., a division of Del Monte Foods recently announced that they are producing and now offering a pink pineapple, known as "Pinkglow", that is grown at one of their farms in southern Costa Rica (Buenos Aires, Puntarenas Province).

 

This is an FDA approved, genetically modified version that is based on controlling certain natural enzymes in pineapple that cause lycopene (the same ingredient that cause the red in tomatoes) to convert to beta carotene. The normal amount of these enzymes result in a yellow product.

 

Del Monte says the pink version is sweeter than the yellow. They currently classify it as an "exclusive" or "exotic" product, a designation which relates better to the current price tag of about $49 per pineapple.

 

GG thinks he'll wait until the price comes down; it doesn't sound like the kind of product that will take the market by storm generating a lot of new business at that price level but we'll see (the idea could turn out to be sort of like the New Coke thing, good product, bad idea).

 

Dealing With The Debt

 

The pandemic has brought to light and worsened a long developing fiscal problem in many budgets, including that of Costa Rica. Whether the budget is for your household, business or the government, relying extensively on debt to balance the budget eventually catches up to you. As your debt grows, one of the first things that happens is a slippage in "ratings" on new debt. Ratings are an indication of the risk involved with any particular debt or bond issue and those ratings in turn determine how high the interest will be required to satisfy the bond issuer.

 

You may recall that the International Monetary Fund, to whom Costa Rica had applied recently for a $1.7 billion loan had the effrontery (yuk,yuk) to stipulate in their requirements that the country impose a number of new taxes on bank transfers and real property. That was the IMF's ideaof righting the ship of state. It triggered a large number of protests, sometimes violent, around the country and negotiations are still underway between the protestors and the government to come up with a plan the people and the lenders will both accept. Buena suerte amigos.

 

The rating services, particularly Moody's, Fitch and Standard and Poor's all have continued to downgrade Costa Rica's fiscal position on debt in recent years. A recent report in a daily electronic newspaper compared Costa Rica and Panama debt ratings and offered the comparison that Panama enjoys a higher position on the ratings scale (but not by a hell of a lot) and that's what counts for getting better interest rates even though the table above doesn't seem like it should. Remember that one big difference is that, in a pinch, Panama always has the canal to boost income.

 

As examples they noted that Panama got US$1.25 billion in September at a rate of 2.25%, for a debt maturity in 2032. The same international market offered 11 year bonds to Costa Rican at 8.34%. For longer issue bonds (20-25 years), Panama was offered 3.07% while Costa Rica was tagged at 9.15% and that would cost Costa Rica at least $30 million more in interest on a $1 billion loan.

 

Debt management is important amigos. The recent cut in the famous annuity for public employees that gives a public employee one month extra per year for each year the employee is working was a start but not enough (zowie, no wonder public employment is so attractive). Much more needs to be done to upright the sinking ship. As one local economist put it: “It is urgent that Costa Rica send a clear message about its commitment to adjust public spending, the size of the fiscal deficit and the growth of public debt.” Amen.

 

Three European Airlines Resume Flight

 

Continuing with the opening of Costa Rican borders, three European airlines have announced resumption of flights here. Air France will be the first on October 31 with an arrival at Juan Santamaria airport in San José originating at Charles De Gaulle in Paris. KLM (part of the Air France conglomerate) and British Airways have also announced their intention to run three flights per week (KLM - Amsterdam and British Airways - London) beginning November 26.

 

These flights are in addition to those recently announced by Iberia and Lufthansa and will bring the total count of European arrivals and departures to 48 per week.

 

¡Solo Bueno!

 

TOP


Latin America Updates
(Major Events In Neighboring Countries)

Chile

 

You may recall that 10 years ago there was a mining accident in Chile where 33 miners were trapped by a collapse five miles into the underground mine shaft. The images of the rescue effort and the waiting families still stick in the minds of many.

 

The fact that they were still alive wasn't discovered until 17 days after the collapse when a ventilation shaft bored into the cavern where they were trapped. It took a total of 69 days to get them out. During that time they existed on emergency supplies like tinned fish. The freed miners were greeted as allstars around the world and invited to many countries and TV shows to tell their story.

