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(506) 2223-1327         Published March 25, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 60          E-mail us
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Milanes enlists Banco de Costa Rica to help him
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco de Costa Rica has joined with the defense in an effort to keep casino owner Luis Milanes out of jail.

The bank has agreed to serve as trustee for properties that Milanes, former operator of the defunct Savings Unlimited, will give his victims in exchange for them dropping the charges. In Costa Rica criminals can buy their way out of court if the victims agree.

Eliécer Arias Sánchez, manager of BCR Fiduciaria, outlined the proposed trust in a February document distributed mostly to lawyers representing the victims of the failed high-interest scheme.

Savings Unlimited left creditors hanging to the tune of $200 million when Milanes fled Costa Rica in 2002. The fideicomiso or trust would gain control of some properties held by Milanes that are estimated to be worth about $10 million. Among these is the Europa Hotel in downtown San José and an adjacent office building. None of Milanes' extensive gambling interests or other businesses are included in the deal.

Eventually these properties would be sold and the victims would receive the proceeds after real estate commissions and fees, other costs and lawyers are paid. Banco de Costa Rica would collect a $4,000-a-month fee for handling the trust as well as a half percent annual payment based on the value of the properties held.

José Joaquin Ureña Salazar, a Milanes lawyer, said in a cover letter that the casino owner has suffered three heart attacks and had high blood pressure, and diabetes. "Your ultimate purpose in this case would turn uncertain due to his high propensity to sudden death, being that, the main reason to propose as soon as possible this conciliation on behalf of Mr. Milanes.

There are an estimated 500 investors into the Milanes operation that paid up to 3 percent interest a month. It was one of several high-interest schemes operating at the time. There is no clear understanding how any of the businesses made
enough money to pay that kind of interest, although Milanes was widely believed to be putting the money into his casinos.

Ureña said that in addition to the Milanes properties, money kept by the court, bail money for all the defendants and money recovered from Adolfo Somarribas in Luxembourg would be added to the pot. Milanes claims that Somarribas made off with the bulk of the money. Somarribas is seeking refugee status in Europe to avoid returning to Costa Rica. There has been no accounting as to the amount of money located in Europe.

Some Milanes creditors liken the proposed trustee deal to a similar deal floated a year ago by lawyer Pedro Borges, who placed ads in a local weekly newspaper after Milanes designated him to do so. The difference is that Borges presented a letter that said a company was interested in purchasing the Europa. The authenticity of that letter is now under study.

Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho, convicted of aggravated fraud in a similar although unrelated scheme, got an 18-year prison sentence. After he was convicted, his properties were seized to compensate victims who had pressed their case.

They already have received a percentage but real estate conditions have prevented the sale of some properties.

Considering Milanes health, as reported by his lawyer, and the nature of the crime, if he is convicted he would never again see the outside of a prison. So he has a high incentive to reach agreement with his victims.

Milanes returned to Costa Rica in June 2009, and investors continue to be unhappy that he served just a day in jail before he posted property to make bail.

He had made a deal with then chief prosecutor Francisco Dall'Anesse and promised to pay off his victims.

Those hurt by the Savings Unlimited collapse have a hearing in May where the trust proposal will be aired.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 60

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Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes map
Map shows route of proposed northern highway

Projects for roads, bridges
announced by government

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight is the inauguration of the national stadium built by the People's Republic of China.

As if to deflect criticism, the Chinchilla administration announced a series of road and bridge projects Thursday. The central government had been criticized for accepting the stadium and not using the Chinese generosity to fix the roads.

Some of the projects announced by the central government already had been announced.

Two new ones include:

The approval of 22 contracts to fix some 4,300 kilometers (2,604 miles) of national highways subject to approval of the Contraloría de la República.

A project to construct some 32 smaller bridges in the northern zone and the Caribbean coast as well as fixing and rehabilitating bridges in urban areas. This is a 17.2 billion colon series of projects, about $34.8 million.

