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(506) 223-1327            Published Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 1             E-mail us    
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Pacific resorts fear they're being short-changed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourist operators and residents in two well-known Pacific towns are angry at the central government.

In Manuel Antonio the problem is a lack of water and what residents there see as inattention by water company officials.

In Tamarindo residents sent off a letter to President Oscar Arias Sánchez asked that he not abandon them. The residents reported that Arias said both Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo were lost and out of control due to overbuilding and disrespect for the environment.

The letter signed by Griet Depypere, president of the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo, said that building problems in Tamarindo were due to a failure by officials to enforce existing laws, an inefficient bureaucracy and illegal development.

A release by the association said that Arias made his comments while viewing a presentation of the proposed Punta Papagayo Regent Resort. The Papagayo project is owned and controlled by the government.

The letter also noted that E. Jorge Chavarria, the Partido Liberación Nacional candidate, has just been elected mayor of the Municipalidad de Santa Cruz in which Tamarindo is located. That's the same political party as Arias.
The association offered its help to save the natural heritage and apply the law, according to the letter, which also went to Ricardo Benavides, the minister of Turismo.

Although Manuel Antonio was cited in the response to Arias, the immediate problem there is a shortage of water and sewage problems. The target of the residents anger is not the president but the head of the national water company.

Some residents of Manuel Antonio met with Ricardo Sancho, the executive president of the Compañía Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. A local developer is offering $500,000 to jump start a project to increase the size of the area's water supply pipes, according to Matthew Cook, who maintains an environmental defense Web site.

The water project is supposed to start Jan. 21 even though the water company is short about $200,000, he said.

However, Sancho had no quick answer to the sewage problem and said that no treatment plant would be built, said Cook, who attended the meeting.

Both Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo are tourism jewels on the Pacific but they have been changed considerably in the last five years by construction and the increase in crime and drugs.


Government decrees 4% raise for its employees without negotiations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has knocked the wind from the sails of its major labor unions by setting a 4 percent increase for public employees in the first half of 2007.

The unions, including the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, have been gearing up for negotiations with the government. Albino Vargas secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said in early December that negotiators would try to close what he said was was a 9.5 percent decrease in worker purchasing power.

"The impoverishment of the salaried personnel is more than evident and objectionable," said Vargas at the time. He is better known for his
uncompromising opposition to the free trade treaty with the United States. Nearly 180,000 public employees are covered by the decree, which is the way the government fixed salaries for the second half of 2006.

Private employees benefited from a 5 percent increase in their minimum wages which became effective Monday. That increase was the product of negotiations between employers and worker representatives.

The decree, which has yet to appear in the La Gaceta official newspaper, became known Friday.

The unilateral decision by the government is expected to inflame even more union opposition to the free trade treaty and the Óscar Arias administration.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 1         

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Gunmen chase motorist,
shoot him and cause crash


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A motorist in Heredia fled when gunmen on motorcycles tried to hijack his car Friday morning but the bandits followed him, shot him and caused him to crash his vehicle headon with a truck.

The Judicial Investigating Organization identified the victim as Antonio Alfaro Arce. He was shot three times, agents said. The shooting took place in Río Segundo de Alajuela about 11 a.m. where the motorcyclists finally caught up with him. He died shortly before midnight at Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela, agents said.

Fireworks ban doesn't chill
a loud and flashy New Year


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública declared war on fireworks, confiscated large quantities from stores and from trucks and cars coming from Panamá or Nicaragua, but rockets lit up the sky Sunday night and early Monday morning.

Rockets are illegal along with nearly everything else that explodes. The primary thrust behind the police action is to protect children. About a dozen already have suffered burns this holiday season.

The summary of accidents, deaths and other tragedies asosciated with the holidays are not in yet, although Tránsito officers were prepared for a big flow of vacationers returning from the beaches Monday.

One death was that of the son of Fernando Berrocal Soto, the secuirty mininster. There are few details but the 22-year-old man died near Cóbano on the Nicoya Peninsula. The father flew there Monday.

Country Day group works
with partners in Oregon


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Roots and Shoots group of the Country Day School has participated in a third year of global service and cross-cultural communication through One World Youth Project — a global sister-school program connecting 44 schools in 17 countries. The group is paired with Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School of Salem, Oregon, in the United States.

One World Youth Project is an educational program for middle and high school youth, linking schools in the U.S. and Canada with groups from around the world together in learning partnerships. Youth work with their sister-school over the course of an academic year to explore and tackle the U. N.  development goals.

Youth of Country Day in Escazú and the Jane Goodall School communicate through online message-boards, e-mails, letters, cultural exchange packages, and monthly curriculum assignments.  Over the past four months, the youths have been learning about a goal to ensure environmental sustainability.

In the coming months Country Day students will work with the students in Oregon to design and implement a local community service project related to protecting and preserving the environment.

A.M. Costa Rica
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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 1   






U.S. grand jury indicts Alcatel exec there in cell phone deal
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A federal grand jury in Miami, Florida, has indicted a former Alcatel CIT executive on charges related to making corrupt payments to Costa Rican officials in order to obtain a mobile telephone contract from the state-owned telecommunications authority, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Department of Justice has announced.

