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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Jan. 12, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 7       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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One of many homes in the affected area that are in danger of sliding down a slope. This one is in Calle Liles de Poas.
dangling house
Ken Wells photo
Expats pitch in to help quake survivors continue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats are coming to the aid of those who suffered damage in the Thursday earthquake.

Some like Ken and Monica Wells in Calle Liles de Poas have invited a displaced Costa Rican family of five into their home.

More stories . . . HERE!

Others, like members of the International Baptist Church in Guachipelin, are making donations that will go to churches in the affected area.

Any number of expats are simply sending money to designated bank accounts or contributing food and water to the various aid reception centers.

Expats and foreign tourists have good reason to be generous and grateful. Most were spared the tragedies that ravaged the Costa Rican communities north of Heredia and Alajuela centro Thursday.

The U.S. Embassy said that a few Americans were reported injured by falling debris, but none seriously. And there were no reported U.S. deaths.  About 300 tourists, including several dozen Americans, were stranded overnight in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens areas near the community of Vara Blanca, the embassy said.

However, with at least 65 persons missing, there may still be some impact in the expat community.

Between two and four Canadians are reported missing, although there is no certainty that they were buried in the many avalanches of dirt and stone that followed the quake.  The Cruz Roja still lists 47 persons as missing, but that certainly is a conservative number.

Many of the missing never will be found because thousands of tons of rock and dirt rained down on some areas.  Among these may be six missing British tourists, whose bus was located. They were believed to have been in the lower section of the La Paz Water Falls when the quake hit about 1:21 Thursday afternoon.

The area with the most damage straddles the Heredia-Alajuela provincial border east of the Volcán Poás. This is a rich agricultural area that hosted a secondary road to communities in the north. However, there are not a lot of expats living here.

But two who do live here are Mr. and Mrs. Wells.  The transplanted Californians live just a few miles south of Fraijanes.

"We were hit very hard," said Mrs. Wells. "Our house withstood the quake with minor damage. We called our architect to thank him. Most everything that could crash to the floor, did. The 80-gallon water tank ripped from the wall, along with broken pipes and ceramic tiles. The sink in our bathroom broke free also."

She said in an e-mail that their access road is  "fractured in the middle and ready to fall down a 100-foot cliff."

The Costa Rican family now living with the Wells has no home to return to, Mrs. Wells said. The children are 5 years, 3 years and 8 months. The family's situation is repeated many times in the area. The Cruz Roja said 2,316 persons were in 25
doggie rescue
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública. Guillermo Solano
Colombian helicopter crewman brings evacuees and their dogs to safety Sunday.

official shelters. Many are living in camping tents. The community of Cinchona nearby was wiped out with some residents killed. The rest abandoned the town.

The Wells family is unique in that they have set up a local charity. It is Juntos por Ninos and provides Christmas gifts and school supplies for 600 youngsters. Ken Wells noted that he was an executive on loan to United Way in Santa Rosa, California, before moving here three years ago.

He said the charity would accept donations and channel them to deserving locals.
The account at Banco National is: 200-01-006-35153-8. The SWIFT Code is BNCRCRSJ. The account is in the name of one of the charity directors, Adelaida Bogantes Rojas, said Wells.

The Cruz Roja also has accounts where it is accepting money donations.  Banco Nacional  colons:  100100-7 and dollars: 68666-7.

Like the International Baptist Church, many locations are receiving money or food donations. Among these are believed to be Unity Costa Rica and the Escazú Christian Fellowship. So is Casa Presidencial, most Cruz Roja locations and even some fire stations.
The challenge is enormous. Those residents in the affected area do not now have jobs to support themselves. Some agriculture is getting back to normal, but transportation still is uncertain. The Ángel jelly manufacturing plant is destroyed. It was near there in Cinchona where a small lunch place  was swept away with the owner, his two children and customers.

Tourism is in jeopardy. Even if the local hotels rebuild, there is the problem with the denuded hillsides.

At least 225 homes suffered some form of damage. Many were flattened. Cruz Roja conducted a house-by-house census Sunday with dogs. The confirmed death toll is 18, but there are more bodies yet to be identified and countless numbers hidden in the debris. Nearly 8,000 persons are without water. A lesser number lack electricity.

Debris has been removed from a number of roads, but some roads no longer exist and extensive work will be needed to span the areas where slides swept away highways. Meanwhile the security ministry asked that non-essential individuals stay away.

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Woman's message is that we all are children of God at protest against Israel Friday outside Centro Colón.