The central government reannounced the construction of a new highway from Bajos de Chilamate to Vuelta Kooper and the widening of the Cañas-Liberia highway from two lanes to four. This is the Interamericana Norte. The government also announced the resumption of the San Carlos highway, a 102.5 billion colon project, some $207 million. This was the project that ground to a halt when former president Óscar Arias Sánchez dumped Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic as a diplomatic partner. Taiwan was building the highway, which is partly graded.

In all the projects will cost some 250 billion colons or about $505 million. These three projects had been announced earlier in the week.

The new highway from Bajos de Chilamate, just west of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí runs west some 27 kilometers (about 17 miles). The project will reduce dramatically the transportation time in the northern zone. The current route between the two points is 87 kilometers or about 54 miles.

The project would connect the region around San Carlos and points west with the Caribbean coast without the need to pass through the Central Valley. Officials said the project would be a boost to tourism in the area. The highway, which may be constructed within two years, passes through the cantons of San Carlos, Grecia and Sarapiquí. About 50 percent of the property already has been purchased, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The highway will connect with Ruta 32, the San José-Limón route, at Bajos de Chilamate. Much of the preliminary design work already as been done.

Some 14 bridges or culverts will have to be constructed over exiting waterways.

The project to construct 32 bridges is part of a larger plan to building 70 bridges, the first step in a central government commitment to construct a total of 200.  These are small bridges that are expected to take about three months each to build. They are from 12 to 40 meters, some 40 to 131 feet. Most are one-lane in rural areas.

In addition, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad will be repairing bridges over the ríos Aranjuez and Abangares and at the Río Azufrado on the Interamericana Norte, Río Puerto Nuevo and Río Nuevo in Paso Canoas. Other bridges being repaired and rebuilt are over the Río Chirripó on Ruta 4 between Río Frio and Sarapiquí, the Río Sucio on Ruta 32, the San José-Limón highway, and in Guadalupe in the metro area.

Some 19 bridge projects will be on the Interamericana Norte between Cañas and Liberia where the highway is being widened.

The project to repair the highways involves many contractors. Basically the firms will fill potholes, reasphalt, if necessary and do other work that they find to be needed. First they will take inventories of the stretches and present them to the ministry. One of the jobs seeks to rebuild the highway that connects a highway in Limón province with the area around Isla Calero where Costa Rica is having a border dispute with Nicaragua.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 60
Latigo K-9

In Puerto Viejo there are new lives for those who will adapt
By Connie Foss
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo residents still remember Paula Palmer, a North American woman who lived among them and collected their stories about Jamaican immigration and Caribbean culture for her book "What Happen."

Since the book's 1979 publication, Puerto Viejo has transformed from an agrarian economy of cacao, coconuts and fish into a sometimes solid tourist economy. Tourists come to experience the Caribbean climate and culture, and some of them return in search of a dream. The presence of these expats and Gringos has changed the original culture, but the culture has also changed them. The original greeting remains: “What happen.”  Why did these people decide to come here, and to stay? 

Life in Puerto Viejo has changed since Ms. Palmer helped put it on the map.  She was educated as a sociologist and worked as director of the English School in nearby Cahuita.

At the center of town now stands Tex Mex, a landmark bar/restaurant built on the site of Ms. Palmer’s home. Passersby can still smell fish from the nearby shore, but the sound of the sea is drowned out by the noise of commerce taking place within the open-air atmosphere of Tex Mex. Pale-faced tourists order gallo pinto and hamburgers. Locals drink fresh coffee or beer at 10 a.m. Groups gather in corners to do suspicious deals.

Every morning Puerto Viejo resident Jay Doga comes to Tex Mex to work his magic as resident sign-painter. He remembers Paula Palmer because he has been living in town since 1986. He came to the Caribe Sur as a volunteer with the New Alchemy Institute. He said he decided to become a volunteer because he felt confined in his life back in Texas where he always wanted to be an artist/musician but was stifled by the climate of competition.

