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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, April 7, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 69             E-mail us
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A rosy tropical sunset frames San Jose's two tall buildings, the Edificio INS of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, and the headquarters of Banco Nacional in the distance. Today, however, the weather service is predicting afternoon rains.

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Hurricane experts continue to predict active season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The latest Atlantic hurricane forecast continues to predict an above-average probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean coast.

This is the forecast by Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray at Colorado State University. In December, the pair estimated that the 2011 hurricane season would bring 17 named storms and five major hurricanes. This month's estimate predicts 16 named storms but still five major hurricanes.

The pair said that there was a 61 percent probability of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean.

That is higher than the 42 percent probability of storms over the last century. The average of hurricanes from 1950 to 2000 is 5.9 a season.

The probability for a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coast is 72 percent they said. The average is 52 percent, they added.

They said that they reduced slightly their estimates from December due to unanticipated warming in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and cooling in the tropical Atlantic.

The forecast uses 29 years of data.  Klotzbach, now a retired professor, has been making these estimates with great accuracy since 1984.

Still, the pair wrote in their newest report that everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April. The traditional Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov. 30.

"One must remember that our forecasts are based on the premise that those global oceanic and atmospheric conditions which preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons," the pair said. "This is not always true for individual seasons," they added, noting that the estimates are based on statistics.
The weather experts also created a Web page that provides probabilities of storms tracking within 50 and 100 miles of Caribbean islands and Central American land masses. The estimates say that there is just a 5 percent probability that a named storm will pass within 50 miles of Costa Rica and just a 3 percent probability that one or more hurricanes will.

Nicaragua has a 43 percent chance of seeing a named storm pass within 50 miles and a 19 percent chance of having one or more hurricanes pass within 50 miles, according to the estimates. For Honduras the probability of a named storm within 50 miles is 75 percent and 27 percent for one or more hurricanes.

For Costa Rica, there is a 14 percent chance of one or more named storms passing within 100 miles and just a 7 percent chance that one or more hurricanes will, the data said.

Cuba, in the middle of hurricane alley, has a 94 percent chance of a named storm passing within 100 miles and a 72 percent chance of a hurricane doing that, said the forecast.

Gray is a well-known critic of the theory that human activity is causing global warming. His view is reflected in the report.

The report said that very active hurricane seasons in  2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010 might encourage many who do not have a strong background of hurricane information to conclude that increased carbon dioxide levels brought on higher levels of hurricane intensity.

However, the two scientists compared 55-year periods. From 1901 to 1955 there were 210 named storms and 115 hurricanes with 44 major hurricanes. From 1956 to 2010 there were 180 named storms, 87 hurricanes and 34 major ones, they reported.

"We have no plausible physical reasons for believing that Atlantic hurricane frequency or intensity will change significantly if global ocean temperatures were to continue to rise," the pair reported.

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Security minister drawn
into Rodrigo Arias case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José María Tijerino, the security minister, was drawn into the Rodrigo Arias Sánchez controversy Wednesday.

Emilia Navas, the former chief prosecutor for financial crimes and corruption, recalled receiving a telephone call from Tijerino over the plan to formally question Arias.

She was testifying before a legislative committee.

However, the woman said that Tijerino called her after the plan to question Arias, the brother of the former president, had been canceled.

Lawmakers already knew that the formal questioning, called an indagatoria, had been canceled by order of Lillian Gómez, who was fiscal general or chief prosecutor at the time. That was after Jorge Chaverría, the current fiscal general, called her and asked her to postpone the session until he could study the facts. That call was made after Chaverría had been appointed by supreme court magistrates but before he took office.

Lawmakers are studying the Arias adminsirtation handling of money provided by the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The money was used to pay a long list of political operatives designated as advisors. The real purpose appeared to be to obtain compliance or at least silence from some for approval of the free trade treaty with the United States. Some of the individuals opposed the treaty.

The investigation continues under Chaverría, and lawmakers were delicate in their discussion of the case.

Tijerino was said to be interested in the case because Rodrigo Arias had thought the investigation had been shelved, lawmakers were told.

