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(506) 2223-1327      Published Friday, Jan. 23, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 16        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Acueductos y Alcantarillados/A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Biogas would be a byproduct of valley sewer plant
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will try to produce biogas to generate electricity as a byproduct of its proposed sewer plant.

That is part of the plan by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. But so far there has been no obvious work.

The Asamblea Legislativa approved a $130 million loan from the government of Japan in 2006. The money would pay more than half of what is considered a $230 million job.

Officials from the water and sewer company were at the legislature Thursday giving an interim report on the project. The entire project in two stages will run from the Cerro de Ochomogo on the east to the cerros Coyote and Palomas between Escazú and Santa Ana on the west. The project encompasses San Rafael de Coronado, San Gerónimo de Moravia and San Juan de Tibás. To the south the project will take in Aserrí, San Miguel and Higuito de Desamparados and the cerro del Tapezco in Escazú.

All of San José centro would be included in phase one as will San Pedro and Curridabat. So will much of La Uruca, part of Alajuelita, San Miguel, San Antonio, Damas, San Rafael Abajo and Gravilias, all Desamparados, Guadalupe, San Francisco, Calle Blancos, Ipís and Purral in Goicoechea, San Vicente and Trinidad in Moravia and León XIII, Colima, San Juan, Cinco Esquinas and Anselmo Llorente in Tibás. The rest of the valley will have to await phase two.

The project would join the four separate main sewers in the valley. They are named after the rivers they parallel.

Right now there are 104 kilometers of main sewers with 1,100 kilometers of secondary pipes. There are 140,000 connections for about 575,000 persons. The sewage goes directly into the rivers without treatment. The sewage ends up in the Río Grande de Tarcoles and then in the Gulf of Nicoya.

The proposal is to rehabilitate and extend the system and construct a primary treatment plant west of San José in a location known as Los Tajos. A 1.8-kilometer tunnel will take the sewage underground in Hatillo. Sewage in Pavas and Escazú will be pumped up to a treatment plant. The rest of the network relies on gravity.

Efforts will be made to produce biogas to fuel
rotting pipes
Acueductos y Alcantarillados photo
This rusted collector is typical of the valley's sewer infrastructure.

electrical generators from the sludge, said the institute. The process is supposed to reduce the volume of the sludge by 40 percent. The remaining sludge goes to the Los Mangos landfill in la Carpio. Primary treatment will cut in half the suspended solids in the sewage, officials estimated.

By 2014 officials hope to have 65 percent coverage servicing a million persons and providing primary treatment.

The second phase, scheduled for completion in 2025, will cover 85 percent of the population or some 1.6 million persons. An upgraded plant will provide secondary treatment that will reduce suspended solids in the effluent by about five times so that the final produce has about 10 percent the solids as the sewage entering the plant. Many homes outside of the Central Valley core use septic tanks today. Many are inadequate.

Pavas and Escazú are in phase two, as is Asserí. The districts of La Unión are in this phase, too, as is the remainder of La Uruca, several districts of Desamparados, Granadilla in Curridabat and several sections of Alajuelita.

Thursday Ricardo Sancho Chavarría, president of Acueductos y Alcantarillados, told lawmakers that the country has avoided talking about sewers for a long time. He said the same problems that exist in San José are found in Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia. "We have practically converted our rivers into open sewers," he said.

The project, when and if it is completed, would be a boost to real estate. The area in which sewer connections are available will increase, and the type of structure could change too, because lots would not have to accommodate septic tanks, officials said. 

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Calderón wins reply case
against La Nación newspaper

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lot of people send material to newspapers, and some of it never gets published. Would-be authors complain all the time.

But former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier didn't just sit around and complain. He went to court.

The Sala IV constitutional court has ruled that the Spanish-language daily newspaper La Nación has three days to publish a reply by Calderón that he sent to the newspaper Dec. 17.

Calderón is a defendant in the so-called Caja-Fischel case that centers around a $39 million loan from Finland that was to be used to purchase medical equipment from firms in that country.

The loan generated an undisclosed $9 million commission for politically connected officials and the head of a leading pharmaceutical company, Corporación Fischel.

The Poder Judicial reported the Sala IV decision Thursday. It is believed to be based on the country's right-of-reply law that tells newspapers that they must publish responses from those mentioned in news stories if the individual so requests.

