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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 61            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Health officials closing more Tamarindo businesses
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five more Tamarindo businesses are to close down after officials of the Ministerio de Salud judged that they continue to pose a public health risk.

Four restaurants or bars and one condominium complex were found to have failed to complete the measures demanded of them by sanitary orders issued by the health ministry in December, the ministry said. They will therefore join the ranks of the 11 businesses that were originally shut down in January.

Health officials checked 47 businesses in the Guanacaste coastal town during the week beginning March 10. They concluded that 27 had completely fulfilled the requirement set out by their sanitary orders, some of which concerned making changes or repairs to sewage disposal systems.

Another 15 businesses had their sanitary orders prolonged, as the only thing they lacked was the documentation of a professional management plan.

“We understand that there are very few professionals qualified to draw up these plans for businesses,” said Juan Luis Sánchez, director of the ministry of health in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. “In the cases where businesses were clearly trying to complete their orders but lacked this component, we granted an extension, usually of around 15 days.”

In total, the ministry had a list of 71 businesses to check, but due to lack of time did not finish checking 24 of the businesses. Sánchez said that
 these would be checked in the coming weeks, adding that the entire follow-up should be finished by the end of April, but said that this may not happen if new problems are found during future checks.

The health ministry started checking Tamarindo's businesses in December after water tests off the beach showed that the ocean contained unacceptably high levels of fecal contamination.

Similar problems have since been encountered in many beach towns around the country. It was announced Tuesday that eight beaches have this
year lost the blue flag certification that shows they are clean and safe. In addition to Tamarindo, they are Dominical, Manzanillo in Guanacaste, Negra in Puerto Viejo de Limón, Arenilla, Ocotal, Agujas and Pelada de Nosara.

Of these eight, Tamarindo scored the least environmental points, with a poor 65.

To qualify for the blue flag, a beach must score at least 90 points in checks that include ocean water quality, and the handling of both inorganic and human refuse.

Sánchez said that the health ministry is satisfied with the way they are handling the situation in Tamarindo.

“At the beginning we had over a hundred businesses to check,” said Sánchez. “In this follow-up we started out with 71, now we're down to 24 left to check. Bit by bit, we are making sure that each business is held accountable for their environmental impact.”

Mora and Ciudad Colón to mark 125th birthday with weekend fiesta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cantón de Mora has just turned 125 years old, and to celebrate its birthday, the main town, Ciudad Colón, will be holding a weekend festival.

A live painting competition will be among the entertainments at the Festival de Villa, to be held from Friday to Sunday.

The idea of the festival is to reinforce the identity of the village, reflecting on its traditions and values of work, peace, and communal participation.  The location is about 20 kilometers or 12 miles west of  la Sabana via the Autopista Próspero Fernández. 
“We hope to fortify still more the cultural and productive structures of the region,” said organizer Dagoberto Elizondo. “This year sees the participation of 14 agricultural producers, 32 craft makers and 15 artistic groups.”

The inauguration will take place on Friday at 7 p.m. Traditional games will fill Saturday from 9 a.m. onwards, along with the painting show.
Popular and marimba dancing, mascaradas and concerts will also take place.

Sunday's activities include an exhibition of martial arts, horse and cart parades, as well as the ever present marimba and live music.

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Poder Judicial to show off
its various agencies today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial arm of the government will be putting on displays of its various units starting today at 10 a.m.

The two-day event kicks off the judicial year which is aligned with the governmental calendar.

In addition to displays and demonstrations, the Poder Judicial will be hosting discussions on a range of subjects, including Internet fraud and pornography via the Internet. Experts will be involved.

Most of the discussions will be today but the police dogs will perform Friday afternoon.

The Poder Judicial includes the Judicial Investigating Organization, the courts, the Ministerio Público or prosecutors as well as the Dirección Nacional de Notariado, the agency supervising notaries.

Most of the activities will be on the pedestrian boulevard that passes between the western and middle buildings of the court complex in San José.

Financial administrator
will head ports agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A financial administrator with extensive experience on the Caribbean coast has been picked to head the nation's principal development agency there.

He is Álvaro Rodríguez Gutiérrez. The job is as executive president of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica. He was named by the Consejo de Goberino, the president's cabinet.

