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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Country Clearance for Codel Costello

VZCZCXYZ0032
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0160/01 0591430
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281430Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9484
INFO RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 5199

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000160

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR H, WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV ETRD ECON CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: COUNTRY CLEARANCE FOR CODEL COSTELLO

REF: STATE 19699

1. Embassy San Jose is pleased to grant country clearance to the
Congressional Delegation led by Congressman
Jerry F. Costello. The other members of the delegation are: Rep.
Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL); Rep. Henry E. Brown
(R-SC); Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA); Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Mr.
Nick Sabatini, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, FAA and
Ms. Janice McKinney, Asst. Director, Office of Interparliamentary
Affairs; Committee Staff includes: David Heymsfeld, Jimmy Miller,
Stacie Soumbeniotis, Holly Woodruff Lyons and Christa Fornarotto;
Army escorts to include: Major Jeremy Glauber, Dr. Deborah Omori,
Sgt. Will Reinhart, and Sgt. Hermann Thomas who will be in Costa
Rica from March 1-4, 2008. The purpose of this visit is to inspect
commercial aviation maintenance facilities in Costa Rica and confer
with relevant GOCR officials.

2. Control Officer: Robert B. Andrew, office (506) 519-2253, cell
(506) 824-0955 and Mark E. Kissel, office (506)519-2273, cell
(506)838-7531. The Embassy after-hours emergency phone number is
(506) 220-3127.

3. Accommodations: Travelers will be staying at the Hotel Real
Intercontinental. The per diem rate for San Jose is $118.00 for
lodging, and $78.00 M&IE.

4. Transportation: CODEL will be provided transportation. The
following is the standard guidance re use of public transporation.

The only taxis available at the airport are the Taxi Aeropuerto
orange taxis found inside the arrival hall. Tickets for the orange
taxis are sold at a ticket booth located immediately inside the
arrival hall exit doors. Fares (payable in U.S. dollars or local
currency) vary according to destination but the cost of a standard
orange taxi ticket to the Embassy is $12, to the Intercontinental
Hotel is $14 and to downtown San Jose is $12. Vans are also
available at increased cost. If you miss the ticket counter or
otherwise need assistance with orange taxi service, the company has
an individual posted curbside from where the orange taxis are
dispatched. Taxi Aeropuerto also offers pick-up service and
transportation to the airport for departing passengers. Reservations
can be made 24 hours a day by phoning (506) 221-6865.

Elsewhere in San Jose, official taxis are considered safe when using
standard security precautions. Official taxis have a yellow
triangle on the door, an identification number, a taxi light on the
roof of the car, and generally have working meters. Ask if the
meter is functioning before entering the cab. If the meter is not
functioning, the cost of the fares should be negotiated prior to
entering the cab. Official taxis are also easily obtainable from
hotels.

Unofficial taxis come in all shapes and sizes and should be avoided.


5. Public Affairs: The Embassy Public Affairs Office
(506-519-2287) is the Embassy's designated point of contact with the
press and will handle any media issues in coordination with CODEL.

6. Travel documents/Threat assessment/Local conditions: All
official visitors must travel with passports, preferably official or
diplomatic. Without a valid passport, a visitor lacks official
status in the eyes of the Costa Rican Government. However, no
repeat no visa is necessary.

Important - Please note: The Costa Rican government recently
instituted a requirement that persons traveling to Costa Rica from
certain countries in South America and Sub-Sahara Africa must have a
valid yellow fever vaccination. Those affected South American
countries are: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana and
Venezuela. Please refer to our Embassy Internet website for more
information at http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/cs/.

Dengue fever is present throughout Costa Rica, as is it in most of
Central America. Dengue is a severe, flu-like illness spread by
day-biting mosquitoes. There have been many cases in San Jose, but
most occur in the warmer lower-lying areas of the country because
more mosquitoes are found there. There is no vaccination for
dengue. Treatment is limited to reducing discomfort. It is
strongly recommended that insect repellents containing DEET be used,
long pants and long sleeve shirts be worn, as well as protection by
window and door screens.

During this time of heightened security alerts, all travelers should
consult the Department's website for the latest public announcements
or other safety notices at www.travel.state.gov or
http://sanjose.usembassy.gov/uscitizen.html.

Costa Rica is currently rated as a "high" crime threat post. The
increasing use of violence during the commission of a street crime
is a threat to all visitors. Travelers are urged to exercise
caution, as in any large city. Local law enforcement agencies do
not act according to U.S. standards and have limited capabilities.
Jewelry should not be worn on the streets. Large amounts of cash
should not be displayed. The downtown area of San Jose should be
avoided at night because of the increase of criminal activity that
occurs in this area.

Credit card fraud and credit card "number skimming" is a rapidly
growing crime. Visitors should avoid using debit cards for
point-of-sale purchases, as a skimmed number can be used to clean
out an account. Visitors should check their credit card accounts
frequently.

Visitors are advised to avoid unofficial moneychangers who may offer
better rates but who often trade in counterfeit currency. The
present rate of exchange is approximately 493 Costa Rican colones to
one dollar. Accommodation exchange is available at a comparable
rate at the airport.

Visitors should exercise caution if they will be driving in Costa
Rica. The combination of poor road conditions, erratic driving, and
pedestrian and animal traffic make driving very treacherous. Costa
Rica has one of the highest accident rates per automobiles in the
world. The Embassy strongly recommends against driving outside of
the San Jose area at night.

Vehicles should not be left unattended or packages left visible
inside them.

Costa Rica is an earthquake zone and periodically experiences
significant tremors.

Visitors should be careful not to eat peanuts or products made from
peanuts grown in Costa Rica because they may harbor aflatoxin, which
is suspected in the causation of liver cancer.

7. Personal Computers: Please be advised that State Department
regulations prohibit installation or use of privately-owned
computers in any State Department building. Visitors must notify
the Regional Security Office in advance if they intend to use U.S.
Government-owned portable computers in the Chancery.

Brennan

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