 

The miners finally won a compensation claim against the state for about $100,000 each but the government has appealed the decision and the process has slowed down due to the Corona Virus. Does the government mean to say that they, or their insurance company, can't afford a total of $3.3 million for what these men went through. "C'mon man..." (I borrowed that from Joe Biden).

 

Cuba

 

Cuba's economy has been on shaky ground for some time now with shortages of many basic items in grocery and other basic needs stores.

 

Embargoes against Cuba have been in existence since the island went communist in the 1950's. A succession of sanctions were imposed by the U.S. under several presidents from Eisenhower to Bill Clinton and now Trump (2019). Supplying the island with basics not produced there has become increasingly difficult with a lack of availability of foreign trade currencies ($US, €uros) to do international purchases as international businesses are highly unlikely to accept Cuban Pesos for their goods.

 

hyu
$US, €uros Debit Cards Only Please

The Cuban government has now reacted by creating a string of "foreign currency stores", reports have it that there are a total of 62 of these special shops on the island. The new shops allow payment in $US, or €uros or other major trading currencies but, in addition, only payment by debit card is allowed.

 

Reportedly these new stores currently have full shelves and all the things missing in the standard stores and generate long lines of people waiting to get in. Recall that there are some 2,000,000 Cubans living in the United States and often send money back to their families. This is another way to get foreign exchange in a country where the average wage in Pesos is $17-30 per month (the higher number being a doctor).

 

The new system has created a rift between those that have access to the new stores and those that don't. As a press report put it: "The move has been seen as an economic divide between people across the island. On one side, there are those people who receive their salaries in Cuban pesos, on the other, there are those who have relatives abroad and are able to get money (and debit cards) transferred to them."

 

More to be revealed.

 

Nicaragua

 

In late September a bill called the “Special Cyber Crimes Law” was introduced by Sandanista legislators into the national assembly. The law can be used to prosecute citizens that, in the view of the government, "spread fake news" (wonder where they got that term?) via information or communications technology. The definition of technology for this law: “communications media and informational applications that allow the capture, production, reproduction, transmission, storage, processing, treatment and presentation of information in the form of images, voice, text or coding.” Others simply call the new law a "gag law".

 

Definition of fake news? “whoever publishes or spreads false or distorted information” OR “information that produces alarm, fear, unease in the population, or to a group or sector of it, or to a person and their family” OR where false news damages “the honor, prestige or reputation of a person or their family.” The law establishes sanctions that vary from two to ten years in jail. According to the bill, “if there are aggravating conditions, the sentence could be increased by one-third." Sounds pretty all-encompassing.

 

ert
Assembly Breakdown - Nicaragua

The legislature in Nicaragua consists of 92 deputies including a seat for the current president and one for the opposition presidential candidate in the last election. Of the other 90 seats, a wide majority, currently 70, are held by Sandanistas, President Ortega's party.

 

José Daniel Ortega Saavedra was leader of the country from 1979-1990 and first elected president in 2007. In 2014 the National Assembly, under his direction, abolished term limits so that he is now effectively president for life.

 

A few days after the law was introduce it passed with the expected 70 vote majority and is scheduled to come into force in 60 days.

 

Panama

 

Many countries these days are requiring a negative Covid-19 test result in order to be permitted to cross their border. Usually that's within 72 hours of flight time. The test is known as a Certificate of Swab test/PCR or negative antigen. Panama recently stated their policy in regard to this that the test result should be within 48 hours and also increased it to 72 hours. If these requirements are not met, the passenger will be required to submit to a rapid swab test and likely quarantined.

 

The current decree in Panama adds that, according to the result of the test, the traveler will be required to do the following:

Now that's a clear policy. And, oh yes, if you are required to do the rapid test it will cost you $50 so make sure you have your timely Certificate of Swab tests/PCR or negative antigen results with you before you board.