Others at the session Wednesday were Juan Carlos Cubillo Miranda and Cristian Fernández Mora, both prosecutors, who with Ms. Navas made the decision to continue with the investigation even though the questioning of Rodrigo Arias was put off. The events happened in October.

The case has wide political ramifications. Rodrigo Arias is a candidate for presidency in 2012.

In formal action Wednesday, the special committee studying the case voted to ask the Banco de Costa Rica to provide copies of all the checks involved in paying out the funds provided by the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

Action on bridge sought

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes had asked the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the highway agency, to fix a bridge over the Río Pejibaye in the canton of Jiménez in Cartago. National route 225 passes over the bridge.

The Defensoría cited what it said by the bad condition of the bridge.

The Defensoría suggested in the meantime to restrict the bridge to vehicles weighing four tons or less and to install a bailey bridge.

Our reader's opinion
Wikileaks revealed details
of U.S. free trade campaign

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your assessment of the impact of the cables obtained through Wikileaks has made on the news in Costa Rica, I have to agree that this impact has been ho-hum.

Yet, everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room revealed in these cables. This elephant is the number of the cables that focus on U.S. embassy’s efforts to persuade Costa Rica to pass the free-trade treaty. A rough count shows that over two-thirds of well over a hundred cables dealt with one or another aspect of U.S. strategy to promote passage of this treaty.

Granted, it is no news that the George W. Bush administration wanted Costa Rica to approve this treaty, as neither is it any news that U.S. officials intervened in Costa Rica on numerous occasions to promote its passage.  President Bush also had the legal, if not the moral right, to direct the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica to pursue his preferred policy agenda.

Nevertheless, when it is appreciated that support for this treaty in both the U.S. and Costa Rica was fairly evenly divided, Americans might wonder why their embassy went to such lengths to insure its passage.

Indeed, the embassy is notorious for providing shoddy services to American citizens and didn’t even get around to telling anyone actually living in Costa Rica that it believed the peanuts here could be dangerous (perhaps for fear that announcing this would risk support for the treaty among peanut growers), yet it prioritized the passage of a treaty that many Americans as well as Ticos opposed.

The big news revealed by these cables is that the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica was thoroughly politicized in pursuit of a narrow economic agenda during the Bush administration.   Thanks to Wikileaks, Americans can ask themselves if this is what they want from their government abroad.
Ken Morris
San Pedro

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 7, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 69
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Case of missing French couple now a criminal investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The disappearance of two French tourists has turned into a criminal investigation after their passports were found Wednesday in a trash can in Jacó.

The retired couple, Gerard and Claude Dubois, vanished Thursday, and concern was raised when their rented vehicle was found under a bridge at the Río Naranjo south of Quepos. The windows were smashed and some doors were open.

Until Wednesday there was little for investigators to go on. A suitcase was left in the car.

Cruz Roja rescue workers called in divers to examine the river. The Judicial Investigating Organization issued a brief bulletin. Suspicions included that of a double water accident.

The discovery of the passports changes all that. And the effect of tourism was immediate. Shortly after A.M. Costa Rica published the first news story Tuesday, emails began arriving from would-be tourists asking about the safety of the central Pacific coast.

The couple had stayed in Tamarindo and were staying in a Quepos hotel when they left Thursday for a trip to Dominical. The car was about 10 kilometers or about six miles south of Quepos.

The discovery in Jacó to the north reinforces the theory that the pair were victims of a car hijacking-robbery or bajanazo. The couple were supposed to return home Monday.

If they are not found, the couple will join a list of missing tourists headed by Leo Widicker of the U.S. state of North Dakota. The elderly man walked away from his tourist bus in the parking lot of Tabacon Lodge in La Fortuna, near the Arenal volcano Nov. 18, 2001, and has not been seen since.
Missing French couple
Gerard and Claude Dubois

Also on the list is David Gimelfarb, the then 28-year-old Chicago area doctoral student who vanished in or near the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja north and east of Liberia. That was Aug. 11, 2009.