Rodríguez worked for 10 years in the Banco de Costa Rica and then became an employee and later the general manager of the Corporación Bananera Nacional S.A. He also has served as a director and president of the board of directors of Banco de Costa Rica.

He was picked in 2006 to help the central government develop its extensive redevelopment of the Limón area.

He was credited with getting approval for the financing of the project from the World Bank in just 18 months.

He replaces Wálter Robinson, who resigned.

As part of the government's plan, the cargo docks in the Limón area will be awarded in concessions to private firms. As a supporter of President's Óscar Arias Sánchez, Rodríguez will be in charge of the agency that employs many of the dock workers.

Man tied up and executed
along Zurquí tunnel road

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone tied up a man and left him dead at the side of the Braulio Carrillo highway, said a spokeswoman from the Judicial Investigation Organization.

The victim, Enrique Bemúdez Peñaranda, 44, was found at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, said the spokeswoman. Agents located the body of Bermúdez in a ditch near the Zurquí tunnel. Someone had tied his hands and feet and hit him numerous times, said the judicial spokeswoman.

By the state of the body, agents presume someone left it in the ditch in the early hours of the morning, said the spokeswoman. Experts are performing a full autopsy to determine the cause of death, said the spokeswoman. The case is being investigated by the Judicial Investigation Organization, it reported.

Another air traveler faces
cocaine smuggling count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police detained a South African woman accused of carrying drugs in her suitcase at the Juan Santamaría airport, said a security spokesman Wednesday.

The 28-year-old woman, who has the last name of Ferreira, was headed to Zurich, Switzerland with a layover in Madrid, Spain, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officers from the Policía de Control de Drogas said they noticed the woman after she displayed nervous behavior at the security checkpoint. This prompted them to deepen their search, said a security spokesman. Officers found a little more than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine in the back part of the suitcase, said the spokesman.

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Two public agencies summoned over Parque Palo Verde
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two government agencies are being summoned to court under accusations of causing millions in damage to protected forest and wetlands in Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Guanacaste.

Plantations of sugar cane and rice, situated around the edge of the park, are to blame for flooding caused by irrigation systems, according to the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, part of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

Permission for these plantations and irrigation canals to be built was given by the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario and the Sistema Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento.

Over five years, the plantations have gradually been flooding the surrounding land. Water seeped through 2,270 hectares (about 5,600 acres) of pochote trees and various other zones of the park. Palo Verde has been declared a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar convention on wetlands, and is notable for its biodiversity.

Affected areas of the park include the zones of Bocana, Nicaragua, Corralillo and Quebrada la Mula.

The environmental tribunal was due to visit Palo Verde today, in order to verify the exact extent of the damage. A 
report made by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia sent to the tribunal in November made an economic evaluation.

The Sistema Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento is specifically accused of carrying out and granting  concessions for irrigation works that led to the flooding and that the plantations it approved required systems that have had a negative impact on the wetlands.

As a result of certain practices, soil was washed downstream into the park, leading to an increase in sediments and the reduction of water flow. More vegetation has therefore grown up in the wetlands, changing the habitat that used to be optimal for the reproduction of certain aquatic species, according to the allegations.

The Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario is implicated for similar actions, but has already issued a rejection of the accusations. The institution says that the accusations presented by the tribunal were first brought against it in 2001, and since that time it has made efforts to consolidate its attempts at agricultural development with the preservation of the natural environment.

The Tribunal Ambiental has summoned the two organisations to a hearing that will take place April 29 at 8 a.m., and have stated that the presence of Bernal Soto Zuniga, general manager of the Sistema Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento, and Alberto Amador Zamora, president of  the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario, will be required.

A review
Silly as it might be, public seems to like CowParade

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Are decorated Fiberglas cows a great idea or a dumb waste of money?

Even at A.M. Costa Rica the decision is split.

The gruff editor who spent many youthful hours crouched aside a milk cow was initially unimpressed by the CowParade spectacle.

But others on the staff see the event as bringing art to the people. Kids crawl under the life-size cows. People stop and stare and steal a touch. The public mind clearly favors the project.

So do the artists. The Municipalidad de San José, a sponsor, reports that 100 artists are involved in the project, which is a benefit. Each had to pay several thousand dollars for the cow and materials.

The project will be inaugurated today at 9:30 a.m. in Parque Central.