The 10-count indictment charges Christian Sapsizian, 60, a French citizen, with conspiring to make over $2.5 million in bribe payments to Costa Rican officials in order to obtain a telecommunications contract on behalf of Alcatel, making corrupt payments, and laundering the bribes through a consultant. Sapsizian was previously charged and arrested in Miami on a criminal complaint issued Dec. 1.

Until Nov. 30 Alcatel was a French telecommunications company, whose American depositary receipts were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Sapsizian was employed by Alcatel or one of its subsidiaries for over 20 years. At the time of the conduct alleged in the indictment, he was the deputy vice president responsible for Latin America.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, the state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica, was responsible for awarding all telecommunications contracts, including mobile telephone contracts, according to the indictment.

Prior to 2000, Alcatel had been unsuccessful in obtaining mobile telephone contracts in Costa Rica, repeatedly losing to a competitor which utilized a different technology than Alcatel, said the indictment.

The indictment alleges that from February 2000 through September 2004, Sapsizian conspired with Alcatel’s senior representative in Costa Rica to make payments to a member of ICE’s board of directors, who was also an advisor to a more senior official in the Costa Rican government.

The payments were intended to cause the ICE official to exercise his influence to initiate a bid process which favored Alcatel’s technology and to vote to award Alcatel a mobile telephone contract, said the federal indictment. Sapsizian is charged with offering the ICE official 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the value of the contract in exchange for the ICE
official’s efforts in assisting Alcatel to obtain the contract. The indictment further alleges that Sapsizian was aware that the ICE official intended to share the corrupt payments with the senior government official.

Alcatel was awarded a mobile telephone contract in August 2001, which was valued at $149 million. According to the indictment, Sapsizian authorized one of Alcatel’s Costa Rican consulting firms to funnel the payments to the ICE official. Sapsizian is charged with conspiring to launder money for allegedly causing Alcatel CIT to wire $14 million in “commission” payments to the consultant.

The consultant, in turn, wire transferred $2.5 million to the ICE official. Thus, Sapsizian is charged with eight counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly causing those payments to the ICE official.

The conspiracy and corrupt practices charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The money laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Mark F. Mendelsohn and trial attorney Mary K. Dimke of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Costa Rican Fiscal General Francisco Dall’Anesse and his office provided substantial assistance to this investigation, said the federal government.

Investigations in Costa Rica have revealed that the member of the ICE board of directors who dealt with Sapsizian was José Antonio Lobo. Lobo has said that he gave some of the Alcatel money to then-president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and also transferred some to a company controlled by Rodríguez and his wife in the United States.

However, neither Lobo nor Rodríguez were mentioned by name in the U.S. grand jury indictment.

Rodríguez surrendered his job as secretary general of the Organization of American States to return to Costa Rica when the allegations came out, but Dall'Anesse had him jailed. Rodríguez subsequently has written a book blaming Dall'Anesse for a miscarriage of justice.


This is a useful expression to get attention and give emphasis
¿Y diay, que espera?
 
“What are you waiting for?” or “What do you expect?”  How often have you either been driving in Costa Rica or riding in a taxi cab waiting at a stop light when the very instant the light changes some huevón, ­ usually a taxista, ­ starts laying on his horn? What this impatient fellow is also probably saying, or sometimes even yelling, is: ¿¡Y diay, que espera!? “Hey, what are you waiting for!?
 
Back in the good old days of Costa Rica, when I was a boy, I remember overhearing my abuelita talking on the phone with one of my aunts and using this expression, only she made it more emphatic by saying: ¿¡Ydiayyy, que se puede esperar!? But in this case, what my grandmother was actually saying, in her reference to some unfortunate young neighborhood girl who had become pregnant without the benefit of nuptials was: “For goodness sake, what would you expect!?”

Of course, her exclamation got everyone's attention in the house, so as soon as she was off the phone my sister asked her ¿Y diay, abuela, quien está embarasada esta vez? “And so, grandma, who is pregnant this time?”
 
My abuela’s only reply ­ as she departed our presence with the air of righteous distain that she reserved for such circumstances ­ was: ¿De quien se espera? “Who do you expect?”
 
But my cousin who was visiting from Puntarenas was in the dark, so after grandma's departure we had to explain that she was referring to Maureen, the daughter of Don Rodrigo. She was the girl who had been dating the half-brother of my second cousin once removed, as well as my other cousin Hernan, who was the son of Don Mario who owned the pulpería (a mom-and-pop grocery store) on the corner, and since paternity could not be determined until after the birth had taken place, neither young man had yet come forward to take responsibility for the child. Ahh! said my cousin. Por supuesto. (”But of course”) ¿Y diay, que se puede esperar?
 
A few days later my sisters and I encountered Maureen at a downtown San José disco called The Underground. We were shocked to see her dancing and drinking and generally carrying on like a little puta coqueta. She came rushing over to us asking for a cigarette, but we all said we didn’t have any, though in those days we all smoked.