Doga met a woman who was working for the Peace Corp at the same time and decided to stay and settle down and see if he could follow his dream here. He married and started painting T-shirts to sell on artisan’s row along the beach. The couple went on to open the first souvenir boutique in town. Doga's dream of being an artist has come true. He now paints signs for many of the businesses, gives his paintings to friends and leads a rock n’ roll band RAW, which performs regularly at Tex Mex.

Doga's unique signs are displayed above the bar in Tex Mex where manager, Roger Cameron arrives early to serve coffee along with beer and batidas. He came to Puerto Viejo almost 11 years ago. Originally from England with a 10-year detour in Texas, he had set out with his Mexican girlfriend to open a mole restaurant in Mexico but found that he did not like the climate or culture there.

Michael Blake and simlator sign
A.M. Costa Rica/Connie Foss
Michael Blake at his 'flight center'
Roger Cameron below famous sign
A.M. Costa Rica/Connie Foss
Roger Cameron below famous sign

Someone mentioned Costa Rica as an alternative, so, knowing next to nothing about the place, he followed the lead, he said. He spent some time as a tourist exploring the coasts and the mountains but immediately fell in love with Puerto Viejo and decided to take his chances there, he added.

The monkeys reminded him of the tropical dream and the smell of the salt air reminded him of childhood summers at his grandmother’s Scotland beach home, he said. Like Doga, Cameron came here with few expectations but found it possible to create his own life in spite of the limitations of remoteness and uncooperative neighbors. He said that the culture in his town is different. People who move here have to change their way of thinking and the way they see relationships.

Cameron is a survivor. He said has seen many idealistic expats come and go because they refused to adapt to the unique way of life.

Drug use is rampant and frequently promoted, and a recent unsolved murder of a tourist shocked the community.

Michael Blake moved to Puerto Viejo just a year ago and says this is now his home. He looks like he could have been born in Puerto Viejo, but as soon as he opens his mouth you know he is a Canadian. (“Ey? What was that abOAt?”) He and his then-wife first visited as tourists. Like Cameron, they did the typical tour of the mountains and coasts, but Blake said he immediately fell in love with Puerto Viejo. He said he felt that he had come back home to his Jamaican roots.

Blake spent his childhood in Jamaica. At age 13 he was adopted to Toronto, Canada, where he married, raised his family and became a successful business owner. It was a difficult decision for Michael, but he chose to leave all this, including his wife, behind in order to follow his dream. In his case, the dream is a return to the simple, pure life he remembers as a child and the freedom to help his neighbors in creative ways. Blake is well-known as a positive influence in the community. He used to bring toothbrushes and soccer balls to give to the village children on his trips to Jamaica. Now he shows his generosity to the youth of Puerto Viejo.

Doga painted the signs for Blake’s water filtering business and for his newest business venture, a computer program flight simulator “school” where the grandchildren of Paula Palmer’s generation gather to practice their skills and Blake said he hopes set their minds on things other than petty theft and drug dealing. Blake arrives at Tex Mex every morning, leaves his flight school computer program in the hands of a young apprentice and goes on his rounds to deliver filtered water to local businesses. He said he is content to live his life to the rhythm of the sea and the seasons here where “even the rain is beautiful.”

Puerto Viejo seems to attract those who seek a simpler, more natural life that compliments not changes, the culture. Ms. Palmer is back in Michigan but her Puerto Viejo book has been reprinted and translated into Spanish under the patois title "Wa'apin man."


At Hospital México, the cardiac ward provides bonding
 "Chapulines de Hospital México.” That is what they told me to call them.

Dina said this one morning soon after I had arrived in the cardiology ward to join five other women, all Costa Rican. Like me, they were waiting to be correctly diagnosed, treated, if necessary, and released.

On my first night, I was trying desperately to get some sleep in spite of the chatter and laughter. How, I wondered, could such a bawdy bunch of good friends have found themselves in the same ward at the same time? I sat up in bed and said, “Ladies, please. One at a time! You sound like the Ladies of View.” And fell back on my pillow. They didn’t understand a word of my English but after a burst of laughter, they began to whisper, and I slept.

