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These stories were published Monday, March 25, 2002
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The many possibilities of the Costa Rican B&B
A.M. Costa Rica/Patrica Martin
The traditional bed & breakfast has many faces in Costa Rica, and some of them even avoid the name B&B. Travel writer Patricia Martin visits three different but typical examples of the genre in the northwest Central Valley.

The man above left is Martin Borner of Posada Mimosa. He shows 
off his homemade gym equipment he used to rebuild his strength 

after heart surgery at the B&B he runs with his wife.

Andy Mason, above right, is from Bath, England, and he relaxes at the pool and jacuzzi at Vista del Valle Plantation Inn, which the owner characterizes as an inn, a plantation but not a B&B.  See why by reading Patís article. 

Click HERE



 
Powell puts damper on rush for Central American free trade
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador ó A Central American free trade agreement is not likely soon, according to Colin Powell, U.S. secretary of state.

President George Bush wants to hear from Central American leaders, and then he will take that information back to Washington and try to craft what he heard into one trade policy, said Powell. 

Powell spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One as the aircraft was carrying Bush to a luncheon meeting with the heads of state of Central America.

Nevertheless, Powell said that regional trade agreements are the key to prosperity.

"These kinds of agreements have been shown over the years to benefit the countries who enter into the agreements with us," Powell said. "And at the end of the day, they benefit American consumers. They benefit our economy. But more importantly, they help us push forward the values of democracy and free enterprise."

Bush capped the four-day tour of three Latin nations with his luncheon here. He pledged to press the U.S. Congress to approve the Free Trade of the Americas agreement to improve economic conditions throughout the Western Hemisphere. That agreement is supposed to be in place by 2005.


Bush had the working luncheon with his host Salvadoran President Francisco Flores, President Miguel Angel Rodríguez of Costa Rica and leaders from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama. 

Despite Powellís pessimistic comments, officials say the leaders discussed the separate Central American trade agreement that Bush proposed in January. During a joint news conference, Bush thanked Flores for strengthening El Salvador's borders and putting a freeze on suspected terrorist assets following the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. 

Saturday in Lima, Peru, Bush also thanked his Peruvian counterpart, Alejandro Toledo, for support in the war against terrorism. The U.S. leader also met with the leaders from Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia on expanding trade, and fighting terrorism and drug trafficking.

During his tour, President Bush also attended a regional summit in Monterrey, Mexico, sponsored by the United Nations. 

In Monterrey, Mr. Bush said he would also press Congress to approve an extra $10 billion over the next three years for a special foreign aid fund for poor countries.

President Bush dismissed claims by opposition Democrats that the Latin American tour was an effort to gain the support of Hispanic voters for upcoming congressional elections. 

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A youngster gives his opinion of the Crucitas mining project planned by Vannessa Ventures near the Nicaragua border in Costa Rica.

Significantly, photos of the march provided electronically by the organizers did not contain overall scenes where numbers of participants could be estimated.

A.M. Costa Rica was not present at the march site. This photo was provided by organizers.

Photo by Marco Tulio Araya Barboza/Frente 
Norte de Oposición a la Minería
Catholic bishop is keynoter at march against Crucitas gold project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The two presidential candidates did not show up, but those opposed to the Crucitas open pit gold mining project had their march Friday in Cuidad Quesada.

Organizers said that the march participants covered four blocks when the protest stepped off about 9:30 a.m. Organizers had hoped for 10,000 marchers. There was no estimated available to A.M. Costa Rica as to the size of the march.

The principal opposition is Frente Norte de 

Oposición a la Minería.  Msgn. Angel San Casimiro, a
Roman Catholc bishop, showed up to express his opposition to the mining process, said the Frente, which provided a copy of the bishopís speech to the press.

Also present were three deputies, one each from the main political parties, said the Frente.

