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(506) 223-1327         Published Wednesday, March 28, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 62          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Country lost $850,000 European Union loan
Plan to expand passenger rail links runs out of steam

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Plans for an expansion of the Central Valley rail service seem to have stalled.

The country has lost the $850,000 loan pledged by the European Union because no company could be found to operate a section of the rail line as a concession.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles had plans to start a spur line of the Central Valley system sometime in the first four months of this year. But Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of the government rail agency, confirmed the loss of the loan in an interview Tuesday.

He said that the loan was linked to conditions, including one that said that a private firm had to be found to run the route. He said that no firm responded to a bid proposal offered by his agency. The rail agency is a subsidiary of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte.

Rail workers have spent considerable time clearing and securing the right-of-way from the Estación al Atlantico on Avenida 3 north into Tibás. They even had to install a bridge.

Now the route is clear through Cinch Aquinas de Tibás where the bridge was installed. In a few weeks the line will be cleared to Cuatro Reinas de Tibás, according to Carabaguíaz. He said clearing that section would cost 10 million colons, some $19,200. The proposal was for passenger service to begin between San José and Santo Domingo, which is on the east side of Heredia.

In addition, the rail agency has the problem of landowners who have encroached on the
right-of-way. Some structures have to be reduced in size or their roof overhangs eliminated.

The Costa Rican government did ask the European Union to simply provide the cash for the reactivation of the line, said Carabaguíaz, but the European officials declined.

Carabaguíaz also said there are no immediate plans to begin rail service to Cartago, something that had been suggested earlier. That line, too, was a likely candidate for a concession, but nothing concrete has been done.

There was better news about the Tren Metropolitana that runs 10 kilometers, about six miles, through the valley from Pavas on the west to the Universidad Latina in Montes de Oca on the east four times daily.

Carabaguíaz said that a study would be done to see if there would be sufficient users to increase the frequency of the runs. Now some 2,800 persons use the line each weekday, some 60,000 a month.

In Limón, the Atlantic end of the rail line is being used for cargo and to carry cruise ship passengers on tours from Limón Centro to Estrada Matina. The Atlantic line is in operation from the Valle de Estrellas some 42 kilometers (some 26 miles) south of Limón Centro and west to Guápiles. It is also used to haul steel to a Guápiles factory and pineapple and bananas to the Moín port. However, trains move at slow speeds because the right-of-way and bridges are damaged.

The right-of-way has deteriorated since 1995 when passenger service was discontinued. The line is in disrepair between San José and the Limón link although service is possible from San José to Caldera on the Pacific, some 91 kilometers or 57 miles.

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 62

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Focus groups will be used
to get perceptions of crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The idea is used to sell beer and cosmetics, why not security?

That is the concept of a proposal that will cause Universidad de Costa Rica academics to set up focus groups to tap the perceptions of the citizenry on matters of security.

The work will be done by the Centro de Investigación y Capacitación en Administración Pública at the university.

The university project, approved by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, is designed to generate a national dialog "in the context of our civil tradition of the culture of peace, of the abolition of the army and of human rights," according to a university summary.

The focus groups will seek to determine what kind of police structure is needed in the country and to construct a system that will improve the indexes of security in the country, said the university.

Fernando Berrocal was shy about giving his views when he spoke at a session outlining the university plans. He said there were problems in the way justice is administered. As an example he correctly pointed out that a Fuerza Pública officer cannot become involved in an automobile accident. That is the domain of the transit police, he said.

Because the country has no army, Berrocal said the police should be the best of all. He repeated his concern that minor crimes are not punished. He said now was the time to discuss this issue and suggested the solution was more police, more agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization and more prosecutors.

He also said that the police along the borders will get 19 new Land Rovers with $120,000 being invested toward that goal this year.

Citizen security has been in the news since four men invaded the Rohrmoser home of Ricardo Toledo, a former presidential candidate. That happened March 21, and a maid and a neighbor died. Toledo's wife was roughed up and her arm broken in three places.