 

Venezuela

 

When Nicolás Maduro García took power in Caracas in 2013 it was not long before freedom-loving Venezuelans started to become expatriots. It's only gotten worse over the intervening years as their once powerful oil industry collapsed, even though they had the largest oil reserves of any country in the world.

 

The United Nations recently announced that a new plateau had been reached - 5,000,000 expatriots have left in what they now term as the "Venezuelan Diaspora". This is in a country that had only 28 million people when Maduro took office and five million is more than any single state in Venezuela. In a recent article in the Caracas Chronicles (not affiliated with the Golden Gringo Chronicles - jajaja) it was pointed out that diaspora is a good term because after World War II there was an opposite diaspora from Europe to Latin America, many to Venezuela.

 

Arepas (hmmm)

About two million of the five million new Venezuelan expats went to Colombia but many dispersed to other countries. In Costa Rica many of them settled in the Central Valley near San José (Escazú and Santa Ana). The count of Venezuelans in that area alone went from about 4,000 in the year before Maduro took power to about 15,000 now and has prompted the opening of at least three restaurants based on Las Arepas, a classic Venezuelan cuisine based on a stuffed tortilla. Buen provecho!

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

TOP

 



Rumble and Weather Talk

(Shaky Happenings and Weather Observations On or About the Pacific Rim)

 

Rumbling: Haven't heard anything specific or significant in this category but who's complaining?

 

Weather: In Costa Rica we have a very wet season (late May to early December and particularly July to November) and we have a very dry season (late December to early May).

 

We also have transition times between the two and we seem to be in one now. We are still getting regular rains, sometmes heavy, almost on a daily basis but some of the mornings are brilliant with fewer clouds, bright blue skies and strong sun. All of this while the area remains very green and lush from the rainy season.

 

I think GG is getting to like the transition periods even better than the summer (dry season).

 

¡Pura Vida!


Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Recent Quakes

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Profiles in Quepos Series

Alejandro Arquedas Monge
(Working Technology to Make Technology Work)

 

GG had been here about a year or two (let's say this story happened around 2010) when I discovered a problem with my computer hard drive that I couldn't diagnose. The damn thing had just stopped working. It's times like these when you realize how much of your life is dependent on your personal technology systems these days; losing them can lead to frustration, even panic. In this case getting the Golden Gringo Chronicles to readers was in jeopardy and that's unacceptable!

 

Alejandro Arquedas Monge

Some of my readers will understand that, being a newbie in my adopted retirement country at the time, with Spanish faculties then bordering on non-existent, I began to ask around for help. A fellow expat who had been here several years at the time said: "Go see Alejandro at Tecsa." So I did and Alejandro made it easy. He said the hard drive could be swapped out with a new one and I wouldn't lose any files; he said he had a way of transferring them all from the bad disk to the new good one.

 

And that he did; I was back in business quickly (writing GG Chronicles and books of course).

 

They Don't Call It Tech Valley For Nothing

Alejandro is 40 years old (born in 1980 when GG was already 37) and hails originally from San José. He attended a technical high school in Heredia on an extended six year technical-electronics program and graduated in the late 1990s. (In the U.S. we would probably classify that training as an Associate Degree in Electronic Engineering).

 

Upon graduation, at the age of nineteen, he was immediately chosen for a three month training program by a U.S. based company, an Intel satellite company that manufactures circuit boards. The company was located in California's Silicon Valley and he ended up staying for a year because of what Alejandro calls "their generosity" (good pay, car etc) and, of course, for his good performance. In that year he learned a lot about the technology involved with designing and making computers.

 

While he was there, another similar three month program group from Costa Rica came aboard the company. In the new group he met a young lady named Vanessa from the Central Valley of Costa Rica. He had never met her at home. And you know, its not just circuit boards that can generate a spark or electrical connection.

 

The Arquedas at the Courts

When Vanessa and Alejandro returned to San José, they became a couple and began planning their future together. They were both attracted to the beach and the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area became a target for their plans which included at that time a string of internet cafes (twenty years ago this was a booming fad). The couple never gave up their appreciation for education and continued to study computer electronic engineering related stuff at the country's major university, UCR. The internet cafe gradually faded out as a prospect.

