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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, March 9, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 47      E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Miracle on the Constanera
A.M. Costa Rica Tom Moran
They do not lack for dump trucks on the Costanera job.
Something just short of a miracle north of Dominical
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Call it the miracle miles. Or the sight that residents of the central Pacific coast never thought they would see,

But despite a delay of 30 years, more or less, a contractor is paving the Costanera Sur just north of Dominical.

The highway section from Savegre to Dominical is 22.6 kilometers (about 14 miles) and the responsibility of Constructora Solís-Sánchez Carvajal. The contract is for $15.5 million. A similar project is under way between Quepos and Savegre. Consorcio Meco-Santa Fe has that job.
The stretch is about 19 kilometers (about 13 miles) and will cost $16.4 million.  Deadlines are by the end of the year if bad weather does not intervene.

As residents point out, even when the highway is finally paved there will not be much difference because heavy trucks have been using the route for years, except during frequent washouts when traffic could be stalled for a day or more.

The Costanera Sur is one of the great scenic drives of Costa Rica. The road parallels the Pacific the whole distance from Dominical to Quepos. But it has been a gravel washboard.  With some new and rebuilt bridges and paving, residents hope they have an all-weather road.

Beachtown movement challenges maritime zone law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of beach towns are organizing and plan to present a proposed law to legislators that will trump the existing maritime restrictions.

The organization grew out of a meeting of community representatives in Nicoya Feb. 27. That was the same day that A.M. Costa Rica reported that the Sala IV constitutional court had invalidated a law that would protect Cauhita and Puerto Viejo homeowners who are within the 50-meter section of the maritime zone.

As a manifesto issued by this new group of representatives from 32 beach towns said, they and their ancestors have lived in and used what is now the maritime zone for years and that the government and other institutions have taken advantage of their poverty and lack of knowledge and resources  to make their situation illegal.

The maritime law went into effect in 1977. In the case of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo residents lived on that land for nearly 100 years, but they had no documents to prove it.

Very little of Costa Rica's coastal land is under private ownership even though most of it supported dwellings and homes long before the maritime zone law. The law specifies that property from mean high tideline to 50 meters inland is public and cannot be developed except for very few uses, like marinas. The next 150 meters inland is controlled by the state and the local municipality. Private ownership is not allowed, but the municipal officials in conjunction with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo can grant concessions for use.

The beach town group calls itself the Frente Nacional de Comunidades en Peligro de Extinsion. Representatives plan another meeting this week.

The manifesto said that residents of the communities know that the hidden agenda is to
evict them from their lands and homes in favor of powerful economic interests who want to exploit the zone.

In fact, the courts have ordered municipalities to destroy many structures in the maritime zone even though some predated the maritime law. The law favoring Cahuita and Puerto Viejo provided those communities with city status and exempted the land from maritime zone rules. Now that the Sala IV has stripped the communities of city status, whole sections of beachside homes could be demolished.

The organization includes communities in the provinces of Limón, Guanacaste and Puntarenas. The group said it wanted to meet with lawmakers Friday in Nicoya to demand a halt to demolitions in Ostional, Montezuma, Tambor, Puerto Soley, Peñas Blancas, Manzanillo, Cahuita and Pochote.

The manifesto promises a general strike in the beach towns and in the nation's border zones if some legislative action is not taken by July 25. That is the Día de Anexación de Guanacaste, which is always a festive time in that province.

In addition to finding that the law declaring the two communities cities violated the maritime zone principle, the court also said that it violated another constitutional principle by creating a special privilege for one segment of the population. The court meant those persons who were given the right to title their property.

It is not constitutionally possible to have acquired any valid rights in the maritime zone of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo after 1977, the year in which the maritime zone law went into effect, the court said. Many inhabitants of the area came later than 1977, and many who were there earlier will have trouble proving that.

Residents of that area have developed a legal process to prove and acquire title to their land. Even in today's market some ramshackle homes are sitting on million dollar beach properties.

