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These stories were published Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 23
Jo Stuart
About us
Government sketch shows the proposed
Atlantic route that will run from the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua to the existing highway at Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.
Atlantic corridor highway would unify isthmus
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A project now being designed as part of the Plan Puebla-Panamá project will open up the Northern Zone and a large chunk of central and eastern Nicaragua.

The project is a highway from a point near Los Chiles on the Nicaraguan border to a spot near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.

The project is the corredor al Atlántico and it will be part of an eastern highway route down Central America. Now the Pan Am Highway runs down the western or Pacific side with some detours, as in the major jog that runs through San José.

Agricultural producers or manufacturers in Nicaragua will be able to ship their products and goods to the Caribbean port of Moín to be loaded on cargo ships for worldwide distribution.

The project will be a boon to tourism because plans call for improving a number of highways, including the San José-Guápiles route that frequently is blocked by mud slides.

A small part of the Northern Zone project fell into place Monday as Costa Rican officials signed an agreement to accept a donation of $15 million from the government of Taiwan. The money will pay part of the estimated $62 million that will be spent over four years to put a new road from San Ramon to Ciudad Quesada, also known as San Carlos.

This project, nearly 30 kms., will replace the winding two-lane road motorists brave to approach Ciudad Quesada from the south.

Strictly speaking, the new road will not be part of the Plan Puebla-Panamá Atlantic corridor, but it will be a feeder route.

Tzu-Dan Wu, the Taiwanese ambassador and President Abel Pacheco exchanged praise at the ceremony Monday. Javier Chavez, minister of Obras Publics y Transporte, briefly mentioned the Atlantic corridor in his talk, noting that Costa Ricans would encourage Nicaraguans to use the route for shipping.

There is no clear timetable for the Atlantic route. The San Ramon-Ciudad Quesada leg has been on the drawing boards for 30 years. But ministry spokespersons say the route is actively being designed.

The Atlantic route has added impetus because it is part of the Plan Puebla-Panama drawn up by Central American leaders in 2001. 

The idea is to integrate the area south of Puebla in Central México through Panamá. In addition to highways, the plan includes electrical transmission and even a biological corridor. However, the concept is controversial.

President Pacheco entitled his talk Monday "Rutas de Prosperidad." He pointed out that the new route would encourage the shipment of goods from the Northern Zone. 

That is a big agricultural area with sprawling plains. The new road also will be the gateway to the big tourism area around Arenal Volcano and the recreational lake of the same name.

Officials hope the San Carlos project will start in March. The four-year timetable takes into consideration the need to build nine bridges.

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Supreme court ashcans
investigation of Arias

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The full Corte Suprema de Justicia has rejected a request presented by 24 national deputies that it investigate an allegation of impropriety that involves former president and Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias.

A spokesperson for the Poder Judicial said that 15 magistrates voted against opening an investigation and three voted to do so. The magistrates were meeting in what is called the corte plena, which includes all the members of the various salas of the court.

The allegation was that there was at least verbal contact between Arias and at least one Sala IV magistrate when the constitutional court was hearing an appeal that would have let Arias run again for the presidency.

The allegation was made by Guido Saénz, the current minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes in his recent book. Saénz wrote that at the time Arias was upset because the court voted against allowing former presidents to run again for the office. Arias, Saénz said in his book, said that one of the magistrates went back on his word to support the former president in his bid to run again.

The full implications of the allegation did not catch on until recently, and a committee of lawmakers summonsed Saénz to testify. He did so last month and told deputies that he had engaged in editorial license in describing the response by Arias.

The high court Monday used what it called a bad interpretation by Saénz as a reason not to investigate and noted that the minister already had apologized to the magistrates.

It is not known if Arias will take any action against the minister. The allegation suggested corruption at the very highest level: a former president conspiring with supreme court magistrates to alter a key section of the national constitution for political gain.

In a subsequent appeal to the high court, magistrates accepted the claim by Arias that to forbid him to run for president violated his rights. So he is a likely candidate in the 2005 presidential elections. The ruling said that presidents cannot succeed themselves but must wait six years to run again.

Deputies who were members of a committee already investigating the judiciary made the request for an investigation Jan. 27.

Saénz wrote the account as one of a series of recollections in a book titled "Piedra Azul: Atisbos en mi Vida."  The title translates to "Blue Stone: A glimpse into my life."

Costa Ricans eligible
for $100 million fund

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of 26 countries whose citizens and companies will share in a $100 million investment guarantee that will let Citibank step up activities in Central America and the Caribbean.

The Overseas Private Investment Corp. has approved the investment guaranty of that amount to establish a lending facility "that will enable Citibank to expand its activity in Central America and the Caribbean, including lending to small businesses," according to a press release.

Dr. Peter Watson, the investment corporation’s president and chief executive officer, said that the lending facility will "support job creation and strengthen the financial infrastructure of a region, Central America and the Caribbean, with dynamic economic potential."