In Costa Rica a chapuline is a young, rowdy street urchin.

As the days wore on I found out they had been strangers before coming to the hospital. The star of the group was Carmen, slight and chatty. She had a radio and sang along with the crooners in a sweet pure voice in perfect pitch. That is, when she wasn’t making others laugh. I asked her if she had sung professionally. “In another life, long ago,” she said. Carmen is 92.

She had dozens of visitors, besides her daughter, Vicky, who was with her almost 24 hours a day. Carmen looked in her 70s and Vicky, who was 73, looked to be in her 50s.

Sometimes it seems that a hard early life makes for longevity and good humor. Carmen’s husband died after nine years of marriage. He left her with six children and little means of survival. She worked at two jobs to support her family and never remarried. Obviously lots of love went into that mixture. Carmen acted like she was having the time of her life, even here in bed. I think she felt that way wherever she was. The staff and doctors were charmed by her.

During my week’s stay, all but one of the chapulines left. Ina was the exception in this happy lot. She seemed permanently depressed, and her rare smiles were strained and brief. Mostly she sat on her bed and stared at nothing. I, as well as the others tried to involve her in the pleasures and comedy of the moment, but she always relapsed into
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


her melancholy, convinced the doctors would not operate
because she was poor. She and Carmen were very different models for this onlooker.

Lately there have been numerous critiques of local social security hospitals and of Costa Rica as a ‘paradise.’ A. M. Costa Rica staff generally agreed that Hospital Mexico is the best of the group, and I agree. I am still not convinced that one gets any better care (maybe more frills) in the private hospitals here. I know I would choose any of the local social security hospitals over the newest and most expensive private one in Costa Rica.

And as for whether or not Costa Rica is a real paradise,’well, like beauty, I think paradise is in the eye of the beholder or at least in what the beholder thinks is important and holds dear. All Adam and Eve had was a lovely garden and their own ignorance. According to the Bible, that was paradise.

For some it is the idealized version of their own country. For others it is a corrupt-free perfectly run country with little or no crime and efficient people at your beck and call when you need them . . . and no potholes.

For those of us who really, really hate war with all of its collateral damage and after effects, and truly appreciate the laid back, friendly character of most Costa Ricans, along with the temperate weather and the easily accessible beauties of nature (which we want to preserve), Costa Rica is a paradise.

Add to that, medical care that is friendly and attentive and won’t bankrupt you once you leave the hospital, it doesn’t get much better. The chapulines are icing on the cake. I think Elizabeth Taylor, a woman whose physical suffering the world knew little about, would have felt very much at home with them and here.

Happy Birthday, Justin!


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 60  


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More letters from readers on a variety of topics

Pot raid was an invasion
of man's private property


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reply to the article concerning the gentleman who was busted for having 24 plants of medical grade cannabis.

After reading this article, I had to ask myself: do I feel safer knowing that some "control freak" element of the government can charge into Mr. Navarro's home (private property) & ROB him of his belongings? In this case his cannabis medicine !

Was this gentleman an important threat to this community . . . or was he more of a threat to the STRUCTURE of CONTROL established for us "FREE MEN" by those who feel they know better than YOU what is best for YOU ? The "rules" that violate our God-given rights, as well as all known definitions of human rights. The rules that it seems no amount of REASON or SCIENCE can deter . . . just like rules the KING made.

This action is NOT to be taken lightly as it is nothing less than a clear message to all who THINK they have rights, who BELIEVE they are free !  YOUR PROPERTY & YOUR PRIVACY are essentially not yours. Your sovereign domain over your own body is now compromised by RULES, some shady laws that are never placed into the light of day for public debate.

No, I do not fear Mr. Navarro and I'm sure his neighbors do not either. I fear those who fear the principles of liberty & personal freedom, and I fear there minions who for a paycheck or a badge and gun will attack and demonize non-violent citizens.
 
Readers will enjoy seeing an educational video by G. Edward Griffin called Individualism vs. Collectivism (22 minutes). It can be found on YouTube or Google Video.
 
