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(506) 223-1327                Published Monday, April 30, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 84          E-mail us    
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Country just sets itself up for one crisis after another
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The rule of thumb in Costa Rica is when you cannot plan — or do not plan — panic.

This malady is part of the culture.  People in the campo, the rural areas, learn this from childhood.  Parents instruct kids sent to the pulperia, the corner mom and pop grocery, to buy one egg for breakfast.  Not two, one for breakfast and one for lunch, or three, one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner.  Just one.  One for breakfast.

Why, because the parents were not taught to plan and organize by their parents, so they do not teach their kids to do so. 

What happens?  The kids grow up into adults and this happens:

The country gets a Registro Nacional that has collapsed for the past month.  It has been literally impossible to use online.  This is an entity, that is in theory, the cornerstone of public records in Costa Rica. 

Very poor, if any, planning went into designing the system in the first place.  The day it came online — some years back — the organization’s computers could not handle the daily traffic. Today it is a disaster.  Crooks use this fact to their advantage everyday.  Fraud is rampant.  Good people just twiddle their thumbs.

Now in a panic Registro workers are trying to fix the ills of years applying band aid solutions to the problems, and nothing works.

Speaking of band aid solutions to real problems:  Now there is insufficient electricity.  There is no money to harness the power of Costa Rica’s rich thermal power resources, at least according to the local news reports.

It appears no one has converted plans to action.  No one in power has interpreted correctly usage requirements or population growth. A union for the professionals at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said in a full page ad Sunday that the power shortage was not its fault. The Sindicato de Ingenieros y Professionales said they have been warning  of shortages for two years.

Now the country is in a panic, rationing electric power.  Some people have it, and some people do not.  Everyday it is a roulette wheel decision as to who gets it and who does not.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is going to save the day with an executive decree to buy  new oil burning electric plants for $150 million dollars.  This sure reeks of a panic solution to a panic problem.

Ops, forgot to mention cellular phones.  When Millicom International Cellular S.A. set up an adequate cell phone system in Costa Rica in 1989 and people started to use it widely,  panic mode struck fast.  Costa Rica worked quickly to quash the license and take over the system with predictable results.

These are only three of a multitude of examples. 
panic button graphic


Everyone has his or her own list, most starting right a home.  How many times does one hear living in Costa Rica, the last of this or the last of that was used until the moment it is all gone.

Add a little graft to the no-planning, no-organization recipe, and what does one get?

A great way to make money.  The reason, because there is never anyone to blame, nothing worked anyway.

A company in México sold the Registro its computer system by winning a bid during the presidency of one of those presidents currently on the hot seat facing a corruption investigation.

The U.S.-based Millicom set up the first cellular telephone system in Central America in Costa Rica, and without even a “thanks” was booted out of the country in May 1995. The company had to stop its operations because the Sala IV found that its activities with cell telephones was contrary to the Costa Rican Constitution that gives the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad a telephone monopoly.

This which made room for one of the biggest frauds to the public involving almost every level of government. Former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez is still under investigation for his role, if any, in a kicback on a contract to a French telephone company. Agents of the French firm have been indicted in the United States.

Of course,  a lot of people say that when things go wrong and panic sets in, its just part of living in Costa Rica.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 84

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Defense lawyers reject idea
Villalobos scheme was fraud


By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

Oswaldo Villalobos’ defense team summarized its case with an emphasis on the lack of fraud in the Villalobos high-interest investment operation and Oswaldo’s limited role in the capture of funds from the public.

Alexander Ruíz summarized the defense against the civil claims, which seek restitution of money lost by investors in the operation. Of the $406 million prosecutors have calculated were invested, there is about $7 million in property and frozen in bank accounts to potentially be divided among plaintiffs.

Ruíz gave a repetitive account that emphasized how Oswaldo Villalobos and his exchange house Ofinter S.A. did not participate in the reception of the funds deposited with his brother Luis Enrique Villalobos. But for a number of reasons it wasn’t a fraudulent operation anyhow, mostly because the investors were already determined to put in money based on the high returns others received, the reputation Luis Enrique enjoyed particularly among the North American expatriate community, and the 20-year history of the business, he said.

Several elements introduced into the debate by Ewald Acuña were easy to refute, especially the suggestion that money capture hadn’t begun until 1999, the operation only paid interest and never returned capital, and that the Whitney National Bank in the United States is a major institution and not the back room operation Acuña had suggested.

Studies by the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras had found only minor irregularities, noted Ruiz, especially at Ofinter which was regulated by that agency. Checks moved rapidly around the system, but so does a 1,000-colon note move around the economy, he said.

Ruiz responded to the oft-heard suggestion that Luis Enrique never had enough cash at hand, and that the many shell companies existed only to shuffle money, by mentioning the properties Villalobos-owned companies controlled, about 7,500 square kilometers of land included. They could pay with property if not by cash, he said.

