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(506) 2223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 8       E-mail us
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Five days of mourning declared
Quake's damage estimated to be about $100 million

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The preliminary estimate of the damage inflicted by Thursday's earthquake is $100 million, Casa Presidencial said Monday. The death toll rose to 17 with the recovery of three more bodies in the community of Cinchona. And the president declared five days of national mourning through Friday.

Consequently a number of activities were postponed, including the Fiesta de Palmares, which was to start Wednesday. It will start Jan. 21.

The national emergency commission said that 23 persons still are reported as missing.  The Judicial Investigating Organization said that 71 persons once reported as missing have turned up.

Among those who have not are five British tourists, Jeremy Keith, Mirie Gordon, Daniel Maready, Rafael Fay and Simon Williams, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. They were believed to be near the foot of the La Paz waterfall when the canyon walls caved in at the peak of the 6.2 magnitude quake.

Several Canadians who were reported missing have since turned up.

Cinchona was a bad place to be at 1:21 p.m. Thursday. A handful of individuals were in a small soda or eating place when the quake hit. The shambles of the soda yielded two more bodies Monday. One was identified as Julio César Rojas Hidalgo. The second body was awaiting identification, but it probably was José Roberto Vargas Vargas, who was reported to be missing but also a customer at the eating place. Three other bodies already had been recovered.

Elsewhere in Cinchona, rescue workers extracted the body of Rafael Herrera Esquivel from his battered Yaris. The man, a salesman, and his car were swept off the road by a landslide provoked by the quake. He was buried halfway down a slope, and rescue workers had to dangle from helicopters to get access to the vehicle.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said it continued a house-by-house census Monday in Corazón de Jesús, San Miguel de Sarapiquí, Cariblanco and Ujarrás. So far 16 teams of workers have counted 251 homes destroyed and 185 with moderate damage, the commission said. They checked 518 homes, officials said.

Some 2,248 individuals still were housed in emergency shelters, although others were in private homes with friends and families.

Some 128,135 persons were affected in some way in 61 communities, the commission said.

Officials hope to obtain land on which to relocate those who llived in the hardest-hit communities.
supplies
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Visitors leave supplies for the quake victims at Channel 7 in La Sabana, one of many collection points.

The $100 million figure includes both private and public losses, but it does not include losses to tourism, agricultural production or property that might be in jeopardy as a result of the quake.

In addition to a period of national mourning, President Óscar Arias Sánchez issued a declaration of an emergency for the following cantons: Alajuela, Grecia, Poás, Alfaro Ruiz, Valverde Vega, Heredia, Barva, Santa Bárbara and Sarapiquí.  The declaration helps officials put together money from national institutions and ministries to apply to the disaster.

During the period of mourning, the nation's flag will be flown at half staff.

In some cases, quake refugees are being housed in  camping tents in open areas. Others have less shelter. These were expected to be affected by plunging temperatures overnight. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said the mercury might dip to 8 degrees C., some 46 degrees F.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad reported Monday that Ruta 126 between La Virgen de Sarapiquí and Vara Blanca is going to have to be rebuilt. Large sections of the road way fell into the valley. Officials are trying to establish an alternate route.

In the section from Los Cartagos north to Vara Blanca there are about three kilometers of slides.
Officials have heavy machinery there clearing the road, and they said they hope to have the route open to a hotel parking lot by Wednesday so cars stranded there can be extracted.

Some bridges have collapsed on this route. One is at El Ángel, another is at the Seca waterway and the third is at Colonia Carvajal in San Miguel de Sarapiquí.

Other routes are open with some delays due to downed bridges and the remains of some slides. Some temporary bridges are being installed.


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Second newspage
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 8

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Residency experts

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Physicians and surgeons

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Real estate agents and services

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4815-5/24/09
Robbers have a bad day
at Desamparados heist


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four robbers stuck up a business in Desamparados Monday afternoon and got about a million colons, about $1,800. But after that the situation went downhill drastically. In the end one robbery suspect was detained and two suspects ended up dead outside the robbery scene.

The Fuerza Pública said that the robbery was in La fila de Desamparados. Four armed men entered the business and threatened the owner with firearms.

