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(506) 223-1327                Published Monday, April 23, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 79            E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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ICE now says rolling blackouts will not be necessary
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad reversed itself Sunday night and said there would be no more planned blackouts in sections of the country.

Since Friday the company that is the principal generator of electricity said that a deficit in power would force it to black out certain areas. In fact, over the weekend a number of communities experienced blackouts.

Out of the blue about 6 p.m. the press office of the government monopoly said that everything was OK and that blackouts would not be necessary. The company said that the oil-fired Moín generating plant was fully back on line. This statement did not track with previous company reports. Initially the company said it would be 100 megavolts short on power because of low water in the reservoirs used for hydro generating stations and because the oil-fired plants had from one to four turbines out of service.

The company, known as ICE, has been less than consistent since Thursday night when the nation was blacked out. The problem was because:

— a power line between Cañas and Arenal failed, or
— a transformer exploded in Arenal, or
— the Moín plant was out of service, or
— dry weather conditions have reduced the flow of water to hydro generating plants or
— if reports in the sensationalistic El Diario Extra are to be believed, a flying  saucer sucked up all the electricity as it flew near Arenal volcano.
Three companies that distribute electricity generated by ICE even released a list of locations for planned blackouts for today. These are the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, the Servicios Electricos de Cartago and Coopelesca in San Carlos.

The crisis Thursday night pointed up the problems facing ICE. The company reported that more than half of the turbines in the oil-fired plants were out of service for various mechanical problems. That included the plant in San Antonio de Belén, the one in Barranca and the one in Colima.

The issue quickly grew into a political one. Union leaders at ICE said they have warned of the possible power shortages for years. Albino Vargas of the  Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said the outage was a conspiracy by the government to get the free trade treaty with the United states passed.

Others blamed ICE employees for  using the blackout as a threat to keep the treaty from passing.

Although the central government appoints members of the ICE board of directors, the organization is a free-standing institute not directly under the control of Casa Presidencial.

ICE has pushed for years to develop new hydro plants. A major battle developed between the company and residents of the Boruca Indian reservation in south Costa Rica over a proposed dam and plant on the Río Térraba there.

That project has not advanced for years.

Playa Iguanita on Papagayo designated as a proposed wildlife refuge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislator representing Guanacaste wants to create a new wildlife refuge at Playa Iguanita so the common folks can enjoy the Gulf of Papagayo.

The lawmaker, Maureen Ballestero Vargas of Liberación Nacional, has presented legislation to do just that. The area of the Projecto Gulfo Papagayo is where the government is letting large corporations construct giant resorts, and the fear is that locals will be squeezed out.
Playa Iguanita is characterized by a great variety of ecosystems and biology as well as traces of the prehispanic cultures, according to the legislator.

Her proposal is based on modifying the original 1995 legislation for the Papagayo Gulf project.

The Four Seasons already is operating on the gulf, and other major resorts are planned. 

Although Costa Ricans are guaranteed the use of the beaches, access is frequently difficult.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 79

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More immigrant survivors
coming in from Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another boatload of illegal immigrants heading to the United States ran into trouble in the Pacific Ocean Friday.

Some 50 to 60 persons were to be brought earlier today to Flamingo aboard the "Juan Rafael Mora," a patrol boat of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. The members of the group are mostly from Ecuador, China and Peru, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials got word Friday that the boat carrying the immigrants was at the point of sinking in the ocean. Some fishing and cargo boats came to the aid of the craft and took off the passengers.

The location was described as 130 miles west of Playa Guiones. The passengers were suffering from dehydration and other maladies.

The "Juan Rafael Mora" was to be met by health officials, the  Policía Especial de Migración, the Fuerza Pública and the Cruz Roja. Arrival was anticipated at about 3 a.m.

Biofuel vehicles visiting
to promote power source

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Five biofuel vehicles are en route to Costa Rica to promote the use of unconventional energy sources such as environment friendly home-made fuels.
The rally, called the “Greaseball Challenge 07,” features vehicles running on biodiesel and grease and vegetable oil waste found at fast food restaurants, gas stations, farms and factories.
All five teams passed through through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. They are expected to arrive from Nicaragua to Costa Rica today, according to the World Wildlife Federation, which is promoting the trip.
In Honduras, the competitors visited an African palm biofuel production project. This type of palm is being used to produce biodiesel in several developing countries.
The main goal of the greaseball founders is to attract the attention of biofuel producers and distributors in the United States who can offer support in partnerships with biofuel entrepreneurs in developing countries, such as the six Central American nations they're visiting, said the federation.
At the end of the competition all funds raised from the registration fees and all vehicles, including a 1972 vintage Mercedes Benz school bus, will be donated to sustainable biofuel projects in each country, the federation added.