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Dobles will give his side
at legislative session today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man who was in the sights of opposition parties and environmentalists resigned under fire Friday after allegations surfaced that he gave an advantage to a corporation that had connections to his family.

The man is Roberto Doubles, who serves until Tuesday as minister of Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. He is supposed to appear at the legislature today to give his side of the story.

Dobles had been under fire from a range of environmentalists and opposition politicians because of his support of open pit mining in the northern zone and a broad range of environmental sins that may or may not be true.

Opposition party members and opponents of President Óscar Arias Sánchez were overjoyed. The Federación Costarricense de Conservación blamed Dobles for waging a war with nature, for pushing deregulation of the environment and free trade in natural resources. Arias, of course, has promoted a peace with nature initiative.

The allegations have been under investigation since December. They were made public last week by Channel 7 Teletica and in the legislative chambers.

Dobles and Arias approved a gravel extraction concession on the Río Aranjuez for a corporation that is linked to other corporations that have relatives of both men in officers' position. Dobles denies any family member is an officer of the corporation that got the concession.

Registro Civil workers
facing fraud allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men, Bernal Villalobos Sánchez and Carlos Sánchez Vidaurre, are being investigated for illegally providing foreigners with Costa Rican cédulas.

The men are employees of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. The Tribunal operates the Registro Civil that is in charge of providing citizens with their cédulas and for examining cases of individuals who seek to obtain Costa Rican citizenship.

The Tribunal confirmed the investigation Friday afternoon and said that the case was initiated at its request last April.  Both men worked in the office of Opciones y Naturalizaciones but now work in other departments.

The men are facing allegations that they facilitated the delivery of citizen cédulas to persons who were pretending to be the individuals named on the card-like document. In at least one case, the actual holder of the citizenship had died, said officials.

Medical exam was breeze,
and no one failed to pass

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 37-year-old Salvadoran man was giving medical certificates without examining individuals who sought driver licenses, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents detained the man Friday.

According to the agency, the man set up shop in a home near the driver's license facility in Paso Ancho. Although his office looked like a medical facility, he did no examinations and simply filled out the required medical certificate for 10,000 colons, about $17.80.

The man used signatures and stamps from physicians who had offices nearby, said investigators.

Paint does not go well
with giant gallo pinto pan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To avoid putting a big, white line down a giant-size dish of gallo pinto, the highway administration postponed work Saturday on Paso Colón.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad announced Thursday that the street would be closed so workers could paint the line. But they forgot about the Fiesta Nacional del Gallo Pinto, a promotional event put on by a rice company Sunday morning.

The organizers of the fiesta needed all of Saturday night and Sunday morning for their event. Highway employees had to work elsewhere.

They were to have painted the lines on Paseo Colón Sunday night and early today.

Meanwhile, the gallo pinto organizers said they used 1,300 kilos (2,860 pounds) of rice and 1,100 kilos ((2,420 pounds) of beans to make the traditional dish.  And not a single drop of white paint. Their goal was to serve 50,000 persons. 

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Water company feud leaves Tamarindo dry for weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's water company says the former concession holder in Tamarindo is guilty of sabotage because it pulled the pumps from wells that supply much of the community with water.

The national water company, the Instituto Costarricense de  Acueductos y Alcantarillados, won a court decision last week that allowed it to take over the concession that the local firm had held since 1994. The local firm, Empresa de Servicios Beko S. A. provided water to about 21,000 homes and businesses in Tamarindo and adjacent areas.

Residents reported they had no water or just a trickle over the weekend.  Acueductos y Alcantarillados, known as AyA, moved in tanker trucks and issued a strong message about Beko. The water company characterized Beko's dismantling of pumps at well heads as sabotage.

The water company said it was trying to get the pumps back and to make sure it had the legal right to enter the areas of
the water wells. Water was believed to be flowing again Sunday night.

The actions of the local company are believed to have caused problems for firemen and locals when they tried to fight a series of small brush fires Thursday.