Michael Dodson 
San Pablo de Turrubares.

Blanket statements hurt
the quality of the argument


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It amazes me how many people think they know the answers when they are not experts or even that well read on many of the comments they make.

A letter was written stating emphatically "As far as HAARP goes, there is NO evidence one way or the other to prove whether or not it is harmful to the weather or people in general."  I guess some have read everything regarding the HARRP project, classified and unclassified.  It is people like that who make such ambiguous statements but think they know the answers.  No, we don't know for sure what the agenda is but to make light of it is putting our heads in the sand as most people prefer to do.

Also it was pointed out about Al Gore's fantasy about global warming.  Along with that quote it was also stated;  "it is an arrogant fallacy to believe humans can reshape the future of the climate of the planet in a noticeable way in 10,000 years."   I would think that statement was made cause the person, saying it, researched with other scientists the possibility or not of global warming.  I really think most of the information discovered by this person was researched by the opposition to global warming, which by the way, most have a hidden agenda as well.  Unless we have truly researched this information, looking at both sides of the equation, we shouldn't make statements like we have the answers to everything.    Maybe go to the largest ice field in Alaska, Harding ice field, outside of Seward, Alaska, and see how this ice field has receded in the past 10,000 years.  They have it clearly marked.  I was there in 2000.  You may think twice about what one says about man's influence, especially in the last two hundred years.
    
Yes, Al Gore didn't practice what he preaches.  So do many priests, ministers, CEO's, cops and government officials.   It doesn't mean the message isn't necessarily true.  I don't believe in killing the message because of the messenger.  He has repented and made some big changes since the reports in 2007 of his electrical consumption.  His mansion in Tennessee has added 33 rooftop solar panels and several geothermal wells and they also buy renewable energy.

There was a reference to the chaos in the world as being comparable to what the Christian Bible says.  I guess I am not well read regarding the Bible.  It was mentioned that the Bible predicted the chaos of earthquakes and the nuclear problem in Japan.  I missed that part in the Bible.  It also told us about wars on the planet.  Well, World War I and World War II were more devastating than anything going on today, and devastating earthquakes have been going on for millions of years even before the Bible.    I was also unaware that they knew about nuclear energy whenever the Bible was being written. 

Oh, but we are allowed to make your own interpretation of the Bible, I forgot.   I guess you can believe that as much as someone can believe in the scientific and political explanation of why things are happening.  I tend to try to find out the current facts, to the best of my ability, not what someone wrote about 2,000 and 5,000 years ago and then try to interpret to my liking.
    
If you just watch Fox News, you will believe everything they say.  If you just watch MSNBC, you will believe everything they say.  We have to go deeper than what mainstream media and  blogging ideologues write regarding their agenda as well.

Don't make blanket statements or fun of others until you have researched in great detail any given topic.

Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona
    
The Costa Rican way
is to come up short


Dear A.M. Costa Rica

So typical of Costa Rica.  The Chinese build an entire state-of-the-art stadium in no time.  All the Ticos had to do was draw the demarcation lines for the football pitch and put in place the goal posts.  Come to find out the goal posts are 6 centimeters short and the dimensions of the pitch were short.

All of this was found out Thursday, three days before the inauguration.  Now they are having to paint over the previous marked white lines using green paint and "erasing" where they can.  The kicker is that these were government topographers who were hired to do the job.  Yes, the same folks that are used for demaracation of property lines throughout the country and even responsible for the demarcation of the country's borders.

I'm sorry I'm ranting, but this is just so typical of the Costa Rican way.

Hugh Alexander Monge Salas
Los Angeles, California
Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica won the decision,
why would it compromise?
 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. John Steward’s opinion piece in Thursday’s A.M. CostaRica.com is a thinly veiled biased argument and promotion of Nicaragua’s continued violation of the Cañas Jeréz Treaty.

Here is the current status quo:

(1.)   Nicaragua and especially Costa Rica are extremely happy with the International Court of Justice preliminary ruling.

