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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 14        E-mail us
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Contraloría seeking more controls in maritime zone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute is creating a new section to inspect and exert control in the country's maritime zone. A new study by the Contraloría General de la República gives the institute eight months to have the inspection system working.

The Contraloría General, the legislative watchdog, said that its study found weak controls over the institute's supervision of the maritime zone.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, by law, is the most senior agency in policing the maritime zone. The zone is the first 200 meters from mean high tide. This section of land on both the Pacific and the Caribbean has been declared the inalienable property of the country.

The tourism institute shares responsibility with the local municipalities in approving concessions for the so-called restricted zone, which is from 50 meters to 200 meters above mean high tide. In this section tourism projects, such as hotels and restaurants, can be built. The institute also shares responsibility for approving very limited construction on the first 50 meters, the so-called public zone. The public has free transit in this zone, but some infrastructure like docks can be built.
The report by the Contraloría General's evaluation division did not find any illegalities or suspicious activity in its study, but it urged the institute to be more proactive. The study considered institute files from January 2006 to February 2008. The report urged the institute to use all the instruments at its disposal, such as issuing decrees and policies.

The report noted that the institute already was creating the new inspection section.

The report also urged the institute to tell municipal officials to tighten up their controls, too. For example, applications for concessions should contain a description of the anticipated development along with a cost estimate. Some files that had been approved by municipalities arrived at the institute incomplete, without page numbers or otherwise incorrectly marked, said the report. The institute was given six months to send the Contraloría copies of the instructions to municipal officials.

The process of obtaining concessions in the restricted maritime zone is used frequently by those who wish to develop seaside hotels or condos.

Many complain about the delays in processing the applications. So did the report. It urged a more accelerated process.


Capitol building
White House photo
The U.S. Capitol has hardly any additional space as Barack Obama takes the oath.
Arias to offer Obama an invitation to visit here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans and expats were captured by television scenes of Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday and the colorful parade that followed.

In small groups and private parties expats, including members of Democrats Abroad here, shared some of the history that was made with the inauguration of the 44th U.S. president.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was quick to announce that he has asked the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, Tomás Dueñas, to extend to Obama a formal invitation to visit Costa Rica.

Arias also said that Obama should intervene and put an end to hostilities in the Middle East.  Arias said the solution is in the creation of a Palestine state.  He said that Obama through his leadership could achieve this and stop the bloodshed. He noted that Costa Rica has recognized a Palestine state and did so in 1947 at the same time it recognized Israel.

Arias was no fan of former president George Bush. He opposed the U.S. war in Iraq. His sentiments probably were similar to those of many Costa Ricans. One man, while watching the inauguration, said of the presidency: "I could have won if I was running against George Bush."
 
Arias said that Obama ought to visit Costa Rica because the country abolished the military, is
pacifistic and has the oldest democracy in the region. In addition the country is governed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said Arias.

Obama does not have Latin America as a top priority. As he said in his inaugural speech:

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

Obama also noted that many question the scale of his ambitions. That seemed to be an undercurrent among those watching the inaugural here. Some Costa Ricans who had followed U.S. politics wondered if Obama had promised much more than he could deliver.

But even Arias, a strong supporter of human rights, should have been impressed by the Obama statement:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."


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Cruz Roja donation
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 Cruz Roja workers handle some of the products
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Volcán Poás reopened
to give economic boost

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourist magnet Volcán Poás has been reopened but many of the trails in the national park are closed for the security of visitors. However, those who go can still see the volcano caldera.

The volcano was only 10 kilometers or about six miles from the epicenter of the Jan. 8 earthquake and the active caldera showed some response to the ground waves.

But now the national emergency commission said that the tourist attraction is vital for economic recovery of the area.

The commission also said that foreign donations to earthquake relief had reached 364 million colons or about $662,000. China gave $100,000, Spain donated $200,000 and the United states donated $50,000.  The United States also sent four helicopters and a detachment of 37 persons. Colombia also sent a Black Hawk helicopter and a flight crew.

In addition to money, many Costa Ricans are donating food, personal supplies and clothing. There are a number of collection centers set up around the country. More than 2,000 persons are still in government shelters. About half have had their homes destroyed.

The Compañía Nestlé Costa Rica S.A. donated some 5 million colons in food products including powdered soups, graham crackers and cereal.

Employees of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería reported they have completed a survey of the towns most heavily affected: Vara Blanca, Poasito, Fraijanes, Los Cartagos, Carrizal, San Isidro, Sabanilla, San Juan Norte and Sabana Redonda.

They reached 110 dairy farms and damage, if any, has been assessed at 83. The ministry said that 53 of 4,150 cows had died and 22 have been treated for mastitis. Also located and put into care are 55 dogs, 887 pigs, five horses and 80 goats, they said.

Some domestic animals are being cared for by private agencies who patrolled the area. Agriculture workers moved 47 dogs to shelters outside the earthquake zone, they said. The ministry employees work for the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal. They said they also coordinated efforts to provide fresh water to the animals.