Man who beat mom to death
has conviction sustained

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala III high criminal court has thrown out an appeal by Garrett Gora, who now faces 25 years in a Costa Rican prison for beating his mother to death.

The original sentence was handed down Sept. 22 at the Tribunal de Juicio de Alajuela. The dead woman was Dorlene Annete Gora, then 62, who suffered severe blows to the body and the face, so much so that bones were fractured. Both are U.S. citizens who were in Costa Rica separately as tourists from California.

The murder happened early May 1 in the Las Orquideas Inn in El Cacao, which is between Grecia and Poás.

The son showed up at the hotel where his mother was staying and after a discussion flew into a rage, said police at the time.

Expat's murder case starts
today in Goicoechea court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman and two men will go on trial today in the murder of  82-year-old Salvador Hernández Rivas, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Cuban heritage who was found dead in Curridabat  Oct. 15, 2000.

The victim was bound, and his assailants placed a plastic bag over his head. The murder happened in the house occupied by the victim. Rivas came to Costa Rica in 1990, according to the Poder Judicial in a summary of the case.

The case will be heard in the  Tribunal de Juicio de Goicoechea. Suspects are a woman with the last names of  Mille Zayez and two men, one of whom who has been arrested recently.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 79

An Earth Day editorial from Paul Watson
It's not the number of automobiles but the number of people

By  Capt. Paul Watson*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Earth Day is almost here. I don’t believe in Earth Day myself. I think it’s a little silly to devote one single day of the year to being concerned about the environment, but I suppose one day is better than no day at all.

Having been an environmental activist since 1968, I have seen the movement go up and down like a roller coaster in popularity. It was big in 1972 with the Environmental Conference in Stockholm which I attended, and it became big again in 1992 with the U.N. Environmental Conference in Rio De Janeiro that I also attended. I remember that the priority issue in 1972 was the danger of escalating human populations, but by 1992, that concern was not even on the agenda.

Well we are approaching the end of another 20-year period, and it looks like ecology is in vogue again thanks to global warming and a few other scary things. Green is once again popular.

I can always tell when the environment is getting to be faddish again. My indicator is the number of lectures I am booked for around this time of year. It reached its peak in 1992, practically disappeared for awhile and now it’s coming around again.

What worries me is that the movement is constantly being sidetracked by the issue of the day.

It’s global warming now. When we were trying to warn people about global warming and climate change 20 years ago, no one was interested. Now it’s become the “in” issue and the big organizations are tapping the public for donations to address the problem although no one has come up with anything that makes much sense. But global warming is good for business if you’re one of the big bureaucratic organizations whose primary concern is really corporate self preservation.

Greenpeace is even telling people that they can slow down global warming by (and I kid you not) “singing in the shower.” Yep, you see all you have to do is run the water, then get wet, shut the water off, and sing in the shower as you lather up and then open up the faucet and rinse off. Ah, so simple to save the world.       

The problem is that these big organizations are too politically correct to address the ecologically correct solutions. Instead they are baffling everyone with abstract concepts like carbon trading and carbon storage or trying to sell us a new hydrid Japanese car.

Even Al Gore with his "Inconvenient Truth" totally ignored the most inconvenient truth of all. I’ll get to that in a moment.

But let’s look at the NO. 1 cause of global greenhouse gas emissions.

First and foremost it is human over-population, the very same issue that was the priority concern at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm.

It’s 6.5 billion people folks.

Remember in 1950, the world population was 3 billion. It’s now more than doubled. 6.5 billion people produce one hell of an annual output of waste and utilize an unbelievable amount of resources and energy. And this number is rising minute by minute, day, by day, year by year.

And most of the people having children have no idea why they are even having children other than that’s what you do. Most of them don’t really love their children because if they did they would be very much involved in trying to ensure that their children have a world to survive in.