(2.)   Costa Rica is in the envious position of having environmental specialists on the ground exactly where Nicaraguan troops used to be just a few weeks ago on Isla Portillos documenting and alleviating the environmental damage caused by Nicaragua.

(3.)   Costa Rica doesn’t seek a land grab (as in gaining Nicaraguan territory up the San Juan and/or Lake Nicaragua as suggested by Mr. Steward). Rather it only seeks to maintain the status quo which is sovereignty over its own side of the river and free navigation rights on the San Juan, which it now enjoys.

(4.)   The current diplomatic course of action including relief from the ICJ has been quite successful for Costa Rica up to this point and there is no reason to discard a working successful course of action.

Mr. Steward suggests that Costa Rica (not Nicaragua) show true statesmanship by convening a conference. They already showed true statesmanship by bringing the matter to the Organization of American States, which issued a decision and which was promptly rejected by Nicaragua.

That is how we arrived at this point. Now that the ICJ has ruled preliminarily in favor of Costa Rica, why in the world would Costa Rica want to extract a defeat from a victory?

Patrick Mccormick
Costa Rica



In support of Dog Land,
a good place to get a pet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica,
 
I've had several people ask me where I found my dogs, I tell them about a friend of ours at Dog Land, Ms. Helene Wirt. 

Ms. Wirt has been in Costa Rica along time and has done animal rescue on her own, and she does need help and volunteers. Donations are a plus. With 160 dogs at her shelter, it is costly to feed this many four-legged friends. Would you guess over 1,000 kilos of dog food per month?

If anyone is looking for a pet or as some would call them a guard dog, yes, a dog will notify you if something is not right on your property, what a bark will do to alert you or scare away someone lurking around your fence or even at your window. The big plus is the comfort that a four-legged friend can give you. It's an unconditional love that you receive back. Love, food and water is about all it takes besides a visit to the vet now and then to make sure your furball is on track.
 
I hope you can publish something about the work that Ms. Helene Wirt is involved in and there are always people asking where, how do I get a dog. Here is the chance to find out.

Bill Walkling
Puntarenas


World Press report tells
of narco invasion here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I opened your online newspaper today expecting to see front page coverage reflecting the U.S. world press report on MSNBC that Costa Rica is becoming the next victim of the Mexican drug war as reported this morning.

Is this not important news to a country who's number one source of income is tourism?

Is it not important that as Costa Rica becomes the next victim in the funnel of narco terrorism toward the Mexican boarder, American tourists will stay away from Costa Rica in droves as witnessed in Mexico?

Is it not important that a country such as our dear Costa Rica who suffers not only from a totally, completely inept  police and legal system has not a snowball's chance in hell of fending off the criminals that the entire Mexican army is being overwhelmed by?

The Mexican gangs are buying up the Tico Pacific fishing fleet, farms/fincas for processing, trucking and airplanes. They will have no problem scraping up the spare change necessary to completely buy every policeman in Costa Rica's inept/corrupt police force?

Law and order are already a thing of the past in Costa Rica and as the narco powers wash over the Tico country. Be ready to wave goodbye to tourism and extranjero home sales. Law and order is no more that a bad joke in Tico land.

This should be your lead story today.

All best wishes and good luck to a doomed Tico "legal system" that has no army, and a piss-poor track record of anything resembling law and order. I am so glad to be gone.

What a sad fate awaits a once wonderful country who has never been able to come to grips with dealing with any concept tied to the future. Buena suerte y Pura Frijolles!

Loren Salazar
Arenal

EDITOR'S NOTE: We believe the story in question originally appeared in Thursday's New York Times.




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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 60

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

After his Latin visits
Obama has to produce


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

During his five-day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, President Barack Obama spoke in soaring tones about the progress of democracy and economic and social advancement in Latin America. Obama now faces the task of following through with commitments he made.

Though distracted from the very beginning of his trip in Brazil, through its conclusion in El Salvador, by events in Libya and the Middle East, White House aides say President Obama accomplished the main goals of his Latin America journey.