Rodrigo Araya continued with the civil defense, repeating much of what Ruiz had said. His report was heavy on legal jargon relative to other summaries and the trial as a whole. He noted that few customers asked where the money would go and just wanted their interest. The Villalobos did have real businesses, he noted, though he scoffed slightly at the 7,500 square kilometer figure, noting that is close to 20 percent of the land area of the country. Luis Enrique was involved in mining, helicopters, and high-return overseas investments, among others. An expert witness towards the end of the trial was going to address this, he said, but was not allowed to testify on the subject.

The lack of profitability shown by these companies he explained by saying that “in practice of commercial accounting doesn’t reflect reality for tax reasons.” “It’s pure logic,” he said, “if you did a study looking for successful lawyers based on their accounting records, you wouldn’t find any.” Some of the criminal money-laundering charges against Oswaldo involve accounting irregularities at Ofinter.

Oswaldo Villalobos faces charges of fraud, money laundering and illegal banking. His brother remains a fugitive.

Witnesses for the prosecution said that the high interest scheme took in about $170 million in 2001 and 2002 up to the point where law enforcement raided the operations July 4, 2002, and when the businesses shut down Oct. 14, 2007. There has been no testimony on where the bulk of the money went.

Tuesday is 150th anniversary
of William Walker's surrender


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans have another reason to celebrate Tuesday. In addition to the day being el Día de Trabajo and a holiday it also is the 150th anniversary of the surrender of William Walker and the end to his attempt to bring U.S. manifest destiny to Central America.

Historians have a symposium planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the  Universidad de Costa Rica's Guanacaste campus.

In addition, the celebration moves to the Hacienta Santa Rosa Friday where  María Elena Carballo, the minister of culture and academics will meet along with children from that area. Santa Rosa figured in the military efforts to oust Walker.

The war, which was fought mostly on Nicaraguan soil, is called the  Campaign Nacional. Although Walker surrendered and fled, the campaign had a dark end. Troops contracted cholera and brought the disease back to Costa Rica. Historians estimate that a tenth of the population died.

President Juan Rafael Mora Porras was the hero of the moment because he encouraged a united front against Walker. He shared the limelight with his brother-in-law José María Cañas Escamilla, the war minister who had led the campaign against Walker.

Politics being what they were in those days, both men ended their lives before firing squads.

Have you seen these stories?



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 84


rock and roll pollo



More blackouts scheduled for today but not for Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Blackouts are back, and there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that Tuesday is a holiday, and no blackouts are planned by the Instituto Costarrricense de Electricidad or its distribution arm, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.

The bad news is that blackouts are all over today, including Escazú, Santa Ana, Manuel Antonio, Coco and even the vicinity of the Hotel Four Season in Papagayo.

Fuerza y Luz is planning three-hour blackouts and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad plans two hours each. The company lists have been unreliable in the past, biut over the weekend, workers had a chance to develop authoritative lists.

Readers who have trouble seeing the list, can simply increase the size of the type on their computer browser.


These blackouts and times have been announced by the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz

From 7 a m. to 10 a.m.

Barrios in the south, all of Hatillo, all of Alajuelita except the centro, Calle Morenos, Barrio Cuba,  Sabana and vicinity, Av. 10, Liceo del Sur, Barrio Corazón de Jesús, Sagrada Familia.  San Rafael Abajo, San Juan de Dios de Desamparados, Bello Horizonte and San Antonio de
Escazú, Escazú centro, from the east side of the iglesia de Escazú south to Barrio el  Carmen, Bebedero de Escazú, El Monasterio, Calle Jaboncillos, from Centro  Comercial Paco south to the Cruz Roja, Barrio Corazón de Jesús, all of Santa Ana,  Salitral, Pozos.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Northeast section of San José, Moravia, San Juan de Tibás, Cuatro Reinas, León XIII,  Garabito, from the crossroads at León XIII south to the station of the Bombeo of AyA, all Sabanilla and the northeast sector, Los Cuadros, Purral, Vista de Mar, Rancho Redondo, Llano Grande.  Vargas Araya, Betania, UCR, Barrio Pinto, Sabanilla, Cedros, Santa Marta, Los Guayabos.  San Ramón, Mata de Plátano, in the vicinity of Chacón Paut, from Motores Británicos in Curridabat, east to the antigua Galera, from the antigua Galera, north over Calle  Vega to the water tank, from Motores Británicossouthto the new Banco nacional de Costa Rica building and west to the  Municipalidad de Curridabat, the vicinity of the former IREX,  EPA, Montesacro, Euro Autos, Centro Comercial AM-PM, Banco Popular de
Curridabat, Banco de San José en Curridabat, Banco BCT, Urbanización la  Alameda, Vargas Araya, San Pedro, from the iglesia San Pedro east to the  la Galera intersection