Home invasion in Jacó
hidden to remain a secret

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A North American woman was assaulted in her Jacó home by invaders last week, but little information is available because the woman put a lid on her case.

The crime took place on Calle Vieja a Punta Leona. The woman, who was described as older, did not file a complaint until several days later and told investigators that she wanted no publicity over her case.

Informal sources said that two or more criminals invaded the home, beat the woman brutally and left her for dead. The crime was attributed to a gang of robbers who are working the Jacó area.

The crime is in contrast to the highly publicized home invasion and double murder that took place at the home of Ricardo Toledo March 21 in Rohrmoser. That crime received widespread publicity and generated a public outcry. He is a former presidential candidate.

In a discussion with reporters Friday, Francisco Dall'Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor, said that similar crimes happen nearly every day.

Response by law enforcement agencies frequently is hampered by victims who fear for their lives or shun publicity. Many do not even make a police report.

Model forests are the topic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Indians from the Brokenhead Ojibways Nation in Manitoba, Canada, are in Costa Rica meeting with the Cabécar  community. Friday they will be visiting Nairí Awarí and the  Parque Nacional Barbilla.

The Brokenhead Ojibways manage the Manitoba model forest. The Cabécars have the Bosque Modelo Reventazón, and the discussions centered on generating cultural tourism, according to the Centro Agronómico de Investigación y Enseñanza, which hosted some of the sessions.

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Costa Rica
third newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 62

Center of nation's art world is Ciudad Quesada for now
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Huge, old central park trees.

Large metal oil cans stacked in three’s to look like evolved totem poles painted with a variety of artwork, and used to wire special lighting and decorations by the people of the city.

Makeshift tents for handicrafts, artwork and food.

Children’s fair rides, dance theater demonstrations.

Late night rock, jazz, or other concerts, every day, all day for six days,

And there you have the Ciudad Quesada de San Carlos Arts festival, and it doesn’t happen every year.

One individual, crystal-glass jewelry design artist Delta Javier, stands out for creativity in his hand-made work, including accessories for leather hats, belts and purses. 

His time is divided between making his creations and selling them, whether it’s going to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panamá each four or five times a year or attending the various Costa Rica arts festivals about six times a year. 

He is one of the army of crafts people who display their skills at such events.

Javier has seven years of experience experimenting with vivid color mixtures and jewelry creations with his high-tech oven, equipment and tools, some of which he makes himself.  He knows similar artists, but none of whom makes items exactly like his, and he has developed his own formulas and processes. 

To get the elegant bubble effects he must mix the crystal and glass with a special formula, plus he must obtain these high quality materials of crystal and glass from special sources.  It takes him approximately 10 hours to make each piece, and he usually makes a maximum of 20. But if an item is really popular, he may make a few more. 
jewelry maker in glass
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Delta Javier, quality crystal-glass jewelry artist, at the San Carlos/Ciudad Quesada Arts Festival.

His most popular jewelry is rings and earrings, and the most popular jewelry colors are rose, followed by turquoise, orange, blue, red, and lastly black and white. 

His three main types of customers are people who like to stand out with a highly fashionable costume for horse parades, tourists, and men who purchase gifts for their wife, daughter or friends.  He says he wants to beautify the world by beautifying women.

His rings and earrings go for $7, bracelets $16, and he has necklaces and matching sets as well.  His hat accessories go for $6-$8, and if you want the hat included, $20-$40 total, depending if you want leather or ute, adult or child size.  He even provides nylon gift bags.

For $8-$10 someone can give Delta Javier an ordinary bottle, for example a beer bottle. He can heat it up, iron it flat and install a hook for hanging on the wall.  He sells many of these to restaurants as ornaments.  He can put the label on too.

New form of visa provides greater security, say officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

High-security visas have been introduced by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. And the project is being lauded as another advance in the government's effort to go digital.