Not all love the painted cows. Already some damage has been inflicted on the Fiberglas cows. Each is firmly anchored to a concrete platform to avoid thefts. But crooks are innovative. Yet where do you sell a purloined, painted cow?

The cows are supposed to be on display at locations all over the city for four months. Then they will be
cow parade again
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Youngsters are among the most enthusiastic

auctioned off. Although similar events elsewhere have raised millions for charity (with cows selling for up to $60,000), the Costa Rican market might be a bit inelastic for painted cows.

Still the creativity should be applauded. Just in the vicinity of the Teatro Nacional, visitors can see a harlequin cow, one bearing painted turtles and one with a four-cylinder Volkswagen engine mounted in its stomach. A cow sculpture outside the Iglesia la Solidad appears to be a bride.

The real creativity might come when successful auction bidders figure out what to do with their newly acquired cow.

Policeman among suspects in Internet cafe killing of youth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone shot Jason Chinchilla Valverde, 20, in the head. The problem facing investigators is who shot him: a robber or a police officer?

Chinchilla's father owns the Internet cafe where a man shot and killed young Chinchilla Tuesday night, said a judicial spokeswoman.

According to judicial reports two men entered the internet café in El Alto de Trinidad in Moravia at around 10 p.m.
The men most likely wanted to rob the place, said the judicial spokeswoman, but were stopped when an officer from the Policía Administrativa intervened. A shootout ensued between the three men, leaving Valverde, a  bystander, dead.

The body was transported to the Morgue Judicial, where agents from the Departamento de Balística will determine what type of gun fired the fatal bullet, said the judicial spokeswoman. No arrests were made in the case as the suspected robbers were not able to take anything and fled, said the spokeswoman.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 27, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 61

Colombia's foreign minister says country ready to restore relations with Ecuador
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's foreign minister says his country is prepared to re-establish relations with Ecuador that were broken following a Colombian cross-border military raid March 1.

The minister, Fernando Araujo, told Radio Caracol Tuesday that he has instructions to work towards achieving peaceful and fraternal relations. Araujo also said he will cooperate with the Organization of American States, which rejected the raid that targeted Colombian terrorists.

Ecuador and Venezuela broke off relations with Colombia after the raid on an outpost of the Fuerzas Armadas  Revolucionarias de Colombia. Although tensions have since eased, Ecuador confirmed Sunday that one of its citizens had been killed during the attack that also left a terrorist commander, Raul Reyes, and more than 20 others dead.
 Meanwhile, Colombia's top army commander, Mario Montoya, said Tuesday that he had no information about the health or location of Ingrid Betancourt, the one-time presidential candidate who has been held by the terrorists for six years.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also said he had no new information about Betancourt. Chávez, who has negotiated with the terrorists to arrange several hostage releases, said he also had lost contact with the group.

The case of the French-Colombian Betancourt has attracted attention around the world, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy making her release one of his diplomatic priorities.

Betancourt's health is reportedly deteriorating, according to hostages who were released recently, and who said Betancourt was suffering from ill-treatment.

Blast at bank is the latest bombing incident in Chile's capital, Santiago
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean authorities say a homemade bomb has exploded at a bank in the capital, Santiago, damaging the building's facade but causing no injuries.

Officials say a fire extinguisher filled with explosive material detonated in front of a Banco Estado branch early Wednesday and that the force of the blast broke the bank's windows. It was not clear who planted the bomb at the bank in the Pudahuel section of western Santiago.

Also Wednesday, police evacuated a school in Santiago after receiving a bomb threat.
There has been a series of bomb threats in recent days in the lead-up to the so-called "Day of the Young Combatant" this Saturday, when leftists mark the anniversary of the deaths of two brothers killed during Augusto Pinochet's 1973 to 1990 dictatorship.

Last week, a self-proclaimed anarchist group claimed responsibility for setting off a bomb at a bank in Santiago's Providencia district. No injuries were reported.

On the same day, police carried out massive raids around the country, arresting more than 800 people as part of a government initiative to crack down on crime. Police also seized arms, ammunition and drugs in the raids.

Venezuela's Chávez makes a trip to a refinery construction site in Brazil
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has begun a visit to Brazil for talks with President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva on energy cooperation and regional issues.