 

Almost 20 years later the family has blossomed with two sons, Samuel age 5 and Santiago, age 10. The boys are already integrated into the business as Alejandro and Vanessa have built a playroom at their office and I'm sure they're learning the basics of the family business if by no other means than osmosis. The whole family enjoys tennis and can often be seen together at the courts (photo above).

 

Who's Got the Wider Smile?

The parents love all that the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area offers in the way of beaches, wildlife and fishing just as they had expected it would be growing up in the central valley.

 

During their early time in business they developed relationships with Gateway Computers (a growing concern at the time) and Tecsa also became the RACSA representative for the Central Pacific Region. RACSA was, and still is, the internet telecom division of the Costa Rican national electrical and telecom company but since that time the market has also opened up to private telecom companies. By 2001, at the age of 21, Alejandro was able to purchase the building which still houses their company operations and is situated along the main road out of Quepos into Manuel Antonio, about 50 meters from the Catholic Church.

 

Alejandro And One of His Technicians

GG, having been 10 years in the computer services business and then later having been a small business consultant, I had to ask my favorite question: "What do you do different or better?" Having consulted for over 100 small business companies I found this to be a crucial question which a business, small or large, must be able to answer clearly so they can focus their business strategy and marketing plan on their strengths.

 

Without hesitating Alejandro answered "Professional service, knowledgeable understanding of computers and networks and awareness of the latest developments in computer technology through continuing interchange with Universities". Great answer amigo, now the question becomes: How do you structure your business plan to take advantage of your strengths to benefit your market and customers and to the consternation of your competitors? (Sorry, once a business consultant, always a business consultant)

 

Then Alejandro said: "And we're the only place around that repairs printers." It's nice to be unique but GG had to buy a new printer recently and the damn thing cost less (U.S.$75 in Quepos) than four of the cartridges it uses. I don't know if that particular repair strength provides a rich, profitable market opportunity but being unique at something never hurt a business and it often brings you orders for other products or services (if you make it do so).

 

What I do know is that Alejandro and his family have built a thriving, responsible and capable business that can very well service our community's computer needs. They are another strong example of good, positive entrepreneurship that can be found in Quepos.

 

Buena Suerte Amigos!

___ ___ ___

 

To see profiles of other Quepos personalities go HERE.

 

 

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¿Que es Eso? Department
(What is That?)

 

 

 

 

What am I - an oversized gecko? Iguana?

 

Male or female?

 

Where did you get the pretty green tail?

 

 

 

Answer in

What's-in-a-Word

section below.

 

 

 

 

 

¡Pura Vida!


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Los Linces
(Quick Response Policing)

Much of the following information has been extracted and condensed from an extensive article that appeared in Q-Costa Rica in early October. GG found the article interesting in itself but also pertinent to the current situation that has developed in Costa Rica with regard to the blockades and the need to improve police protection.

 

Motorcycles have been used by police, largely in major cities, in the United States since 1908. As time has passed some of these brigades have grown considerably in size, particularly in those larger cities where their speed and flexibility gives them an advantage for quick response.

 

Latin American Cooperation

 

Chilean Carabineros

Many countries (in Latin American for sure) have used motorcycle mounted police for decades, including our immediate neighbor to the south, Panama. In a great example of Latin American cooperation Panama achieved their initial training in this type of policing from Chile who worked with Panama to establish a motorcycle police corps some decades ago.

 

Then in 2014, in the spirit of helping their neighbors, Panama signed an agreement with Costa Rica in which the former would help train a motorcycle corps for Costa Rica. Since then, the corps has reached 155 police including 16 women that have been trained in the techniques of this system and assigned to various communities.

 

Panamanian Linces

In Central America there is a name for this type of police; they are called Linces, the Spanish word for Lynx. The article explained the Linces name this way: The name was taken from a television series where the protagonist, who was called the Lynx, used a motorcycle and dressed in black. For this reason, in Panama, these policemen were related to the series and they began to be called the Lynxes".