Agricultural inspectors said that they also visited the hard-hit Finca Las Lluvias where some 80,000 trout fingerlings had died. Inspectors were accompanied by veterinarians.

Our reader's opinion

Is there a right to avoid
being offended by someone?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Some thoughts on rights of other people, your rights, and the legal quagmires surrounding them.

The Sala IV recently ruled that there cannot be a restriction on the attire for users of government offices. Apparently, someone tried to go into one of those offices shoddily or scantily dressed, was denied admittance, sued, and the court ruled. In reality, the ruling was a no-brainer call for the magistrates: finding someone's clothes visually offensive is your problem; look the other way if bothered. Besides, since when does a democratic system tells us what we have to wear or not as civilians?  

Lack of dress, as in nudity, crosses over the threshold of the generally accepted notion of decency, and on that we put limits, but for all the other forms of dress, it is whatever expresses or floats the person's dress code boat, as it should be.

Broadening the rights issue to something not so clear cut: Suppose you are in a government office and the person in line next to you hasn't bathed in several days or weeks or just got through with a 5-mile run and wanted to do whatever it is they wanted to do in that office before taking a shower? There are a lot of lines in Costa Rican government offices, so the chances that you will encounter one of these persons are pretty good.

Do you have a legal right to complain? If you say, yes, you just stepped onto shaky legal ground. Look for that particular offense in the law books. Nonetheless, there is an offense committed . . . to our olfactory senses. Should there be a law against smelling bad? 

Again supposing- Another user of a government office is in line next to you and has on a T-shirt with something printed on it that is offensive to you, be it race, belief, gender or sex related. Do you have the legal right to complain?

The answer is: depends on what it says or displays, where you are, and what the law says.  In the U.S. there are laws dealing with obscenity and racial or religious hate promotion. In Costa Rica, these are lacking. What do you do in Costa Rica? Ignoring the shirt and the insensitive idiot wearing it seems your only choice. Punching the guy is not recommended, although you would like to. Vigilante justice is still outlawed.

I mention these things because the greater issue in all this is just how far should the government go in preventing us from being offended. I think we will all agree that physical offense must be legislated against. It's our right to be protected from that. But the other offenses? Remember, it is a question of rights: yours, mine and others. Welcome to the quagmire.
Robert Nahrgang S.
Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 14


Hospital
construction


Hospital Calderón Guardia is getting a new magnetic resonance imaging center for diagnoses. Workmen have excavated an area near the site of the July 12, 2005, fire that killed 19. The 1,000-square meter (nearly 11,000-square feet) building will cost about $4 million, officials said.
Calderón construction
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas


Municipalities form commission to protect Río Térraba
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four municipalities have joined forces to protect the Río Grande de Térraba in the south Pacific coast.

The municipalities are Osa, Coto Brus, Buenos Aires and Pérez Zeledón. The municipalities have formed a commission to create an action plan to reduce river pollution.

The Térraba is one of Costa Rica's great rivers. It drains the El General and Coto Brus valleys and even has a 22  kilometer (14 miles) navigable section that empties into the Pacific. The commission to safeguard the river was created
by a decree from the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones published Jan. 13. The 160-kilometer (100-mile) river has at its mouth the Reserva Forestal del Humedal Internacional Térraba-Sierpe with 22,000 hectares (about 54,300 acres) of mangroves.

According to Alberto Cole, mayor of the Cantón de Osa, the new commission will coordinate with other groups and the central government to detect the most significant sources of pollution. And the monitoring process will continue, he said.

The commission will help avoid problems of duplication of effort, Cole said.


Tránsito police just waiting for start of Palmares fiesta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transit officers are gearing up for the drunk hunting season. This is the period when the Fiesta de Palmares is in operation.

Every year the Policía de Tránsito catch dozens of drunk drivers coming back to the metro area from the fiesta. There are not that many roads, and police control points are effective.

This year is different in that the act of drunk driving has been converted into a major crime that can bring heavy fines and jail terms, unlike the token 20,000-colon fine of years before. That was about $41 during the 2008 fiesta.

The Palmares event, which opens tonight, is like a carnival with rides and beer tents having their own entertainment. Even Thursday beer will be in evidence at the tope or horse parade despite the efforts of organizers to downplay alcohol.

So the traffic police will be waiting. The main checkpoint at the former Naranjo toll station will be in operation 24 hours a day, said police. During the day police at four other control points will conduct arbitrary checks of motorists.

After 10 p.m. police promise to check every vehicle and put patrol units on side roads to prevent drunks from evading the checkpoints. They also will be looking for
roadblock

other violations, like speeding and too many passengers in cars and buses, they said.

Fuerza Pública officers will be in a support capacity. The Autopista General Cañas and the continuation called the Bernardo Soto highway will be patrolled heavily. This is the highway past the Juan Santamaría airport into San José.