Other countries eligible for loans from the facility are: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Belize, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos.

An agency of the U.S. government, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets, complements the private sector in managing risks associated with foreign direct investment, and supports U.S. foreign policy.

Under the facility, Citibank and the investment corporation will share credit risk in loans to eligible countries, and the corporation will provide clearances on worker rights and environmental issues for each loan, said the release.

Student murdered 
in San Pedro shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 24-year-old man died early Monday in San Pedro de Montes de Oca when a gunman pumped seven bullets into his chest and stomach.

The victim, Rene Arturo Salas Ramírez, was identified as a student. The shooting happened about 3:50 a.m. Investigators said they believe the man was riding in a vehicle and for some reason got out of the vehicle just before he was shot.

The killer, too, must have been on foot because shell casings littered the area. Agents suspect that the killer was the driver of the vehicle, which might have been a pickup truck.
We now accept
other currencies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica.

However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system.

The U.S.-based company does all the math and either converts payment to U.S. dollars at the current rate of exchange or places the money in the newspaper accounts denominated in the correct currency.

The exchange is invisible to advertising customers who simply make payments in their own national currency.

Pay Pal is a handy, secure system that allows customers to send or receive money with a few strokes on the computer keyboard once an account has been established.

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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.

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Readers have their say over recent news articles
Prefers monopoly 
over CAFTA

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

I live in Jacó and read your webpaper often. It’s excellent. I noticed your editorial asking for the end of government monopolies. I used to also believe that it would be for the benefit of Costa Rica, but over the Last year I’ve noticed that the issue of the monopolies is now hand-in-hand With CAFTA [Central American Free Trade Agreement]. If you say no more monopolies, you are saying pro CAFTA and vice versa. I am anti-monopolies, anti-CAFTA, but if it’s push come to shove, keep the monopolies, but keep CAFTA out at all costs.

Also your story by L. Ronald Sheman . . . appears to be related to CAFTA. The U.S.A. has always had its sights and fingers in Latin America. Argentina went down because of the U.S.A. and greedy politicians/bankers. Colombia is a war-torn country solely because of the U.S.A.’s totally immoral, hypocritical war on drugs.

There are very few countries in Latin America untouched by the corporate/governmental greed of the U.S.A., and you want the U.S.A. to further look towards the Americas??? Just look at recent history. Nicaragua, Chile, Panamá, Guatemala, Paraguay, all those countries have untold deaths and oppression from U.S.-backed fascist regimes. A look further back will find the same colonialistic, oppressive mentality through out the Caribbean and Latin America. But wait, the U.S.A. is a kinder gentler nation, uh Huh. Come on down, Uncle Sam. Help us with our poor! Just like NAFTA helped Mexico! "Yankee, go home" is all I can say.

Thank you.

Jeffrey Thomas Moss
Amnesty for Enrique

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I appreciate the updates that your paper supplies us with on the Villalobos "Brothers" case.

Personally, I think the C.R. government handled this case very poorly, because they allowed the over 6,000 investors to most likely lose all their monies, which they had invested with the Brothers. The investors had no idea that the Brothers were doing anything illicit, because, after all, the Brothers operation did exist in business for many, many years. 

Why did the C.R. government allow Brothers to continue their operations for so many years "IF" they believed that 3 percent interest was something not possible for an Investment operation to return on an investment? Why didn’t they do something many years prior, or issue a warning to the public.

Think about it, why would someone have an operation doing something "Illegal," and be so visibly out in the open by being located in the Mall San Pedro, IF they were breaking a law.

At this point, the C.R. government should give amnesty to Enrique Villalobos to come back to his country, Costa Rica, IF he promises to pay back those investors that have investments with him, starting from his most recent investors who didn’t have the pleasure of any returns on their investment.

Thank you for your time.

Earl Gardner
Hang on to the beaches, this Long Island man says
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read the article about the activists camping on the hotels beach. All of Costa Rica should beware of the beaches being slowly swallowed up. 

I live on Long Island in New York, I am 63 years old and just recently sat down with a few friends in county positions and went over the lose of beaches. 

Yes it did take about 30 years, but Long Islanders 

have lost about 60 percent of our beaches and have very restricted access at others. 

The big money corps do not care about the general population, just the dollar. I am planning on moving down to my place in Zarcero and would hate to see Costa Rican beaches chewed up like so many of our U.S. beaches. Costa Rica should always belong to the Costa Rican people!

Philip Ashley
Long Island, NY

Major European cocaine connection broken up
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, working with law enforcement authorities in seven countries, has announced that it has brought down a major international drug-trafficking organization responsible for sending multi-kilo cocaine shipments from Colombia and Venezuela to Europe and Australia.

In a Jan. 28 statement, the drug agency said that to date, 78 people have been arrested in Italy, one in Spain, and 15 in Colombia, including the head of the drug organization. That suspect, identified as Santo Scipione, is originally from Italy and has lived for the last several years in Colombia.