Priscilla Brenes, manger for Beko, sent an e-mail to an A.M. Costa Rica reader in which she said:\ "Unfortunately I don´t know how the AyA is operating our system, I really feel sorry for the users because they are suffering the consequences of AyA unfair actions, thank you for your support."

Beko's water distribution concession expired in mid-February, and Acueductos y Alcantarillados made the argument in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo that water service is a state responsibility.

Acueductos y Alcantarillados is getting more active in the Tamarindo area and also has plans to construct a sewage treatment plant.

Proposed higher tolls on Escazú route irks some motorists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tolls for the rebuilt Autopista Próspero Fernández will go into effect in May, and some residents who drive the route daily are not happy with the 309-colon fee for private automobiles.

The concession holder, a consortium called Autopista del Sol, says that the toll amounts are in its contract with the  Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The toll at the Escazú plaza before it was destroyed in construction was 75 colons. So the new amount is an increase of 312 percent. And that is just for one way.

There also is some discontent that the concession holder has chosen Banco HSBC to sell the tiny black boxes that will allow motorists to pay the toll electronically. HSBC customers can buy the visor-mounted boxes for $15, and the tolls will be deducted automatically from their bank
account when they drive through the toll plaza.

Motorists who are not HSBC customers have to pay $30 to the bank, the only place the boxes will be available. They will receive 5,000 colons credit along with the box.

The toll appears to be linked in the contract to the U.S. consumer price index and will not be reviewed by the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, which sets tax and bus fares and other utility rates.

Unlike the previous toll system on the highway, booths will take money in both the east and west lanes. Although motorists can pay manually, those with the HSBC electronic boxes can use an electronic payment lane, slow to 40 kph or lower (about 25 miles) and expect that an automatic gate will raise up as the electronic installation identifies the vehicle, makes the deduction of the toll and searches for the next vehicle.

Lawmaker wants to protect chidren from bombardment of advertising
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One legislator wants to protect children from advertising. The lawmaker, Guyón Massey Mora, has filed a proposed law that would do just that.

Massey is the sole legislator in the current Asamblea Legislativa representing Restauración Nacional, a political
party identified with evangelical Christian causes.

According to the proposal, advertising would be prohibited in public areas, national monuments and historic sites. Massey also wants to prohibit advertising on public services, such as telephones and utility poles. He said that children, the most vulnerable of the society, are continually bombarded by ads.

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Crushing México's drug cartels could be long-term process
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's growing drug violence is now considered a national security threat by the United States, as the wave of drug-related killings and attacks in Mexico continues to mount.

There is a growing worry among U.S. officials that the bloodshed will spill over into the United States as Mexican authorities struggle to curb power of the drug cartels.

Convoys of Mexican troops arrive in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. The soldiers are being deployed to end the drug violence that has left hundreds of people dead in the city.

Yet the power of the cartels has grown throughout Mexico — raising fears about the country's future stability.

While few expect Mexico's political stability to be threatened, Latin American expert Peter DeShazo says the country does face a serious problem. "It's a law enforcement problem, but it's a very serious one because the level of the violence is extremely high," he said. "It's unprecedented and the resources available to the drug cartels is extraordinary."

And they have laid siege to authorities in Mexico's border cities, carrying out attacks with highly sophisticated weapons — most purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country.

Mexican authorities say they have seized thousands of guns from the cartels. And Mexican President Felipe Calderón wants Washington to do something about it.
"We've seized, in these two years, more than 25,000 weapons and guns and more than 90 percent came from the United States," he stated.

What is happening in Mexico, some experts say, is similar to Colombia in the late 1980's and early 1990's, when powerful drug cartels carried out assassinations and otherwise terrorized the country

Colombia was able to eventually crush the major cartels, DeShazo said, but it took time. "In the end, the Colombians were successful in dismantling the Medellin and the Cali cartel because they mobilized their resources and they got help from the United States," he said. "But mostly it was the Colombians themselves that were able to do it."