Unbeknown to the robbers, a passer-by saw what was going on and alerted police. But before police arrived, the robbers tried to leave on two motorcycles. It was then the passer-by pulled his own weapon and began firing on the bandits. One suspect died of a bullet wound to the head.

Another suspect gunned his motorcycle but failed to notice another vehicle in his path. He died in the subsequent accident.

A third suspect ended up in the street wounded. From him police who arrived a few minutes later confiscated a firearm and a bullet proof vest. He was hospitalized.

The fourth individual managed to escape.

The passer-by was not identified, but he was not taken into custody.


Our readers' opinions
Costa Rica market different
than that in the United States


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to Jim Scarborough's rebuke of your real estate analysis, Mr. Scarborough is assuming that the real estate markets here are nothing more than a microcosm of what is occurring in the States.

And perhaps in a small way this is true.   We DO have Americans and others here who have been affected by the credit crisis which is affecting much of the world.  And many of these people are, in fact, liquidating below purchase price or replacement value. 

But the facts that are being ignored are these:

1. Ticos do not care, for the most part, what is happening in the States.   They do not follow international news.   What they care about, and what they know, is that the real estate market in Costa Rica has followed a very predictable pattern for the last several decades.  

Inflation and time are the factors which rule the local  real estate markets here.

2.  Any way one analyzes the markets here, supply and demand rules.   And, while demand is down, and, in some areas, supply is up, these factors are not prevalent everywhere in the country.

In short, there are pockets of the country where oversupply exists, and liquidations are taking place. But there are other areas where Ticos rule and the market IS static.   So overall we have a real estate market, perhaps in transition, perhaps static, perhaps changing.   Time will tell.   

BUT, the markets here in Costa Rica are NOT a knockoff of the United States or any other country, for that matter.   That is fact.
Randy Berg
San Miguel de Grecia


Left-leaning show fails
to be critical of Hugo Chávez


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A Colorado reader said in a letter to A.M. Costa Rica that Hugo Chavez is not the darling of the U.S. left.

There is a radio-TV show on public radio-TV in the U.S. called "Democracy Now." This show is a very prominent left wing political venue here in the U.S. It is hosted by Amy Goodman. She has repeatedly covered Hugo Chávez on this program and never once have I heard her be critical towards Mr. Chávez or his policies.

She broadcasts many of Mr. Chávez's speeches that blast the U.S. and President Bush, a president very few of us are fond of or agree with on much of anything anymore.
The tone on this radio-TV show is very much in favor of Hugo Chávez and his socialist regime.

If Hugo Chavez is not the darling of the left as the Colorado reader states then why does prominent U.S. left wing media such as "Democracy Now" not be critical of Mr. Chavez and question his motives and policies?
Michael Protiva
Santa Fe, New Mexico


He's angry at letter writer

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Having read Friday’s letter from Dennie Sartuga, I am now as angry at him as I could be. I know Marc Schweitzer, and he and I were both in New York when the trade centers fell. Marc was LIVING across the street and I was on Long Island.

For Mr. Sartuga to suggest that anyone who was there would encourage or support another attack, is a fool. WE WERE THERE. . . , and I take the utmost offense to your smearing of my acquaintance.
Hunt Marckwald
New York

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 8



Costa Rica still leads Latin countries in freedom index
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports.

The status of freedom in nearby countries is exactly what one would expect. A survey released Monday by Freedom House gave a failing grade to Cuba and so-so evaluations for Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Colombia.

Costa Rica continued its top evaluation as a electoral democracy.

Freedom House is the U.S.-based democracy monitoring group. Its report said that global freedom is on the retreat around the world for a third consecutive year. The group's annual survey covered the state of political rights and civil liberties in 193 countries.

The annual Freedom House survey assigns each country one of three grades: "free," "partly free" or "not free".

Costa Rica got a top score, 1s both in political rights and civil liberties.

Cuba got the lowest grade, a 7, in political rights and a 6 in civil liberties. It was judged not free, the only Western Hemisphere country to attain that low ranking.

