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(506) 2223-1327           San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 67             E-mail us
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U.N. expert coming to weigh native rights and dam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations expert on the human rights of native peoples is coming to Costa Rica to observe and talk to residents in the vicinity of the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Diquís in the southwestern part of the country.

This is where the Instituto Costarricense de
S. James Anaya
Electricidad plans a dam and a $2 billion hydro generating project, the biggest in Central America.

The expert, S. James Anaya, is a professor of law at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

He carries the title of  U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and
fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.

The foreign ministry said that the goal of the visit is to develop a process of consultations with the native peoples,who will feel the impact of the project. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad estimates that the project will take 915.59 hectares (some 2,262 acres) of native land. The entire project, involving some 7,363.5 hectares (18,195.6 acres)  will displace more than 1,500 persons, but the company says that no one is living permanently on the native lands.

The project has been strongly opposed by some in the native communities. The Térraba, the Boruca, Bribri, Cabécar and Guaymí live in the area.

The project is supposed to produce 560 megawatts. Much of it is supposed to go to the United States.

Although the project has been described as being on the Río Grande de Térraba, the dam would be well up the river from the coast. The reservoir would be entirely within the canton of Buenos Aires. From a map release by the institute, the bulk of the flooding would seem to extend northwest from the communities of Térraba, Florida and Brujo along the channel of the Río General.

The proposed dam would be very close to the point where the Interamerican highway crosses the General. The proposed lake also would seem to be outside the existing Indian reserves, the Reserva Boruca and the Reserva Curré.

The Río Térraba is the source of the stone that ancient residents turned into the enigmatic spheres that are unique to southwestern Costa Rica.

The native peoples are likely to get a sympathetic hearing from Anaya, the grandson of illegal Mexican immigrants. He is a professor of 
small map of hydro project
A.M. Costa Rica/Instituto Costarricense
de Electricidad graphic
Site of proposed dam. Click HERE for larger image.

International law and human rights at the university and was named to the United Nations post in 2008.

He has been around the world at places where native peoples are in conflict with the central government.

The United Nations has adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which seeks to define their treatment in culture, education and in other aspects of their relationship with the centers of power.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that it had invited Anaya to visit. A release said he would meet with government officials, academics and others involved in native affairs.

As a special rapporteur, Anaya has no real power but that of persuasion. He will make reports, mainly to various United Nations agencies. His findings, however, could provide strong ammunition if native communities seek to challenge the central government and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in court.

Anaya has served as lawyer for North American native groups when they went to court.

Originally the hydro project would have taken much more land. The electrical institute scaled it back and changed its name from Boruca to El Diquís

Anaya also participated with Costa Rican lawyer Vernor Muñoz Villalobos and four other legal experts to write a criticism of Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The University of Arizona said that Anaya in his capacity as U.N. representative had called for dialogue in Panama over the recent mining controversy, conducted a mission to New Caledonia, examined the condition of the Sami people in the Arctic and raised concerns about the treatment of the Rapa Nui protestors on Easter Island.

Anaya speaks fluent Spanish and is a graduate of Harvard University Law School.

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Change at the top made
to expedite tax proposals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Marco Vargas Díaz, as expected, has left the job of minister of the Presidencia.  That is a position equivalent to being the president's chief of staff.

President Laura Chinchilla quickly named Carlos Ricardo Benevides to the position. He is the tourism minister and recently assumed the duties of minister of sports.

Vargas left, in part, because he was unable to work with legislative deputies who opposed the president's tax increase proposals. To some extent, Vargas has an impossible job because even members of the president's own party, Liberación Nacional, rejected many aspects of the tax plan. She wanted a 14 percent value added tax, elimination of the tax exemptions for many basic foods and a 1 percent hike to 2.5 percent in the property transfer tax.

Opposition parties said the president had to cut the budget.

Benevides has been a legislative deputy twice, so he knows how the assembly functions.

He also is the man who orchestrated a $15 tax on incoming tourists during the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Vargas had confused some party loyalists as to what the president really wanted. For example, he withdrew on behalf of Casa Presidential a bill that was a mainstay of the presdient's campaign, a tax on casinos and sportsbooks.