The police effort will continue through the last day of the fiesta, Sunday, Feb. 1.

Police are encouraging drinkers to have a designated driver or take public transportation. Under the current law several cans of beer can push a driver into the drunk category. And police confiscate cars for this offense.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 14



Two electrical generating projects are reported advancing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica has signed a $160 million contract for the design, construction and electrical equipment for the geothermic generating plant Las Pailas near Volcán Rincón de la Vieja.

Under the agreement, the bank will own the plant and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will operate it with an option to purchase it. The site is in northern Costa Rica near the border with Nicaragua.

The plant is supposed to be in operation in 2011. It will produce 35 megawatts and is expected to help meet the country's growing electrical needs.
The work on the plant will be the subject of a bidding process.

In another energy related development, the institute said that workers are expected to join two sides of a tunnel at the Toro III hydro plant Thursday. The tunnel is 5 kilometers long (about 3 miles) and was started at both ends. This project also is expected to be in operation in 2011. The electrical and telecommunication company plans a celebration as the two ends are joined.  Some 150 workers labored by 20 months to build the tunnel.

The $135 million project is in Marsella, de Venecia, San Carlos. The plant will produce 50 megawatts, the company said. The tunnel channels water to the generating plant.


Fishing boat crew and captain win praise for saving leatherback turtles in Pacific
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Environmentalists are crediting Capt. Rafael Fallas and his crew aboard the fishing vessel “Don Christopher,” based at Playas del Coco, Costa Rica for freeing three female leatherback sea turtles and one male leatherback this season.

All were snagged on fishing hooks. 

"The selfless act of marine conservation has cost the captain and crew hours of their own time and money as they wrestled the massive reptiles onboard and untangle their shells and flippers from the fishing lines," said the environmental group Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas. 

Female leatherbacks can grow up to two meters in length (79 inches) and nest four to five times a season from October to March on the Pacific coast, said the organization. 

They lay an average of 80-90 eggs per nest, meaning the time Captain Fallas and his crew took to release the snagged turtles will potentially yield over a thousand hatchlings this nesting season alone, the organization added.

“Four leatherback turtles hooked in a single year, this is something I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Fallas,
a veteran fisherman of more than 20 years, according to the organization.  “Leatherbacks are only rarely caught nowadays, they are almost extinct, which is why we do everything we can to save these endangered animals and release them unharmed,” they quoted him as saying.

Four adult leatherback turtles represent a significant percentage of the eastern tropical Pacific’s leatherback population, which has declined 95 percent during the last decades, and now face possible extinction in the next five to 30 years if current disruptions to their migratory routes by the fisheries industry and destruction of nesting habitats from beachfront development projects and poachers are not addressed, said the organization.  Fallas’ altruistic act highlights a change in the Costa Rican fishing community’s awareness to protect this species along the Pacific coast, Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said.

“For years, Costa Rica has focused its attention on protecting the leatherback's nesting beaches, but now it´s time for Costa Rica to work more actively on protecting the leatherback at sea,” said Randall Arauz, president of Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas. 

“This will require proper zoning of fisheries activities in coastal and pelagic waters during leatherback migrations, and major political lobbying in international forums for regional agreements,” said Arauz in a release.




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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 14



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.



Constitutional court sides
with tardy bank customer


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court took the side of a Banco Popular depositor who lives outside Costa Rica.

The person who made the appeal had a time deposit at the bank, and the depositor could not get the funds because the bank appears to have rolled over the certificate.

The high court invoked a principle that the law does not require someone to do an act he is unable to do. The court cited the impossibility of withdrawing the money on time from outside the country.

The court also ordered the bank to review its time deposit policies.

Readers can get discount
on expat tax seminar


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The organizer of a tax seminar Friday in Los Sueños says that special consideration will be given to readers of A.M. Costa Rica.

The seminar featuring a U.S. tax expert is being put on by Bufete Hernandez Mussio y Asociados of San José and Jacó. The firm principal, Arcelio Hernández Mussio, said that the United States Expatriates Tax Seminar had generated a lot of interest and some callers asked for a discount on the $125 admission. He said his firm would offer a reduced rate to A.M. Costa Rica readers who called 2643-3058 or e-mailed lawyer@crtitle.com.

Information on the seminar is HERE>
http://www.crtitle.com/us-tax-seminar.php.

Pickup crushed by cement truck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two persons died and two others suffered serious injuries Tuesday when a cement mixing truck overturned on a pickup in San Mateo, Alajuela.

Thie accident carried both vehicles off the highway and ended up with the cab of the pickup crushed under the cement carrier of the truck. Both drivers survived but two persons in the pickup did not, officials at the scene said.

Dominical actors plan showcase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dominical Little Theatre plans a spring showcase March 13, 15, 19 and 20 at Hotel Roca Verde there. The organization just completed casting three works that will be presented. Nine persons will act.


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