Scipione is accused of coordinating cocaine shipments with Italian drug dealers. More than 2.2 metric tons of cocaine linked directly to the drug organization have been seized, the drug agency 

said. Italian law authorities identified Scipione as a ranking member of an Italian organized crime group based in Calabria, Italy, agents added. Additional arrests are expected as a result of the four-year-old investigation, code-named "Operation Decollo" ("Take-0ff"), the drug agency said.

As well as smuggling cocaine to Australia, the organization shipped cocaine from South America to Italy, Spain, Holland, and Germany, officials said.

The Drug Enforcement  Administration said a search of three containers that recently arrived at the port of Gioia Tauro, Italy, from South America, resulted in the seizure of 250 kilograms of cocaine that were secreted within marble. In addition, residences, businesses, property, and vehicles valued at about $23 million have been identified as belonging to the drug cartel and are in the process of being seized.

We want your stories

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You will not get rich, but we do pay for such articles.

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Third-world disaster toll blamed on bad planning
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services 

A new U.N. report says millions of lives could be saved in coming decades if developing countries make better preparations to reduce the danger to their people from natural disasters. The United Nations Development Fund says much of the death and destruction caused by natural disasters in poor countries could be averted by better planning. 

The report by the U.N. Development Fund says death rates are much higher in poor countries than in rich nations, even though the frequency and intensity of disasters are the same. The co-author of the report, Andrew Maskrey, says that does not have to be the case, and governments in developing countries can save thousands of lives if they make better development decisions. 

"We need to be building schools that don't fall down, hospitals that do not need to fall down, roads that are sited in areas that are not flooded, etc.," he said. "But we also need to make sure that we don't do development in such a way that it actually produces risk. Because often when we do a development project, we can inadvertently create a lot of risks. When we develop in an undeveloped area and that leads to deforestation 10 years down the line, we will be generating landslides, flooding, drought — we will have moved new populations into hazard-prone areas, etc." 

The U.N. report says natural disasters like earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts, claim an average of 184 deaths every day around the world. 

The report notes that while only 11 percent of the people exposed to such natural disasters live in

poor countries, they account for more than 53 percent of the total number of recorded deaths. 
The United Nations says a large part of the reason is poor development planning. 

Maskrey says the impact of disasters could be cut sharply if more governments would make an effort to reduce the danger before a disaster happens. For example, he says Cuba and Bangladesh, although they are not wealthy countries, have dramatically reduced deaths from tropical cyclones by building shelters and developing early warning systems. 

"While Bangladesh has still got a high vulnerability to cyclones — it is never going to be low because of the nature of the country — it has been enormously reduced in the last 20 years," he said. "So the message of the report is it is not just about money, it is not just about economic growth, it is really about having good policies and strategies in place." 

But Maskrey says it is not just a matter of building shelters and warning systems. He says governments need to make basic development decisions with the potential for natural disasters in mind. He says time and again countries that have been struck by earthquakes or cyclones or floods rebuild their communities quickly and badly. He says this results in large casualty tolls from the next disaster due to the same bad decisions on where to build and the same shoddy materials that have caused large casualty tolls in the past. 

Maskrey says this is a critical time for the southern Iranian city of Bam, which was devastated by an earthquake at the end of last year. He says he hopes the authorities will seize the opportunity to rebuild the city in a way that will protect its people from future quakes. 

Island nations see a multitude of growing threats
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Small island developing states in the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world have issued a declaration following a conference held in the Bahamas that reiterates their concerns that many of these states are faced with a "weakening economic situation."

The declaration was issued following the Jan. 26 to 30 meeting here attended by more than 300 representatives from the island nations, and by an official delegation from the United States, and representatives of the United Nations. The "Nassau Declaration" calls for more international cooperation and technical and financial support for the island states to confront such issues as food and water security, the threat of natural disasters, the incidence of HIV/AIDS, narco-trafficking, and illegal trade in small arms.

The Nassau meeting was held to coordinate the conclusions of regional meetings held over the past year in preparation for an upcoming United Nations conference Aug. 30 to Sept. 4 in the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius.

The Nassau Declaration said the small island states 

appreciate the support that the international community has provided them over the past decade in addressing their needs. But the declaration emphasized that these states have urgent needs for "new and additional resources, provided in adequate, predictable, and timely flows, in order to respond effectively" to the challenges they face.

The island nations also issued what they called a "Strategy Paper," which discusses their concerns about the "increasing incidence" within their borders of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug-resistant malarial strains, dengue, nutritional disorders, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases, and their effect on sustainable development.

The paper urged the international community to support the effective control of these diseases in the small island states.

The paper also called for "enhanced accessibility to effective pharmaceutical drugs at affordable prices." In addition, the paper expressed concern about the "adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise that continue to threaten the sustainable development, livelihoods, and existence" of the small island nations.

Jo Stuart
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