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(506) 223-1327            Published Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 11             E-mail us    
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A corner in east San José becomes a study in surealism with the correct camera exposure. The tall office building is the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. The time is sundown Monday.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking

Task force against terrorism to be announced today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government will announce the formation of an anti-terrorism task force this morning.

The task force, formally titled the Comisión Interinstitucional sobre Terrorismo, will have members from six ministries, and it will be the nation's first serious step to address the possibilities of terrorism here.

The government in the past has taken steps against terrorism, such as bringing security of the major sea ports and airports up to international standards. But these adjustments always were done at the request of the United States or international agencies.

Government officials have long known that Costa Rica has been a safe haven for Colombian rebels. The Fuerza Armadas Revolutionarias de Colombia and other groups, listed as terrorists by the United States, have a presence here.

That was made clear Aug. 10 when agents arrested Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, 38, in Puntarenas. Martínez recently was deported to Colombia to face allegations that he participated in an armed attack against a village in the Chocó section of Colombia near the Panamá border where 85 persons, including 46 children, died and about 100 persons suffered injuries. He also is accused of killing 45 policemen in another confrontation.

Martínez was living as a simple fisherman but
 Colombian officials say he was the administrator of Fuerza Armadas Revolutionarias business here. They say he arranged the shipment of weapons, oversaw the supply of fuel to drug-running fastboats and coordinated surveillance of other Colombian refugees here. There are about 10,000 persons from that country in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's generous immigration policies have allowed other groups to set up shop here. Hezbollah, the Middle Eastern terrorist group, has forged ties with the Fuerza Armadas Revolutionarias to augment its existing networks.

The growth of Latin governments who are friendly to foes of the United States also complicates the situation.

Casa Presidencial said Monday that the following ministries would be represented in the new task force: Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública; Relaciones Exteriores y Culto; Hacienda; Justicia y Gracia, and Obras Públicas y Transportes.

In September Costa Rica ratified a hemispheric pact designed to eliminate the financing of terrorism and to deny safe haven to suspected terrorists. However, there have been no terrorism incidents in the country since the end of the Nicaraguan Contra war.

Still, government officials are concerned, too, about the possibility of internal terrorism, sparked, perhaps, by the expected vote on the free trade treaty with the United States.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 11

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Decrease in price planned
for liquid petroleum gas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency charged with regulating public utilities approved a drop in the price of liquid petroleum gas Monday.

The recent decreases in the byproducts of the petroleum are due to variations in international prices, said the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

Liquid petroleum gas can be seen as essential to many Costa Rican families because it is commonly used for cooking.  According to information from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, approximately 37 percent of Costa Rican homes rely on petroleum for their cooking fuel, a number that increased significantly over the last 30 years, said the regulating agency. 

The market price for the liquid petroleum gas was approximately 262 colons per liter, and the new price will be 255 colons per liter.

Another event will benefit
Hogar Vida orphanage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Atenas have being capitalizing on the lure of food to help raise money for a local orphanage.

The Hogar Vida orphanage was the benefactor of a chili cook-off last weekend and the proceeds from an upcoming scavenger hunt/pig roast are being donated to the organization.

Hogar Vida is dedicated to providing orphans with a home until they can be adopted by families or come of age to be on their own.

While the exact scavenger route needs to remain a secret, hunters are expected to meet at Kay's Gringo Postres in Atenas at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 27.  The event will be organized into a team per vehicle and each will drive the route looking for the clues along the way.  It is not a race, but rather a competition to see which group of people arrives at the finish line with the best answers to the clues and who can do so in the least mileage. 

The $20 entrance fee covers all of the food, prizes and the proceed for the orphanage.  Contestants are expected to sign up and pay by Jan. 25.  More information is available from the organizers, Debbiet at 815-4841 or Fred at 815-3902.

This past weekend's event, the First Annual New Year's Chili Cook-off was a great success, organizers said.  More than 105 taste-testers crammed into Kay's Gringo Postres and sampled 10 different versions of chili. They raised more than 200,000 colons (more than $400) for Hogar Vida.  

Maria Lothridge from Arlington, Texas, used her family's age old secret recipe and captured first place in the cook-off.  She received 35 of the votes which won her a new set of pots and pans.  Although she refused to reveal her secret recipe, she did say that one of the key ingredients is tequila.  Maureen Evans received a new kitchen knife for second place finish, and Mark Fleege took home a set of steak knives for the third place prize. 

Organizers' said that the event was more successful than they could have hoped, and that next year's chili cook-off will be bigger.

Our reader's opinion

Mexican city without guns
shows marked decline in crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On Jan. 3 all 2,300 members of the Tijuana, México, police force were required to show up at headquarters and present their guns as a form of inventory check in an annual registration of their firearms conducted by a branch of the federal government. 

The police lined up one by one and presented their arms, checked the registration number and signed a form that it belonged to them.  Little did they know that they weren’t getting it back. 

After all the guns were turned in, they were told that the federal government was keeping them for a day or so, later to learn that it might be more than two weeks.  The government is running ballistics checks on all the weapons to see if they get a match for any crime that has been committed.   It has long been known that a great deal of the crime in this dangerous border city is done by the police themselves.

