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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 27          E-mail us    
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Candidates urge patience
Election officials take time while nation waits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Election workers went home Monday night without finishing the task of counting the ballots for Sunday's presidential election.

The last report came at 3:15 p.m. with some 88.45 percent of the polling places included in the totals. That's 5,451 of the nation's 6,163 polls.

The report showed Liberación candidate Óscar Arias Sánchez with a slight 3,250 vote lead over Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. The lead represented about two-tenths of a single percentage point.

The voting pattern showed the value of having an entrenched political machine. Arias lost by more than 20,000 votes to Solís in the Provincia de San José.  In Heredia he lost by nearly 8,000 votes. In the Provincia de Alajuela Arias lost by more than 11,000 votes.

Arias squeezed out a 1,152 vote lead in the Provincia de Cartago with 166,347
votes cast.

But in the provinces of Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón, Arias more than gained back the votes. He won Guanacaste 43,538 to 27,517. Arias had 49,400 votes in Puntarenas compared to 31,259 for Solís. And in Limón Arias racked up 33,521 to the 24,456 for Solís.

Acción Ciudadana is a new party. Solís broke with Liberación to form the party and run as its standard bearer in 2002. Liberación traces its roots back to 1937. So it was in territory outside of the Central Valley where Arias was able to use the party machinery to capture a high percentage of the votes.

Still uncounted are about 25 percent of the results in the Provincia de San José. About 10 percent are outstanding in Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón. But considering the lopsided victory of Arias in those provinces, he stands a good chance of increasing his lead as more votes are counted.

Meanwhile, election officials are starting the process of hand-counting every ballot. This may take two weeks, according to Magistrate Luis Antonio Sobrado of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

In many countries, party activists would be rioting in the streets. A small group of Solís supporters did gather at the Tribunal Monday afternoon, but both candidates are urging patience and acceptance of the final outcome as reported by the Tribunal. See related story HERE!

At the various polling organizations, employees have to figure out what went

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Tránsito officer Marvin Madrigal keeps closed a roadway by the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones where vote counting is taking place.

wrong with their methods. Pollsters  predicted a lopsided Arias victory. Arias, himself, said he expected 43 to 44 percent instead of the 40.51 percent he now has. That is compared to the 40.29 percent held by Solís.

Pollsters appeared to have undercounted the youth vote which went strongly to Solís. Some voters said they lied deliberately to the survey takers because they did not want to be out of step with the current wisdom that Arias would be a big winner. Some of these were employees or family members of employees of the national monopolies that opposed Arias, who supports the free trade treaty with the United States.

If the percentage of both candidates erodes slightly so that neither obtains 40 percent of the total vote, a runoff will be held on the first Sunday in April. Otto Guevara of Movimiento Libertario picked up about 8.4 percent of the total vote.

If the final results award the same number of votes, Solís is out of luck. The Costa Rican Constitution, Article 138, says "If at any election two tickets obtain an equal number of sufficient votes, the oldest candidate shall be considered elected as president, and the vice presidents shall be the candidates in the same ticket."

Arias, a former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner is 65. Solís is 51.


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Our readers' Opinions

He calls for an end
to remittances from U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In a recent article I wrote to this newspaper, I took the stance that if building a wall along the U.S. Mexican border is needed to stop illegal immigration, then Up with the wall or something better! Now for the something better. For reasons of space what was not discussed were the economic aspects of massive illegal immigration. While it is true that illegal labor works for less, which enables production costs to be lower for the U.S. consumer, it is not necessarily true that the U.S. as a whole benefits from these workers. Let’s look at what happens on the issue of consumption versus production when measuring wealth.

It is consumption that is the overriding factor in the affluence of a country, not the production of wealth, as often believed. What is clear is that if there is no money to spend, then everyone is poor, or better described as “wealthless,” because no money or very little is circulating, as we find in Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. Producing a good or service is the commonly accepted way of creating wealth, but wealth can be obtained by other means: transfer of money from someone else makes the recipient wealthy, thus able to consume, thus making the country wealthy. Monaco is a country that produces very little, yet has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Why is that? Because money is transferred to be spent in the country.