Another missing tourist is Michael Dixon, a British journalist who worked in Belgium. He was 33 years old when he vanished after leaving his hotel in Tamarindo for a swim Oct. 19, 2009.

Australian student Brendan Dobbins vanished in Tamarindo, too, shortly after walking away from friends on the beach.

That was March 4, 2005. Bones believed to be his were discovered later but a cause of death never was established.

A Universidad de Costa Rica student vanished Jan. 6 in the vicinity of Parque Nacional Chirripó. He is Nelson Alvarado Montoya. An extensive search of the rugged park failed to turn up any clues.

Judicial agents initially dismissed broken windows in the vehicle used by the French couple as damage done by passersby.  They inspected the vehicle but said they did not find any indication that a crime had taken place.

Tax on passive investments seen causing capital flight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the financial sector were at the legislature Wednesday expressing concern that the new tax package would cause the flight of capital.

The Chinchilla administration proposal would tax passive investment income at 15 percent, noted Lanzo Lusconi, president of the Cámara Nacional de Sociedades de Fondos de Inversión. His organization has more than 100 investment firms as members, and they handle some $2.8 billion. Members include state banks, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros and private firms.

The tax on investment income varies considerably now from 0 percent to much more. The tax proposal would establish a uniform 15 percent rate. This would include investment income and also income from rental properties.
Lusconi said that the proposal might cause investors to
 move their funds to other countries.

He cited Panamá and the Dominican Republic.

He also noted that the major issuer or financial instruments in Costa Rica is the state itself, so the tax would translate to higher costs of borrowing for governmental purposes.

He was testifying before the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios, which is considering the central government proposal.

Lusconi also noted that the tax proposed would be assessed over the gross income from investments and there would be no deductions for expenses under the current text of the bill.

Currently intangible investment funds are controlled by the  Superintendencia General de Valores and closely followed, so there is no chance of tax evasion, he said.

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Young Sandinistas appear to be occupying disputed island

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Young Nicaraguans appear to be spending at least another night on the Isla Calero.

A group of about 50 continued their hostilities toward visiting scientists Wednesday, and René Castro, the foreign minister, said that a new protest was filed with the International Court of Justice and the U.N. Security Council.

Castro also revealed that Julio César Avilés, head of the Nicaraguan army, admitted that he had provided logistical and political support for the young Sandinistas with the goal of harassing the scientists. The protesters came by boat to the island via the Río San Juan.

Some 500 Nicaraguan troops are believed to be stationed on the north side of the river.

Nevertheless, Castro said that the experts from the
 Convention of Wetlands of International Importance had completed their mission and found evidence of environmental damage caused by Nicaraguan soldiers who occupied the site from October through early March.

Video footage of the young Nicaraguan invaders will make up part of Costa Rica's case when it returns to the international court for more proceedings.

The court ordered both Nicaragua and Costa Rica March 8 to withdraw all military and others from the disputed island. Nicaragua did and Costa Rica had no one there. The court also said that Costa Rica could conduct an environmental survey to determine the damage and possible remediation. The use of the young Sandinistas appears to be a technique to circumvent the court orders.

Castro said the ministry had sent a note of protest to Nicaragua, but that the country would keep its date to discuss border issues with the goal to fight organized crime and drug trafficking.

Immigration prepares for a rush from holiday travelers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration service is the first to announce it will be closed for administrative purposes all of Semana Santa.

The agency, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, said it would be closed from April 18 to 22. Easter is April 24 this year.

The immigration agency routinely makes these announcements because there generally is a last-minute rush by Costa Ricans for passports because of holiday vacations out of the country.

The agency said that it would provide appointments for
passports for those who call 900-1234567 or 800-2272482 or via its Web site at In addition Monday and Tuesday the central offices will see 250 persons who do not have appointments.  Usually there is a five-day delay in delivery in passports.

In addition, the agency is the place where adults can obtain permission to take children out of the country. That not only includes Costa Rican children but the children of foreigners who are legal residents of the country.

The Easter holiday week is a busy time for immigration workers at airports and at border crossings.

These services will operate normally, the agency said.