The police union was outraged and said that since their members couldn’t protect themselves, they didn’t have to show up for work leaving the violent city without protection.  The federal government responded that each police member would be matched with a federal police member who had a gun and that they could go on patrol together.

After a week of the Tijuana police without guns (or at least the ones they turned in) an amazing crime statistic surfaced.  Almost no crime was committed during this week of police with no guns. 

There was no kidnappings, no assasinations, no murders, no bank holdups, no robberies, no extortions, no shakedowns by traffic cops, almost nothing with the exception of normal petty theft. The citizenry is almost in shock.

Of course to be fair it should be pointed out that a couple of days before, Calderón, the new president of Mexico, had sent several thousand soldiers to quell the recent violence in Tijuana which had become excessive even by Tijuana standards, and they also were patrolling the mean streets.

Alas, since Costa Rica proudly has no standing army, this solution to crime is unavailable to the citizens who suffer the corruption committed by those who are sworn to protect them.

Phil Baker
La Paz, México
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 11

With enough votes for treaty, government looks for speed
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government appears to have the 38 votes needed to ratify the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American countries. But a meeting Monday focused on another hurdle.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana with its 17 members in the legislature can prolong discussions by proposing amendments after amendments. This was the technique that Movimiento Libertario honed to perfection in the previous legislature.

Now the Libertarios are aligned with the Partido Liberación Nacional and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. This is the coalition that wields power in the Asamblea Legislativa. But it was a vote or two shy of the required 38 to ratify the treaty.

Now it appears that Guyón Massey, the only member of Restauración Nacional in the legislature, and José Manuel Echandi, the only member of the Partido Unión Nacional, have come on board in favor of the treaty.

Their names came up Monday at a meeting of President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia. They were meeting with legislative deputies of Liberación Nacional.

Rodrigo Arias said he had met with both independent deputies in the last weeks.

Both the president and his brother said that they were unhappy with the speed with which the legislature was handling the free trade treaty. And they said that the assembly process needs to be streamlined. They also have a list of other measures they want to have passed this year. 
Under legislative rules, any deputy can propose an amendment, and this requires a discussion and a vote.

Rodrigo Arias noted that had the Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales that studied the free trade treaty not cut off amendments, the group would have spent 400 hours to bring the measure to the floor of the legislature.

Clearly, the ruling party is seeking some legislative change so that debate can be cut off.

Rodrigo Arias said that no group of deputies opposed to a specific project can be permitted to slow legislative action.

Although the Partido Acción Ciudadana has the right to propose amendments, so, too, do the majority members of the legislature have the right to vote on vital topics, said Rodrigo Arias.

Workers at the Imprinta Nacional will begin today the job of reprinting the free trade treaty along with all its side letters. That was one concession that Acción Ciudadana squeezed from the international committee. Although the treaty has been printed once and is available in full on several Web sites, the government will do so again.

The index of the final text and other agreements in English is HERE!

The index of the final text and other agreements in Spanish is HERE!

Lawmakers will not discuss the treaty on the floor of the legislature until the printing has been complete. That might not be until Feb. 1. In the meantime, legislative deputies will be considering some enabling legislation linked to the free trade treaty.

Gold mining firm predicts a 26 percent rate of return on its Crucitas property
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian gold mining company with holdings in Costa Rica announced favorable results of a study meant to determine the feasibility of operations here.

Vannessa Ventures Ltd. and its subsidiary Industrias Infinito S.A. said that the study projects mining costs of $300 per ounce and an internal rate of return of 26 percent.  The study was conducted by Micon International Ltd. and Systémes Geostat International Inc.

The company has in place an exploitation permit which provides the rights to mine the Crucitas concession comprising 1,200 hectares.  The Crucitas project is located in the province of Alajuela, north of San Carlos near the Río San Juan.

In addition to the exploitation permit on the 1,200 hectares associated with the Crucitas project, the company holds 15 times this amount of ground, or 18,000 hectares in exploration concessions adjacent to the Crucitas concession, said the report.

The report said that during 2007 the company will evaluate the opportunities for continued development work in the exploration concession areas surrounding Crucitas.

Using an estimated gold price of $550 per ounce, the report said 687,200 ounces of gold reserves, an initial capital cost
of $47 million, cash costs of $299.48 per ounce, and a 16-month project construction time.

The company report said that the environmental goals are to mitigate the effects of land disturbances by minimizing potential adverse effects to water resources, minimizing or eliminating public safety hazards, and returning land to a condition consistent with local land use practice.  Vannessa Ventures Ltd. anticipates that the site will be returned to productive land uses to include managed forestry and wildlife habitat, said the report.

Potential socioeconomic benefits included in the report are the creation of direct and indirect jobs, revenues developed from property, sales, and income taxes,  improvements of roads, employee training, and the support of schools and rural organizations by the company and its employees.
Construction of the site is expected to employ up to 270 people at its peak.

Vannessa Ventures Ltd. is a mineral exploration and development company located in Calgary, Alberta with properties primarily in Costa Rica, Guyana and Brazil.