In the case of foreign workers sending a major portion of their earned wages back to their home countries, called remittances, what is the monetary and economic impact on the host country? Take note Costa Ricans because you are affected to an even higher degree than those in the U.S. Obviously, currency has been taken out of circulation. Consequently there is an inflation reducing element. That’s good.  But at the same time, the worker’s capacity to consume in the host country is reduced. Therefore, the country’s wealth is reduced. That’s bad.

This brings us to the question of: Is the tradeoff of a lower inflation against a loss of wealth better for the country? From my perspective, the wealth producing capacity of a country far outweighs that of keeping inflation under control, for which there are a variety of measures. Besides, many factors are involved, not just money circulating.

Back to the matter of immigration, both legal and illegal. From the U.S.’s economic point of view, instead of a massive wall, it would make far more sense to prohibit remittances. It was done with Cuba, so it could be done with other countries. What would happen with that? To begin with, the flood of illegals would lessen considerably. Two, the money earned by immigrants remains in the U.S., adding to the consumption capacity of the country, in other word, its wealth. And thirdly, perhaps the most positive of all, is that the countries from which these impoverished men and women are fleeing would be forced by social pressures to adopt policies that are conducive to producing widespread wealth instead of transferring what little there is to the pockets of the corrupt leaders.
Walter Fila
Ciudad Colon


Chicago reader defends
Mar y Sombra restaurant

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The demolition of Mar y Sombra restaurant is an outrage not only to the people of the world but to Jesus Christ himself, to say the least! For that’s where I found God — on the beach at Mar y Sombra restaurant! Manuel Antonio is Mar y Sombra, and now there are no chairs and tables on the beach! Now where will Jesus Christ sit?

I have traveled to Costa Rica for over 12 years and stayed at Manuel Antonio. I ate and drank on the beach at Mar y Sombra restaurant under the shade of the palm trees. But this will be no more thanks to your government and a ridiculous law of having to be 50 meters back from the beach!

Federico Ramírez should be honored and rewarded for making the beach safe, clean and beautiful for all the world to see and enjoy! Federico has helped many people from all over the world and has made their vacation most happy and memorable! The demolition of Mar y Sombra is a crime! It is to me a crime what your government is doing to this great man! And a sin to Christ!

Mar y Sombra is more than a restaurant. It is a place for people to meet, talk and reflect on life and to sit on the beach at the table watching the sun set, and thank Christ they are alive in a beautiful country such as Costa Rica. Now where will Jesus Christ sit when he goes to the beach!

I pray that he will sit on your governments’ head on the beach on Manuel Antonio! right in front of Mar y Sombra for all the world to see as the tears fall from my eyes!  On behalf of all the people and myself who love this wonderful restaurant, I say God bless Federico Ramírez who brought so much happiness to all of us. Thank you, Federico, for trying to save a beautiful place for all of us to go to and to enjoy the beautiful country of Costa Rica!

I pray it is not too late to save Mar y Sombra! Your government is not only destroying Mar y Sombra restaurant but is also destroying the livelihood of its own people!

Franco Antonio Cauceglia
Chicago, Ill.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Although Mar y Sombra was threatened with demolition, the case is again tied up in the courts.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 27




Final vote totals awaited with patience or suspicion
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the presidential race went into a hand recount Monday, Costa Ricans did what the two leading candidates recommended – waited patiently.

Monday, some 88 percent of the official count was finished and Óscar Arias Sánchez was leading Ottón Solís by the slimmest margin in Costa Rica's presidential race history.  Around San José, most citizens were content to stick with their vote and hope their candidate won.  Others were posted outside the Tribunal Supremo de Eleciones and demanding a recount validated by unbiased international parties.  Still others had not voted and do not care how the race turns out. 

Many Ticos, unlike their North American counterparts, were happy with the conduct at the polls and had faith in the electoral process playing out fairly.  In 2000 when George W. Bush edged out Al Gore for the United States presidential seat, charges of corruption ran rampant on both sides of the political ticket.  Monday, Costa Ricans did not share that sentiment for the most part. 