The gold mining is being opposed because it would use a cyanide-based leaching process to extract gold from rock. Plus the project is about two miles from the ecologically rich San Juan River that divides Costa Rica from Nicaragua.


 
Alternate path set up for real estate disputes in Central Valley
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People who feel they have been wronged in a real estate transaction now have a way to resolve their dispute without the high cost and long wait of a traditional court suit.

Four persons have been certified as conciliators after a rigorous academic program. Among them is Mercedes Castro, well-known to North Americans as a principal in Re Max First Realty, S.A. The bilingual Ms. Castro spent 80 classroom hours learning how to bring the warring sides together to resolve a real estate dispute anywhere in the Central Valley.

A similar academic program in the future will enable her to serve as an arbitrator. The ruling of such three-person panels are final, whereas a conciliator can only achieve results with the agreement of the embattled parties.

"This is very, very fast, she said of the alternative method. "In less than six months you will have the resolution."

Although Ms. Castro has yet to have her first conciliation case, several requests for mediation have been filed with the Centro Resolución de Conflictos y Materia de la Propiadad, she said.

The academic program was sponsored by the centro, as well as Consultoría Mundial, S.A.,  of Chile, which designed the program, the University Latina, which provided the academic base, and the Centro de Arbitraje y Mediación. The centro is associated with the Carrera Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raizes, the board of real estate brokers.

Similar conciliation programs exist in other areas, including family law, but the project in which Ms. Castro is involved is the only one for real estate disputes, she said. "This is the only one in Central America," she said.

Conciliation is not binding, and if a party does not like the outcome, he or she still has recourse to the courts. But this method of resolving conflicts is quicker and cheaper than arbitration, in which a 

thermometer panel render a verdict supported by a judicial mandate. Of the complaints, Ms. Castro said that right-of-way cases and squatters are the most common with a growing number of cases stemming from condominium living. A lot of complains stem from persons who take over property where there is inadequate water supplies.
 
Ms. Castro said she is prepared to work on any real estate-related case, including lose of deposits in leases and real estate purchase agreements.

The voluntary conciliation and mediation program is relatively low in cost, ranging from $40 to $100 per hour with an investment of from eight to 12 hours, she said.

Arbitration is more expensive but still much cheaper than the adjudicating a case in the Costa Rican courts.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Mercedes Castro
When that system is set up, the parties will enter into an agreement to be bound by the decision of the arbiters and the final judgment is endorsed by the courts, said Ms. Castro.

Some real state contracts in Costa Rica and elsewhere specify mediation and arbitration to settle disputes in lieu of court suits. Costa Rica is well known as a place where courts suits, particularly those involved property rights, drag on for years or even decades.


 
La Casona arsonist
reported on the lam

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When police when to pick up one of two men convicted of burning down the historic La Casona structure in San Rosa National Park, he wasnít home.

The man, Roy Calvo Barquero, 22, and a companion each got 20 years in prison for setting the building on fire.  The Sala III, the criminal section of the Costa Rican Supreme Court, upheld the conviction last week.

But Calvo was not there when agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization showed up at his house early Thursday morning to take him into custody. They said they think he fled to Nicaragua.

Agents asked that anyone knowing his whereabouts to contact them at 666-1142 in Liberia.

The companion is Geovanny Mora Cruz, 41, who presumably is in custody. The blaze was May 9, and it destroyed about 70 percent of the wooden structure, which has since been rebuilt. It was rededicated in a colorful ceremony last week.

The structure was a Costa Rican headquarters in 1856 Battle of Santa Rosa which was the countryís first victory against the invading filibusters led by William Walker, a U.S. adventurer. It had been used as a museum until the fire prosecutors said was started as revenge because the two men were stopped from poaching on the park property.

Two rebel kidnappers
captured in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BOGOTA, Colombia ó The Colombian army says it has captured two suspected leftist rebels allegedly involved in last month's plane hijacking and kidnapping of a Colombian senator. 