The Crucitas project is controversial because environmentalists fear pollution of the San Juan. The project is an open pit, and President Abel Pacheco tried to shut it down. The firm is waiting for approval of a new environmental impact study by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 11

Correa quickly calls for constitutional change to limit parties
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leftist Rafael Correa has been sworn in as Ecuador's new president. The 43-year-old economist pledged Monday to put the needs of the poor in his country ahead of foreign debt payments.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Bolivian President Evo Morales and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran were among those attending the inauguration ceremony in Quito.

After the inauguration, Correa issued a decree calling for a March 18 national referendum on the need for a constitutional assembly. Correa said the constitution should be changed to limit the power of Ecuador's major political parties.
Such a move would put him on a collision course with the congress, which is dominated by the same powerful parties and has ousted the country's last three elected presidents. Correa is Ecuador's eighth president in a decade.

Correa received a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois. He has been a critic of U.S.-backed free trade agreements in the region.

He also has threatened to revise the contracts of oil companies working in Ecuador and to not pay foreign debts that he considers illegitimate.

Sunday thousands of Indian supporters cheered Correa at an acceptance ceremony in the remote Andean village of Zumbahua. 

Venezuela will junk negotiations with oil companies facing takeovers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's oil minister says his country will end talks with foreign oil companies concerning the country's takeover of oil projects financed by the private companies.

The minister, Rafael Ramírez, said Monday that the negotiations have become impossible.

Venezuela has said it would take majority control of oil projects along the Orinoco River where the private companies have invested billions of dollars.
Ramírez also says a plan by President Hugo Chávez to nationalize Venezuela's electricity sector would mean the complete takeover of the country's largest power company, Electricidad de Caracas. EDC is owned by a U.S. company, AES.

Neither AES nor the foreign oil companies have responded to the statements by Ramírez.

U.S. officials have said nationalizations have a long history of failure and seldom benefit the people they are meant to serve.

Meryl Streep named best actress for editor role in 'The Devil Wears Prada'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Actress Meryl Streep won the award for best actress in a movie musical or comedy at the Golden Globe Awards Monday for her role as a wicked fashion editor in "The Devil Wears Prada."

Eddie Murphy and fIlm newcomer Jennifer Hudson won Golden Globes for supporting roles in the musical "Dreamgirls."
Also taking home a film award was Peter Morgan, who won for best screenplay with "The Queen."

"The Song of the Heart," from the animated "Happy Feet," won for best original song in a motion picture.

The Golden Globes are awarded in Los Angeles, California, by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The Golden Globes recognize both film and television achievement.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 11

Three runners are pounding their way across Sahara Desert
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Three runners have crossed two thirds of the Sahara desert in a UN bid to focus on world water needs.

Running the equivalent of two marathons a day in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, the three young athletes have pounded approximately two thirds of their way across the Sahara Desert.  The run is part of a campaign supported by the United Nations to raise awareness of the ongoing global water crisis.

The trio, Charlie Engle of the United States, Ray Zahab of Canada and Kevin Lin from Taiwan, crossed from Niger into Libya on Saturday, completing some 3,800 kilometers (2,356-miles) of their 6,437 kilometer-long (3,991-mile) quest.  The journey is taking them from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean to Cairo, said the U.N. news service.

The campaign is also being made into a feature documentary film, “Running the Sahara,” directed by Oscar winner James Moll and narrated by Matt Damon.

Irena Mihova, a spokesperson for the U, N, Development
Programme, said that “For the runners, water is a daily necessity,”  adding  “For the people of the Sahara, and throughout the developing world, it is a lifelong concern.”

The three athletes are interacting with the people who live in the 5.6 million square kilometres (2.2 million square miles) of the Sahara, witnessing some of the work by the U. N. Develpment Programme and others in the region.  Some of the projects include water-management efforts, governance and peace-building in Mali and Niger, a conservation project for medicinal plants in Egypt, dam construction in Mauritania and a school in Senegal.

Each runner brings his own unique story and motivations, but all unite around a love for Africa and a profound desire to make a difference in the lives of the people of the Sahara in the best way they know how — by risking their lives running coast-to-coast across the Sahara Desert to prove that the impossible is possible, said a U.N. report.

There is also a Web site tracking the progress of the runners and providing information about the people and projects they visit, as well as the opportunity to pledge support:


$250 million star will stay with Real Madrid until June, U.S. soccer chief says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber has denied reports that the league is trying to get star English midfielder David Beckham an early release from his contract with Spanish club Real Madrid.

Garber says the media fabricated quotes suggesting that lawyers are working to clear the way for Beckham's arrival with the Los Angeles Galaxy in time for the April start of the soccer season.

Garber says that unless something changes, the 31-year-old
Beckham will remain with Real Madrid until his contract expires at the end of June. Beckham's spokesman also says the player will fulfill his Madrid contract and continue to train with the team.

Real coach Fabio Capello already has said Beckham will no longer play in matches now that he has committed to another club. He also criticized Beckham for signing with the Galaxy before informing the Madrid club.

Beckham announced last week that he would move to the Galaxy in August. His five-year deal is reported to be worth $250 million in salary and commercial endorsements.

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