From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Northeast San José, Cuatro Reinas de Tibás, La Aurora, San Joaquín de Flores,  Barreal de Heredia, Lagunilla, Santa Rosa de Santo Domingo, La  Valencia, Lagos de Heredia, from Atlas north to Price Mart (the part serviced by
CNFL), all of Uruca, all of Cinco Esquinas, all of Calle Blancos, all of Pavas, Guadalupe  centro and the vicinity of Clínica Católica. Colima, Piuses, Santa Rosa de Santo Domingo,  Barrio México and vicinity. Guadalupe centro, the vicinity of Centro Comercial  Guadalupe, the vicinity of  Iglesia Betania and the iglesia Santa Teresita, industrial sector of Pavas, from Jacks to the fire station and then to the U.S. Embassy. from the fire station 300 meters north.

4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

San Jerónimo de Desamparados, Paso Ancho (around Seminario),  all of Desamparados, Patarrá, San Antonio, San Rafael Arriba, San Miguel, Higuito, El  Llano, Jericó, Aserrí, Alajuelita centro y San Josecito, vicinity of Clínica Solón Núñez.  San Diego de Tres Ríos, Lomas de Ayarco, Los Pinares, Hacienda Vieja, San Francisco  de Curridabat, San Francisco de Dos Río, vicinity of  Café Rey, Tirrases de Curridabat y Curridabat, Multiplaza del Este, Aliss, Registro Nacional, Price Mart, Colegio de  Ingenieros y Arquitectos, Indoor Club, Aduanas IREX, José Maria Zeledón, Centro  Comercial Plaza Cristal, Zapote centro and vicinity, Plaza Cemaco, Quesada Durán,  Barrio Córdoba, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, Urbanización Las Luisas, Santa Marta,  Jardines de Cascajal, Tres Ríos centro, Concepción, IREX



These blackouts have been announced by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. They are listed by the power plant serving the area.

7 to  9 a.m.

Miravalles
Los Chiles, Medio Queso, Santa Cecilia, El Amparo, San Jorge, El Porvenir, Pataste, San  Rafael, Guatuso, Río Celeste, Los Sanjos, Buenavista, Maquencal, Gallopinto, Pavón, Cristo  Rey, Cuatro Esquinas, Banderas, Coquital

Santa Rita
Vista del Mar, Porvenir, Coyote, Islita, Juan Candelillo, Playa Manzanillo, Hotel Barcelo, Santa  Teresa, Montezuma, Tambor, Parque Cabo Blanco

Barranca
Puntarenas centro, Cocal to la Punta

Juanilama
Esparza centro, San Jerónimo, Macacona, San Roque, San Juan, Juanilama

Garita
Turrúbares total, Barbacoas, Parte de Piedades

Toro
Cinchona, Vara Blanca, Parte de Cariblanco

Garita
Balsa, Escuela de Ganadería, Sabana Larga, Barrio Jesús
 
Descanso
Carrillos de Poás, Chilamate

Coco
Invu Las Cañas, La Giralda, Targuaces

Naranjo
Angeles, San Juan, Concepción, San Isidro, La Guaria

Naranjo
Candelaria, Zaragoza, Cocaleca, Santiago

Turrialba
Atirro, Eslabón, Florencia, Guayabo, La Suiza, Tayutic

Turrialba
Celulosa, Conair, Javillos, Mollejones, Sitio Mata

Concavas
Amanco, Alrededores de Concavas, Orosí

Río Macho
Purisil, Tapantí

Leesvilles
La Colonia, San Bosco, La Javillana, río Blanco, río Torinto

Freehold
Freeman, Perla, Porvenir, Monteverde, 28 Millas, Madre de Dios, Batán, Dabao, Reserva
Namandi

Moín
Changuinola

San Isidro
Invu El Clavel, Lourdes, Palmares, Repunta, Santa Margarita, Sagrada Familia, Cocorí, El
Hoyón, Río Palma, La Guaria, Barú, Laguna

Río Claro All of the  Fincas de Coto, Naranjo, Zancudo, Pavones, Laurel.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Cañas
Cañas Centro, Barrios Pedregal, Bello Horizonte, El Vergel, Los Maliches, Barrio Kennedy,
San Pedro, San Cristóbal, Unión, INVU, San Martín Las Palmas, Chotega, El Castillo

Liberia
Los Cerros, La Victoria, Alaska, Moracia, San Miguel, Peloncito, Condega

Barranca
Sardinal, Guacimal, Chomes, Punta Morales, Miramar, Costa Pájaros, El Palmar, La Pita