Our readers' opinions
Real estate story fails
to reflect market reality

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Congratulations on your outstanding coverage of Thursday's earthquake.  It's the most up-to-date, complete coverage I've found online, in English or Spanish.  Your entire staff deserves kudos for its professionalism and hard work.
On the other hand, your article "Cloudy Real Estate Market Not Seen As A Firesale" is, in my opinion, absolute garbage.  It appears to me that the staff writers responsible for this article are not knowledgeable about real estate and have relied primarily on sources within the real estate industry who have a vested interest in being optimistic and, in some cases, self-delusional.
For example, you report that "Sales in the Central Valley and San José area are slow but steady. Prices may have come down slightly."  How did you come to this conclusion?  From real estate brokers trying to project an attitude of optimism and confidence?  Did you make any attempt to verify actual sales data at the Registro Nacional?  I think you'll find that there have been very few sales, and that those that have actually closed are either at deeply discounted prices or under unusual circumstances.

Sellers who haven't drastically reduced their asking prices because they don't need to sell and are "willing and able to wait for a buyer" are living in a fantasy world, fueled by the same sort of naive optimism that your article promotes and encourages.  You haven't done your readers a service with this sloppy reporting.
Jim Scarborough

Comments on terrorism
misplaced and uninformed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was most disturbed by Mr. Sartuga's uninformed and inflammatory response to one of the many market insights I shared with A.M. Costa Rica.  I am not in the least sympathetic to the minor anxiety which it created for him for a few fleeting hours.  After eight incident-free years, ignoring the possibility that the increased frequency and severity of terrorist actions throughout our world might soon witness another tragedy in the Northeast U.S. is not only naive but somewhat delusional.

Not only did 9/11 occur in my hometown, where my extended family and lifelong circle of friends reside, but 100 yards and directly below my former home in Lower Manhattan.  As the below articles indicate in words and pictures, the devastation of Al Qaeda's most historic attack on the U.S. homeland haunted me both visually and viscerally for years after the actual event, and will for the rest of my life.
Once I became able to return to my home and remove the apocalyptic dust from every inch of it, it became unsalable for quite some time, and I was forced to remain. In the two years that followed, I observed the daily cleanup of the WTC site from start to finish.  I watched dozens of funeral processions, which routinely occurred every time a rescue worker uncovered the partial remains of one of those who lost their lives.
As the below articles will also demonstrate, I poured significant personal resources into the creation of a memorial to those who lost their lives in 9/11, enabling their families to heal themselves of grief.  The "Ascent" memorial bronze was unveiled across the street from the WTC site and is permanently installed in the chapel at the base of New York's Citicorp Center.  The base is engraved with the signatures of hundred's of family members who suffered loss and will forever contain their private notes to lost loved ones.
I sincerely hope that you or your loved ones never have to experience what any of us directly impacted by 9/11 did.  My comment was merely to suggest that if a large population of people again falls victim to comparable events, many will likely seek to relocate to the terrorism- and military-free country in which we fortunately live.
I would demand an apology for his infantile and ignorant outburst but it would be meaningless to me.  If he is decent and rational enough to regret his comments, please instead channel that energy into selflessly helping strangers who have suffered immeasurable loss, as I have.

Marc Schweitzer
President, Costa Rica Mortgage

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 7

dangling houses
Photo by Ken Wells
Buildings are close to collapse at the end of the precipice advanced by the quake
Finding possible location of bodies is just part of the problem
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Finding the remains of a battered vehicle is just half the battle, Colombian rescue workers found Sunday. Getting access to the wreck is not that easy.

The rescue workers were part of a team of six from the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana who came to help after the earthquake. They spent Saturday evacuating tourists and residents of the affected communities.

Sunday they sought out places where bodies are presumed to be trapped. One of these is in the hard-hit community of  Cinchona where at least one car is half way down a slope and buried by hundreds of tons of dirt.

Two of the Colombians are pilots, and the other four members of the team are trained in rescue. One dangled from the Colombian Black Hawk helicopter in an effort to gain access to the crumpled car.  He worked with a member of the Costa Rica Cuerpo de Bomberos, but they retreated after analyzing the danger of the rock and dirt above.

The said they would try again today.

In addition to the Colombian team, four U.S. helicopters and 34 individuals from Joint Task Force-Bravo, Honduras, are providing support in the stricken area.

The task force began flying search and rescue missions Saturday in coordination with the national emergency Commission, according to the U.S. Southern Command. The crews evacuated 90 people, including two wounded
dangling colombia
Ministero de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solono

Colombian soldier tries to enter vehicle in Cinchona

victims, in the vicinity of San Miguel de Sarapiquí Saturday and continued their search for victims Sunday, the command said.

The Joint Task Force-Bravo team includes U.S. Army and Air Force aviation crews, rescue, medical and support personnel.  Joint Task Force-Bravo also responded to flooding near Limón at the end of November, the Southern Command noted.

Environmental consequences of quake reported to be grave
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The environmental impact of Thursday's earthquake were very grave, according to a team of experts who toured the area Friday. Thousands of hectares of primary and secondary forest were thrust to the river bottoms below and mountains and volcanoes adjacent to the area of the epicenter lost parts of their external walls, said a report.

The report by a team from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said that both walls of the canyon of the Río Sarapiquí gave way in areas dozens of meters to hundreds of meters in size as a result of the quake's ground wave, and that much of the canyon has been denuded to its substrata.

