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These stories were published Friday, May 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 94
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Tourism professionals think that their future is under water
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of professionals of the tourism industry think the future is under water. So it has set aside time at the upcoming Expotur to provide seminars on the topic.

The group is the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo. Carlos Lizama Hernández, a vice president of the organization, outlined the plans Thursday. The organization plans its 21st edition of Expotur from May 31 to June 3 at the Herradura Conference Center west of San José.

However, special seminars on underwater tourism and educational tourism will be held

May 30 and May 31. And they will be open to everyone for a 5,000-colon fee.

Lizama said that underwater tourism still is underdeveloped here and provides an area for potential growth. The seminars at the Hotel Herradura will be presented by Javier Rodríguez of the Fundación Promar and by Amos Bien, director of international programs for the Sociedad Internacional de Ecoturismo.

The group is quick to differentiate between underwater tourism, like SCUBA diving, and an activity like sport fishing, which some consider harmful to the environment. Seminars will feature simultaneous translations for non-Spanish speakers.


 
Sound of crunching glasses can alter the mood
Generally it was a very nice weekend.  Although I spent an hour and a half waiting to see my heart doctor for a scheduled appointment Friday, even that turned out well.  I do wish doctors would realize that after taking a taxi instead of the bus to arrive on time for a doctor’s appointment and then waiting an hour and a half, a person‘s blood pressure is bound to go up, no matter how hard that person tries to relax and "go with the flow." 

Instead of prescribing blood pressure medicine, I wish doctors would just take your blood pressure again at the end of the consultation. The day before I’d had my blood pressure taken at a pharmacy and it was 110 over 60. But I did have a different cardiologist this time and that was a happy surprise. 

Then there was the nice man who carefully drew a map so I could find a store I was looking for, and as he handed me the map, whispered in English "I love your country."  And another man waiting in line.  He showed me a little handmade woven fan of palm fronds advertising a Nicaraguan exposition and art sale. He asked me if I liked it.  I said it was very pretty.  So he gave it to me. This was going to be a day of Tico Moments, I thought.  Brief encounters with Costa Ricans that make one’s day pleasanter. 

It was being such a good day so far, I decided to catch a bus to the Auto Mercado.  That is when my happy day came to an end.  As I was walking down the aisle of the bus, a fellow’s sunglasses flew out of the pocket of his jacket, which he was removing, and slid down the aisle in front of me.  I couldn’t stop my forward motion and there was a sick-making crunch as my foot came down. 

I handed the shattered glasses to the man with repeated apologies.  He assured me it was not my fault, and then he laughed.  When I sat down, he continued to laugh, shaking his head at the vagaries of fortune that bring two disparate actions together to screw up the rest of your day.

Sunday I decided to go to the concert. At the National Theater.  I knew there were going to 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

be some sad moments because that is where I could count on seeing my friend Bill.  I haven’t been to a concert since he died.

The entire program was Beethoven.  The guest conductor was a much-acclaimed American conductor, Janna Hymes-Bianchi.  It was going to be a popular performance because three Costa Ricans were soloist performers.  I should have gotten there earlier to wait in line for a ticket.  Just as we were told the tickets were about gone, I managed to buy one from someone who had an extra one.  I had a perfect seat. 

The first symphony I ever went to was in Boston and the program was Beethoven — and I fell asleep. That is because it followed a sumptuous but stressful dinner.  My date was a young Bostonian Brahmin whose family was out of town. There were six of us at the dinner table.  Being his date, I sat to his right, and the butler presented every platter to me first.  The menu my date had chosen included lobster and corn on the cob, as I recall.   Between trying to figure out how to serve myself and the wine from his parent’s wine cellar, I was in no condition to sit through a Beethoven symphony. 

But this morning I had had a light breakfast and was quite sober.  When the maestra came out, I figured that if she could conduct an hour and a half of Beethoven in spike heels, I could stay awake to listen to it.  Piece of cake, as it turned out.  When the air got stuffy, I cooled myself with my new fan. 

The sad news came at the beginning of the week when I learned that my sister Annetta is going to have a heart operation.  I know that the prayers and good thoughts of my friends helped me through my operation, so I hope the power of the prayers and good thoughts of her friends (and mine) will help her, too. 

