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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 10        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Brave highway workers take a siesta under the shade of la Sabana's trees. The men have their heads on a train track rail that serves as a pillow.
brave workmen
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Sabana Sur's trees will not be cut for road project
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This country is great for trees. The value of such species is not just for Arbor Day here. Many expats have learned this when they were informed that they needed a permit even to cut a tree on their own property.

So there was general dismay when the transport ministry said it would chop down a line of trees along the north side of the old road to Escazú in Sabana Sur. The ministry and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said the current two-lane highway would be widened and that the trees would have to go.

But a spokesperson for the road building agency, Adriana Gamboa, said Wednesday that workmen would spare those trees. The widening project is from the Universal store on the east to the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería on the west. The road is one of perpetual bottlenecks.

The engineer in charge of the project has said that a few trees might have to go, but certainly not the whole line, said the spokesperson.
trees in Sabana
Trees hold down the north side of the highway.

A right-of-way strip already is in public hands  along the south side of the roadway, and that land will be incorporated for widening.

Some environmental groups had moved to halt the cutting via legal means.

Weighty books will be delivered soon in metro area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's not a lot of plot, but there is a great cast of characters. And there is a bit of yellow journalism.
The topic, of course, is the Guía Telefónica Oficial 2009, which is about to be distributed in the metropolitan area.

The guide actually is two volumes. The first is the white pages, a listing by province of fixed telephones. The second volume is the commercial guide or yellow pages, listing those who have paid for a listing.

The guides are the product of Radiográfica Costarricense S. A., the Internet company, which is a subsidiary of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The companies said Wednesday that some 5,000 Cruz Roja volunteers would be distributing the guide, starting with the metro area. Distribution will extend little-by-little to the rest of the country. Traditionally telephone subscribers make a small donation when the guide is delivered.
The 2008 guide ran to more than 1,230 pages, and the printed version may be an endangered species. If The New York Times is having trouble maintaining its daily printed edition, can the telephone book be far behind?

The Internet already has yellow pages at, and the white pages do not include cellular numbers. There also are competitors to the governmental agencies' products.

This year the telecom companies are sweetening the deal by adding discount coupons and a special tourism guide, they said in an announcement. In addition there are maps this year for locating various businesses.

The guides were put together by Danaranjo S.A., a specialist in telephone book production.

Those distributing the books will be wearing blue jackets and hats with the logos of both the Cruz Roja and of Radiográfica Costarricense, the companies said.

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High court orders freeze
on Parque Baulas building

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered a halt to construction in the vicinity of the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas and has annulled the environmental permits issued on properties there.

The court also ordered the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicacion to continue with the expropriation of property there.

In addition, the court ordered a detailed study of the conditions in the area which seem to extend beyond the park and its 500-meter buffer zone. The Poder Judicial released the decision Wednesday.

The park on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula has been controversial. The government has failed to expropriate all the land for the park and development has continued. Land boundaries have been disputed.

The court was responding to an appeal filed by a woman identified by the last names of Padilla Gutiérrez and others.

The court also ordered the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental not to issue any more environmental viability permits on properties inside the park. Such permits are required for construction.

The Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental, its parent ministry, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados and the municipalities of Santa Cruz, Nandayure, Hojancha, Nicoya and Carrillo were ordered to do the impact study. They were told to look at the impact of construction and tourism and urban development in the park's buffer zone and develop measures to evaluate if more expropriations are needed.

They were told to look at the impact of noise, the lights, the use of water by humans, sewage and the presence of humans on the entire ecosystem of the area and also on the leatherback turtles that nest there. The court set a deadline of six months for the study. The freezing of permits and construction is to last at least until the study is done. The Contraloría General de la República also has asked to investigate the case.

Passport file snooper
admits his guilt in court

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A second former State Department employee pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally accessing hundreds of confidential passport application files, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The ex-employee, Dwayne F. Cross, 41, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., to a one-count criminal information charging him with unauthorized computer access.

According to court documents, from August 2001 through February 2008, Cross served as an administrative assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services, Children's Issues at the State Department. He returned to the State Department in March 2008 as a contract employee working as a contract specialist for the acquisitions office.