Unless over-population is addressed, there is absolutely no way of slowing down global greenhouse gas emissions. But how do you do that within the context of economic systems that require larger and larger numbers to perform the essential task of consuming products?       

Corporations need workers and buyers. Governments need taxpayers, bureaucrats and soldiers. More people means more money.

I’ve said for decades that the solution to all of our problems is simple. We just need to live in accordance with the three basic laws of ecology.

First is the Law of Diversity. The strength of an eco-system lies in diversity of species within it. Weaken diversity and the entire system will be weakened and will ultimately collapse.

Second is the Law of Interdependence. All of the species within an eco-system are interdependent. We need each other.

And the third law of ecology is the Law of Finite Resources. There is a limit to growth because there is a limit to carrying capacity.

Human populations are exceeding ecological carrying capacity. Exceeding ecological carrying capacity is diminishing both resources and diversity of species.  

The diminishment of diversity is causing serious problems with interdependence.

Albert Einstein once wrote that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

That is the Law of Interdependence.
Forget global warming folks. The disappearance of the honeybee could end our existence as human beings on this planet far sooner than we think.

And the honey bee is in fact now disappearing. Why? We don’t know why. It could be genetically modified crops, I could be pesticides or it could be that our cell phones are interfering with their ability to navigate.

Whatever the cause the fact is that they are disappearing. All around the world bees are disappearing in a crisis called Colony Collapse Disorder. And bees pollinate our plants. Everywhere on the planet, bees are hard at work making it possible for you to live and enjoy life. 

We hold on to our place on this planet by only a toehold. If anything happens to the grass family, we are screwed. If the earthworms disappear, we are in big trouble. If the bees disappear, well, according to Albert Einstein who was considered somewhat smarter than most of us, we will have only four years. Just enough time to get a college degree to discover that everything you learned is relatively useless when sitting on the doorstep of global ecological annihilation.

We are cutting down the forest and plundering the oceans of life. We are polluting the soil, the air and the water and we are rapidly running out of fresh water to drink. Only corporations like Coke and Pepsi have figured out that water is more valuable than gold. That is why they are bottling it in plastic bottles and selling it. This week I saw a bottle of water in my hotel room that I could have drunk for only $4.

Unbelievable. That means that water is now being sold for more than the equivalent amount of gasoline. I hope that I’m not the only one who thinks this is insanity.

Now for Al Gore’s really inconvenient truth. In his film he does not mention once that the meat and dairy industry that produces the bacon, the steaks, the chicken wings and the milk is a larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry. You see, Al may drive a Prius but he likes his burgers.

This is why the big organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club will not say a thing about the meat industry. Last year I saw Greenpeacers sitting down for a baked fish meal onboard the Greenpeace ship "Esperanza" while engaged in a campaign to oppose over-fishing. 

When we pointed out that our Sea Shepherd ships serve only vegan meals, the Greenpeace cook replied, “that’s just silly.” We see what we want to see and we rationalize everything else.

The oceans have been plundered to the point that 90 percent of the fish have been removed from their eco-systems and at this very moment there is over 65,000 miles of long lines set in the Pacific Ocean alone and there are tens of thousands of fishing vessels scouring the seas in a rapacious quest to scoop up everything that swims or crawls.

This is ecological insanity.

The largest marine predator on the planet right now is the cow. More than half the fish taken from the sea is rendered into fish meal and fed to domestic livestock. Puffins are starving in the North sea to feed sand eels to chickens in Denmark. Sheep and pigs have replaced the shark and the sea lion as the dominant predators in the ocean, and domestic house cats are eating more fish than all the world’s seals combined. We are extracting some 50 to 60 fish from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.  

This is ecological insanity.

Yet the demand for shark fin is rising in China. Ignorant people still want to wear fur coats. In America, we order fries, a cheeseburger and a “diet” Coke.

Ecological insanity, folks.

Last week a reporter called to ask me if I had really said that earthworms are more important than people. I answered that yes I had. He then asked how I could justify such a statement.  

“Simple,” I answered. “Earthworms can live on the planet without people. We cannot live on the planet without earthworms, thus from an ecological point of view, earthworms are more important than people.”

He said that I was insane for suggesting such a ridiculous idea when people were made in the image of God, and earthworms were not.