Juanilama
Riteve, Sardimar, Laica

Garita
All of Puriscal
Coco
Urbanización Ciruelas, Parte este de Calle Ancha
 
Naranjo
Buenos Aires, Y Griega

C. Quesada
Zarcero, Laguna

Naranjo
Piedades Norte, La Esperanza, Bajo Zúñiga, La Paz

Turrialba
Campabadal, Este de Turrialba, Recope, UCR

Turrialba
Anita, Castilla, Laguna de Paraiso, La Troya, Orosi, Palomo

Turrialba
Cachí, El Congo, La Chaparra, La Represa, San Jerónimo, San Miguel

Turrialba
Azul, Santa Teresa y Guayabo

Moín
Decar, Muelle Moín, Estándar

Moín
Cahuita, Puerto Vargas, Puerto Viejo

Moín

San Isidro
Pilar, Cajón, San Pedro, La Unión, Convento, Cacao, Volcán, Santa Marta, Ceibo, Buenas
Aires

Río Claro
Golfito centro, La Mona


From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Liberia
INA, UCR, Hotel Four Seasons, Hotel Fiesta Premier, Costa Blanca, Allegro Papagayo, H.

Barranca
Centro de Barranca, La China, Invu, El Roble Viejo, Manuel Mora

Juanilama
Caldera, Juanilama, Mata Limón,

Coco
Roble, San Antonio, Rincón Herrera

Coco
Urbanización La Pradera

Coco
Calle Sánchez, Ciruelas

Garita
Montecillos, Villa Rica, Lagunillas

Naranjo
Rosario, San Miguel, Pilas, Dulce Nombre

Mesón
Tacares, Poró, Rincón de Salas, Cataluña

Coco
Angeles, Cajón, Carbonal, San Miguel

Turrialba
Las Américas, Norte de Turrialba centro, Calle Puntarenas, Aragón, Sucursal INS

Turrialba
Aquiares, El Recreo, Faldas del Volcan, La Malanga, San Juan Norte y Sur, Santa Rosa

Turrialba
El Humo, La Suiza, Oriente, Pejibaye, San Miguel, Tucurrique

Turrialba Campabadal, Este de Turrialba, Recope, toma río Turrialba, UCR, Catie

Moín
Muelle y Patios de Contenedores

Moín
Changuinola

San Isidro
Villa Ligia, Calle Licho, Loma Verde, Sinaí, Alto Alonso, Coopeagri, El Prado, Barrio Liceo  Unesco, Sector Gasoytica

Río Claro
All of Palmar

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Santa Rita
Zapotal, Río Oro, Monte Romo, Río Ora, Samara, Nosara, Garza, Playa Guiones, Proyecto  Americano, Santa Elena, Playa Carrillo

Cañas
Aguacates, Tierra Morenas, Tejona, Los Angeles, Parcelas, Qda Azul, La Virgen

Cañas
San Antonio, Las Palmas, La UNED, Fca Chalo Elizondo, Empresa Chani Mora

Barranca
Cocal, Chacarita, 20 de Noviembre, Fray Casiano

Barranca
Villas Caletas, Herradura, Jaco, Playa Hermosa, Qda Amarilla, Tulín, Esterillos, La Loma

Coco
Ceiba, Itiquis, San Isidro, Fraijanes, Poasito

Coco
Atenas centro, San Isidro, Anegeles, San José Norte

Naranjo
Llano Bonito, San Juan, Candelaria, Concepción, San Roque, Palmitos

Naranjo
Santiago, Calle Zamora, Río Jesús, Balboa

Naranjo
Piedades Sur, Quebradillas, Zapotal, La Guaria, San Francisco

Naranjo
San Pedro,
Calle Valverde

Turrialba
Azul, Guayabo, Pascua, Peralta, San Ramón, Santa Teresita, Tres Equis

Turrialba
Azul, Santa Teresa y Guayabo

Freehold
Herediana, Cairo, Carmen: 1,2,3 Imperio: 1,2,3, El Peje, 4 Milla, Parismina

Moín
Changuinola

Moín
La Bomba, Bananito, Valle La Estrella, Cahuita, Bribí, Sixaola

San Isidro
Barrio San Luis, Barrio Boston, Tierra Prometida, Barrio Cementerio, Ciudadela Blanco, San Isidro centro

Río Claro
Paso Canoas, La Cuesta, Laurel, La Palma, Colorado

From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Liberia
Hda Pelón de la Bajura, Sabila, Hotel Las Espuelas, Barrio La Cruz, Santa Lucía, El Salto, Los Terreros, Pijije, Parcelas San Ramón

Arenal
Líbano, Tilarán centro, tronadora, San Luis, Río Chiquito, San Antonio, La Cabra

Miravalles

Aguas Claras, Valle Verde, río Negro, San José de Upala, Popoyoapa, Birmania, Las Milpas,  Porvenir, La Victoria, México de Upala

