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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, March 2, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 43          E-mail us
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The existing Moín dock is considered to be highly inefficient
Dutch firm agrees to put $1 billion into Moín docks
By The CAFTA Report staff

The Costa Rican government Tuesday awarded a Dutch company a concession totaling $1 billion to construct a state-of-the-art container terminal at Moín on the Caribbean coast.

The new terminal will compete with the government-owned docks that are considered highly inefficient.

Casa Presidencial said the project would bring 2,000 jobs to the poverty-ridden Caribbean coast.

The contract went to APM Terminals, which says it offers an integrated global network of ports, terminals and inland services. This network has 53 ports in 32 countries, 121 inland facilities in 48 countries, with a total of 22,000 employees in 62 countries, the company said in a parallel release.

"This project is a key and a priority within the national development plan in matters of infrastructure," said Laura Chinchilla, the president. She said other projects involve improving the highways that lead to the port, including the troubled Ruta 32 between San José and Guápiles, as well as an expanded petroleum refinery on the Caribbean.

Francisco Jiménez, the transport minister, noted that the Moín port was the principal exit for goods going to the United States and the European Union. The problem at the port is one of congestions due to an insufficient number of docks and limited storage capacity for containers, he said. The current docks can only handle a single ship at a time. In  addition there are tourism cruise ships that dock at the nearby Port Limón.

Some 75 percent of Costa Rica's exports pass through the Caribbean ports and in order to reach a government goal of $17 billion in exports in 2014 addition infrastructure will be needed, said the minister.

The terminal shall assist in the transformation of the economic and social development of Costa Rica and of the province of Limón in particular, said the company. The firm projected approximately 1,000 direct jobs during the construction phase and 450 jobs during the first phase of operation, coupled with new investments and indirect jobs in the area. That was less than the government's estimate.

The company gave this description:

In the first phase and depending upon technical studies, the access channel and the area where ships turn will be dredged to 16 meters (52.5 feet) deep. A new 1.5-kilometer (nearly one mile) breakwater will be constructed. The container yard with an area of 40 hectares (148 acres) will be created together with 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) of pier with two separate places for ships to dock. Additional works include the administration building and a 12‐lane gate.

Equipment in the first phase will include six ship‐to‐shore gantry cranes and other specialized equipment. This first phase will be completed in 2016 and will cost an estimated $543 million.

The terminal will undergo phased expansion in
accordance with provisions of the concession agreement. Upon the completion of the final phase, the terminal will have an area of 80 hectares, with 1,500 m of pier, five berths, a 2.2-kilometer (1.4-mile) breakwater and an access channel 18 meters (59 feet) deep.

The company added that the dredging will permit the entry of larger ships with greater container capacity, creating economies of scale and that construction of the breakwater will counteract weather conditions that prevent normal functioning at the port of Moín and enable the terminal to operate 365 days a year.

Casa Presidencial said that the waiting time for ships to be loaded or unloaded would be reduced from sometimes five days to a day.

The government said that the premises envisioned by the company would be one and a half times the size of Parque La Sabana.

The company will have three years to build the first stage, which includes two berths. Within 10 years or when traffic equals 1.5 million containers a year, the company is obligated to construct a third berth. The third stage begins when container traffic reaches 2.5 million a year.

The government reduced the proposed fee for handling a container from $246 to $223, it said. The cost would be better than the estimated $311 per container at the existing government docks. They are operated by the Junta de Administración Portuaria y. Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica.

The actual cost at the government docks is higher because there are additional fees for guards and rental of space. The World Bank estimated that the cost is higher due to delays. In 2008 there were 38,000 hours of wait time valued at $765 million, according to the bank, the government said.

The total cost of exporting a container this year is $1,190 in Costa Rica, $729 in Panamá and $456 in Singapore, the government said. In addition the new facility will be able to receive ships carrying up to 9,000 containers compared to the current maximum of 1,200, said the government.

It was in April 2009 when the government published an offer to create a concession at the port. The project is opposed by the dock workers union who have rejected a major payoff from the state. There are frequent job actions there.

The unions were hardly mentioned Tuesday, but there is the probability of legal action and demonstrations and strikes from the current workers.