All the soil and organic matter, such as trees and shrubs has widened the bed of the river and other streams and some new water courses have been created, the report said. Many of these are now filled with mud and organic matter, the report added.

The experts also reported on the impact of the quake on the roads of the area. Many just dropped away to valleys below. The public works, including the asphalt roadbed, the utility poles and wires and private construction has all been buried amid the mud and rocks below, they said. They speculated that many persons were trapped as these hundreds of meters of roadways gave way.

They also speculated that there was heavy damage to agricultural fields, pastures and forests. The
sarapiqui fault map
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico/E. Duarte
Local of the Sarapiquí fault according to geological experts who studied the area of Thursday's earthquake.

socio-economic impact cannot be calculated, the experts said.

In a second report from the same institution, volcano experts said that there was little chance that the activity of the Poás volcano has been increased by the earthquake nearby.   There was a momentary change in the gas output of the volcano witnessed by experts in the crater at the time of the quake Thursday afternoon. The volcano report attributed this to the seismic wave from the quake passing through the hydrothermal network of the mountain.

However, the experts did recommend that tourists avoid the volcano, not because of the possibility of eruption but because of the state of the access roads.

Police block off access to the national emergency commission complex
because a storage structure fire Friday put out black columns of toxic smoke. Daniel Gallardo, commission chief, said the fire would not hamper rescue efforts for quake victims. About 5,000 packaged meals and hundreds of foam mattresses were consumed.

bodega fire
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 7

Importers can seek part of country's duty-free quotas
From The CAFTA Report

Companies that plan to bring potatoes, onions, and other restricted foodstuffs into Costa Rica this year, have to apply for a piece of the quota, according to the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

While 80 percent of the products imported into Costa Rica from the free trade countries are free of duties after Jan. 1, a number of products still have restrictions on the amount that may be imported duty free.  Among these are whole potatoes, which has a limit of 318 metric tons. Frozen cut potatoes for french fries has a limit of 3,046 metric tons.

Those companies who wish to take advantage of the duty-free importation of such products have to complete paperwork at the ministry. The rule is first-come, first-serve.
Also available are the rights to import up to 1,400 metric tons of pork and 318 metric tons of whole onions. All the products have to have the United States as a point of origin, according to the treaty.

Other products involved in the distribution of quotas are ice cream (174 metric tons), powdered milk (232 metric tons), cheese (475 metric tons) and 6,000 metric tons of rice.

Under a separate allotment, firms also can import up to 54,000 metric tons of U.S. rice.

There also is a provision to import more than 2,070 metric tons of chicken breasts from the Dominican Republic as well as  2,200 metric tons of powdered milk.

Details on the importation process are available at the ministry.

Christmas bird count locates 98 species at Turrialba campus and in mountains
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Participants in the 2008 Audubon Society Christmas bird count managed to locate 98 species at the Cartago campus of the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza and the Corredor Biológico Volcánica Central Talamanca.

Also those participating in the country managed to locate 880 resident and migratory individual birds, said the
institution known as CATIE.

The count is not nearly a record because some 314 different species of birds have been seen in and around the campus, according to data base reports, said the institution.

Each year from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 bird experts and amateurs all over the world participate in the count to get an idea of the changes in bird populations. This is the first year that CATIE was involved in the Christmas count.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 7

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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Calderón to visit Bush
for talks on drugs, gangs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón are expected to meet in Washington this week to talk about drug gangs and related violence.

A White House statement said Bush will welcome Calderón to the White House Tuesday. The statement says the leaders will discuss their countries' joint effort to battle organized crime.

They are also expected to discuss the Merida Initiative. The initiative is a joint effort to fight cross-border crimes, such as drug-trafficking and gang violence.

Mexico and the United States held high-level talks during an inaugural meeting of the Merida Initiative in December. Last month, the United States also released the first part of a $465 million aid package to support Mexico's fight against drug cartels.

About 4,000 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, despite President Calderon's deployment of 36,000 troops throughout the country to battle drug gangs.

World Court to again see
case of consular access

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations' highest court will decide Jan. 19 if a Mexican claim that the United States has failed to grant consular access to Mexican inmates on death row should result in a review of such cases. 

In 2004, the World Court said the U.S. had violated international law for having failed to inform 51 Mexican inmates of their right to consular access and assistance during trial. The court also ordered the U.S. to review the cases.

Under the 1963 Vienna Convention, foreign nationals have the right to speak with their country's consulate after their arrests.

Last July, the court ruled the United States should do everything possible to stop the imminent executions of five Mexicans. The southwestern state of Texas executed one of the five, Jose Medellin, in August.

Texas authorities said Medellin's arrest, trial and sentencing complied with state, national and international laws, and there was no reason to stop the execution. Medellin was convicted of rape and murder.

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President George Bush overstepped his authority by ordering Texas to comply with the 2004 international court ruling and re-open its case against Medellin. 

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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