Barranca
Playa Herradura, Los Sueños, Tárcoles, Guacalillo

Barranca
Manuel Antonio, Bartolo, Naranjito, Savegre

Coco
Montecillos Parcial, Urbanización Gregorio, Pueblo Nuevo

Coco
West of Calle Ancha

Mesón
Arenas, San Isidro, Santa Gertrudis

Naranjo
Sarchí, San Luis, San Juan de Grecia

Turrialba A
quiares, El Recreo, Faldas del Volcán, La Malanga, San Juan Norte y Sur, Santa Rosa

Turrialba
Celulosa, Conair, Javillos, Mollejones, Sitio Mata

Turrialba
Cachí, El Congo, La Chaparra, La Represa, San Jerónimo, San Miguel

Turrialba
Anita, Castilla, Laguna de Paraíso, La Troya, Orosi, Palomo

Leesvilles
Guápiles Centro, Bellavista, Sector del Cementerio

Moín
Changuinola

San Isidro
Hatillo, La Guapil, Matapalo, Portalón, El Pasito, Savegre, El Silencio, Santo Domingo, Qda  Arroyo

Río Claro
San Vito, Hospital sector


From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Cañas
La Palma, San Joaquín, Colorado, San Buenaventura, Isla Chira, Abangaritos, El Níspero,  Puente La Amistad, San Juan Chiquito, La Sierra

Cañas
Sandillal, Corobicí, entrada de Upala hasta Río Chiquito, Mojica, Montenegro, Bagatzí,  Bagaces centro

Barranca
Parrita, Quepos, todos los Pueblos hacia el Noroeste

Barranca
Orotina, San Mateo, Desmontes

Belén
Río Segundo, La Agonia, El Llano, Brasil, Canoas, Carrizal, Desamparados

Garita
Turrúcares, Siquiares

Mesón
San Roque de Grecia

Naranjo
Palmares centro, Esquipulas, La Granja, Calle Brujos

Naranjo
Lourdes, Cirrí, Los Robles, San Jerónimo

Turrialba
Azul, Guayabo, Pascua, Peralta, San Ramón, Santa Teresita, Tres Equis

Turrialba
Azul, Santa Teresa y Guayabo

Freehold
Indiana, San Martín, San Rafael, Siquirres

Leesvilles
Coco, Florida, Herediana, Puerto Liberia, Mercedes

Leesvilles
El Edén, Guácimo centro, Villa Franca, Limbo, Duacarí, El Bosque, Yucatica

Moín

San Isidro
Los Chiles, La Linda, Rivas, Miravalles, San Rafael Norte, División, Cerro Buvis, Chespiritos, 3 de Junio

San Isidro
Los Reyes, San Juan Bosco, Mollejones, San Rafael Platanares, Bolivia, Pejivalle, El Aguila,  Guagaral

Río Claro
Puerto Escondido, Bahía Drake, Puerto Jiménez

Río Claro
Sector La Lucha

Río Claro: Ciudad Neily centro


Sala IV gets a request to study free trade treaty before vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The route to a referendum on the free trade treaty has become a little more complex.

Friday the Defensoría de los Habitantes filed a request with the Sala IV constitutional court asking the magistrates to examine the document to determine if any of it was unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, opponents of the treaty are  trying to make the case that democracy would be better served if the vote was the result of a massive signature campaign. Among others, the Consejo Institucional of the public Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica came out for the signature method for the referendum.

The whole idea of the referendum got off the ground when the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones agreed to let opponents pass petitions seeking a referendum. Under the law opponents needed about 130,000 signatures and could take up to nine months. The effort appeared to be partly a plan to delay action on the treaty until the deadline to ratify it had passed.

So President Óscar Arias Sánchez used another part of the law to ask for a referendum within 90 days. His request found the needed backing in the Asamblea Legislativa. Now the tribunal must decided which route to take.

The action by the Defensoría was explained by Daniel Soley Gutiérrez,  an assistant to Lisbeth Quesada Tristán, the Defensora de los Habitantes. He said that the constitutional court should look at the document to make sure it did not contain unconstitutional items. He cited as troublesome areas clauses calling for international arbitration of commercial issues, those addressing labor rights, health and intellectual property and a failure to adequately address the needs of social minorities.

He also said that democracy would be damaged if the people passed the referendum only to see the court set it aside. He also expressed concern about spending 1.5 billion colons (about $2.9 million) to conduct the referendum if it were only going to be struck down by the court.

The magistrates have a month to review the document. Getting an opinion of the high court on a pending piece of
 legislation is normal in Costa Rica. But the free trade treaty is a package deal. It cannot be changed. So if the high court finds something unconstitutional, the entire document is dead.

The  Consejo Institucional of the Cartago-based technical university also called for a review by the Sala IV. And it called on the Tribunal de Elecciones to reject the proposal by the executive branch. The council said that the collection of signatures during the time leading up to the vote would encourage a national dialog that would be helpful to democracy.

In the Asamblea Legislativa, Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, the leader of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, promised that her party would continue to fight against approval of the trade treaty. Her remarks were contained in the statements most political leaders make at the beginning of the legislative year that begins Tuesday. In place of the treaty, she promised a true development agenda "a la Tica," which had been discussed in the abstract but with few concrete proposals.