Calderón said he sent in a reply to a La Nación story Dec. 17 but that it never appeared. Calderón said his reply, titled “La Nación no es la Prensa,” was in response to an article titled "Actos Correctos.”

When the court actually voted was not reported, but Calderón did not file his brief until Jan. 8, the Poder Judicial said.

There was no mention of the order among the major headlines in La Nación Friday. The only avenue for appeal is to the Hemispheric Court of Human Rights, although the case does not seem to rise to the level of an international dispute.

A right-of-reply is found often in Latin American law. It allows a person who feels the newspaper has been critical unfairly an avenue for response. In the United States such parties could just buy an ad.

Divorces take a dive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Divorces were down 5 percent in 2008, the Oficina de Inscripciones del Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said Thursday.

In 2008 there were 10,351 divorces. That's 575 fewer than in 2007, the office said.

The office reported Wednesday that 2008 saw 25,302 marriages recorded. That's 1,116 more than in 2007.

Our reader's opinion
Some questions raised
about Villalobos case

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You wrote:

"Luis Enrique has never returned, and he appears to be betting on the expiration of the statue of limitations from his finca in southern Nicaragua. Prosecutors never moved against his wife and others who were major players in the scam.

"Milanes, who owes his creditors about $200 million, did return. He was treated well, and a judge let him free to go live in the penthouse of the Hotel Europa while he keeps an eye on his casino empire. He was supposed to give money to the state as a bond of sorts, but it appears that the Ministerio Público, the prosecutor's office, has not been keeping track.

"Many wonder what kind of deal has been struck between prosecutors and Milanes."

Many victims of the Villalobos scam, including myself, have also wondered if a "deal" was struck in the Villalobos case to limit the investigation to brother Ozzie's participation in the ponzi racket.

A true cynic might also wonder:

(a.) Why the cuffs weren't slapped on Enrique and his crew at the time of the July 2002 raid instead of allowing the ponzi operation to continue to rip off investors for several more months.

(b.) Why little or no apparent effort was made by Costa Rican authorities to track down Enrique (and Villalobos assets) after he fled.

(c.) Why senior personnel such as David Mathiesson and Preston Power were allowed to walk away from the scene without being charged or held as material witnesses.

(d.) Why those who were responsible for signing up Villalobos victims were never investigated or charged as accessories to the crime.

(e.) Why no effort was made to recover funds from the early-bird investors who received millions of bogus "interest payments" that had been stolen from the accounts of later investors.

(f.) Why there has been no follow up to investigate the possibility of negligence and/or corruption regarding the failure of government agencies such as the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras to police and enforce financial regulations.

(g.) And here's my favorite beef: Why the Mercado de Valores (the Costa Rican stock exchange) escaped  investigation, prosecution, or liability despite its role in cashing investors' checks that had been made payable to Mercado de Valores on the instructions of the Villalobos brothers.
I. Sargent
Quebec, Canada

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 16

Child of coffee pickers, missing since Saturday, sought
The Judicial Investigating Organization said late Friday that the child mentioned below had been located.
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4-year-old boy vanished from the main park in San
Marcos de Tarrazú Saturday, but law enforcement was not notified until Wednesday.

The boy, Melvin Santos Abrego, is from Panamá, and he was here with his parents, who are members of the army of immigrant coffee pickers.

There is considerable confusion because the parents are native Panamanians, and the boy does not speak Spanish, just the native language, according to those who are helping the family try to find the boy.
missing child
Melvin Santos Abrego

There are few clues. the child was left in the care of a 
9-year-old sister. according to Karl Morales, wife of the finca operator where the family was working. The finca is about 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) from the center of San Marcos.

Manuel Contreras Hernández, head of the Fuerza Pública in San Marcos, said that the community is flooded with native immigrant coffee pickers. He estimated their numbers in the thousands. Information about the boy is being sought by the Judicial Investigating Organization at  2546-5950.

Ngäbe or Guaymí enter Costa Rica each year for the coffee harvest and generally live in rough conditions as all the family work long hours among the coffee bushes.

Health officials sometimes send substantial numbers to local hospitals for illnesses caused by close living conditions or poor diet.

The boy is believed to have come from the Toro Amarillo area.

