A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327       Published Wednesday, May 3, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 87         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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An expat wish list for the new legislators
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Everyone has their wish list for the new congress that was installed Monday.

Here are some for expats:

• a longer tourist visa term so those who own second homes in Costa Rica do not have to dash to Panamá or Nicaragua 90 days into their winter vacation.

• a return to those incentives that helped make Costa Rica a retirement haven, such as the right to import one car free of customs duty.

• relief from the threat of double taxation with the new fiscal code for persons officially registered as pensionados, rentistas and inversionistas.

• Improvements at the national banks so that a North American check can clear in less than 30 working days.

• Immigration improvements so six-hour waits for service and six-month waits for
approvals become the exception and not the norm.

• A volunteer program with the public schools so that English-speaking retirees here or those with special skills can teach and be compensated for out-of-pocket expenses.

• Customs clearance without duty of any drugs or medications shipped to pensionados and rentistas living here.

• Eliminate the judicial impasse in which one court awards disputed property to the legitimate owner and another court awards the property to "innocent" third parties who purchased from an obvious crook and forger.

• Order a mandatory and continual cleanup of all urban areas and institute stiff penalties for those who throw trash in the streets (like working on a garbage truck for three months).

• eliminate customs duty on great beer.

The letters column is open for further suggestions.

Shrimp fishing certified safe for sea turtles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's shrimp harvesting methods continue to be turtle-safe, so the United States will not ban importing the food product, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

Costa Rica and 13 other nations have been certified as meeting the U.S. sea turtle conservation program which requires that commercial shrimp boats use sea turtle excluder devices to prevent the accidental drowning of sea turtles in shrimp trawls.  The other countries are Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panamá, Suriname, and Venezuela.                

Twice in the last three years Costa Rica failed to make the grade and the shrimping industry was thrown into convulsions when the United States cut off importation of shrimp.
Costa Rica exports in excess of $200,000 a month in shrimp to the United States.

Some 24 other nations and one economy were certified as having fishing environments that do not pose a danger to sea turtles. Shrimping is either done manually in these countries or shrimp harvesting is done in cold waters where the turtles nearly never go, said the U.S. Department of State.

The sea turtle excluder is like a trap door that allows the reptiles to leave the trawl nets. Otherwise, because they are air breathers, they would drown.

Costa Rica was last blacklisted in May 2005. The U.S. State Department also had decertified Costa Rica in July 2003.

In 2005 a U.S. team of experts visited Costa Rica to provide technical advice.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 87

Costa Rica Expertise
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Our readers' opinions

Florida is training area
for Costa Rica-bound

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I enjoyed Ambika Chawla’s article, “Three elements can bring on culture shock.” I’m afraid that the news I bring may not support the notion that the expediency and reliability of workmanship in the U.S.A. is all that great in comparison.

I for a moment thought Ambika was referring to the Floridian workforce when stating that the contractor/worker didn’t show up at the date and time promised. I realized it couldn’t be Floridians because Floridian contractors often don’t show up or contact the customer again ever. A rule we have here is to never pay any contractor half of the agreed upon sum “for the cost of materials” because, in essence, you’ve given away your money to someone you’ll never see again. Another rule is to never pay the contractors at noon on Friday “so they can cash their paycheck.” This removes the possibility that they’ll hit the bars and be too drunk to return to work.
Anyone who shows up at the scheduled time and place sober, with the proper license and permits, and actually completes the work for the agreed upon sum will never have to advertise. The “word of mouth” praise will be enough to give that company or contractor more work than they can handle. I personally know a few very good companies, contractors and workers who are doing quite well and have a great life here. They are able to schedule work time and off time and enjoy this fantastic Florida.
In a positive light, perhaps Florida should be considered a training camp for those who wish to travel to Costa Rica. Once one learns how to sort the poison fruit from the nourishing one, learning patience is the easy part.
Vaughn Nickel
Daytona Beach, Florida

Sister mourning her twin
shouldn't blame Costa Rica

Dear AM Costa Rica:

I read the letter from the grieving sister lost on a boating excursion. I reside in three places which are Sacramento California, Curridabat, Costa Rica, and Raceland, Kentucky, which is a few minutes from Ashland, Kentucky.

While I can do nothing to take away the pain of loss for the sister that wrote to you, I would like to ask her to not replace loss with bitterness against a country which many Americans enjoy. Obviously there was a tragic accident and that can happen in any country. As to the things that happen in Costa Rica, the crime in the United States is much worse. The difference is that some are more comfortable in their own environment and thus more streetwise for a lack of a better term.

May I remind her that a newlywed went missing and presumed dead by foul play on a very well known cruise ship not too long back. They were from America and not even in a foreign culture.