 

Good name for a quick quick response team and the Linces are considered in the front line in that regard. In the Central Valley, police response is often impeded from timely arrival of police cruisers because of traffic congestion or other (legal) road obstructions. The Linces are much more capable of weaving through and around congested traffic and availing themselves of off-road skirting around obstructions. Dirt roads, gravel or pavement are all accessible by the Linces Team reducing their response time to a minimum.

 

So a new class of Costa Rican police was recruited and then trained by the Panamanians. Using a course called the Curso Internacional de Operaciones Policiales Motorizadas, they were taught to zigzag, turn, travel as a team back to back on one motorcycle, and learned how one of the officers can shoot in full gear if necessary. Over the last few years the size of these classes has risen to a current level of 100 and it is expected that the training of further Lince teams here will be handed over to Costa Rican instructors shortly. The training program lasts for three months for each group of 100 and most but not all graduate; eighty four of the latest class are expected to graduate.

 

A Costa Rican Lince (Lynx) Team

The Linces are made up of teams of two policemen (or women). The driver and companion act in concert to control the scene. While the driver navigates, the person riding in the back (either in the forward or backward position) carries a weapon (like a Sig Sauer automatic rifle) that handles any violence or potential violence. The driver, like the companion of course, also carries a pistol.

 

The Linces are not only more maneuverable but are often the first police on the scene. Most of the current Linces Corps were first assigned to Central Valley communities for that reason. In providing a much quicker response to a crime, they help to diffuse the situation before it gets even worse, often nipping the crime in the bud.

 

María Fernanda Fallas
A 2-Year Linces Veteran

So how are they doing so far? The Director of the Fuerza Publica (the national police), who is also responsible for the Linces Corps, has stated that the results of the new police so far has been excellent. He can site a number of specific cases where the Linces made a difference, particularly during "flagrante delicto" type cases, meaning those in progress. That would include things like domestic violence cases and crimes against life and property like "quebraventanas" (car window breakers).

 

The Linces Corps. is developing dedicated and capable officers. Take the lady in the photo right who is is the mother of an 8-year old daughter. She's from the (Panamanian) border town of San Vito, Costa Rica where she returns after her shift to be with her daughter and the rest of her family including her parents and brothers. María has qualified as both a leader or trailer for a Linces team but says she prefers the latter. In addition, she continues to study law and aspires to a higher rank in the Linces Corps.

 

The Director of the Fuerze Publica can and did site a number of specific cases recently in the San José area that were favorably disposed of by the Linces. Of course, being the first on the crime scene, and especially when the crime is in progress, subjects them to a higher degree of possible danger than their vehicle-bound counterparts.

 

God bless them for their service and keep them safe.

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

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Health Stuff

Note: The information given in this section is offered as news information only and does not indicate GGC confirmation or denial of the accuracy of the any treatment or a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor validity of the conclusions proffered. (How's that for a disclaimer amigos?)

 

Watching the Covid-19 Surge in Costa Rica

 

R Ratio (La tasa R) from Mid-March to October

One of the things that has recently encouraged health officials to support reopening the borders was an improvement in the "R" Ratio in the last month or so. That ratio simply is the number of newly infected cases divided by the number of resolved cases (recovered plus deaths) for any period of time. If it is over 1.0 the disease is spreading faster and if it's less than 1.0 the disease is retreating.

 

In July, August and September the R ratio was

running well above 1.0, actually hitting 1.75 two times in June. That's almost two new cases for each resolved case. Note in the graph above that in recent weeks it has decreased considerably and is headed to below 1.0.

 

The improvement is also seen in the new case load depicted in the graph to the right which shows the surge in new cases on a 5-day cumulative basis (easier to plot than a graph of single day data). The surge began in early June and peaked in September and is now declining slowly.

 

Let's hope the downward trend continues in order to finally put this thing to rest and relieve the tremendous burden on our health people.