“The people were very orderly, very tranquil,” said Sergio Méndez at his kiosk near Hospital Calderón Guardia.  “I'm very proud to be a part of such a strong political process.”  He added that although he had voted for Ottón Solís, he thought Arias would win once all the votes were sorted out.

Others did not share his pride.  As dusk descended Monday, a group or protesters, most of them Partido Acción Ciudadana supporters, sat on the western slope of Parque Nacional outside the Tribunal Supremo de Eleciones where they said they would stay until their demands were met, the election was declared over or officers with the Fuerza Pública removed them. 

Some of the protesters said they felt that Arias was trying to buy his way into the presidency through bribes and back-alley negotiations.

“There are two of Arias' deputies in there right now,” said Patricia as she motioned towards the election building.  “No one involved in any campaign should be in that building,” she said.  Patricia would not provide her last name. 

Patricia felt that Arias' candidacy was illegal in the first place based on the constitution that says that a person may only serve as president once.  Arias petitioned the Sala IV constitutional court claiming that the amendment violated his constitutional right as a citizen to run for president.  The court ruled in his favor.  She worried that Arias had strong-armed his way into the presidency and would do the same if the votes began piling up for Solís.  As a result, she wanted the votes counted by someone without an interest in the election, she said. 

Her companion, Flora, said that she was sure the polls had ruined the accuracy of the election.  Pre-voting polls had shown Arias as the heavy candidate to run away with the election.  Solís was only supposed to win some 25 percent of the vote, the numbers said.  She was worried that Arias' fat bankroll had played a part in tipping the projections in his favor. 

The protest was organized by Cosmovisiones, the public relations company that designed Solís' ad campaign and also a set of anti-free trade agreement comercials which showed Costa Ricans named Óscar Arias Sánchez standing against a green background as they spoke against the treaty.  The protest drew nearly as many police officers as protesters.  As the day grew dark, some 50 persons were scattered about in front of the election building as officers patrolled the grounds of the tribunal. They left after night fell.

Other Costa Ricans were content to stick with their votes and wait for the outcome.  Emelio Paragelos Ulate sells ice cream cones from a cart he pushes near Hospital Calderón Guardia.

“Arias was a good leader,” he said as he dished out a scoop for a customer.  “Since then we've had nothing but problems.  We can trust him.”  Paragelos said that he felt the numbers would be cleared up by 12 midnight Monday and Arias would once again be Costa Rica's president.  He served from 1986-90. 

Some were not so enthusiastic although they shared

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Election worker Jason Arce helps others load plastic bags filled with ballots from a single polling place at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

Paragelos' faith in the political system.  23-year-old Dennis Ulloa Cantillo voted for Solís, he said, because the country needs a change. 

“We have past presidents in jail and Figueres won't come back from Europe.  He was in Arias' party,” he said, in reference to former president José María Figueres Olsen who is wanted for questioning here regarding money he received as adviser to a French telecommunications firm.

“The PAC is new, which is what we need,” Ulloa said.  Others had less faith in the political process and some chose not to vote saying that politics in the country are too corrupt and none of the candidates had the best interest of the people in their hearts, they said.    

Jaime Díaz Rojas voted for Solís but thinks that all the candidates are a bunch of clowns, he said.   “People here only fight over politics and soccer,” he said.  “Politics are dirty.”  He points to the current situation as an example.  Each candidate has 40 percent, meaning they have tied, he reasoned.  Therefore, another election is needed.  If this were to happen, he is positive that the some 20 percent of the people who voted for other candidates would pick Solís over Arias  and that his candidate would win. 

Still others decided to protest the political process altogether.  This is the fourth election that Juan Rivera has not voted in.  The political state is a mess, said the worker at the health ministry.  Corruption has run rampant during the past administrations, the free trade treaty will make Costa Rica poor and dependent on the United States and the influx of tourism has brought with it drugs that are ruining the nation's youth, he said.   Rivera said he will vote when a candidate appears that truly has the nation's best interest at heart, he said from a bench in Parque Morazán.