Our readers' opinions
Reporting on power plant
was  irresponsible reporting

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan, I am once again at a loss to understand why so many reputable news agencies around the world are allowing irresponsible reporting. Using misleading wording such as "not yet a health hazard" implies that, at some unspecified future date, some unknown hazards may occur. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The best reporting on this subject that I've encountered comes from a long series of articles published by The Register, an online newspaper in the UK that reports for the information technology sector, and includes other important and topical stories. March 25 they reported that

"The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan was brought under control days ago. It remains the case as this is written that there have been no measurable radiological health consequences among workers at the plant or anybody else, and all indications are that this will remain the case. And yet media outlets around the world continue with desperate, increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous attempts to frame the situation as a crisis.

So, basically nothing happened. Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn. But this was reported around the globe as front-page news under headlines such as 'Japanese Workers Hospitalized for Excessive Radiation Exposure'.  Just to reiterate: it was not excessive..."

Not much else to add, except to express sadness that poor reporting has misdirected energy better used for vital relief efforts, and that there has been no public backlash toward news agencies and reporters who use such scare tactics.

Chris Cobb
Hills of Portalón

Fight coverage called
surgically sterilized

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just read the surgically sterilized A.M. Costa Rica version of the title boxing match Thursday night.  I expected a more honest description of the fight from A.M. Costa Rica, but it was not there.  The title fight Thursday night was a political farce from the moment Melisenda Pérez stepped into the ring amid the boos of the local crowd, to the multiple appearances of the current president, whom I used to think was somehow different from the rest.  Well, I guess politics is always politics.  The new name for boxing in Costa Rica is: "The WWF comes to Costa Rica."

It was apparent from round one that Melisenda Pérez was not the most worthy opponent for Hanna Gabriel, and the circus side show?  That was something befitting a P.T. Barnum event.  What a farce.

I am not taking anything away from Hanna Gabriel.  She clearly showed style and a good boxing technique.  She deserved to win.  However, the pomp and circumstance swirling around the fight did not paint Costa Rica in a good light.   They are clearly proud of "their" new stadium and they should be because it is a jewel, but who built it?  Who paid for it?  Pride is one thing, but there is no need for an orchestrated circus sideshow to show that pride.

Bring in the clowns,
Jim Sayers
David, Panamá

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, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 67
Latigo K-9

Missing French couple sought on central Pacific coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A French couple are being sought by police and agents because their car was found abandoned not far from where they had spent time in Quepos.

The names of the couple were not released, but the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the couple had not been seen since they left the Quepos hotel Thursday.

They were going south of Dominical hotel employees said they were told.

Their rented car raised suspicion because it was parked just off the Costanera Sur under a bridge over the Río Naranjo. That is not far south of Quepos. The Judicial Investigating Organization estimated the distance at 10 kilometers or about six miles.

The car was spotted first Thursday, said agents. A closer

inspection showed that the vehicle windows had been broken.

Agents said they inspected the vehicle but did not find any indication that a crime had taken place, they said. The Judicial Investigating Organization tentatively attributed a broken window to a passerby who may have heaved a rock at the unattended car.

Agents said that they would attempt to contact relatives to see if there had been any communication since Thursday.

The speculation on what may have happened ranges widely. The vehicle could have been abandoned due to a mechanical problem, however there does not seem to have been any notification to the rental car firm.

Or the couple could have been the victim of a bajanazo, a robbery hijacking. However, serious criminals usually torch a car to hide evidence.

Artist rendering of Puntarenas pool project that is supposed to be completed in eight months.
Puntarenas pool
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo graphic

Puntarenas will be getting a $3 million swimming pool
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puntarenas is getting a new swimming pool complex with the official hope that this will spur tourism.

The Contraloría General de la República has approved the project, a necessary step with public works. The estimated price is 1.5 billion colons or about $3 million. The pool also will contain a two-story bar-restaurant, an adult and children's pool, dressing areas and parking.

The job will take eight months beginning with the demolition of the existing pool, said officials.

The contract is between the Instituto Costarricense de
Puertos del Pacífico and the firm Constructora Navarro y Avilés S.A. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo also is participating, it said.