I have my complaints about every place I have lived in the world, but also see the good in each place. Last year in Russel, Kentucky, some lunatics raped and tortured a video store worker with a crow bar and left her for dead with severe head injuries. I still frequent the Ashland area of Kentucky because I know that most of the people are wonderful people there in Kentucky.

I can only hope that the twin surviving sister finds peace with God and acceptance in her heart. Some things in life are terrible but can not be overcome by anger even though it is part of the grieving process for some. She is welcome to write to me if she so desires and you may give her my e-mail address.

Costa Rica does not have some of the safeguards and laws that exist in the United States, but even laws that do exist cannot protect us at times.

David Gibson

Socialism just won't work
in Bolivia or Venezuela

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After moving to Miami at age 4 in 1955, I had many Cuban friends while growing up and living in Miami for 30 years. I’m moving back to South Florida this month and will of course visit my old friends and make new ones.

The Cubans are the most industrious of all Latin cultures and probably the most passionate as well. To see Morales falling in bed with that — Castro is such a shame — both for the Bolivians but also for the remainder of South America as well.

My father visited Cuba in 1950, the year prior to my birth, and said it was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen. Upon his passing in 1985, I vowed to visit.
In 1995 I flew (illegally) to visit this beautiful country and it’s citizens. Truly a paradise and the folks with the most wonderful love of life with so little.

Socialism didn’t work for 50 years in Cuba and won’t work in Bolivia or Venezuela.

What are they thinking?

John V. Pettinari
Orlando, Florida
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 87

Culture minister backs idea of swapping buildings
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The current culture minister gave conditional approval Tuesday to a plan to move Casa Presidencial to the former liquor factory where the Centro Nacional de la Cultura is now.

The idea, floated by aides to President-elect Óscar Arias Sánchez, has galvanized the art and culture communities and caused them to protest Monday. They plan to do so again next Monday.

Guido Saenz is the minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. He said the Centro de Cultura complex is set up well to become the Casa Presidencial. It is adjacent to Parque España.

He noted as an historical president that the presidential headquarters used to be in the Castillo Azul, which is now part of the legislative complex. Later, he noted, plans were under way to construct a presidential office complex on the tract between avenidas 1 and 3 where the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones now stands just west of Parque Nacional.

It was then-President Rodrigo Carazo Odio who turned thumbs down on that project, something Saenz said was unfortunate. That was in 1978 when the presidential complex moved to its present location in Zapote.

The minister, who is a friend of Arias, said he backed the plan as long as the cultural ministry is allowed to move to what is now Casa Presidencial. The structure is well suited for cultural uses with many offices and rooms for classes and training plus an auditorium and outdoor space. Saenz said he had spoken to Arias about the idea.

If the swap is not made and culture gets shortchanged, Saenz said he would be the first to take to the streets.

According to the Arias plan, the president's office would be just south of Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry, and just a short two blocks from the Asamblea Legislativa.

Guido Saenz,
minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes

The culture minister spoke after the last press conference of President Abel Pacheco. The president invited reporters for a luncheon. Pacheco was presented with several plates of patis, the Caribbean meat pie brought to him by twins Danny and Dennis Medrano Sterling.

The president also gave his last television talk to the nation Tuesday night in which he again defended his handling of the job for the last four years

Tuesday afternoon the talk turned to immigration and the multiple marches by Mexican immigrants and supporters in the United States Monday.

Pacheco said the problem was the same whether the location was the United States, Spain with its influx from Morocco and the Sahara or Germany with Turkish immigrants. Costa Rica, too, has immigrants from Nicaragua, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, the president noted.

Pacheco blamed extreme poverty for such immigrations and said the receiving countries should make financial contributions to countries where the immigrants originate. He termed immigration a desperate act.

Chayote and pineapple will have their special days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The pineapple and the chayote are being honored at separate festivals for each product.

The chayote will have its days this weekend, from Friday until Monday in Paraíso de Cartago. The chayote, an edible gourd, is a long-time staple in Central American cooking. Now it is a major crop for exportation.

The festival will be in the Ruinas de Ujarrás where artists and artisans will display their products, and there will be a number of food products for sale that have as their base the chayote.

Organizers also promise clowns and other activities for youngsters.

An added attraction is the promised creation of the largest dish of picadillo de chayote in the world. The dish traditionally is a mixture of cut up chayote, meat and other vegetables.

The event is organized by the Cámara de
 Productores y Exportadores de Chayote, by the Colegio Universitario de Cartago, by the Municipalidad de Paraíso and by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo with the help of the  Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

The pineapple fair will be May 11 to May 15 in  Pital de San Carlos. The northern zone has some 14,019 hectares (34,641 acres) in pineapple with some 800 producers. In the Pital area alone some 350 producers farm  3,702 hectares  (9,148 acres).

The event will be in the Asociación de Desarrollo and in the Liceo de los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

But all is not play. Producers will be attending seminars on pineapple cultivation and current problems. The liceo will benefit from the income from the fair, and there are plans to construct a multi-use room for the youngsters in the area.