Also not mentioned Tuesday was the possibility of constructing a dry canal whereby containers unloaded at either Moín on the Caribbean or Caldera on the Pacific could be transported by rail to the other coast. Much of the rail infrastructure already is in place, although a bypass would have to be constructed around the metro area where trains compete for road space with vehicles.

There also is a break in the line due to weather and lack of maintenance east of Cartago.

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Sculptors are welding together a work in Parque Nacional using discarded computer boxes in anticipation of Transitarte 2011.

Summer festivals planned
for next two weekends

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José is the scene for two weekends of performances, expositions and other types of cultural activities. The culture ministry has joined with the municipality to fill the center city parks with activities.

This weekend is the first for what is called El Festival Veranos or summer festival. It is the product of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. The festival continues the following weekend, too, from March 11 to 13.

The weekend of March 11 also is when Transitarte 2011, the  Municipalidad de San Jose's cultural festival, takes place.

The locations will be Parque Morazán, the adjacent Parque Jardín de Paz, Parque España, the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, Parque Nacional, Paseo de las Damas and the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

Ministry officials and Mayor Johnny Araya have a press conference today to outline the agenda and the specific artists who will be performing.

The usual fare covers a wide range of arts and cultural activities, including stand-up comedy, sports, music, dance, theater, circus acts, street performances, visual arts, literature, and an open category. Signups from performers and artists were sought late last year. There were 455 proposals in nine categories.

Just like at the circus there are multiple events going on at the same time. And they are free.

Sidewalk art market set
for Sunday in Alajuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday the Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría in Alajuela is joining with local artists and the municipality to offer a sidewalk market.

The event is being called Alajuela para los peatones or Alajuela for pedestrians. The museum is setting up sales areas on the narrow street that runs along the building's east side. This is called the Pasaje León Cortés.

Offered for sale will be art works, books, recordings and antiques, said the museum. The event starts at 9 a.m. The street in front of the museum will be closed to provide for traditional games, dances for seniors and a cultural program of stories, poems and music.

U.S. soprano will perform

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Soprano Christina Villaverde and pianist Melissa Loehnig, both from the United States, will inaugurate the Música al Atardecer program at the Teatro Nacional Thursday at 5:10 p.m. The event also is sponsored by the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, which has invited the pair as part of the Promising artists of the 21st century.

Admission is 2,000 colons, about $4. The event is being held in the foyer of the theater where there is space for just 98 persons, said the Teatro Nacional. Ms. Villaverde is a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida in music.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 43
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The influence of the pre-Columbian spheres and the Boruca peoples are clearly seen in the works of Deredia.
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Postal service honors well-known sculptor Deredia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia has been honored with a commemorative postage stamp bearing his image and those of works he created.

The artist, who uses the name Deredia, creates monumental works, and many are inspired by the pre-Columbian stone spheres of southern Costa Rica.

"In his work, he started to reflect the extraordinary creative influence received by observing the monumental granite spheres, produced by the pre-Columbian civilization of the Borucas," says a biography on his Web site. "Those artifacts of mysterious primordial strength moved the sculptor towards studies as much of shape and material
used, as of function and symbology derived from the sphere and circle."

The commerative set of stamps, in addition to the artist's face, contains photos of his Genesis works:  "Génesi Ricordo profondo," "Continuación," "Ricordo profondo" and "Pareja."

The stamps are 395 and 225 colons.

Deredia has held many exhibits in Europe and is probably the best-known Costa Rican artist on the continent.

Correos de Costa Rica said that 1,000 first-day covers were issued. This includes the stamps and photos of the artist's spherical women.

Two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters here on humanitarian visit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats tend to become excited when they see what they think are U.S. helicopters in Costa Rica.

At times, like the Jan. 8, 2009, Cinchona earthquake, the sightings are accurate.

Well, there are two more Blackhawk helicopters in the country now on what the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto calls humanitarian missions.

They come from the Jorge Enrique Soto Cano air base in Honduras where the U.S. military maintains a presence.

The helicopters are bringing medical personnel to evaluate the details of developing a training program for physicians and nurses in the northern part of the country.
José María Tijerino, the security minster, said in a release that the helicopters are not rigged for war and do not require legislative approval to enter the country. His comments are sure to raise some eyebrows in the legislature which contains a minority of lawmakers who balk at giving approval to U.S. aircraft and warships.