Chávez arrived in the northern city of Recife Wednesday to meet with the Brazilian leader and tour the construction site of a refinery that, once completed, is expected to process 200,000 barrels of oil daily.
Officials have said the project will involve Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company and Venezuela's state-run Petroleos de Venezuela.

Separately, the presidents were expected to discuss Venezuela's pending membership in the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.  Mercosur accounts for $1 trillion in annual economic activity and includes 250 million people.

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British human rights report cites poor record by China
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As China prepares to host the Summer Olympics in August, it has come under increasing international scrutiny and criticism for its crackdown in Tibet and for its human rights record in general.

The British Foreign Office, in its annual human rights report, said Wednesday that China's poor human rights record overshadows the country's considerable economic achievements.

The human rights report is worldwide — from forced marriages in Britain's immigrant communities to human rights abuses in countries including Burma, Afghanistan, Iran and China.

Presenting the report, Foreign Secretary David Milband said China has made tremendous economic progress but has a long way to go regarding human rights.

"China is a striking example here, a country which has lifted more people out of poverty than any in human history, but now faces the urgent challenge of expanding the political and social rights of its people to match the economic and social progress which has been made. And, it is in all of our interests that they succeed, and that is why we will keep arguing frankly and directly for greater human rights in China," he said.

But Miliband said a boycott of the Summer Olympics in Beijing to protest the situation would not improve human rights in China.
In Afghanistan, the report calls for improvements in overall governance, freedom of expression, women's rights and the judicial system.

In Burma, the report says, the human rights record continues to deteriorate. It describes the situation as bleak, citing in particular the crackdown last year on anti-government, pro-democracy demonstrations.

The report also says human rights in Iran continued to deteriorate over the past year with further restrictions on freedom of expression, association and any form of dissent.

The report says no country has a perfect human rights record and cites the United States' prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Miliband said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States and subsequent terrorist attacks elsewhere, including in Britain, changed the consciousness of the world. But, he said, he disagrees that human rights should be set aside when combating terrorism.

"That's why, for example, it's our clear policy never to be complicit in torture or rendition to torture. That's why we need to ensure that we adhere to all our commitments to human rights at home and abroad," he said.

The human rights report lists 21 countries of particular concern — including Burma, China, Iraq and Zimbabwe. North Korea, Russia, Israel/Palestine and China are also highlighted, as are trouble spots such as Tibet, Sudan, Pakistan and Nepal.

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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 weekday.

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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.


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Indian firm agrees to buy
Ford's Jaguar, Land Rover

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

India's biggest vehicle maker, Tata Motors, has clinched a deal to buy luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover from U.S. carmaker Ford.  The latest acquisition is yet another sign of the expanding global footprint of Indian companies.

Mumbai-based Tata Motors says it will buy British luxury car brands Jaguar and Land Rover from U.S.-based Ford Motors for $2.3 billion in cash.

The sale was negotiated after Ford decided to sell the two high-end brands as part of a restructuring drive.  Ford has posted massive losses in the past two years.

Tata has pledged to keep the identities of the two famous brands intact.

Roger Madison of British trade union Unite told Indian television that Tata Motors will retain all employees of the two companies.  

"They are looking for long-term investments here and they are looking to grow the business," he said.  "We are quite excited about that."  

Tata Motors controls more than half of India's truck market, and nearly 20 percent of its passenger car market.

Many say the Indian company is an unlikely owner of the two luxury car brands.  At the moment, Tata Motors produces sturdy trucks and functional cars for India's domestic market. 

It has also developed the world's cheapest car, costing $2,500.

Analysts say Tata pursued the deal to gain a global foothold in the automobile sector.

But the takeover comes at a difficult time, when a global economic downturn has dampened demand for expensive cars.  Sales of both brands have been declining.

An economist with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Anjan Roy, says Indian companies want to expand overseas after making record profits in recent years.   

"Basically, Indian companies are doing well at home. They have done very well. They have the financial muscles now to acquire companies abroad," he explained.  "They are looking out to have a much bigger footprint in the international corporate world, in the international market place."

Indian corporations spent more than $39 billion last year on overseas acquisitions.  The Tata conglomerate, to which Tata Motors belongs, made the largest acquisition when it purchased British metals producer Corus Group for nearly $13 billion.

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