Organizers plan a horse exposition and a festival of ranchera music May 12, a horse parade May 14, a parade of machinery and a contest to see who will be the queen of the grandmothers May 14.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 87

Democracy is benchmark of U.S. policy, Ms. Rice says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States has a positive agenda for Latin America and will work with regional nations that govern democratically to advance this agenda without regard to a government’s position on the political spectrum, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In remarks Monday in Washington Secretary Rice said Latin America has made extraordinary progress in the last 20 years. 

The United States has had a policy of supporting the democratic process and democratic governments in the region, she said, adding that the election of left of center governments has not altered this policy.

“I think somehow it gets misinterpreted or you hear very often, ‘Oh, there are all of these governments winning from the left; that's a problem for the United States,’” Rice said.  “Well, no, that's not a problem for the United States . . . . It really depends on whether people govern democratically . . . . we don't care what side of the spectrum you come from, left or right.”

The secretary cited the U.S. relations with Chile, Brazil and Argentina as evidence of positive U.S. ties with left of center governments in Latin America.  Rice said the United States also has “gone out of its way” to establish good relations with Uruguay’s left of center government and to give the left of center government of new Bolivian President Evo Morales a chance.

“We don't want people to see everything through the prism of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela,” she said. “ We have our own positive agenda.”
As part of its efforts to support democratic governance in Latin America, the United States is working with democratically elected governments that are having trouble delivering the benefits of democracy, Rice said. She was speaking to an association of newspaper editorial writers.

The United States supports free trade and open markets to facilitate economic growth, the secretary said, and also supports investment in health and education. The United States has doubled official development assistance to Latin America during the Bush administration, she said. “We want people to understand that we know that growth and development, democracy and development, have to go together,” she said.

Noting the United States’ historically positive relations with Venezuela, Secretary Rice said the current Venezuelan government apparently prefers poor relations as evidenced by its verbal attacks against President George Bush and repeated harassment of the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield.

“There seems to be an effort by the Venezuelan government to make sure that we have bad relations and that's unfortunate,” Secretary Rice said.  “But when you do the kind of things that they did to our ambassador, when you say the sorts of things that you do about the president of the United States, then it's hard to have good relations.”

Secretary Rice said the United States is not the only hemispheric nation that harbors concerns over Venezuela’s behavior, citing the Peruvian government’s displeasure with Venezuela’s interference in Peru’s electoral affairs.

Concern grows over nationalization plans in Bolivia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Foreign governments, oil industry officials and investment analysts say they are concerned about Bolivia's decision to nationalize its oil and natural gas industry.

The Spanish government said Tuesday, it is deeply worried, as shares in the Spanish energy group Repsol plunged more than 2 percent. The group has major interests in Bolivia.

Brazilian energy officials described the nationalization decree by Bolivia's President Evo Morales as an unfriendly act that must be reviewed. Brazil's state-owned Petrobras company operates natural gas fields in Bolivia.

Meanwhile, Morales was reported to have said he plans to nationalize the mining, lumbering and several other types of industries in Bolivia.

The European Commission said it has noted the Bolivian decree on gas with concern. It said the decision to nationalize could have a negative impact
on oil and gas markets that are already under high price pressure.

Investment analyst Mark Tinker, of the firm Execution Limited, says the change will make foreign investors reluctant to put their money in Latin America.

President Morales nationalized the industry Monday and sent troops to natural gas fields to ensure continued production.

In the decree, he said foreign energy companies must sign new operating contracts within 180 days or leave the country and turn over most production control to Bolivia's state-owned oil company.

The move is expected to also affect other foreign companies, including the French group Total, the U.S. company ExxonMobil and British Petroleum.

An ExxonMobil spokesman in the United States said the company is monitoring the situation.

Bolivia has the second-highest natural gas reserves in South America after Venezuela.

U.S. World Cup team will have a mix of veterans and newcomers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The final 23-man roster for the U.S. World Cup team has been unveiled. It is a blend of veterans and newcomers who will play in Germany in June.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena Tuesday named 12 players who were part of the successful 2002 World Cup squad that reached the quarterfinals in South Korea and Japan. He added 11 players who are joining the team for the first time.

Forward Brian Ching of U.S. Major League Soccer's
Houston Dynamo, defender Jimmy Conrad and forward Eddie Johnson, both of the Kansas City Wizards, are among the newcomers selected.
Moenchengladbach goalkeeper Kasey Keller, Fulham striker Brian McBride, Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Claudio Reyna of Manchester City are among the returning veterans.

The U.S. team's final training camp opens May 10 in Cary, North Carolina. At the World Cup in Germany, the United States opens against the Czech Republic on June 12, meets Italy five days later and closes the first round against Ghana on June 22.

Jo Stuart
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