The ministry said that this is the first diagnostic step to plan and develop training which will take place this year. The programs will be in Guanacaste in an area known as El Jobo and in Puntarenas on the Isla Chira, which is in the Gulf of Nicoya.

The helicopters come just a few days before the International Court of Justice in the Hague is to hand down a decision regarding the invasion by Nicaraguan troops of a small part of northern Costa Rica. So the presence of the helicopters is sure to raise eyebrows in Managua, too.

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Administration seeks big loan for cells and youth centers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government will seek a loan of $132 million from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, in part to  build 2,700 prison cells.

The government made that announcement Tuesday. Some 2,000 prison spaces would be for men and 700 for women. The existing Buen Pastor women's prison in Desamparados is being undermined by an adjacent river, and officials are trying to move inmates out.

The government also plans to spend $57.8 million for what are being called centers of attention for children and youth who are at risk. The centers would be equipped to train the youth in art and sports, said the central government.

Some $40 million would go to the construction and development of a permanent corps of teachers at the new national academy for police, said the announcement.

The loan sought would be for $132 million and would
 have a five-year grace period and a 25-year term. The government would contribute $55.8 million, it said, for a total of  $187.8 million.

The proposal for attention centers for youngsters is reminiscent of the midnight basketball program promoted by then U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1994 to give activities to urban youth.

The Laura Chinchilla administration proposed a value-added tax and other tax changes to provide the money for various citizen security initiatives, including 4,000 more police officers.

That series of proposals has run into trouble in the legislature, so now the central government is looking for the loan to pay for some of the programs that the new taxes were supposed to support.

So far the administration had added about 1,000 new police officers. Some 220 were sworn in Monday in Heredia.

Tico Times sheds its unprofitable Nicaraguan edition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tico Times S.A. has killed its sister publication in Nicaragua, The Nica Times.

The news was confined to a small box in the last issue of the newspaper Friday. The box was addressed to "Dear Readers" and simply said that the newspaper was closing at the end of February after six years of providing news.

Although no reason was given, The Tico Times had never successfully exploited the Nicaraguan advertising market.  The last four-page issue had just five display ads and just two classifieds. The largest ad was from the government's Nicaraguan tourism institute.

Although described as a separate newspaper, The Nica Times was inserted in weekly copies of The Tico Times. For copies sold in Nicaragua, The Nica Times was wrapped around The Tico Times.
In addition to the lack of advertising, the printed paper had to be distributed to some 38 locations in Nicaragua from San José. That represented a significant expense.

The situation is similar to that facing other print publications in these days of Internet communication.

In addition, the growing authoritarianism of the Daniel Ortega government is not good for business, U.S. tourism or English-speaking retirees.

The Tico Times, itself, has admitted to experiencing some of the same problems and has created a non-profit companion to seek donations to assist in news coverage and other expenses.

A major problem for the 55-year-old publication is the price of paper that has resulted in a per copy sales price of 600 colons, some $1.21, and listed advertising rates that can be more than $2,000 for a single back page color ad.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 43

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Ballooning medical tourism
raises some ethical issues

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One of the fastest growing businesses around the world, particularly in Asia, is medical tourism.

How fast is medical tourism growing? David Vequist, a  physician who heads the Center for Medical Tourism Research in San Antonio, Texas, says one medical research organization predicts explosive growth.

“According to Fox and Sullivan, by 2012, it’s expected to be worldwide about a $100-billion business, and it’s growing worldwide from 20 to 30 percent. There was a recent estimate that in Asia alone, it was growing as much as 17 percent," he said.

And Vequist says many of the medical facilities around the world are giving the best medical facilities in the United States a run for their money.

“The Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, the Texas Medical Center, MD Anderson, Cedar Sinai, these really great facilities in the United States that arguably are among the best in the world are receiving more and more competition from best in class facilities in places like Turkey at Parkway Hospital or Bumrungrad in Thailand or Severance in Korea. These locations around the world are getting very good," he said.

But then there is the down side. Glen Cohen, co-director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics at the Harvard University Law School says there is evidence that profitable medical tourism is taking away medical services from the poor in some host countries.