The site is in Barrio el Carmen on the Puntarenas Centro beachfront.

Carlos Ricardo Benevides, tourism minster, said that the project was a priority because the central government had promised to convert the city into a first-level destination for Costa Ricans and foreigners. The city already hosts crusie ships near the site.

Once completed, the pool complex will be maintained by a concession holder, the tourism institute said.

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Cook dies in unusual accident as elevator gives way

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pavas woman died at her job Monday in an unusual accident. She was a cook, and she was transporting vegetables.

The woman was identified as María Teresa Marín Carmona, 52, by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.  The woman worked for a contractor that supplied food services to the institute at its San Pedro offices. The woman had worked for about 10 years at the small restaurant or  soda and was well-known.
About 9 a.m. she was loading vegetables on a small, two-story freight elevator that carried goods to the second floor kitchen area.

The elevator gave way, fell on her and inflicted fatal injuries.

The Judicial Investigating Organization is studying the death but there has been no cause announced. Friends speculated that a metal pin might have broken allowing the deck of the metal elevator to fall or perhaps the woman accidentally pushed the wrong button.

Ms. Figueres in Bangkok urges action on climate measures

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The top United Nations climate change official urged countries Monday to tackle the key issues of emission reduction targets as well as funding and technology to assist developing nations tackle global warming, as the first UN negotiations for this year got under way in Bangkok.
“Here in Bangkok, governments have the early opportunity to push ahead to complete the concrete work they agreed in Cancún, and to chart a way forward that will ensure renewed success at the next UN Climate Change Conference in Durban,” said Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican.

“If governments move forward in the continued spirit of flexibility and compromise that inspired them in Mexico, then I’m confident they can make significant new progress in 2011,” she added.

Dubbed the Cancún Agreements, the decisions reached at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in December last year include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which account for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.

Delegates at that meeting also agreed to ensure no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.

Agreement was also reached on establishing a fund for long-term climate financing to support developing countries, and bolstering technology cooperation and enhancing vulnerable populations’ ability to adapt to the changing climate.
Ms. Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on governments to rapidly advance work to complete the institutions which were agreed and deliver the funding and technology to help developing countries deal comprehensively with climate change.

“It is important that the agreed actions and institutions are delivered on time and in accordance with the deadlines agreed in Cancun so that the broader global climate regime is up and running in 2012,” she said.

The institutions include a green climate fund to house the international management, deployment and accountability of long-term funds for developing country support; a technology mechanism to promote clean technologies and an adaptation framework to boost international cooperation to help developing countries protect themselves from climate change impacts.

The other main task governments have before them, she noted, relates to the emission reduction targets and actions which would allow the world to stay below the maximum temperature rise of 2 degrees C, which was agreed in Cancún.

Governments this year need to resolve fundamental issues over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, she stressed. “Governments need to figure out how to address this issue and how to take it forward in a collective and inclusive way,” she said. “Resolving the issue will create a firmer foundation for a greater collective ambition to cut emissions.”

Some 1,500 participants from 173 countries, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organisations and research institutions, are attending the talks in the Thai capital, which are scheduled to conclude on Friday.

Weather institute plans a network of monitoring stations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The nation's weather service is expected to announce Thursday the creation of a network of climate stations for the purpose of monitoring climate change.

The project is a joint one with the Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The agency said that high tech would be used so that the country can be prepared to confront the challenges of climate change, which may include flooding, drought and other changes.
The presentation of the project will be at the Universidad de la Paz at Ciudad Colón, which is a United Nations dependency.

A principal result of warmer temperatures is expected to be a rise in the sea level. Oceans have been rising for 10,000 years, but now beach communities are threatened. Limón and Puntarenas have water in their streets at seasonal high tides already. In addition, the country's maritime zone where building is restricted is determined by the mean high tide. Legislation would be needed to keep the 50-meter zone where building is illegal from invading existing structures on the other 150 meters of the maritime zone where concessions are allowed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 67

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Singer Michel Martelly
declared winner in Haiti

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti's electoral council has declared popular singer Michel Martelly the winner of the country's presidential runoff election.