 

Relaxing the Entry Rules

 

Over the last two months the rules on who is being allowed to enter Costa Rica and under what conditions has been changing in favor of opening up the country. First, entries from specific areas of the U.S., Europe, Central America were opened and those were broadened over the ensuing weeks. With the latest changes, including the elimination of the requirement to have a 72-hour Covid test, the border is essentially fully open by the end of November. Of the three requirements mentioned in the Broken News section above, that still leaves the Health Pass and the Covid insurance as active requirements as of this writing. Me thinks those requirements are likely to fall soon also.

 

New Assembly Building Infections

 

In the midst of debate about the problems of Costa Rica, including the Covid caused recession, the virus hit the new assembly building big time. A full session on Thursday, October 24 was interrupted by the new President of the Legislative Assembly, Eduardo Cruickshank (I love that name) who notified the august body that there were some 14 Covid PCR tests on its members that were positive. The assembly building was then shut down in the first week of its operation until Tuesday the 27th while the building was thoroughly disinfected. The count of assembly infections, including staff and operations people climbed to just above 50 when extensive testing was done.

 

Health System Adds Staff to Fight Covid

 

The national health system in Costa Rica is run by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund or, officially, the CCSS (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social). For most of us it's simply called the Caja (cah-hah). Covid-19 has stretched the health care workers, who total about 60,000, to their limit and the CCSS recently announced that an additional 4,000 full time personnel were being added to reinforce the system.

 

 

The main hires, which began in March, were in nursing staff, patient assistants, general service workers, miscellaneous and maintenance workers. Most of these people came from a group of 10,000 reserves which are part of the total 60,000 employees and are used as substitutes for regular staff who become disabled, are on vacation or are prohibited from serving for a variety of reasons. The new hires are now working full time instead of substituting.

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

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Travel Quote of the Month


¡A Cachete!


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GGC Bookshelf

The latest book to hit the market is a new book by Robert A. Normand (aka GG, and yes, this is a plug) entitled Las Esferas, Mystery Spheres of Costa Rica. Check out the cover on the list below and click on the "Read More" button to review a synopsis of the work and to order.

 

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GGC Publications is the parent organization that publishes the Golden Gringo Chronicles as well as a number of books and paraphernalia related to the Chronicles and Costa Rica. The GGC Bookshelf also includes works from a number of other authors that belong to various writers groups based in Costa Rica including the Quepos-Manuel Antonio Writers Group.

 

Here are the books currently on our bookshelf:

 

cvb uio jio
Las Esferas - English

Mariposa - Español
Mariposa - English

The Chronicles as Narrative
Read More Leer más aquí Read More Read More
gty ikl gyh drt
Small Business Guide Making Time Count Spiritual Love Connection Murder or Suicide?
Read More Read More Read More Read More
ser kio fty
Getting Around the Capital Retiring in Costa Rica Investigate Living Abroad What's the Sleuth Up To?
Read More Read More Read More Read More

gty awe There's Room for
More on the GGC Bookshelf

Keep Writing Amigos!
Casa de Doloros Overcoming Alcohol World War II True Story  
Read More Read More Read More  

 

All of the above books are available on Amazon.com and the "Read More" links above will lead you to them. You can find more detail on all of them on our GGC Publications Page.

 

GGC Products Store

 

GGC Publications also offers some accessories and paraphernalia related to the Chronicles and with Costa Rican themes, to wit:

 

T-Shirts:

 

der

 

a. Golden Gringo Chronicles with Logo,

b. Official Golden Gringo with Monkey on Banana Hammock,

c. ¡Quepo en Quepos! ("I Fit In Quepos!") with Photo of Quepos,

d. Wanna Monkey Around? - Come on Down! (shown) with Photo of White Faced Monkey,

e. It's OK to be Slothful with photo of Three-Toed Sloth.

 

The t-shirts are available in several themes, colors, styles and sizes. See them all HERE.

 

Coffee Mugs:

 

a. Golden Gringo, b. Wanna Monkey Around?, c. It's OK to be Slothfulgty

See them all HERE:

What's life without a great cup of Costa Rican coffee? And it tastes even better in a Golden Gringo Chronicles mug!