Where the candidates stand
88.447 %
of the
vote
counted




Party
Liberacion
Nacional

Accion
Ciudadana

Movimiento
Libertario





San José
220,675
242,715
47,078
Alajuela
115,447
126,864
19,274
Cartago
66,226
65,074
17,220
Heredia
62,862
70,634
12,498
Guana-
caste
43,539
27,517
5,814
Punta-
renas
49,499
31,259
10,031
Limón
33,521
24,456 11,033




Total
591,769
588,519
122,948
percent
40.510 % 40.288%
8.417 %
Official figures released at 3:15 p.m. Monday



Nation's public school students go back to class today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's public school children go back to class today, and more than 10,000 Fuerza Pública officers and a substantial number of Tránsito officers are on the job to protect them.

There are nearly 4,000 educational institutions in the country, and most of them are public schools.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said police will pay special attention to schools that are in areas officials call vulnerable zones.
Rogelio Ramos, the minister, urged parents to have caution when they turn over control of their children to someone else for transportation to school.

President Abel Pacheco is going to officially open the school year with an inauguration ceremony at the Escuela General Tomás Guardia in the center of Limón today. This is a tradition in which officials pick one school to represent all schools in the country. The Limón ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m.

The school year in Costa Rica runs into the middle of December.





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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 27




Nicaragua complains about Costa Rican treatment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaragua has complained about the treatment of two of its citizens to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, saying that Costa Rica has delayed justice in the cases.

Both are incidents where Nicaraguans were killed on Costa Rica soil.

The most famous is that of Natividad Canda Mairena, a burglar who was attacked by a rottweiler guard dog in Lima de Cartago Nov. 10. Police officers stood by and did little while the dog continued to maul the man for as long as 90 minutes.
The second individual is José Ariel Urbina Silva, also Nicaraguan. He was shot Dec. 4 when he got into an argument with Costa Ricans about the dog case.

The mauling by the rottweiler sparked a wave of jokes at the expense of Nicaraguans, and those citizens of that country living here said discrimination and bad treatment increased substantially after the dog case.

Roberto Tovar Faja, the Costa Rican foreign minister, said Monday that he had confidence in the Costa Rican justice system and the investigative process. If the international commission decides to accept the case, Costa Rican officials will be at its disposal, he added in a prepared release.


Pavas man held to face allegations in a string of rapes in San José area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sex crimes agents arrested a 27-year-old Pavas man Monday who agents allege was a serial rapist in the area.  He is accused of three separate rapes dating back to September of last year, agents said.

Police said the suspect is responsible for the rape of a woman in Hatillo 8 then as well as that of a minor in Barrio Cristo Rey in November.  Agents said that the attacker forced the girl into his car, then took her to an empty lot before assaulting her. 

Agents said the man is also suspected in the
attempted assault of a woman at Calle 20 in December.  A man attacked her as she was talking on a public telephone but passersby saved the woman, and the attacker fled, agents said. 

Agents said the man may be a suspect in many other rapes throughout southern San José.  The rapist used a silver Toyota Rav 4, a gray Nissan Sentra or a gray Hyundai in his attacks and was very violent and aggressive, agents said. 

Those with information on crimes they suspect may be related are asked to call the Judicial Investigating Organization at 295-3315, 295-3316 or 295-3060.  


Raids and arrests made in investigation of cloned credit card ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Barrio La Cruz, Paso Ancho and San Cayetano said they broke up a group of scammers who netted some 69 million colons ($137,860) through credit card fraud.

Police arrested a 30-year-old and a 40-year-old man as well as a 42-year-old woman during an early morning raid on the three neighborhoods.  Officers said that in addition to the suspects, they also seized
 cloned credit cards and various items that were presumed to have been bought with phony cards.   

The investigation has been going on since August.  According to police, the thieves had contacts in various businesses allowing them access to information a credit card leaves when it is swiped through a card reader.  The thieves were able to transfer this information to a new, phony card and buy gold jewelry, electrical appliances and cell phone accessories among other items, officers said. 








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