In preliminary results announced Monday, officials gave Martelly nearly 68 percent of the vote, defeating former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Final results are due to be released April 16.

Martelly, who has no political experience, has a tough job in front of him. Much of the capital Port-au-Prince is still in ruins from the January 2010 earthquake.  Hundreds of thousands still live in tent camps,

A cholera epidemic has killed thousands and the country is rife with poverty and unemployment.

Ms. Manigat won November's first round presidential election, with ruling party candidate Jude Celestin initially declared the second place finisher and eligible for the runoff.

The results set off deadly protests by Martelly supporters.

An Organization of American States review found fraud and recommended that Martelly be declared the runner up and eligible for the second round instead of Celestin.

Bodies found in ocean
at site of Air France crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French officials say unmanned submarines have located bodies during a fourth search for the wreckage of the Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil almost two years ago.

French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani announced the findings on France-Info radio Monday. 

Air France Flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic in June 2009, not long after taking off from Rio de Janeiro for Paris. The disaster killed all 228 people on board.  The initial search for the wrecked Airbus found about 50 bodies. 

French Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet says experts may be able to identify the newly-discovered bodies. She says the unmanned submarines found "a large part" of the plane this time, as opposed to just scattered pieces.

Experts say they hope to find the so-called black box flight recorders that could give them vital clues into what caused the plane to crash.

The plane was flying in a storm, but the exact cause of the crash has not been determined.

Experts speculate that icing on external speed sensors gave the pilots incorrect readings.

Last month, a French judge placed the European aircraft maker Airbus under investigation for possible involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2009 crash. 

Airbus official Thomas Enders said the company disagrees with the judge's decision while the cause of the crash is still unknown. But people who have lost family members and friends on the fatal Air France flight 447 expressed satisfaction that a process is underway.

Attorney general in México
resigned his position

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez has resigned.

President Felipe Calderón announced Chavez's resignation Thursday, but gave no reason for the decision. 

Chávez had faced criticism from women's groups that said he did little to prevent or solve rapes and murders of hundreds of women while he served as attorney general of the state of Chihuahua.

President Calderón has nominated Marisela Morales to replace Chávez.  The nomination must be approved by the Mexican senate.  If approved, she would be the first woman in the job.

Chavez was named Mexico's attorney general in 2009.  He is the second person in that post to resign under President Calderón, who assumed power in late 2006.  Chávez was appointed following the departure of Eduardo Medina Mora.
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Environmental experts plan
to visit Isla Calero today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental experts are expected to set foot on the disputed territory at Isla Calero today, and Costa Rica has asked Nicaragua to insure their safety.

Costa Rica is acting in response to an interim decision of the International Court of Justice that said the country could survey the area where Nicaraguan troops invaded for environmental damage.

However, a dispute developed as to whether Nicaragua has to give permission. The court only said that Costa Rica has to advise Managua, but Nicaraguan officials claim they have to approve the visits.

The group today includes local and international experts. None of the visitors will be armed, the Costa Rica foreign ministry said.

Nicaraguan soldiers cut trees and made a path for what will become a new mouth for the Río San Juan. In addition to terming the situation an invasion, Costa Rica also stressed the environmental damage, although the area is remote. The area is part of a wetland of international importance, and officials with that international convention are part of the group today.

Country ducked damage
from quakes in March

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country survived March without any earthquake damage, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at the Universidad Nacional.

Only nine quakes were felt by residents, and six of them were on the Pacific coast. The strongest was 5.0 some 38 kilometers (24 miles) south of Puerto Armuelles in the Pacific. That was too far away for any damage on shore.

Two quakes took place in the southern zone, and there was a 2.4 magnitude quake near Guápiles. There were no felt quakes in the Central Valley, the observatory noted.

New hotel planned

overlooking Sardinal

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Oriens Travel & Hotel Management Corp. says it has entered into an agreement with S.V. International Developers S.A., to construct a botique hotel of the PURE brand on 360 acres overlooking the Pacific.

The company said that the project would result in a  world class green compliance destination resort.

S.V. International already owns the site, Oriens said. An 18-hole golf course also is planned. The project, called  Montañas del Pacifico, overlooks  Sardinal, the company said.

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