Sports fishermen join together to push tourism agenda
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Just a month after its country’s fisheries agency passed measures protecting its sailfish and other sport fishing resources, Costa Rica has formed the first national sport fishing federation representing the interests of its anglers and the sport fishing tourism industry.

The Federación Costarricense de Pesca Turistica or "Costa Rican Federation for Fishing Tourism" was created with the union of four regional associations:  Asociación Cámara de Pesca Turística de Guanacaste, Asociación Nacional de Operadores de Transporte Acuático de Quepos, Asociación de Pesca Turística Costarricense and the San José-based Asociación Club Amateur de Pesca.

“The Billfish Foundation is proud to have worked with these organizations, some for over a decade to help develop a cohesive national voice to support sportfishing and marine resource conservation in Costa Rica,” said Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation.

According to Herbert Nanne, the foundation's Central American conservation director, the new federation will work to inform the public and government officials on issues vital to maintaining a viable recreational industry in that nation and in building support for billfish conservation.

“Efforts are currently underway to bring members from
Los Sueños and the Caribbean coast into the federation,” said Nanne.

Costa Rica has become a first class destination for tourism, especially sport fishing, much of it catch-and-release for billfish. But local charter captains point to unregulated commercial netters and long-liners for a major drop-off of sport fish like sailfish over the past 10 to 20 years.

The announcement came exactly a month after the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura put a halt to the exportation of sailfish meat and stopped the use of live bait by the commercial long-liners.

Nanne, a past president of the fisheries institute, said the conservation measures were the result of the efforts of many people united in Costa Rican sailfish conservation.

“This is a significant first in Costa Rica,” he said.

Ms. Peel said The Billfish Foundaton will continue to work with the federation and institute in pursuit of other sportfishing and tourism goals like 30-mile coastal buffers as well as complete closures to commercial fishing in specific areas and press for other aggressive billfish conservation measures.

Russell Nelson, foundation scientific director, said he and Nanne still have concerns regarding the vulnerability of sailfish that collect in certain areas.

Obamarama sets a grueling pace even for just viewers
First a day of service painting school walls, then a long day in freezing weather, walking, waving and smiling, later enjoying a parade of many marching bands, then changing clothes and dancing and dashing around town until after midnight, and then up again to listen to a pretty boring sermon with other dignitaries. I was totally exhausted by Wednesday. 

And I was only watching all of this on television. John, a friend who lives in Washington, said it was a cold 16-hour day for him. He also was an onlooker, but an on-site onlooker during the day and then became part of the night’s celebration.  His friend, Bea, also was there and went through the same thing, except, like Michelle, she did it in heels.  Both reported that the good will, good manners and kindness permeated all else.  Everything, it seemed had changed.  Everyone was smiling.

It was Inaugural Day and the new president of the United States, Barack Obama and first lady Michelle were the ones who went through — and were the center of — this grueling series of rituals and pageantry, and also for the change of attitude.

Tuesday night our Perros Calientes group met for a belated holiday dinner and good conversation, a lot of it about politics. We are three Gringas from the U.S. and three Ticas.  Anabel, a Tica, said that she had warned her place of employment that morning that if they did not have a TV she was not coming in to work. They assured her they did. Judith, a Gringa, brought a copy of Obama’s inaugural speech, which we all dissected, agreeing that it was the right speech for the times and a reality oriented approach to the problems the U.S. and the world face today.  The key is choosing hope over fear.  This is indeed, a paradigm change.  Operating from fear as a mindset has created too many problems and things that go wrong, especially when managed with arrogance and incompetence,  Let’s give hope a chance.  Hope, like luck, takes planning and preparation. It was a great evening.

However, by Wednesday I was so tired I couldn’t even make it to what was probably a nice relaxing tea.  President Obama was up at the crack of dawn (I assume) and down to work.

Late in the afternoon I recovered enough to decide to go 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

downtown and see if my world — the world I now live in — had changed.  It was still cold outside with a measurable wind chill factor.  I bundled myself in my yellow and green jacket and still shivered as I waited for the bus.  Ten minutes after I was comfortably seated, it was so crowded I would have removed it, but the large lady sitting next to me precluded that.

