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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, May 10, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 92        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Long row of taxis awaits passengers at Hospital Calderón Guardia
Taxi drivers fear new increase in their rates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There probably is not a more battered group than the Central Valley taxi drivers.

They are caught between rising gasoline prices and a decrease in passengers caused by higher taxi rates. They have to take their vehicles to be inspected not once but twice a year.

The roads are bad, and they ruin their vehicles. If they are not careful, their vehicle will get hit by the new commuter train that runs at street level.

A check of taxi drivers Tuesday found people who are hurting financially. They have suffered a falling off of passengers since higher rates went into effect in March.

Taxis can be seen at key places drawn up in long lines. These are taxis that are not working.

Even Tuesday during a heavy afternoon rain plenty of empty taxis were available in the downtown. Rumor has it that when rains start, all taxi drivers go someplace to have coffee. Although more than an exaggeration, rain does make empty taxis scarce. But not Tuesday.

The drivers are quick to share their tales of woe.

"You are only my second passenger today."

"I worked all night and had to put all the money in the gas tank.

Back in August 2002 taxi drivers were collecting 210 colons for the first kilometer of
travel. That went up 10 colons that month. Gasoline was 213 colons per liter. The colon was 362.6 to the dollar then.  Gasoline was $2.23 a gallon and a short taxi ride was 58 cents.

Now gasoline is $3.78 a gallon, a 70 percent increase. And a short taxi ride is 69 cents, a 19 percent increase. And the bank gives a dollar for 506 colons.

That 19 percent fare increase is enough to send a lot of Costa Ricans to the bus. From Escazú to the downtown a taxi costs about 2,000 colons ($3.95). The bus costs 185 colons (37 cents).

Then there are the pirate taxi drivers who offer cut-rate trips and can afford to do so because they probably do not have insurance or the property licenses.

The taxi drivers, an independent lot, probably would all agree that the public services regulating agency should not raise taxi fares as planned later this year. That was a comment heard repeatedly when a reporter talked to taxi drivers Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Mora Rojas said that. He was waiting on a line for a passenger near Hospital Calderón Guardia. He said his fuel costs have doubled and that a new increase in taxi fares would only drive more customers away.

Alvaro Quiros Coto, another taxi driver, seemed well acquainted with the economic concept of supply and demand. He said the regulatory agency should lower fares and not raise them. This would generate more passengers, he noted.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 92

Costa Rica Expertise
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First group of new cops
to be hired over six months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The plan by the Arias administration to hire 4,000 new police officers will be completed over the next four years, said Fernando Berrocal Soto.

He is the new minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The Arias campaign promised 4,000 new officers.

Berrocal said that some 500 police officers will be added to the Fuerza Pública in the next six months. He was speaking at a session called to announce some changes in the police command structure.

Rándal Picado, regional director of the San José area, will get the same job in Alajuela. Martín Arias Araya will be the new regional director in San José.  Francisco Sáenz Patterson will become the chief of the central area of San José.

Berrocal also said that he would announce the name of an inspector general for the Fuerza Pública soon.

In addition, he has asked for an inventory of the force's arsenal in Coronado. This will take six months, he said.

Our readers opinions

Why Laura Bush,
reader wants to know

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What a shame it is that the best the United States could muster to attend the inauguration of the President of Latin America’s longest-lived and most stable democracy was Laura Bush. This peaceful and orderly transfer of power is in the best tradition of democratic republics and surely deserves more and better attention than an official non-entity representing the world’s strongest proponent of democracy at any cost. One wonders who will represent the United States should a government ever be formed in Iraq — maybe the Bush girls?

David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

Country changed greatly
in those 20 years

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In Monday edition of La Nación, there was a chart of changes that had occurred in Costa Rica in the last 20 years in reference to when Oscar Arias was president before.

* Population increased from 2,746,223 to 4,325,808

* The % of poor decreased from 27.4 to 21.2

* The % of extreme poor decreased from 9 to 5.6

* The % rate of births per 1,000 persons decreased from 30.3 to 16.5

* The % rate of infant deaths per 1,000 decreased from 17.8 to 9.8

* The % rate of employment increased form 6.20 to 6.60

* The % rate of inflation decreased from 27.3 to 11.63

* The per capital income increased from $1,897.80 to $4,580.10

* The % of public debt with respect to GNP decreased  from 82 to 57.5

* The % rate for home loans from government banks decreased from 38.6 to 20.09

* Quantity of automobiles increased from 318,642 to 795,000

Frankly, I was impressed by these figures. The sources of the figures are the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, Banco Centra de Costa Rica, the Ministerio de Hacienda and Estado de la Nación.

Someone like Garland Baker, who has been in Costa Rica longer than me, can probably shed more light on what was happening up to 1986, but I heard the admistration of Rodrigo Carazo shortly before this time had been a disaster and almost a complete meltdown of the Costa Rica economy.

Yes, he is still around (his son was a deputado for the Solis’ PAC party in the last admistration) and the ex-president is a strong believer in the government controlled entities and strongly against the U.S.A. Trade treaty.
When I first came here private banks were relatively new and they were not allowed to deal in colons such as bank accounts. Costa Ricans were only allowed to have small amounts of dollars. For instance, if a Costa Rican wanted to visit the U.S.A., he had to go to a bank with an airline ticket as proof of travel to exchange colons for dollars and was limited to a few hundred dollars.

All exchanges were done with private exchanges i.e. “The Brothers” and on the street. I don’t believe any of the exchanges were legal, but the police fortunately in this case, did not do much policing.  Of course, the crooks knew who the exchangers were. And it was not unusual for an exchanger to be robbed and/or killed. One of the Brothers (Enrique) was fired on while he was being driven down a street.