“In India, for example, there have been a number of anecdotal claims that the existence of the medical tourism industry has siphoned doctors away from treating poor Indian patients and has basically resulted in a net loss for India’s poor. There are others who say no, it’s quite the opposite, that there is an infusion of technology, there is trickledown economics. Again, it’s a contested empirical claim. But beyond that, there is an ethical claim about whether you’ve done something wrong," he said.

Much of China’s medical tourism industry has focused on transplants, reportedly about 10,000 of them a year, mostly kidney and other organ transplants. The Chinese government has admitted that some of the organs for transplantation have come from executed prisoners.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California at Berkley and a co founder and director of the medical rights organization Organs Watch, says many of those have lead to very bad results.

“I am in touch with a number of families who have had disastrous transplants in China because it was so unregulated." A family from Israel went to China in 2009, and the father had a botched transplant with a 15-year-old village girl. He died and the young donor died, she said. "It was just a horror show," she said.

That has recently changed as China has enacted new regulations surrounding transplants. One proposed law would give the death penalty to anyone found guilty of illegal organ trafficking. However Ms. Scheper-Hughes says the entire process brings up troubling consequences.

“It does turn doctors and ministries of health into brokers because you still have to find people and it’s not going to be your children or my children. It’s going to be ethnic minorities, the poor, the desperate, the imprisoned people, the people who are looking for visas, the displaced populations of the world, the refugees," she said.

China is also moving forward on plans to set up and market treatment using stem cell therapy. It’s a therapy that, for the most part, is unavailable in the United States.

Cohen of Harvard said, “Many scientists think in the next 50 years or so, many of the breakthroughs in medicine may be related to stem cell therapies. So obviously this is promising and obviously with terminally ill patients who have exhausted all approved therapies or clinical therapies in the U.S., the calculus is quite different in terms of the safety and efficacy. But there are significant risks when you engage in any experimental therapy and stem cells are no different. And I’m not really aware of too many success stories in this regard.”

Cohen says in addition to ethical concerns, there are at least three concerns that must be addressed.

“One is the quality of service that’s being provided to you abroad. The second concern is that if something does go wrong, what is your ability to recover a medical malpractice by suing the doctors abroad, and the third maybe is the willingness to get a doctor in your home country to engage in follow up care, the availability of health records and what the quality of care will be back home," he said.

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Ms. Figueres in Japan urges
quicker action on climate

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations climate change chief Tuesday called on governments to quickly transform the agreements reached in the Mexican city of Cancún last year into tangible action on the ground, and provide clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases emissions.

“Governments must now implement quickly what they agreed in Cancún and take the next big climate step this year in Durban,” said Christiana Figueres. She is a Costa Rican and executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. She spoke to reporters in Tokyo.

The framework convention is an international treaty which considers what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. Some countries have approved the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the treaty, which has more powerful and legally binding measures.

Ms. Figueres is currently in Japan to meet with government officials, Japanese business and others, and to attend informal talks on Thursday, jointly organized by the governments of Japan and Brazil.

The agreements reached in Cancun, at the 16th Conference of the parties to the framework convention in December last year, included formalizing climate change mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.

Ms. Figueres described the outcome of the Cancún meeting as a solid step forward for strengthened global climate action, encompassing the basis for the largest collective effort the world has ever seen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, she said, the Cancún Agreements formed the most comprehensive package ever decided by governments to help developing countries deal with climate change, and a long-term global agreement to keep average global temperatures below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Ms. Figueres, however, warned that promises to reduce or limit emissions so far amounts to only 60 per cent of what the scientific community says is required by 2020 for global temperatures to remain below two degrees, and that emissions need to peak by 2015 to avoid the agreed temperature goal slipping out of reach.

Looking ahead to the next round of talks – to be held in Durban, South Africa, later this year – Ms. Figueres said governments need to agree on a way to cut global emissions about twice as fast as they have already promised, along with increasing the certainty that they will do what they say.

“Governments meeting in Durban must resolve the remaining issues over the future of the Kyoto Protocol,” she said. “In this context, we need to keep in mind that the Kyoto Protocol remains the only working, binding international model to reduce emissions, and nations have an urgent task to decide how to take forward the protocol’s unique benefits of transparency, certainty, compliance in handling national emission targets, and common but differentiated responsibilities.”

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