There were 6,000 drug-related killings last year in Mexico and, so far, this year is bloodier. And as the cartels continue their attacks, there is growing concern in the United States that the violence may spill across the border.

In describing the cartels as a national security threat recently, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Washington is ready to help.

Other U.S. officials, such as David Johnson of the State Department's Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau, are praising Mexico's efforts. "We think it's a challenge the government of Mexico is taking seriously," he said. "And they are taking the steps that are going to be necessary to get their hands around this."

But as in Colombia, crushing the cartels in Mexico could take years.

Obama is briefed on what U.S. might have to do to help Calderón win fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed Saturday by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about Mexico's drug wars and how the United States might help.

Mullen was in Mexico Friday for meetings with government officials.

U.S. military officials say Obama is interested in exploring military capabilities that the U.S. has that could help Mexican forces. The U.S. has expressed concern about the growing violence in Mexico spilling across the border.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Washington may help train Mexican forces and provide intelligence and other resources in the drug fight.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year.

Mexico's drug cartels are locked in a violent fight for control of trafficking routes into the United States.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has deployed thousands of soldiers to fight drug gangs across the country since taking office in 2006. Despite the effort, more than 6,000 people were killed last year in drug violence.

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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.


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.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


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.

judicial fair
Poster for the three-day event

Judicial fair will feature
terrorist bombing skit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judiciary will be blowing up a passenger jet six to eight times a day in a simulation of a massive disaster and the use of investigative facilities to determine what happened.

This is the highlight of the third annual fair to be put on by the Poder Judicial Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The event will be in the pedestrian walkway between the Tribunales de Justicia and the Judicial Investigating Organization building between avenidas 6 and 8 at the court complex.

In a brief summary the judiciary said that visitors will be invited to sit within two truck trailers that will represent the passenger jet. A lot of the action is on a plasma screen with 15 to 20 judicial employees working as actors.

The scenario is not too far fetched. The plane explodes shortly after takeoff at Juan Santamaría airport because narcotraffickers have placed a bomb on board. They are angry because investigators broke up a drug gang a few days before and one of the leading investigators is on the plane, according to the scenario.

A judicial release said the simulation is about 20 minutes. Other attractions include the dog corps of the Judicial Investigating Organization and a number of exhibits and discussions, including one on the new traffic law that contains severe punishment for drunk drivers. The investigators also will be giving instructions on how to avoid electronic fraud, said the announcement.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 9, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 47

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Tourism has recovery role,
U.N. resilience unit says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In spite of the hit that tourism is taking during the current global economic crisis, the industry will recover and be stronger than ever, the U. N. World Tourism Organization said Friday.

In conclusions issued by the agency’s Resilience Committee, the industry — which has been severely damaged by the recession and is forecast to continue its downturn for the near future — has a key role to play in helping the world recover from the current turmoil.

“History has demonstrated that crises can also provide opportunities as they call for substantial efforts and industry solidarity,” the body, which met for the first time last month in Madrid, found.

Addressing the recession through the lens of long-term issues such as climate change and global poverty will also help the tourism industry weather future crises, it said.

Taleb Rifai, the organization's interim secretary general, stressed that while it is impossible to estimate how long the current crisis will last, it is clear that tourism has much to contribute to the recovery process with its “unique resurgence capacity and an immense potential in terms of employment creation and sustainability.”

The agency expects international tourism to stay even or fall by up to 2 per cent this year. The Americas and Europe are expected to be hurt most, while Asia and the Pacific, as well as Africa and the Middle East, will find growth easing in 2009.

In January, a U. N. World Tourism Organization report found that the economic slowdown threatens to reverse the historic four-year gains made by the industry in foreign travel. Although international tourist arrivals reached 924 million in 2008, up 16 million from 2007 or a 2 per cent overall increase on the year, growth stagnated in the second half of last year, hitting Europe the hardest.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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