Unfortunately the gunman killed a coffee company driver, who passed by at the wrong time. An American lady, Donna Wilkerson, I used personally, was killed leaving her condo, when she refused to surrender her briefcase.

Therefore it may seem to some Costa Rica is behind in many ways, but as you can see it has come a long ways in the last 20 years.

Bobby Ruffín
Professional Directory
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 92


Rainy season kicks off with heavy downpours in valley
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials are blaming a buildup of dry season trash for the flooding that hit areas of San José Tuesday.

The trash blocked storm drains, mainly in La Carpio and Urbanization Óscar Felipe in Pavas and in Mozotal de Goicoechea, San Antonio de Escazú and in Aguas Calientes de Cartago, according to the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The commision said that the rains signaled the start of the rainy season. Some 70.3 milimeters of rain fell in San José from 7 a.m. Monday. Most of it was Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. That's 2.77 inches.

Some 1.4 inches fell in Liberia, and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the central and south Pacific also received a dose of heavy rain.
Only 9.2 milimeters or 36 hundreds of an inch fell in Limón, according to the institute.

The weather institute said the cause of the rain was a low pressure area and that conditions should get better by Thursday.

Damage was light. Some homes were flooded in Los Guidos de Desamparados. In Dulce Nombre de Tres Ríos residents were watching the river.  In La Carpio one house fell upon another, and the Fuerza Pública had to respond.

The commission urged residents to clear drains and storm sewers near their homes and to pack emergency rations if they live in an area in jeopardy.

Rains struck the Limón area hard just four years ago even as President Abel Pacheco was receiving the sash of his office. The storm this year is nowhere as heavy.

Leatherback turtle nesting season brings good news
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The first week in May marked the emergence of the first hatchlings from leatherback turtles nesting on Sandy Point, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. If this year follows recent trends, it will continue one of the most positive turns for these endangered turtles, according to Earthwatch-supported findings recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

In the 1980s, annual leatherback hatchling births at Sandy Point were around 2,000 per year. Currently more than 49,000 have been hatching, thanks to 25 years of monitoring and conservation. Leatherbacks still risk extinction from all the dangers they face in the sea.

There was good news from Costa Rica, too. Earthwatch-supported scientists working with leatherbacks on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica report that more than 120 turtles came to nest there this season, nearly twice last season’s count, but still a 90 percent drop from two decades ago. The turtle also nests on Caribbean beaches.

The Biological Conservation paper reports on the results of monitoring and conservation efforts at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, a three-mile stretch of beach on St. Croix, between 1982 and 2001. The authors found a marked increase in the number of nesting leatherback females from less than 30 in the 1980s to 186 in 2001, as well as a more than 20-fold increase in annual hatchling production from around 2,000 to more than 49,000.

“There have been recent publications documenting long-term increasing trends for other species of sea turtles. However, our publication is the first to link nesting beach conservation to an increase for any species, and is the only long-term time series on leatherbacks,” said Peter Dutton, coauthor of the paper. Dutton is a researcher with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Saving the Leatherback Turtle project.
Although leatherback turtles are at serious risk of global extinction, the rise of nesting populations on St. Croix holds promise for other nesting populations around the world. The study also provides the first reliable estimate of survival probabilities for nesting adult female leatherbacks, through the use of passive integrated transponder tags and photo-identification.

Using these dependable mark-recapture techniques, applied since 1992, the authors found a surprisingly high survivorship estimate of 89 percent.

“The reason we were able to do this was because of the consistent effort on the beach: patrols carried out every night, all night, every year for the entire nesting season,” said Dutton.  “This meant we were able to tag and monitor every female that nested, which would not have been possible without the consistent support from Earthwatch volunteers.”

Earthwatch’s Saving the Leatherback Turtle project began on St. Croix in 1982, under the leadership of the US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Since the beginning, Earthwatch volunteers on Saving the Leatherback Turtle have worked with the changing cast of scientists to patrol Sandy Point each night of the nesting season. They systematically identified each nesting turtle, counted its eggs, and moved nests that were at risk from erosion.

This year teams report that the first turtles nested on Feb. 22, with hatchlings emerging the first week in May. They’ve had 71 turtles lay 150 nests so far, with 53 of those turtles returning from previous years.

Despite ongoing conservation efforts around the world, leatherback turtle populations have declined in recent years due to human impacts on nesting beaches and destructive fishing practices like longline fisheries. Eastern Pacific leatherback populations have virtually collapsed, and at present show little signs of recovery, despite beach conservation measures.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 10, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 92

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
An athletic student from the Universidad Latino Americana de Ciencia y Tecnología seems to fly at the inauguration ceremony of Óscar Arias Sánchez.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Victor Morales was an early beneficiary of Arias' efforts towards small business. He sold Costa Rican flags to inaugural attendees Monday.
New president spends his first day receiving visitors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias spent his first day as president receiving international guests at his Rohrmoser home.

Among those was the president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, who pledged $15 million toward the reconstruction of Hospital Calderón Guardia. The public hospital located in northeast San José was hit with an arson fire last July 12. Some 21 persons died.

Taiwan is generous with its funds here because Costa
Rica is one of the 20 nations that recognize the Asian island country. Others, including the United States, consider it a breakaway province of the People's Republic of China.

Another visitor was Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the organization of American States. He said the major topics were transparency and the opening of Costa Rica to foreign competition in telecommunications and other areas.

Other undisclosed topics also were discussed.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the organization of American States, discusses the role Arias can play in Latin America.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
The president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, shares a few words with Óscar Arias via a translator. Costa Rica supports the Asian nation.

Jo Stuart
About us

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