According to information contained in plea documents, Cross admitted he had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of his employment, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System, which contains, among other data, all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The imaged passport applications contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal information including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse’s name and emergency contact information.

These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties, the Justice Department said.

In pleading guilty, Cross admitted that between January 2002 and August 2007, he logged onto the database and viewed the passport applications of more than 150 celebrities, actors, musicians, comedians, models, politicians, athletes, members of the media, family members, friends, associates and other individuals. Cross admitted that he had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that his sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity, the Justice Department said.

Cross is the second former State Department employee to plead guilty in this continuing investigation. On Sept. 22, Lawrence C. Yontz, a former Foreign Service officer and intelligence analyst pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing hundreds of confidential passport files. Yontz was sentenced Dec. 19 to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. Sentencing for Cross is scheduled for March 23.

Public salaries going up

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employees will be getting a 6.9 percent pay raise for the first half of 2009. The increase was set by an agency in the Ministerio de Trabajo, and officials said the raise reflects the increase in the consumer price index.

Private employees already have gotten a 7 percent increase in their minimum salaries, an increase that takes effect with the first paycheck of the year Thursday.

Escapee finally detained

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A murderer who escaped from the Tribunal de Heredia on the day he was to be sentenced finally was arrested Wednesday. He is Michael Rafael Aburto Hernández.

He was arrested in a slaughter house in Los Sauces, Guararí, Heredia, where he fled when confronted by police. He escaped a month ago.

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bridge work in disaster area
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photos
           Temporary bridge over the Río Ángel                              Span over the Río Poás withstood the quake
Arias assembles committee to oversee quake relief drive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration created a high-level committee Wednesday to handle the money donated to help earthquake victims. The members are heads of various ministries and institutions.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez said that the committee would provide absolute transparency for the money that was raised and would handle the funds more efficiently.

Meanwhile, the government is aggressively seeking funds from outside the country. Arias noted that the United States has provided $50,000 as well as four helicopters, crews and support personnel, but he said he would ask for more. China donated $100,000.

Meanwhile, Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, had been invited to the United States to discuss drug and human trafficking with officials of the U.S. Southern Command. But she said she would make a side trip to the State of New Mexico to enlist the aid of engineers to help with the reconstruction of roads and homes.

Karla González, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, said that some 10 kilometers (six miles) of Ruta 126 had vanished and that there were more than 30 kilometers (19 miles) of highways in the earthquake zone that had been affected.

She said Ruta 126 is open from the south to Cinchona, thanks to some new stretches carved into the mountains. Other sections also have been fixed, mainly so farmers can get their products to market. This includes highways around  Poás, Colonia del Toro, Sarapiquí and Fraijanes, she said.

Clara Zomer, minister of Vivienda, said 500 homes had been affected.

The national emergency commission put the number higher
  and reported Wednesday that 346 homes were destroyed and 478 were damaged in some way. More than 2,300 persons remain in shelters, many with no home awaiting their return. Many are now unemployed.

The public works ministry also reported Wednesday that 25 of 28 bridges inspected in the area were not damaged. Three were swept away. A temporary bridge has been erected over the Río Ángel. A bridge over the Río Seco will be installed next week, opening the way to Toro Amarillo and the Toro dams complex. The third bridge was over the Río Sarapiquí. Eight more bridges in the immediate area of the epicenter around Cinchona await inspection, the ministry said. The temporary bridges will be set higher than the bridges that were swept away by flooding water, the ministry said.

The grim work of digging through the landslides triggered by the Jan. 8 quake continue. The emergency commission said that three more bodies were discovered Wednesday. This brought the death toll to 23. Work was halted Wednesday afternoon when heavy rains developed.

All three, Jeffrie Zamora Cambronero, Daniela Zamora Cambronero and Francisco Zamora Valerio, were found in the wreckage of the La Estrella coffee shop in Cinchona. Between eight and 11 persons are reported still missing. However, five English tourists have been taken off the missing list. Where they turned up is not known, but they no longer are being considered quake victims. They were visiting the area around the La Paz waterfall when the quake hit, officials had said.

