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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, March 19, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 55      E-mail us
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Arias is reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez formally announced Wednesday that Costa Rica would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba after a 47-year rupture.

Arias made the announcement on the anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown in Cuba six years ago when 55 activists and independent journalists were arrested.  Freedom House, a U.S.-based rights organization, estimates that there are about 200 political prisoners in Cuba.

Arias did not mention Black Spring or political prisoners. He did say in a written statement that Costa Rica has established ties with countries that are far from what he called this country's reality. He mentioned the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. He said that Cuba was much closer culturally and geographically.

There have been hints of the move by Arias, encouraged by the current foreign minister, Bruno Stagno.

The move was met with satisfaction by leftists members of the Asamblea Legislativa and members of Arias' political party.
It was March 18, 2003, that the Cuban government lashed out against Cubans who had been active in the Varela Project, a petition campaign aimed at expanding the rights of citizens under the current Cuban constitution, noted Freedom House.

The so-called Black Spring arrests sought to silence proponents of free speech and expression and concluded with the arrests of more than 90 civilians throughout the island, the organization said. More than 70 of those arrested were handed sentences of up to 30 years in prison following a series of sham trials, the organization added.

Then-president Mario Echandi, a conservative, broke relations with Cuba Sept. 10, 1961.

Arias suggested in his statement that there would be some economic benefit by reestablishing relations with the Communist country. He mentioned direct air flights.

One lawmaker, José Merino del Río, of the leftist Frente Amplio, noted that Tuesday the president-elect of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, said he would reestablish relations with Cuba. Merino said that Costa Rica and El Salvador were the last two countries in Latin America that did not have diplomatic ties to Cuba.


Natural actions discounted in maritime zone case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Geographical changes in the public maritime zone carried little weight with the Sala IV constitutional court as it declined to halt demolition at a Playas del Coco school.

Lawyers for the school presented several arguments, but one said that in 2005 natural forces reduced the distance between mean high tide and the structures in question.

The school is Colegio San Pablo S.A., and it is the first to raise an issue that will become more important as rising water levels change the configuration of the maritime zone. Without the action of natural forces, the structure would not be in the public zone, the school said in its brief.

The zone is the first 200 meters above mean high
tide line. The first 50 meters are dedicated to the public. The remaining 150 meters can be used for construction via a concession granted by the local municipality.

The school argued that the disputed construction was built in 1970 before the maritime law went into effect. That claim carried no weight with the constitutional court.

The school also said that classes would have to be suspended while students are relocated.

With an increase in the mean temperature, scientists say that the Pacific may rise up from one to eight inches.

So far Costa Rica has not addressed this issue, which will mean the country will have a creeping maritime zone as the mean high tide line moves.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 55

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Big horse parade Sunday
for St. Joseph's celebration


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The municipality will celebrate the Día de San José Sunday with a horse parade, folk dancers, bands and mascaradas. The day is that of the patron saint of the city, St. Joseph.

One stipulation from the municipality is that the 300 riders must leave their beer at home.

The municipality is trying to differentiate itself from the mounted drinking party that takes place each year on Dec. 26. The riders for Sunday have been invited, and they have promised not to drink, said the municipality.

The horse parade, which is designed to feature many different breeds of the animals, begins at 11 a.m. in Parque la Sabana. The main route will be around the park and along Paseo Colón. Many of the horses are champions, the municipality said.

In addition to showing off the horses and celebrating the feast day of the saint, organizers will collect funds for victims of the Jan. 8 earthquake near Volcán Poás.

He could not go himself,
but they can kick him out


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just because a foreigner is forbidden to leave the country is no reason that immigration officials cannot throw the individual out.

That was decided in a recent Sala IV appeal. A Nicaraguan man found himself about to be deported after being detained by the Policía de Migración Feb. 4. The man argued that he was the subject of an impedimento de salida, a legal restriction on leaving the country.

The legal case appears to involve a failure to pay child support or  pensión alimentaria.

Nevertheless, the constitutional court said that he could be deported anyway.

Frequently mothers will file for child support and the courts will issue an impedimento de salida against the presumed father. Sometimes the man is unaware of this action until he tries to leave the country.


High court declines to stop
community croc festival


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the fourth time the Sala IV constitutional court has declined to put a stop to the annual crocodile hunt that takes place in Ortega de Bolsón, Santa Cruz de Guanacaste.

Every year residents of the community delegate some of their number to jump into the local waterway and scare up a crocodile. The animal is tied up and displayed for a day as the guest of honor at a community fiesta. Then it is released.

Each year environmentalists and others bring the case to the Sala IV, noting Costa Rican law that forbids hunting endangered species. Each year the court declines to stop the community event.