Once downtown and walking I noticed that the only people more bundled than I were the messengers on motorcycles and one street person, who probably was wearing all of his clothes instead of carrying them.  Other irritating pedestrians were in shirtsleeves.  How do they do that? 

Everything looked as usual, except that there seemed to be thousands of people in the streets. I walked along Central  Avenue (now a promenade) and looked in the windows of the upscale stores that opened soon after the bubble of prosperity filled, and wondered how they would fare in this new economy. 

Shunning the new stores, I went into one that has been there since I can recall.  I tried on a pair of boots (sandals just don’t make it in this weather).  The boots were $70.  That was beyond my desire to spend, so I continued on my way, wondering where I had put my tennies.   

Later I saw a scantily dressed working girl outside a casino.  She was rubbing her bare arms.  “Aren’t you cold?” I asked (stupidly).  She politely allowed as how she was.  Inside, the casino was as crowded as usual — perhaps more than usual for late afternoon.  Obviously, hope is alive and well here.  I learned that the “Ugly American,” is not always from the United States — some are homegrown right here, and speak Spanish.  But for the most part, everyone continues to be  polite and friendly and kind — just as they were last week.  I guess it is my inner world that has changed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 16

Fuerza Pública officers stiffle robbery binge in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bandits went on a robbery spree in Escazú Thursday until the Fuerza Pública ran down two suspects, one of them a minor, afer confronting them at a roadblock.

The bandits held up stores in San Antonio de Escazú, Escazú centro and Guachipelin, said the Fuerza Pública. The suspects appeared to be on their way to Santa Ana when detained. In all, four stores were held up.
The detained individuals were identified by the last names and ages of Navarro Angulo, 28, and Arguedas, 17, said the Fuerza Pública.

Capt. Edgar Porras, chief of the Escazú detachment, said that the younger man was being investgiated in the holdup of a Chinese restaurant last week.  Navarro was the subjet of an outstanding warrant, officers said. In the vehicle police said they found drugs and knives. Knives were used in the holdups.

Some praise of Barack Obama attributed to Fidel Castro
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's former president, Fidel Castro, broke a one-month silence to praise new U.S. President Barack Obama.

In a posting on a government Web site, Castro said he does not have the least doubt about Obama's honesty. But, he said, many questions remain about the new leader.

The comments were Castro's first written remarks since Dec. 15. His long silence prompted speculation that the  82-year-old's health had deteriorated.
Castro's article was about a conversation he had with Argentina's president, Christine Fernández, who visited him in Cuba on Wednesday.

Following the meeting, Ms. Fernández dispelled rumors about the former Cuban leader's health, saying she thought he looked good.

Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006. 

Details of his health are considered a state secret.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 16

A.M. Costa Rica

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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.

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Private quake commission
promises strong oversight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The private reconstruction committee set up by Casa Presidencial will build up to 500 new homes for families who lost theirs in the earthquake Jan. 8, according to  Roberto Artavia, who is heading the group.

The committee also promises strong public oversight and said that the funds it receives will be handled by a trust. In addition, an auditor and a legal adviser will work with the committee.

No one on the committee will have access to funds, Artavia said.

Artavia was responding to some concerns by lawmakers and others that the committees handling reconstruction were proliferating. The national emergency commission is usually the organization that conducts major repairs after a flood or other natural disaster.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has empaneled a public reconstruction commission consisting of ministers from his government. The private group was formed by Casa Presidencial last. The private group is believed to have more access to business leaders to seek donations.

Oreamuno mayor in trouble
over new water hookups

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Mayor of Oreamuno is in hot water because he will not authorize taps for some 477 homes in the Vista Hermosa public housing project.

The Sala IV has ordered prosecutors to investigate the mayor, Marco Vinicio Redondo Quirós, because he has not complied with a previous Sala IV order to provide water to the homes. He says there is not enough water.

The court in a 2007 ruling also ordered him to provide other public services.

Possible drag racing
eyed as cause of death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 28-year-old man died in a spectacular accident about 6 a.m. Thursday on the Bernardo Soto highway. Investigators said the accident followed an informal race between two drivers in Alajuela.

The vehicle containing the victim, identified by the last name of Saborío, collided with a cargo truck. The crash tied up morning traffic for hours.

Investigators detained the second driver, identified by the last name of Vega, to continue the investigation. He is 24, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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