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(506) 223-1327                    Published Wednesday, May 9, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 91                E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Real estate impact seems certain
Effect of Tárcoles on tourism is still open question

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man who brought the case of the Río Tárcoles before the Sala IV constitutional court says he thinks it may take seven years to clean up the waterway.

But the man, Reiner Obando Enriquez, said that he doubts tourism in the area has been seriously affected by the pollution. What has happened instead, he said, is that development in the vicinity of the river has not kept pace with construction in nearby communities like Jacó. There millions in hotel and resort projects are going up.

Obando, president of  Garabito Ecológico, mentioned tourism in his appeal to the constitutional court, which accepted his plea and ordered 34 municipalities of the Central Valley and government institutions to stop dumping sewage into the Río Grande de Tárcoles, to restore the watershed to its unpolluted condition and to adopt an integrated solution to the wastewater problem.

Ironically, the crocodiles that live in the river are the biggest distraction from the pollution. A search of English-language Web pages generates few references to the massive pollution but lots of tourist stories and photos of the crocodiles, which can be  conveniently viewed from the coastal highway bridge that passes above the river a few kilometers from the mouth. Or they can be seen from the boat tours that visit the area.

The Wikipedia free online encyclopedia notes that  "The river is the most contaminated river in Costa Rica, carrying much of the sewage from the central towns and cities. It was also hit by a leak of 400 thousand litres of diesel fuel by the state owned Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery in 2000 which further damaged the ecology of the river and its immediate surrounds."

And a Web search also turns up a Reuter's article published a year ago by Boston.com which speaks of the small town of Tárcoles: "Tourists once flocked to the surf and wildlife of this tropical town on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, but the filth of a sewage-rich river that oozes through Tarcoles has driven them away."

That article was based on a project announced a year earlier by then-president Abel Pacheco to accept a Japanese loan of some $135 million to begin building a treatment plant that would intercept sewage before it ended up in the river.
At that time in January 2005, Pacheco surprised reporters by stating simply that the Tárcoles crocodiles were healthy because they "ate caca." A scientific study of the wildlife-rich area does not show any negative effects on the creatures due to pollution.

There have been no concrete action that followed acceptance of the Japanese loan, but at the time officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantrarillados said construction would not begin until 2009. The $435 million project does not come close to covering the area listed in the court decision that was released Friday.

The problem is not a new one. A river basin
performing crocodile
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Performing and lounging crocodiles seem to draw attention away from the massive pollution.

commission formed in the 1990s to control deforestation and pollution, but a report on the faltering effort said "the basin's water problems continue largely unabated."

Those with tourist activities in the area and those with economic interest in tourism in general are not pleased by this new publicity about the river. Some tourists are not either. One wrote to A.M. Costa Rica Tuesday:

"I had been planning on visiting then probably relocating to CR until I read your articles about the amount of raw sewage dumped into the rivers & oceans.  I don't know how you live with that or why mostly everyone isn't sick.  How can this be such a great place to live &/or visit w/ a situation like that?  I am very depressed about it because I was really looking forward to living in what I've read about the place.  Is there anything you can say to make me feel better about it?"

Not just news articles are causing ripples in the north. Some tourists are perceptive enough to notice the pollution, such as the registered nurse who wrote the following Tuesday:

"I recently vacationed in the Pacific coastal area (I stayed in Jacó and traveled to Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Miramar, etc.).  My husband and I
rented a car and traveled the coastal highway and spent eight days touring the parks, scuba diving and visiting the towns.  What a beautiful country!  But, I have to say that I was a little more than distressed by the blatant littering and pollution.  The roadways are lined with discarded trash and all the rivers and creeks have floating debris throughout the coastal waterways in all the areas we visited. 

"While scuba diving in Herradura, we saw plastic wrappers floating around the dive sites!

"It seems that people do not treat their country as the jewel it is hyped up to be.  While touring Manuel Antonio, our guide told us that the monkey’s watering hole was destroyed in order to build another hotel.  I also read that the monkeys habitat is so threatened that it has adversely affected the monkey populations.  I wonder if there will be jewels left for a next generation of tourists and residents?"