Army officials says the guerrillas are members of the country's largest Marxist insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. They were captured Saturday about 130 kilometers (78 miles) southwest of here.

Authorities accuse the suspects of helping seize control of an airplane carrying Sen. Jorge Gechen Turbay Feb. 20. Officials believe FARC is still holding the lawmaker captive. 

The incident prompted President Andres Pastrana to end three years of peace talks with FARC aimed at ending the country's 38-year civil war. He also ordered the army to retake the rebel's southern stronghold he ceded to them in 1998 to advance the peace process. 

Rebel attacks against the country's communications networks, power stations, and bridges have increased sharply since the end of the peace talks. 

In another development, the father of abducted Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt has died. Gabriel Betancourt, 83, passed away Saturday exactly one month after FARC rebels kidnapped his daughter. Ms. Betancourt's family has appealed to the rebels to allow her to attend her father's funeral Tuesday. 

Mr. Betancourt served as Colombia's education minister in the 1950s. Guerrillas seized Ms. Betancourt Feb. 23 as she was traveling to FARC's former enclave in southern Colombia. 
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Canadian free trade
gets two boosts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican-Canadian free trade treaty moved ahead in the National Assembly late last week when the measure was reported out of a committee to the full assembly.

Meanwhile, Sunday the Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica gave its full backing to the measure by means of a half-page advertisement in La Nación.

The treaty would mean that Costa Rica would get access to a market with 37 million persons, said the chamber of commerce. Thatís about 10 times the Costa Rica population.

The chamber ad urged national deputies to approve the treaty. The Canadian Parliament already has approved it. The chamber noted that with approval of the treaty 86 percent of the Costa Rican imports would enter Canada free of duty and that duty would be dropped on an additional 12 percent within four to eight years.

Among those exports that would be free of duty immediately are bananas, fresh pineapples, coffee, semiconductors, integrated circuits, melons, and crude sugar, said the chamber. In addition, Canada has agreed to accept 20,000 tons of refined sugar free of duty each year, the chamber said.

And for the Costa Rican consumer, there also are benefits, said the chamber, pointing to an elimination of duties on newsprint, kraft paper for bags, wheat, toasted malt and pre-fried potatoes.

The potatoes have been a rallying point for deputies who oppose the treaty. Some deputies and farmers said that the elimination of the duty on Canadian potatoes would hurt producers here. But national consumption already is 80 percent imported, said the chamber. 

The full assembly is expected to vote on the measure after Semana Santa.

U.S. and Canada deep
in dispute over lumber

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The U.S. Department of Commerce has ruled that Canadian producers and exporters of softwood lumber benefit from unfair subsidies and are dumping their products on the U.S. market.

Although the determination could lead to U.S. import duties of up to 35 percent, U.S. officials say they still hope to negotiate a resolution to the long-standing dispute. Lumber imports from Canada are currently worth about $6 billion a year.

Negotiators from both countries spent weeks in Washington trying to reach agreement before the March 21 deadline for Commerce Department final determinations on subsidies and dumping. Senior U.S. trade officials underlined that the time frame was set by statute and that they had extended the deadline as long as possible on the case filed by U.S. industry in April 2001.

Speaking to reporters last week, the officials also made clear that they intended to continue negotiations and that they found their Canadian counterparts equally determined to reach a "durable" solution. One trade official said negotiators had made "very substantial progress" until time ran out the previous evening.

The U.S. position is that Canada's provincial governments ó which own most of the lumber-producing forests ó impose logging fees low enough to qualify as subsidies.
 

Proposed mall stalled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed weekend indoor-outdoor mall, the subject of a story featured here March 7, never opened. The  location was supposed to be a former bar and restaurant in Santa Ana.

The opening was scheduled for March 17, but an inspection of the site Saturday showed no activity.  Some Santa Ana residents who were working with building owner Roberto Garcia Diaz said in advance of March 17 that they had dropped out of the project.
 


 
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