What we have here of course is a failure to communicate between two radically different world views. His which is anthropocentric and sees reality as human centred and mine which is biocentric and sees reality as including all species equally working in interdependence. He sees us as divine and better than all the other species, and I see us as a bunch of arrogant primates out of control.

But that’s my two cents worth for Earth Day 2007.

Consider the humble honey bee and remember that the little black and yellow insect you see flitting busily from flower to flower is all that stands between us and our demise as a species on this planet. 

We better see to it that they don’t disappear.

* Capt. Paul Watson is a co-founder of The Greenpeace Foundation and is president and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Watson got into trouble  when his "Sea Shepherd" crew sprayed water on Costa Rican shark poachers in Guatemalan waters. His column is used with permission.

The person not going anywhere is said to be 'swimming'
Tanto nadar para quedar en la orilla.

“All this swimming only to remain on the shore.” This dicho is used to describe a situation where a lot of hard work accomplishes nothing or very little.

I have a cousin who is always coming up with new ideas for getting rich quick. Sometimes these ideas work, and he makes a little money, but more often than not he ends with nothing to show and often even loses money.

When we were kids this cousin came up with a scheme whereby he would present to the neighborhood kids a sort of carnival sideshow. Admission to this event was ¢2 (about a dime because a colon was worth a great deal more back then than it is these days). The main attraction of this barn-burner was la gallina de cuatro patas, “the four-legged chicken.”

Here I believe a bit of explanation is in order: We say that when a person is down on hands and knees that he or she is en cuatro patas “on four legs,” or “on all fours,” as the expression goes in English.

So my very clever cousin had partially hidden the chicken in such a way that you could not fully see la gallina unless you got down on hands and knees. Of course it was just a normal two-legged chicken. The one who was en cuatro patas was the person who had paid his two colones to see the silly bird. So, one did, I suppose, “see the chicken with four legs,” as my cousin’s come-on said. But, as P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and my cousin managed to lure in quite a few before word got out that the whole thing was nothing but a ruse.

Another of his childhood enterprises was selling pens that wrote in invisible ink. Of course, these pens didn’t have any ink in them at all. Only my cousin claimed to be able to read what was written with them. We all soon got onto this scam, however, and demanded our money back.

When we were in high school, he told me he knew a way

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

of getting good grades without even showing up for classes. But by that time I was no longer quite so jejune and stupid. I told him that clearly his scheme was working since we were in the same grade even though he was two years older than I.

My cousin has done a lot of swimming in his life, but most of the time he’s remained on the shore. It’s too bad he didn’t spend a little more time getting a profession for himself instead of devoting all his energies to get-rich-quick rackets and trying to beat the system. Ironically enough, today he is in politics. He’s not held any public office yet, but he is an adviser to a very well known political figure in Costa Rica.

I never thought my cousin would be able to make a good living by fooling people, but he sure seems to be succeeding at it now and, given the nature of Costa Rican politics, he’ll probably continue succeeding at it for quite some time. But maybe he should remember what Abraham Lincoln said about duping people. I doubt my cousin is able to fool ”. . . all of the people all of the time.”

This cousin nada mucho, and he still very much in the water these days, but I wonder just how far he really is from the shore.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 79

Costa Rica provides a brighter view
Antiquated insult laws are getting a workout in Venezuela

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The desacato or “insult” laws, which have been used to punish journalists for challenging their country’s leaders, have been part of the criminal code in most Latin American nations since their independence in the 19th century.  Now, with most of the region enjoying greater freedom of expression, enforcement of the laws largely has stopped.

A contrary example is the Hugo Chávez administration, where the Venezuelan state has been using desacato laws to jail, silence and intimidate journalists, and even has enacted further measures to stifle the media’s ability to convey perspectives to the Venezuelan people that differ from those of the regime.

“These laws have intimidated journalists,” said Alfredo Ravell, director of Venezuela’s Globovision Television Network.  The constant threat of state sanctions, journalists in his country tend to practice self-censorship lest they report information that could raise the ire of those in power, he said.

“Cases of corruption or those in which public officials are directly or indirectly criticized are the ones of more concern for journalists, who feel their reports could bring accusations for desacato,” Ravell said.