Even then, in those benighted days, it was fairly common

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


knowledge that a pregnant woman would be putting her baby at risk by smoking, not to mention drinking alcoholic beverages. We had all been fairly sympathetic towards the presumably hapless Maureen until then, but from that point on we were less unreservedly supportive.
 
Next morning, while my grandmother was serving the coffee, I shared with her the story of our encounter with Maureen. Y diay, ¡que barbara! she said.”My goodness, what a barbarian!” Ella puede perder el bebé. “She could lose the baby.” We both looked at each other and shook our heads.

Just so you know how the story of Maureen turned out: A few weeks later she left for the States to live with her sister and study English. When she returned to Costa Rica a little over a year later, she brought with her a healthy and happy baby boy. She and the baby’s father married, and as far as I know, lived happily ever after, though I haven’t seen her in years.
 
Y diay is an expression that doesn’t really have a direct English translation. It is essentially an exclamation that adds emphasis or draws attention to the phrase or sentence that follows it.
 
As for the verb esperar and its noun form esperanza, the chain of English equivalents seems endless. A few examples are: to abide, to await, to bide, to expect, to expect to await, to fear, to hang on, to hope, to hope for, to stay, and to wait for. The noun esperanza means hope, hopefulness, anticipation, expectancy, expectation, and prospect. So, when you learn esperar and esperanza you are really augmenting your Spanish vocabulary far beyond a couple of words.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 1      




Da Silva promises to jack up Brazil's economy 5 per cent
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva says that later this month he will announce a series of measures to stimulate the country's growth. Da Silva was sworn in for a second term Monday, pledging to Congress to make Brazil's economy grow.

Da Silva begins his final, four years in office with a record of having brought inflation under control and stabilizing the country's boom-and-bust economic cycles. But Brazil's
2.6-percent growth has lagged behind other countries in the region and is only a quarter of India's and China's.

Da Silva has pledged to increase Brazil's growth to 5 percent.

Thousands of people gathered in the rain outside the presidential palace to celebrate da Silva's inauguration. He won a landslide run-off election in October in spite of a series of corruption scandals that have plagued his Workers' Party.


2006 was a bad year for reporters covering trouble spots
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Reporters Without Borders reports that 81 reporters were killed in 2006, the highest toll since 1994.

"So, it means that there is a real danger now for many journalists, especially in Iraq, especially in Mexico, especially in the Philippines, to cover stories and report about the daily life of the people," said Vincent Brossel of the Paris-based organization.

Iraq topped the list for the fourth year in a row, with 64 journalists and media assistants killed there in 2006.

Brossel says the second most dangerous country for media was Mexico, where nine journalists were killed covering stories about drug trafficking or social violence. Meanwhile, the Philippines was third on the list, with six journalists killed.

Brossel said the one story this year he thinks did not get enough attention is the shooting death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Brossel says the international community has been slow to criticize Putin, whom he accused of not doing enough to punish the killers.

"I mean, she was killed because the killers feel that they will have lots of chances to enjoy impunity," he said. "And because 21 other journalists have been killed in Russia since Mr. Putin came to power, and nobody cared to put the culprits in jail. So, we were very shocked by the killing of Ms. Anna Politkovskaya, but it is also because we have been a little bit coward and shy to denounce the crimes of Mr. Putin."

Another area the report covers is the relatively new issue of Internet censorship. Brossel says his group is monitoring 30 cases of bloggers arrested in 2006, which he says is many more than in the past. He says the worst countries for monitoring and controlling the Internet include China, Syria, Iran and Cuba.

As for the coming year, he said, he hopes the recent death of Turkmenistan's leader and the withdrawal of an Islamic militia movement from the capital of Somalia will lead to improvements in media freedom in those two countries.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 1



Copa de Cafe photo
Camila Quesada of Costa Rica is pictured during her match with Marina Giral de Venezuela, who eventually won 6-1 and 6-2.
No surprises in early matches
of Copa de Cafe tournament


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Top-rated tennis players had no trouble in the first round of the Copa del Café Monday at the Costa Rica Country Club in Escazú.

Fernando Romboli of Brazil, rated No. 1 in the tournament defeated Bradley Klahn of the United States 6-1, 6-1.  Julia Cohen of the United States, ranked No. 1 among women, defeated Efrat Mishor of Israel 6-0 and 6-2.

The No. 2 seeds in both divisions also dispatched their rivals with little problem, according to a tournament summary.

The tournament will run until Saturday. The official inauguration is tonight.

The Copa de Cafe is a junior tennis event for boys and girls 18 years old and under. Many famous tennis stars have played in the tournment. This is the 41st year.



Sporting Event Needs Assistance
FlagMag.com Flag Football magazine will be hosting an International Flag Football Tournament, Jan. 26-29th in Santa Ana. Men and women teams from Canada, U.S.A., Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras and Panamá will take part. We are seeking host families and volunteers for the event. Anyone interested, please contact
Jim Zimolka at 506-336-3437 or e-mail at JimZimolka@Flagmag.com



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