Meanwhile, President Arias continues to make speeches favoring the treaty. His most recent was during a visit to the Panduit Corp. factory in La Argentina de Grecia Friday where he asked the workers, mostly younger, to vote for the document. The company makes cable and electronic products.

Tuesday is the Día Internacional del Trabajo and the traditional workers parade will  have an anti-free trade trreaty emphasis. Some environmentalists will be joining the march because they oppose the treaty, too.

In another free trade political development over the last few days, Gilberth Calderón Alvarado, the Procurador de la Ética Pública or ethics watchdog, rejected a complaint against Mayi Antillón Guerrero, who is the leader of the partido Liberación Nacional in the assembly. Opponents said she should not vote for the treaty because her husband works as a lawyer for companies seeking to safeguard their intellectual property rights. Calderón said this did not constitute a conflict of interest.

Treaty backers have a 38-vote, two-thirds margin in the assembly, enough to pass the measure, so opponents have been seeking to disqualify supporters to change the vote.


Eyelashes get a new meaning when topic is workaholic
Andando como araña sin pestaña
 
“Going like a spider without eyelashes.” Spiders are known to be unusually assiduous workers.  Well, if they don’t have eyelashes they will work even harder because they won’t even be able to take time to blink (the verb pestañear means “to blink,” or “to wink”). We say that someone está andando como araña sin pestaña when they are workaholics, or those megalomaniacs who can never delegate responsibilities or stop crazily running around looking for more jobs that only they can do properly.

In my work at the city hall here in Bloomington, Indiana, there are constantly new things to do and many people asking for help. So, I learned early on that it is important to know what jobs to involve myself in directly and when I need to enlist the assistance of other people or other agencies of the city government. Being the kind of person who likes helping people, this is not always easy for me.

But I have had to learn to control my more maniacal tendencies for the sake of really getting the job done as it should be. When one tries to do too many things, then often none of them gets done very well. Some things, as they say, will inevitably “fall through the cracks.”
 
I often have the pleasure of working with two wonderful women, a mother and daughter. The mother is in International Services at Indiana University, and the daughter works for the City of Bloomington in community outreach. Many people don’t understand what these two women do, since most of their work is done
behind the scenes. They are great networkers and know exactly what agency or individual to go to in order to get

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto



help with the problems that confront international students and members of our rapidly growing Latino immigrant community. They work hard, but no como arañas sin pestañas.  They also know when and how to relax and enjoy life. I am very fortunate indeed to know them.
 
It’s fine to be like a little spider, industrious and hardworking. But let’s not forget to take time off to rest, and for family and friends. We shouldn’t be so eager to give up our pestañas, because sometimes it’s necessary at least take time to blink.

It’s also necessary to be gracious in life, and allow other to have a chance to do things. Sometimes that means allowing others to give us a hand rather than always thinking that nobody can do the job as well as we can.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 84


His prescription for blackout or crisis music: Jazz at 95.5
By Shawn Mulhern*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Having spent most of my life in a broadcasting career, which today continues in retirement, I have read, with great interest and loyalty, A.M. Costa Rica as it keeps me in touch with where I would love to be permanently.
 
Since the initial A.M. Costa Rica was launched into cyberspace I have followed the news of the day, week, whenever with great interest. I learn, I stay up with events as they occur, and the pictures you paint with your words generate vivid recollections of that corner of this earth that continues to hold on to a piece of me.
 
This morning, Friday, 27 April, I read of the blackouts and again recall those days of my living there when they occurred. It was an adventurous experience: the candles and flashlights, and the peace, and neighbors getting to know one another, all because of a lot of darkness. This, by the way, was earlier in this decade. I read your staff article entitled “A little less juice can be a positive development.”

The accuracy of your staff writer was almost close to perfect, except for one major element — Radio. Please note the following graph from this day’s story:
 
"The radio stations have backup power. Most people remember radio.  The portable can bring a night of easy listening. Radio Eco (95.9 FM) is great with its “Simplemente Tango” show from 9 to 10 in the evenings. But Radio Nacional in stereo (101.5 FM ) is great for evening call-in and talk shows.

"The more advanced listeners will stumble to their iPod for their own music menu."

This is where I take exception to the story.
 
“Most people remember radio.”

Most people, at one time or another during their day, are in tune with a radio station. Why? Because it can be thought-provoking, passive, entertaining or simply, a companion. I am very familiar with many professionals at Radio Nacional, and I am aware of Radio Eco.

However, it is at this point that I find one major element missing. It is well known as: Noventa y Cinco-Cinco Jazz  (95.5 FM)
 
Radio listening habits are developed over time and are a very personal choice. It is here that your staff writer failed to mention one of the most satisfying and relaxing resources during those times that life can become extremely stressful; i.e., a Costa Rican blackout.
 