In major speeches in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, he underscored what he sees as the importance of the Americas to the United States and noted the progress countries have made in solidifying democracy, economic growth, and fighting poverty.

The president announced new business and clean energy partnerships, dialogues and other cooperation and set new goals to increase student exchanges.  

In his speech in Chile, directed to the people of Latin America, he recalled the Alliance for Progress initiated by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago.

"The realities of our time, and the new capabilities and confidence of Latin America, demand something different.  President Kennedy's challenge endures: to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom," he said. "But half a century later, we must give meaning to this work in our own way, in a new way."

In what the White House calls partnerships for progress, President Obama outlined goals of increasing U.S. trade and investment with Latin America.  He reiterated his intention to resolve outstanding issues and move trade agreements with Colombia and Panama to approval by the U.S. Congress.

Partnerships for Progress also includes cooperative efforts to confront insecurity and violent crime, cooperation on clean energy technologies, and enhancement of defense cooperation.  Obama also reaffirmed U.S. support for regional efforts to fight crime and drug gangs in the region.

White House officials say the primary objective of the president's Latin America trip, underscoring the importance of the Americas to him personally and to the United States, was accomplished.

But while officials say the president is committed to following through with the commitments, the proof will be in the doing, something Obama referred to in his keynote speech delivered in Santiago.

"Now, I know I am not the first president from the United States to pledge a new spirit of partnership with our Latin American neighbors.   Words are easy, and I know that there have been times where perhaps the United States took this region for granted," he said.

Coming weeks and months will determine whether Obama can make progress on two important issues, one being the resolution of outstanding issues preventing free-trade agreements with Panama and Colombia from being presented to the U.S. Congress for approval.

Calling the work of following up on a presidential trip is a constant grind, Dan Restrepo underscored the administration's determination to finalize the trade pacts. He is National Security Council senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs

"On the case of the Colombian and Panama free-trade agreements, we have been working with and continue to work with the Colombians and the Panamanians to resolve outstanding issues with the hope of being able to move forward as successfully as soon as possible," Restrepo said.

President Obama has a more difficult road regarding his commitment, stated in his speech in Chile and remarks in El Salvador, to achieve reform of the U.S. immigration system, something that politics in Washington has prevented.

In El Salvador, the president referred to the difficulty of achieving bipartisan immigration reform legislation in the face of opposition by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"My hope is that they begin to recognize over the next year that we cannot solve this problem without taking a broad, comprehensive approach," he said.

In his visits to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, Obama also delivered a clear message about his view of the importance of human rights and basic freedoms across Latin America. 
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 60

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Latin American news
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surfboard
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Anti-drug police released this photo of the surfboard

Canadian faces allegation
that surfboard held coke

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian tourist was transporting a surfboard loaded with cocaine, according to the Policía de Control de Drogas, which make the arrest Thursday at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela.

The man was identified by the last name of Londry. Police said he was heading to Montreal, Canada.

The interior filling of the surfboard was hollowed out to accommodate the drugs, said police, which provided a photo. They said they confiscated nearly four kilos of cocaine.

Surf boards have been used before to smuggle cocaine. Police said they singled out the Canadian because he appeared nervous, but usually such arrests are the result of tips or because the surfboard was x-rayed.

Fishing boat captain fined
in shark finning case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The captain of a shark finning boat ducked jail time but has to pay a fine, according to environmentalists monitoring the trial in Puntarenas.

The captain is Tsa Yu Jen of the Belize-registered Hung Chi Fu 12. He was cited into flagrancy court March 2 when his crew began unloading 20,000 kilos of shark fins at the public dock in Puntarenas. Costa Rican law says that the fin must be offloaded still attached to the shark.

The Program Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, which monitored the case, said that the prosecutor sought a year in prison for the captain and confiscation of the boat.

Instead the man received a fine of about 18 million colons, about $35,400 and the confiscation of the sale proceeds of the shark fins to Mariscos Wang, a local firm. That was about $32,000.

The environmental organization has been involved in a prolonged fight against shark finning, a lucrative occupation in the Pacific port town.





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