The risks faced by Venezuelan journalists have a clear example in case of RCTV, which will be effectively silenced May 27 due to the Chavez regime’s refusal to renew its broadcasting license. The television network has been one of the few to express critical editorial opinions and present information that differs from the official state position.

Ravell saidhe considers the treatment of RCTV an ominous sign for the future of press freedom in Venezuela.

“[G]overnment spokespeople constantly mention measures against media outlets who are ‘enemies of the revolution’ or ‘imperialists’ and so on . . .  and that suggests that after RCTV, attacks against other media will follow,” he said.

Globovision, is facing increased pressure from the regime, and its journalists also have been the target of violent attacks over the past few years, including during Venezuela’s recent election campaign, Ravell said.

Desacato laws also were used by the Chavez government in 2006 to reopen criminal proceedings against journalist Napoleón Bravo on charges that he defamed the country’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.  In its 2006 report on the state of freedom of expression in the Western Hemisphere, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, said Venezuela has used desacato laws to prosecute reporter Gustavo Azócar and the editor of El Siglo newspaper, Mireya Zurita.

Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, a nongovernmental policy research group, said the Venezuelan government points to the existence of desacato laws in neighboring nations as justification for its own practices, regardless of the fact that those laws normally are not applied today.
Shifter says their presence on the books remains a concern simply because as long as they are there, “they can be triggered or invoked arbitrarily.”

“I think it is very important to overturn those laws because they belong to a different era and I think at least most of Latin America has gone beyond that and I think it’s important to make the changes in the legal framework as well,” he said.

The case of Costa Rican journalist Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, who wrote for the San José-based daily La Nación, is example of a more positive direction Latin American nations are taking with regard to desacato laws.

Herrera was convicted of criminal defamation in 1999. But in 2004, the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Costa Rican government to void his conviction and pay him $20,000 in damages and $10,000 in legal fees, ruling that the sentence had harmed Herrera’s professional and personal life and violated his right to freedom of expression.

Eduardo Ulibarri, former director of La Nación, said the ruling “has brought about more flexibility to the judicial decisions of many courts and has also raised awareness, especially amongst journalists and defense attorneys, that one can cite the rules and jurisprudence of the Inter-American human rights system in a case.”

Shifter said the Herrera case was “an extremely important precedent,” and he also cited an opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the 1988 conviction of Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky that led Argentina to nullify its desacato laws in 1995.

“I think that there has been a generally positive trend in the region that’s accompanied the growth of democracy,” Shifter said, arguing that globalization and economic development, accompanied by greater technology and access to information, are contributing to a broader consciousness and awareness of the need for a free press.

He added that even governments that grudgingly are allowing greater press freedoms nevertheless “tend to recognize that this is a reality and this is part of what democracy is all about.”

Yet, Shifter said that when considering the wider region, the case of Venezuela “is the most problematic and goes against the current.”   He said that although it is still possible to find media critical of the Chavez regime inside the country, this is partly because the government has not yet gained complete control over all media outlets, as is the case in Cuba.

Besides the enforcement of desacato laws, Venezuela is enacting additional restrictions.

The Venezuelan government also has required the broadcast of programs from its Ministry of Communications and has empowered itself to interrupt regular TV and radio station programs without prior warning to present messages.
Freedom of expression in Venezuela “has suffered an obvious damage,” Ravell said.

U.S. criticized by Cuba for conditional release of terror suspect Luis Posada
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba says it holds the U.S. government responsible for the release of a Cuban exile blamed for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.

In a statement on the state-run newspaper, Granma, the Cuban government condemned the release of Luis Posada Carriles, who was freed on bond from a U.S. jail Thursday.

Havana accused the United States of having double standards in the fight against terrorism.

Posada Carriles, a former U.S. intelligence operative, has been ordered to remain under house arrest while he goes on trial in May on immigration fraud charges. He is wanted in
 Cuba and Venezuela for the 1976 airline bombing that killed 73 people.

Posada Carriles is a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, and is accused of plotting the bombing in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has demanded that the United States deport him to Venezuela to stand trial.

Cubans have rallied outside the the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to protest the release of the 79-year-old. Cuba and Venezuela accuse the United States of harboring a terrorist.

Posada Carriles has been in U.S. custody since 2005 for illegally entering the country. He was indicted earlier this year on immigration charges

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 79

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