The new multiple entry visas are produced by computer on sticky-backed paper and are pasted into passports. They replace the stamp and ink pad. The visas are not for everyone. They will be used in Costa Rican consulates in foreign countries where visits by residents there are restricted. They also will be used for certain businessmen, sports figures and others, according to Mario Zamora, the immigration director.

The first such visa went to Natalia Decastro González, a Colombian biologist who has worked to protect turtles in Costa Rica. Her visa included a digital photo taken at the time the visa was produced. Zamora said there were at least six levels of security in the visas.

One goal is to reduce corruption. However, the special visas will not go into general use for some time. Kevin Casa, the nation's second vice president, said this was another step in making the government digital. He said that a digital government would cut down on the
expense of time and money for citizens, reduce corruption and increase transparency.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Mario Zamora shows off the new style of visa

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A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 62

Around Costa Rica
Paso Ancho youngster learns English mostly on his own
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Esteban Jiménez Palacios, 12, of Paso Ancho has had an uphill fight because he was born 10 weeks premature. Now he is showing a highly developed ability in English.

The diminutive boy speaks fluent English with a native accent. He says he picked the language up in school and by watching U.S. television.  He also shows a mature interest in social problems.

His abilities in English far outstrip the skills of many Costa Rican English teachers. In fact, he says he has lost some of his English since he changed schools.

No one else in his home speaks English.

Like many others of his age, he dreams to be a professional soccer or basketball player and wants to go to the United States to hone his language or to go to Brazil to get a start on a third language.

He has dedicated parents and a younger sister, who, too, are surprised and pleased at his language skills. A brief essay shown to a reporter contains a few spelling errors but is at least equal to work that might be produced by a U.S. eighth-grader or high school freshman.

A.M. Costa Rica is proud to present his essay, his first published work, spelling slips and all:

When God created me, he did it for a purpose that he knows but I don't know it. And he knew when to create me, why, where and at wich hour that I was going to be born when he said it. He created me for a purpose in the world maybe to be a diciple for him, a sports player, an artist and all the other things that a person can be. I also think that he made me special because I think he had 
esteban photo
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Esteban Jiménez Palacios

compassion on me and let me be born healthy and good. I thank him for giving me a mother and father that love me and to my sister and a good school to be in to study and prepare for a life for the, future to have a good wife and for my parents see their grand children when I get maried and have sons, and God in my heart.
— Esteban Jiménez Palacios

It's Oswaldo's trial, but the witnesses support his brother
By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

Three people who testified at the Oswaldo Villalobos trial Tuesday turned out to be character witnesses for his brother Enrique, and only discussed Oswaldo in the context of his ownership of the Ofinter S.A. exchange house.

One, Elmer Weber is a Canadian miner who ultimately invested $192,000 with Enrique Villalobos.

Hotel owner Tomas Schytt said he had $580,000 invested.

Michale Nasso said he had about $30,000 with Enrique Villalobos at the time of the July 4, 2002, law enforcement raid that closed the lending operation.

Nasso mentioned that Canadian ambassador at the time, Louise Léger apologized to those present at a meeting of the Canadian Club and said the Canadian government did not realize that a request for information about money laundering would have such far-reaching implications for so many Canadian citizens.
The Costa Rican government used the request for information on a drug-smuggling group as a reason to raid the Oswaldo and Luis Enrique Villalobos operations. The first was the Ofinter firm that exchanged currencies. The adjacent office occupied by Enrique and his workers borrowed money from individuals with the promise of returns reaching 3 percent a month.

The prosecution in the Oswaldo Villalobos trial is trying to connect him to the high-interest operation to substantiate fraud, money laundering and illegal banking charges. Enrique Villalobos continues to be a fugitive. Both men closed up their operations the October following the raid, saying that they could not continue because the Costa Rican government had frozen their bank accounts.

Earlier testimony by agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization disclosed that members of the Canadian drug ring had visited the Ofinter offices in Mall San Pedro but the purpose of the visit was not known.

Enrique Villalobos aggressively sought more investments between the time of the raid and his departure.

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