Noventa y Cinco-Cinco Jazz went on-air at 7:20 a.m., the morning of 12 October 2000. At that point it seemed like 
Mulhern photo
Photo by Rolando Alfaro
Shawn Mulhern relaxes at Chelles awaiting a midnight order of gallo pinto after having his ankle mended at Clinica Biblica.

it was a thorn among the roses. That is, a smooth jazz radio station in a Spanish-speaking country, entering the airwaves and trying to co-exist with, at that time, better than 70 Spanish-speaking radio signals.
 
Noventa y Cinco-Cinco Jazz was designed for just such occasions – blackouts, fine dining, relaxation, a respite from the daily routine, a good book, an easier drive to and from the office, and many other stressful events that occur daily in one’s life. It was designed to serve as a companion to the beautiful people of Costa Rica, natives, or those who have seen the beauty of living in this Central American nation and have chosen to spend their lives there.

It took better than one year, and overcoming one broken ankle, to design and select the music and format for Noventa y Cinco-Cinco Jazz, and most of my heart and soul remains with this radio station.
 
I’ve been through a number of blackouts during the evening hours in Costa Rica. In developing Radio Station Noventa y Cinco-Cinco Jazz, with Señor Rolando Alfaro, and it’s parent group, Radio Columbia. I selected the program name “Lights Out, Costa Rica.” It seemed most appropriate, and provided a double-entendre. The kids off to bed; relaxation; a chance to unwind from the rigors and driving of the day; the hassles that we all experience at one time or another; the opportunity to experience very palatable jazz, and, of course, the unfortunate blackouts.
 
With that information, I close this essay from far north of Curridabat, San José, Playa Hermosa, and Escazú, all of where I wish to be. I hope that you enjoy 95.5 any place, and at anytime of day, but especially when it’s time for “Lights Out Costa Rica.”


* Mr. Mulhern now lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and harbors strong desires to return to Costa Rica.


More letters from our readers on conservation and electricity
Economy could reach point
of crippling downward spiral


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

ICE is a bumbling, bullying, unapologetic FAILURE as a company. Even before this alleged "emergency," they weren't providing reliable power, nor did they make the investment in infrastructure needed to provide telephone land lines to those who want them, (I've been waiting two years as has everyone else in my neighborhood). Is it necessary to mention that RACSA is a joke?

What's happening now with the power grid and with telecommunications, just to name two examples, is a perfect example of why Costa Rica needs to end its history of allowing monopolies to stifle innovation, competition and most importantly, new investment and competent government oversight. Whether CAFTA passes or fails, monopolies should go the way of the dinosaur, and foreign companies should be allowed to compete freely in the Costa Rican marketplace.

Another pertinent example is the cement monopoly. Given the tremendous need for infrastructure improvement here, every Costa Rican should be outraged that a bag of cement costs four times more here than it does in Panama!

And if the sudden power "emergency" is in fact genuine, and not a shakedown of the government on the part of ICE for higher rates and a CAFTA defeat, who was it that was sound asleep at the switch while we went from no problema to CRISIS seemingly overnight? Why wasn't the country told to CONSERVE or ELSE? Nicaragua has been going through a similar power shortage for months. How is it that no one in the Arias administration got on the horn to say: "Hey! Us too! Turn down the A. C. or grab your socks!"?

Sadly, this seems to be the standard M. O. of both the government and the commercial sector:  Wait until the bridge falls down, then fix it. Wait until a pothole swallows a tour bus, then fix it. Wait until home invaders target the home of someone IMPORTANT, then express outrage.

This is just shotgun/crisis management at its worst. Sometimes it works in the short term on the local level, but it ALWAYS fails on the national level.

But the bottom line is that no one company should EVER be allowed to attain a position of such power that it can bring the entire nation to a standstill if it doesn't get what it wants, nor should its union be allowed to acquire such muscle that it can make terroristic threats as Albino Vargas, the hot headed, loud mouthed union boss did when he promised "blood in the streets" if CAFTA is approved.

No one can predict when an economy in distress will reach an irreversible "tipping point" that will send it into a crippling downward spiral, but it's easy to predict that a failure on the part of the Arias administration to deal with ICE/the other government approved monopolies will hasten the arrival of that national economic crisis.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

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Country has sold its soul
with terrible consequences


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

An in-depth report shows that all four monkey populations are dropping at an alarming rate.