 

To see ALL the products available in the Golden Gringo Store go here: GGC Store.

 

¡Solo Bueno!

 




What's-in-a-Word
"Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn"
Benjamin Franklin

 

Answer to Que Es Eso?

 

So there we were, my Tico-friend and I enjoying lunch at one of our favorite seafood places, Sabromar on Quepos Bay, when we realized we were being watched.

 

It was indeed an Iguana and about 2 to 2-1/2 feet long. GG deferred to my Tico-friend's experience when he suggested it was a fully grown female, the green tail being the significant identifier.

 

He watched us but didn't approach, probably waiting for us to leave so she could check to see if there were any snacks to be found under our table.

 

 

Dios Te Bendiga

 

This very common saying in Latin America. In Spanish it simply means "God bless you".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

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ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

 

Restaurant: Falls Garden Cafe, Manuel Antonio

 

 

Location: The Falls Hotel, top of the mountain, across the street from "the airplane" (El Avion Restaurant) and 50 meters towards Quepos.

Hours: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.

Parking: Limited (in season, due to the hotel) in front of the restaurant.

Contacts: Tel.:2777-1115; E-mail: info@fallsresortcr.com;

Website: http://www.fallsgardencafe.com/

 

Reviewing ROMEOS: Bob N., Gaye S., Glen N., Julia S.

 

To Review Our Rating System Go Here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

 

It's hard to believe that it's been six years (October 2014) since we did a ROMEO Review here but that's what the archives say. Our group welcomes a new member, Gaye S., who we hope will join us often.

 

Once Again The ROMEO Group is Hard at Work

The restaurant is situated in back of the hotel entrance so it does dot receive the traffic noise of busy Manuel Antonio Drive (my name for the road to the beach). We selected a table in the garden area under some palms and shrubbery.

 

We were constantly entertained by a clan of iguanas consisting of one dominant male, one not so dominant male and a group of some four or five females scurrying about, the males puffing their throats out to show how handsome they are. A Titi monkey also visited our server Luis near the bar area and seemed quite at home.

 

We generally concluded that Falls Garden Restaurant offers one of the more pleasant dining experiences here because of its location in a plush garden even if the view does not include the Pacific. We gave the restaurant a composite score of 5.0/5.0 for ambiance.

 

The menu consisted of an offering of casados and various combinations of typical food (quesadillas, nachos etc.) as well as main courses including meat and fish filets. One ROMEO ordered a ceviche for a starter and shared it with all of us. It was excellent.

 

GG ordered a pan fried fish filet "ajolli" (or peppered with finely chopped garlic) and chose some potatoes and a delightful melange of fresh vegetables cooked just tender. For dessert I had pineapple crepes with a big ball of vanilla ice creme accented with raspberry sauce strips.

 

Other ROMEOS chose a beef tenderloin ("perfectly done" - photo left), a fish casado and a fish wrap. Each dish was presented artfully and demonstrated that the food was fresh, well prepared and ample in serving size.

 

The composite score for food quality came it at 4.4/5.0.

fgt.8
$$$.4
Value Index= 142

 

A gentleman named Luis served us, tipping us off about specialties and offering us a 20% discount across the board; I didn't ask if it was a Covid discount or not but it helped our rating. Our composite score for service was (a perfect) 5.0/5.0. That yielded a composite score for ambiance, food quality and service of 4.8/5.0.

 

My bill for the fish plate, the pineapple crepes and a large pineapple batido was $18 including tax and required gratuity, net of discount. Our group gave a composite score of 3.4 for cost (remember 1 is very low cost and 5 is the highest). That in turn yielded a Value Index of 4.8/3.4x100=142, the second highest Value Index we've recorded so far for Manuel Antonio (the 20% discount helped).

 

The ROMEO group can report that The Falls Garden Restaurant continues to offer very good food in a relaxed outdoor atmosphere at a very reasonable cost (at least at the moment).

 

¡Solo Bueno!

 

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Pura Vida!

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