There has been no official response to the constitutional courts mandate to clean up the river and stop the flow of raw sewage.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 91

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New airline photo
A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob Mora
Passengers are ready to hit the surf after their direct flight form London.

British First Choice begins
weekly direct flights to here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They may find that the beer is a bit colder than they are used to, but despite these little annoyances British tourists now can take advantage of a direct flight from London on First Choice airlines.

The line made its maiden landing at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia Monday. The company will bring about 258 tourists a week  to the country, according to  Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister of Turismo.

First Choice has said it would like to have two or three weekly fights, said the minister.

First Choice tours are 139 pounds for a week in Costa Rica. That's about $276.

Notary ends up in jail
as property scams unravel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A civil law notary in Costa Rica, a notario, is an officer of the court and a person whose word should not be questioned.

He or she is a person with special powers and a certified person of honor found only in civil law countries. In Costa Rica such individuals are lawyers and then become notaries after more training. They prepare legal documents, and in many ways are more powerful than mere lawyers. They should not be confused with the notary of the United states, who simply validates a document.

Notarios here are supervised by the Dirección National de Notariado, part of the court system.

The Registro Nacional will not accept property transfers unless the document has been prepared on special paper available only to notaries and authenticated by a member of this brotherhood.

So when a notary goes bad, he or she can do a lot of damage.

Investigators claim that a notary named Zumbado Solano stepped over the line and prepared false documents involving mortgages and property ownership. He was detained Tuesday at his office in La Florida de Tibás after a two-year investigation. Victims are reported to be many.

All the details are not yet available, but it appears that investigators are trying to break up a ring that has been systematically stealing properties by the use of a pen. At the Registro Nacional a document from a notary is accepted without question, and the Registro does not consider that it has any business in the investigation of fraud. An employee of the Registro is reported to be involved in the investigation as a suspect.

The Poder Judicial said that Zumbado will be held for six months preventative detention.

Spanish firm plans project
in vicinity of Esparza

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Spanish firm Grupo Nyesa says it will invest $600 million in a hotel and resort complex in Esparza. The location is in the area known as  La Roca in the province of Puntarenas east of the city by that name.

The company is a principal player in the United States and Europe, frequently linked to Sol Meliá, but this is its first effort in Latin America. The company  had purchased 200 hectares  for development, about 494 acres.

The company made a courtesy call on President Óscar Arias Sánchez Tuesday. Later Casa Presidencial said that the project would generate 5,000 new jobs. The work would begin in three to four years and be finished in 10, said Casa Presidencial.

Cooperative rates going up

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Electric rates are goling up in the Dota and Terrazu areas. The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos approved a 7.2 percent increase Tuesday for the Cooperativa de Electrificación Rural de Los Santos, as the area is called.

Involved are some 120  communities and about 32,000 customers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 91

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Volcano experts say Turrialba gas emissions are normal
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the Turrialba volcano is acting up, scientists say the restlessness is normal.

However, emergency officials are taking steps to help those living in the vicinity in case of an eruption.

Residents have reported hearing strange noises near the site which is some 24 kms north of the city by the same name. In addition, a fault that goes through the volcano is letting gas escape into the forest at a point low on the mountain. Some  trees have been scorched.

In addition, residents frequently are treated to emissions of steam like the one that took place Tuesday morning.

Ted Douglas, a reader who lives in Las Suiza some 28 kms east of the volcano photographed a column of steam and gases Tuesday morning and said that he had heard reports of some ash being included in the outburst. By afternoon the volcano is obscured by cloud cover.

Residents of Turrialba have said they have seen lights and glowing around the rim of the caldera on clear evenings.

Volcán Turrialba's peak is 3,349 meters (10,987.5 feet) above sea level. Its brother volcano, Irazú, is famous for dumping ash all over the Central Valley and as far away as Puntarenas in 1963, 1964 and 1965.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia has been monitoring the mountain. Eliecer Duarte Gonzáles, a vulcanologist there, said that in June 2005 Turrialba

Photo by Ted Douglas
Reader took this shot from La Suiza about 7:45 Tuesday morning using a Lumix telephoto camera with Leica 12x lens.

began going through a change in sructure and activity. The columns of steam and gas frequently are 100 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) high. He characterized the activity as normal, although he did confirm that some plant life had been killed by gases.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias has been working in the area. among other activities the commission employees are making maps of access roads in case those living near the volcano have to leave. A number of farmers make the area their home.