Guatemala (4 and 3) was judged partly free, as were Honduras (3 and 3), Nicaragua (4 and 3), Venezuela (4 and 4) and Colombia (3 and 4). Even Haiti (4 and 5) was judged partly free.

Freedom House, using its numerical rankings, found that the number of countries measured as "free" in 2008 stands
freedom graph
Freedom House graphic
Quick summary of Western Hemisphere freedom

at 89, one fewer than last year. Setbacks for freedom were numerous and across the board. The regions with the largest decline were sub-Saharan Africa and the non-Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union.

In Africa, 12 countries, including Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Congo and Zimbabwe, suffered setbacks amid ethnic conflicts, increasingly authoritarian presidents and military coups. Several areas in the former Soviet Union ranked even lower, notably Russia and Georgia.

Freedom House Director of Research Arch Puddington says the former Soviet Union is the only region that has shown a steady decline during the past decade.

The Freedom House report looks to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to engage in high diplomacy to support and defend freedom around the world. It adds that the incoming Obama administration will need to develop creative strategies to deal with what it calls "increasingly assertive antagonists to democracy."


In an emergency, it's time to send in the clowns!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The house gets swept away. Relatives are on the missing list. The shelter is cold and impersonal. But all that is forgotten when the clowns come.

In this case, the clowns are part of the Cruz Roja Juventud, a 4-year-old program to lift the spirits of those involved in natural disasters and other trying situations. In the case of Thursday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake, some 20 members of this group are at work bringing laughter to youngsters from the stricken area around Volcán Poás.

The project is called Retorno de la Alegría or "bringing back the joy." The target is the estimated 300 youngsters housed in shelters who may have no idea what is in their future.

The clowns are between 16 and 20, ages at which the   Cruz Roja volunteers can relate to youngsters involved in the emergencies.
cruz roja clowns
Cruz Roja photo
Face painting is one way to bring back the joy



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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!



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fourth news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 8


Third generation cell phone contract finally awarded
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has awarded a contract for third generation cell phone lines to the Chinese Huawei Technologies. The decision was expected because the Chinese firm was the low bidder in an offering last November.

This is the deal where the telecom company managed to save some $235 million by repeating the bid offering, in part at the request of President Óscar Arias Sánchez.
When the first round of bids were opened in August a consortium composed of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
 and Huawei Technologies Costa Rica, S.A. was the sole bidder with a price of $583 million. That was more than double what the phone company estimated for the job.

The second time around, two other firms joined in the bidding. ZTE Corp. bid  $446.9 million, and Consorcio Ericsson bid $340.9 million. Both were much higher than the Chinese bid.

The new contract envisions 950,000 new cell lines by the last part of this year. The new system will allow users to operate their cell telephones as if they were computers hooked to the Internet.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 8


A.M. Costa Rica
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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Statistics
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.


Mexico's Calderón meets
with Obama in Washington


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has held talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, in Obama's first meeting with a foreign leader since his election in November.

President-elect Obama said he and President Calderón discussed immigration, cross-border security and other topics during their lunch Monday at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington. 

The president-elect said they discussed how to have a comprehensive immigration strategy that ultimately strengthens both countries.  Calderón said the more secure Mexico is, the more secure the United States will be and that both nations need to work together to fight organized crime.

Calderón has waged a battle against drug traffickers in Mexico since taking office in 2006.  In spite of the effort, drug violence has soared.  Mexican officials say some 5,700 people were killed last year in drug-related violence.

Incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president-elect pledged to find ways to work with México to reduce the violence and stop the flow of arms from the United States.

Gibbs said Obama also expressed a commitment to upgrading the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Obama has said the U.S. should renegotiate the agreement with Canada and México to include tougher labor and environmental rules.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, trade between the U.S. and Mexico has quadrupled to about $350 billion a year.

Obama said the discussions with Calderón also covered the global financial crisis and its impact on Mexican and U.S. businesses.

There has been a long-standing tradition of incoming U.S. presidents meeting with Mexico's president prior to being sworn in, and Gibbs says Monday's meeting was in keeping with that tradition. Obama aides have said the meeting underscored the important relationship between the U.S. and México.

U.S. President George Bush will welcome Calderón to the White House today.

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