The event, known as the  la lagarteada, ends up on television. It also attracts many tourists.

Three held in bribe scheme

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two policemen and a former policeman are in custody today after being detained in Barrio Cristo Rey and in Heredia Wednesday to face allegations they used their jobs to seek a bribe from a businesman who they found had an illegal sidearm.

Our readers' opinions
Environmental damage is now
and not 20 years in the past


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Unfortunately the demolition order that came from the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo of the environmental ministry, is very short sighted.  The damage from construction has already been done in the maritime zone.  To bad the environmental industry can't see the forest from the trees. 

A much bigger problem is the owners of Punta Leona and the previous owners are doing much more damage cutting down rainforest in the Punta Leona area. This forest cutting is being done to build more projects on the property.  It is having much more of an impact on the environment than the structures that are already down by the beach and have been there for many years.

There is another project that is also destroying the old growth forest of Punta Leona and also the beach at Playa Manta.  The project is called Villa Leona.  They, too, have cut down many trees and dumped tons of soil into an old growth forest in Punta Leona. 

Unfortunately the river that runs through the project has been producing so much sediment that it is destroying Playa Manta also.  Playa Manta now has a constant layer of mud on the ocean floor of several inches.   The sea life has vanished also.  It is all because the river has dumped so much mud from the Villa Leona project. 

Villa Leona actually looks like a huge open pit mine.  Of course MINAET has done nothing regarding that project and several others at Punta Leona, but they will make a big stink about something that occurred 20 years ago.

The wildlife in Punta Leona has been affected tremendously in the past few years from all of the deforestation.  Several years ago there were nine spider monkeys on the property, and now there are two.  This is the most endangered monkey in Costa Rica.  It requires old growth forests more than the other monkeys and that is why it has declined so much. What really needs to be addressed at Punta Leona and Villa Leona is the damage being caused at the present time and not what happened years ago.
Henry Kantrowitz
Quebrada Ganado


Cutting firemen's work hours
would be a bit ridiculous


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the article on 18 April "If your pants are on fire, please push 2."

I think to call the 24-hour shift exploitation of firemen is a bit ridiculous. They have been working 24 hour shifts in the U.S.A. for years. If there are no fires for a week, that is just the way it is. They sleep, play cards, ping pong and ect. Some even wash and wax cars on the side for extra money. I am reasonably sure that they take the job voluntarily and no one forces them to. 
R. E. Woodrow
Curridabat

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 55


Earthquake map points out most active areas in country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A study of earthquake threats made available this week shows that three areas on the Pacific coast are likely to receive the strongest shocks over the next 500 years.

But the Central Valley and San José also are included in the zone of highest activity.

The highly technical report was posted at the Web site of the Red Sismológica Nacional of the Universidad de Costa Rica along with material relating to the nine quakes with a magnitude of more than 4.0 that took place in the Golfito area from March 11 to Thursday.

According to the study, the three areas that are most vulnerable are:

• The northeast part of the Nicoya Peninsula,

• an area between Tarcoles and Parrita on the central Pacific coast, and

• the southern part of the Peninsula de Osa and Punta Burica in extreme southern Costa Rica.

The researchers are Álvaro Climents, Wilfredo Rojas and Guillermo E. Alvarado, all with ties to the Red Nacional, and Belén Benito of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.
earthquake map
Red Sismológica Nacional
The darker the area, the more earthquake risk in this 500-year map.


The report includes a number of maps showing expectations for 500, 1,000 and 2,500 years. It also includes a detailed summary of the nation's earthquakes since colonial times.


Head of emergency commission, Gallardo, quits abruptly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the national emergency commission resigned abruptly Wednesday after the Spanish-language newspaper La Nación said it interviewed him about close relationships with two contractors.

The man is Daniel Gallardo Monge, and he presented his resignation to President Óscar Arias Sánchez in the afternoon, said Casa Presidencial.

A news story today in La Nación said that Gallardo was the lawyer for both firms before he got the job on the  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de
Emergencias. The newspaper also detailed some contracts that were awarded without bidding.

In his emergency commission job, Gallardo was responsible for preventing disasters and fixing infrastructure after disasters took place.

Casa Presidencial did not mention any contracts in the news release about Gallardo's departure. The release said he was leaving for health reasons that required rest and doctors. It also cited unspecified personal reasons. Gallardo, a former legislative deputy, was highly visible in times of emergency showing up at floods, earthquakes and landslides.  He will leave April 13, said Casa Presidencial.


Exeuctive branch staffers to get off all of Semana Santa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Executive branch employees are getting all of Semana Santa off in what may be a boon for national tourism.