On the agricultural side, officials said that 90 percent of the dairies in the area are operating normally and that about 40 percent of the strawberry crop and some 72 million colons ($130,000) in ornamental plants had been lost.

The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water company, said that service had been restored to the entire area.

Emergency commission warns of fake solicitations for financial aid to victims
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission is warning about con men soliciting donations in the name of earthquake victims.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y  Atención de Emergencias said that organizations and individuals have already been doing this. The commission urged that all donations be sent to its bank accounts.

However, A.M. Costa Rica has published information about one organization, Juntos por Niños, that editors believe to be legitimate, and some animal lovers are making donations to those kinds of organizations for the care of abandoned animals in the earthquake zone.
Nevertheless, the commission said that a long-standing executive decree says anyone collecting funds must be authorized by it. The commission said it had a committee consisting of representatives of the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo and Cruz Roja to supervise the accounting of the money.  The commission has accounts at Banco de Costa Rica: 91100-3 (colons) and 118281-1 (dollars) and at Banco Nacional: 911-8.

Not every crook is a con man. Fuerza Pública officers detained two men Saturday who were looting vacant homes in Cinchona. They carried jewelry and other valuables from the homes their occupants had left in haste when the quake hit.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 10

Reconstruction work removed a large wall of concrete that cut the plaze nearly in half. It also installed more trees.
Plaza de la democracia
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Work nearly completed
on Plaza de la Democracia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials abruptly canceled a reinauguration of the Plaza de la Democracia this week in keeping with the national mourning over the Cinchona earthquake. However, work continues on the site in downtown San José.

The Museo Nacional, the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes and the Municipalidad de San José have invested 90 million colons, about $162,000, to revitalize the area, which is between Avenida 2 and Avenida Central.

Some 40 million colons more, about $72,000, will be invested later.

The work creates a main west entrance for the museum, installs more trees and bushes, provides disabled access and puts in more lights.

The plaza is a frequent scene of musical events, protests and political rallies. It is just west of the museum which also is undergoing a face lifting that is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

The plaza project was announced in 2006 and began the next year with the destruction of a number of concrete steps. The current work has opened up the view of the  plaza.
plaza workers
A city crew finishes off entry to museum

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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.

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Contacting us

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

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

Manuel Noriega's lawyers
carry case to appeals panel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Lawyers for former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega are urging a U.S. appeals court to block his proposed extradition to France to face money laundering charges. They say he should be returned to his home country given his status as a "prisoner of war."

Noriega's attorneys argued their case Wednesday before a three-judge panel. The judges, meanwhile, questioned whether the 73-year-old Noriega has any legal right to challenge the extradition.

In previous court rulings, judges have rejected Noriega's attempts to block the French extradition request. Last year, a U.S. federal judge ruled Noriega cannot be extradited until his U.S. court appeals are exhausted.

Noriega surrendered to U.S. troops in January 1990, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Panamá. Noriega was convicted in the United States in 1992 of drug trafficking and other charges. In 2007, he completed a 17-year prison term, but is in custody pending the outcome of the appeals.

France has accused Noriega of laundering more than $3 million from drug profits in the country and using the money to purchase expensive apartments there. He faces a 10-year prison sentence for the charges.

In Panamá, Noriega has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the disappearance and murder of opposition figures. Panama filed for his extradition in 1991.  However, many who served in his administration are still active in public life.

U.S. designates three men
as agents of guerrilla group

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Treasury Department has designated three individuals as representatives of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, a move that freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The department Wednesday said the three individuals, Omar Arturo Zabala Padilla, Maria Remedios Garcia Albert, and Vlaudin Rodrigo Vega, are key members of guerrilla group's international commission and represent the group in France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Australia.

The designation of the three individuals as representatives means Americans are prohibited from doing business with them.

The United States, Colombia and the European Union have designated the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias as a terrorist organization.  The leftist group is fighting in Colombia's long-running civil war, which also involves rightist paramilitaries and government forces.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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