Costa Rica has always had this title of the ecologically progressive country.  Now the truth is coming out, and things don't look so good in eco-landia.  Much of it has to do with greed, consumption and the lust to conquer nature.  Costa Rica for many years was a destination to come and see abundant wildlife in the rainforest.  That is now being changed to come and see the golf courses and huge mega hotel and eco-friendly condominium projects.  The president of Costa Rica is all for this and is allowing his country to be bought out by foreign investment.  His ideas are very short-sighted for the inhabitants of this beautiful country.
We are now experiencing electrical outages frequently.  One main reason is lack of water to crank up the system for electricity.  How does Costa Rica solve this dilemma?  Promote the construction of more hotels, "eco-developments" and golf courses.  To do this, oh well, we have to cut down a little more forest here and there.  Oh, the monkeys, well they should move away to some other place to live.  Well, they can't because there are fewer and fewer places for them to live and there are no corridors for them to move through.
 
Water is a more precious resource than we really know.  Cutting more trees on land and building more and more developments, consuming huge quantities of water, to provide more foreign investment, is destroying the watershed and ground water supply. 

Also the wildlife of Costa Rica is paying a huge price by loosing more and more of its habitat.  Costa Rica was a No. 1 destination to see the rainforests.  That is now changing to come to Costa Rica and see all of the mega hotels and golf courses.

One other eco-attraction that is not eco-friendly are canopy tours.  It all sounds great. They keep the forest and run some zip lines through it so people can fly, screaming through the canopy of the rainforest.  Guess what happens, all of the canopy wildlife tries to move someplace else. 

Who would want to live in an area of screaming humans.  Canopy tours do scare away the wildlife and has a huge impact on the forest fauna.

All in all Costa Rica, the once talked about eco-friendly country has sold its soul for the sake of big business, corporations and money.  Sounds like some other country i know.

The answer, the government says, is to build more power plants and destroy more land to do so.  This so called, eco-friendly country, should take a step back and look at its uniqueness and return to making Costa Rica a vacation spot to see nature not high rises on the beach or golf courses sucking up every drop of the communities water supply.
By the way when CAFTA passes watch much more of the rainforest turn into fodder.  There will be a new surge to raise cattle and expand cattle ranches, to export more cow meat, to the U.S. because duties will be removed for export.

Costa Rica is unique, when is the government going to realize this and move in the right direction.  There are plenty of Cancuns, Hawaiian Islands, Caribbean Islands for all of those golfers and mega hotel enthusiasts to go to.  Costa Rica needs to step above all of that and focus on what this country has to offer, incredibly beautiful nature and that includes the monkeys in the rainforest.

Henry Kantrowitz
Interpretive naturalist
Past curator of Zoo Ave
Co-founder and past president
of the Birding Club of Costa Rica



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 84


Venezuelans in survey tell pollsters they want their RCTV
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A private poll in Venezuela has found nearly 70 percent of those surveyed say they oppose the plan by President Hugo Chávez to close a television station oppossed to him.

The poll of 2,000 people by Datanalisis found only 16 percent said they support  Chavez's decision not to renew the license of RCTV. 14 percent declined to respond. The pollster said the majority opposed the measure because it would restrict their right to see favored television
programs, rather than because of a free speech concern.

Venezuela's communication minister, William Lara, accused RCTV of having financed the poll, and he dismissed the results as opposition propaganda.

The pollster said its regular, private clients commissioned the survey. A survey by the same company in March indicated Chavez's approval rating was holding steady at 65 percent — unchanged from the time of his re-election in December.


Colombia's Uribe rejects demand by rebels holding hostages
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Twelve Colombian lawmakers held hostage since 2002 by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia have urged President Alvaro Uribe to establish a demilitarized zone that the leftist rebels are demanding.

The rebels released a tape of the lawmakers Friday as proof they are all still alive.  Families of the hostages gathered to watch the video in the Valle del Cauca province assembly building where the lawmakers were kidnapped.

But President Uribe said he will not demilitarize two regions as demanded.  The rebels have made that a condition for the release of some 60 political prisoners,
including former presidential candidate and French-Colombian citizen, Ingrid Betancourt.

In a message to Uribe, former assembly speaker Juan Carlos Narvaez warned against what he called the repeated "threat of rescue."  He said it torments the families of the hostages and prolongs their ordeal.

He was referring to the case of several hostages who were killed during an unsuccessful rescue attempt.

The rebels have been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for more than four decades. Earlier this year, Uribe said his government was ready for direct contact with the rebel group.


Ecuador's Correa kicks out the country representative for World Bank
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuador's Foreign Ministry says President Rafael Correa has asked the World Bank's representative to leave the country.

In a statement Thursday, the ministry said Correa had declared the representative, Eduardo Somensatto, "persona non grata" and had sent a letter Wednesday to inform the World Bank headquarters in Washington. Correa said recently he planned to expel the representative
because of the bank's denial of a $100 million loan to Ecuador in 2005, when Correa was economy minister under former President Alfredo Palacio. Correa has called the bank's action an affront to a sovereign nation.

Earlier this month, President Correa announced he would end relations with the International Monetary Fund after paying off the country's final debts to the lending agency.

He has frequently said conditions of Monetary Fund loans are harmful to Ecuador.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 84




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