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Trade deal compromise
revives U.S.-Colombia pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

White House officials say the United States and Colombia have reached a deal on a free trade agreement. President Barack Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are to meet today to discuss the deal.

Obama administration officials say the free trade pact could increase U.S. exports to Colombia by more than $1 billion, and could lead to a similar deal with Panamá.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters by telephone Colombian officials have agreed to offer greater protection to workers and labor union leaders who have often been the targets of violence.  U.S. officials insisted on renegotiating parts of the trade agreement to increase that protection. 

“The plan significantly expands the protection for labor leaders and union organizers.  It bolsters efforts to hold accountable and punish those who have perpetrated violence against union leaders.  And it makes a number of important steps to strengthen labor laws and their enforcement," he said.

Kirk said Presidents Obama and Santos will meet at the White House to approve the worker protection provisions. “President Santos is in the United States for an appearance at the United Nations.  It is expected that he will travel to Washington tomorrow to meet with President Obama, and we anticipate that the two presidents will approve the action plan," he said.

The U.S. Congress must approve the agreement before it can take effect.  Top lawmakers from both parties say they support the pact, as do American business leaders.

The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, called word of the agreement welcome news. He called on the White House to work with lawmakers to implement free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea as soon as possible.

The U.S. signed free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea in 2007, during George W. Bush’s presidency.  Congress, then led by Democrats, did not bring the deals up for a vote, and the Obama administration renegotiated the provisions it did not approve.

A renegotiated free trade agreement with South Korea was signed last December.

While visiting Latin America last month, President Obama said approval of the trade deals with Colombia and Panamá are among his economic priorities. “And as I have directed, my administration has intensified our efforts to move forward on trade agreements with Panamá and Colombia, consistent with our values and with our interests," he said.

White House officials say with the Colombia deal on track, they hope they can work with leaders on Capitol Hill to find ways to advance the stalled trade agreement with Panamá.

The U.S. last year exported $12 billion worth of goods to Colombia, which has the third-largest economy in Latin America.  The International Trade Commission estimates that tariff reductions in the agreement will expand those exports by more than $1 billion, and could support thousands of new American jobs.

Under the free trade deal, 80 percent of U.S. exports to Colombia will become duty-free, and the remaining tariffs will be phased out over 10 years.

President Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

Haiti's president asks
foreign nations to ante up

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Out-going Haitian President René Préval is urging donor countries to act quicker in disbursing the billions of dollars promised to Haiti for its recovery and reconstruction from last year’s massive earthquake.

Reconstruction after last year’s earthquake is estimated to need 10 years and cost $11.5 billion. Last March, the international community pledged more than $5 billion for reconstruction costs over the next two years.

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Two festivals to celebrate
Costa Rican vegetables

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two festivals in honor of Costa Rican food products are on the agenda this month.

In Laguna Zarcero the Feria Nacional de Chiverre begins a two-weekend run Friday.  This is the eighth edition.

The Expoferia del Palmito has a three-day run starting April 15 in Tucurrique de Cartago.

The Zarcero event features the traditional Semana Santa squash that ends up in a number of table products. One purpose of the fair is to encourage local producers to grow more, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The main event Friday is the selection of a queen. Saturday features a cattle show and a parade through the community. Sunday features a clinic on cattle directed by a U.S. expert identified as Loren Elsass and a orchestra concert at 1 p.m. and a dance at 8 p.m.

April 16 there is a horse parade and a local food festival the next day.

The Palmito festival has bull fights both Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This is the second annual edition. Palmito are palm hearts, and this fair is to encourage cultivation of this product, organizers said. There also are plans for a recipe contest.

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Now officials have to feed the cows

Truck with cows found
to lack official permits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In Costa Rica truckers need permits to move cows. This is an anti-rustling law.

So Fuerza Pública officers in Guatuso stopped a truck Tuesday that contained six cows. The trucker had no papers.

The Cámara de Ganaderos de Guatuso y Ganaderos de San Carlos is continually complaining about rustlers.

Agents are investigating to learn the origin of the cows.

A favorite trick of rustlers, said police is to move the cows to a nearby farm where they are hidden but are not vulnerable to police checks.

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