The prolonged holiday will start at the end of work Friday, April 3. But some employees can be expected to use vacation days to get away sooner.

Holy Thursday, April 9, and Good Friday, April 10, are legal holidays anyway, and Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, 
minister of the Presidencia, said that staffers will be charged vacation days for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Other government branches and independent institutes are expected to follow Casa Presidencial's lead.

Tourism is suffering a decline due to the world economic situation, and many Costa Ricans go to the beaches or mountains for the holidays, although many stay in town for religious activities relating to Easter, Sunday, April 12.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 55


Kirk confirmed by full Senate for trade representative job
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate Wednesday voted 92 to 5 to confirm Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative.  Kirk, who becomes the first African-American to hold the post, has vowed to pursue new trade deals but also work to ensure that U.S. trading partners are not violating existing trade agreements.

The Senate vote came after little debate on the nomination.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat and frequent critic of free trade accords, said he hoped Ron Kirk would work for fair trade, and noted that the U.S. trade deficit last year totaled $800 billion.

"I hope this trade ambassador understands that our country stands for trade, stands for open markets, but we ought to, for a change, stand for fair trade agreements and we ought to stand for balance in trade, and get rid of an $800 billion a year deficit in which we end up owing other countries a substantial amount of our future," Dorgan said.

At his confirmation hearing last week, Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, Texas, pledged to make sure other countries live up to commitments they have made under existing trade agreements.

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who lost his presidential bid to Barack Obama last November, said he was reluctantly voting to confirm Kirk.  He said he had reservations about the Obama administration's trade policies, and said he was concerned about provisions in recently-passed bills requiring the government to use U.S. steel for certain projects and ending a program to allow Mexican trucks to operate in the United States.

"I remain very concerned about the direction of our trade policies at a time of economic peril," he said.

But fellow Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Kirk's home state of Texas had no such reservations about confirming the nominee.

"He will make a great U.S. trade representative," she said.
"He will seek exports of American goods all over the world. He will seek free and fair trade."

Hutchison said Kirk would face a series of challenges in his new post, including revitalizing stalled world trade talks and seeking congressional approval of free trade agreements with Panamá, South Korea and Colombia — all negotiated by the previous administration of President George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing for President Obama's nominee to head the Commerce Department, former governor Gary Locke of Washington State.

Locke, a Democrat, vowed that if confirmed, he would insist on tough enforcement of U.S. trade laws, and develop an aggressive program to create and protect American jobs.

"We must rebuild, retool and reinvent our national strategies for sustained economic growth," he said.

Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, praised Locke's qualifications for the job. "As the two-term governor of the nation's most trade-dependent state, he spent eight years breaking down trade barriers and promoting American products from airplanes to apples to operating systems," she said. "He has led numerous successful delegations to our Asian trading partners to foster those relationships. The experience and relationships he built over the years will serve him well as he works to promote American products and American technology to a global market."

Locke, if confirmed, would become the first Chinese-American commerce secretary. Locke told the hearing his grandfather moved from China to Washington State a century ago to work as a houseboy.

Locke — who is expected to be easily confirmed -— was President Obama's third choice for commerce secretary after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire withdrew their nominations.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 55


Latin American news digest
Monetary Fund, World Bank
seeking more U.S. money


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Wednesday briefed members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on global economic crisis and the just concluded meeting of world finance ministers that they attended in Britain.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his counterpart at the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, came to the Capitol to seek U.S. support for emergency lending to countries in distress.  The U.S. administration and western European countries are seeking a doubling of Monetary Fund resources so that the global agency is able to meet any emergency needs of its over 185 member nations. Monitary Fund chief Strauss-Kahn said he supports not only the increase in resources but also more voting power within the fund for emerging economies.

"I think it is not only unavoidable but certainly useful that in the coming months the governance of those institutions will be reformed," said Strauss-Kahn. "Because emerging countries and also low-income countries need more room, more voice, more representation."

Unlike most international organizations, Monetary Fund voting shares are apportioned according to economic strength, meaning that the United States, Japan, and Western Europe have the most say. The Fund says it will revise the voting shares by 2011.

World Bank president Zoellick expressed concern about trade protectionism and warned senators about the negative effects of countries restricting imports.

"The danger of protectionism, whether of a creeping or overt type, would really make a situation that is very bad much worse," said Zoellick. "That's what you did see in the 1930s and that does trigger a whole series of beggar-thy-neighbor policies."

Some analysts worry that the United States itself may be turning protectionist. The Obama administration has moved to restrict access to the U.S. market by Mexican trucks involved in cross-border trade. Mexico says the move violates the U.S.-Canada-Mexico free trade agreement and is considering retaliation. The world economy is currently experiencing its worst slump in 40 years.


What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details