Meanwhile, tourism to the Parque Nacional Volcán Turrialba has increased slightly although rangers have restricted some areas where there are gas emissions.

new policemen photo
A.M. Costa Ricas/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Sea of cops

That's the brass in the front three rows, but the bulk of the blue in this photo are new police officers.

Arias gathers 1,069 officers to show he is keeping his word
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration put on a show of force Tuesday in order to prove the president, Óscar Arias Sánchez, was keeping his word with the promises he made in the campaign.

Arias promised to beef up the police force. So some 1,069 officers were in the audience Tuesday for a graduation.  However, only 289 were graduating after completing the mandatory course at the Escuela Nacional de Policía. Some 340 of the spectator policemen will complete their course soon, and 440 individuals were just starting their police school training.

Carlos Roverssi, director of the school, said that was not important because from the moment individuals enter the
academy they are considered policemen, he said.

Arias told the officers that Costa Rica is one of the few countries that disarm its officers to control civil protests. He did so during a recent protest against the free trade treaty at the Asamblea Legislativa. The police do not exist to defend the state but to defend the people from the state, said Arias.

Some 300 women were in the groups of new officer. Also there were some officers who had completed advanced training. Nearly all are members of the Fuerza Pública.

Arias has promised to add 4,000 new officers to the police rolls during his term in office. That promise is in response to perceptions of increasing criminality and violence.

The event was in the Parque de la Paz in Desamparados.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 91

Castro blames U.S. for inspiring solders to hijack plane
By the A.M. Costa rica wire services

Cuban President Fidel Castro has accused the United States of inspiring two soldiers who killed an officer during a failed attempt to hijack an airplane to the United States.

In a written statement Monday, Castro said the soldiers were encouraged by the prospect of impunity in the U.S.

Last week, two Cuban soldiers hijacked a bus with hostages and then forced the driver to take them to Havana's international airport, where they tried to take over an empty plane. The soldiers killed a lieutenant colonel who tried to prevent the plane's hijacking. Authorities arrested the two soldiers.

Castro said the soldiers have not yet been put on trial
 because they were both wounded in the hijack attempt.

The soldiers and a third accomplice had escaped from a military base on Sunday. Officials captured the third man before the attempted hijacking. During their escape, they killed a soldier and wounded another.

Castro also criticized the United States for last month's release on bail of Cuban exile and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. Cuba accuses Posada of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 73 people aboard.

The 80-year-old Cuban leader is still recovering from intestinal surgery he underwent more than nine months ago. He has not yet taken back the governmental powers he handed to his brother, Raul.

Negroponte visits Colombia project for retraining former civil war soldiers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

John Negroponte, U.S. deputy secretary of State,  is in Colombia on a Latin American tour focusing on trade, energy, and regional cooperation.

Monday Negroponte visited a project near the capital, Bogota, where former combatants in Colombia's four-decade-old civil war are trained for employment in the clothing industry.

The International Organization for Migration, which runs
 the project, says there are plans to set up a clothing manufacturing plant that would benefit both the ex-combatants and the surrounding communities. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Negroponte is also scheduled to visit Ecuador, Panama and Peru during his five-day trip.

His visit to Ecuador comes just days after Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, decided not to renew an investment treaty with the United States.

Another home invasion in Santa Ana results in injury to occupant
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six bandits broke into a home in Santa Ana Monday less than a kilometer from the local police station and beat up one of the occupants.

The robbery took place shortly after 9 p.m., according to the Fuerza Pública, on a street named Pipí. The men wore ski masks, said the police.
Inside they encountered occupants Jesús Trujillo, 53, and María Eugenia Gutiérrez Trujillo. The pair were forced into a bathroom where the man was hit so hard on the head that he needed to be hospitalized at Hospital San Juan de Dios, said the Fuerza Pública. Both victims are from Colombia.

The bandits took the couple's 2002 vehicle as well as some household appliances.

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