 
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 13, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 94

 
Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-9393

 
Click HERE for great hotel discounts

 
 
Example of readable lines on U.S. passport

U.S. readable passport rule
goes into effect June 26

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Starting June 26 travelers who enter the United States must have a machine readable passport if they want to take advantage of the visa waiver program.

And transportation carriers face stiff fines if they do not comply.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that all persons traveling under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program must present a machine-readable passport to travel to the United States without a visa on and after that date.

The Immigration and Nationality Act originally set Oct. 1, 2003 as the date by which Visa Waiver Program travelers were required to present a machine-readable passport for visa-free travel to the United States, the department explained.

Costa Rica is not a visa waiver country, and citizens must get visas to enter the United States.

Some 23 of the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries requested and were granted a postponement to Oct. 26, 2004. The countries not requesting this postponement were Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. Nationals of those four countries have been required to present a machine-readable passport for visa-free travel since Oct. 1, 2003. Belgian nationals traveling under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program have been required to present a machine-readable passport since May 15, 2003.

For a limited period that started last Oct. 26, the Department of Homeland Security has provided immigration inspectors at U.S. borders and ports of entry the authority to grant a one-time entry at no charge for Visa Waiver travelers arriving without a machine-readable passport. This limited period will end on June 26. 

Starting on that date, transportation carriers will be fined $3,300 per violation for transporting any Visa Waiver traveler to the U.S. without a machine-readable passport, said the department.

The U.S., Department of State said it has been working closely with Visa Waiver Program countries to communicate information about the machine-readable passport requirement to their citizens. Since Oct. 26, Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection officers have been notifying Visa Waiver travelers entering the United States with a letter explaining the machine-readable passport requirements.

Machine-readable passports include two optical-character, typeface lines at the bottom of the biographic page of the passport that, when read, deters fraud and helps confirm the passport holder's identity quickly. 

Visa Waiver travelers who are not in possession of machine-readable passports may also apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad if seeking entry for business or tourist visits to the United States. Information on the Visa Waiver Program and how to apply for a U.S. visa is available at www.travel.state.gov and www.unitedstatesvisas.gov.

The machine-readable passport requirements do not affect the separate deadline requiring Visa Waiver Program country passports issued on or after next Oct. 26 to contain biometrics in order to be used for visa-free travel to the United States.

Woman gets fake date
for Immigration visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lines at the Costa Rica immigration offices are legendary. Frequently persons appear who will help for a fee. But now officials say one facilitator or "tramitador" went too far.

The Judicial Investigating Organization took a man identified by the last names of Seravali Zúñiga into custody Thursday to face a fraud allegation.

A woman said that a man approached her when she went to the Dirección General de Migración Tuesday and offered to obtain a quick appointment for her. At immigration a Costa Rican first must line up to get an appointment and then return on the day of the appointment in order to obtain a passport or a renewal.

The woman said she paid 60,000 colons, some $127, so she would not have to wait in line. The facilitator called her the next day, she said, and told her a date and time for her appointment. However, officials claim that the receipt the woman got was a forgery.

Investigators also said they would be looking into the operation of the many vendors who provide services just outside the main entrance to the immigration offices in La Uruca. They suggested that many of these individuals offer services to Costa Ricans and foreigners alike, and that their efforts will be evaluated for potential fraud.
 
 

Reader’s Opinion

He likens drug laws to
prohibition of alcohol

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The letter from Bob Jones on drugs in Tamarindo was on target-except it failed to mention that 2 million [!] NorthAmerican citizens are now incarcerated at enormous cost to taxpayers.  This is an obscene number . . . more than all Europe, and presents a strong argument to anti-democratic forces.

Seventy percent [70% !] of prisoners are for drug related offenses, with the majority of them non-violent offenders under 30 years of age. What a shameful waste of youth and human potential!  Much of the blame for this repressive, 'dark age' warehousing can be attributed to the "great " Reagan.  Yet, when the definitive history of this ugly era is written, it will be the intolerant and puritanical leanings of your 'average' 'boobis Americanus' who bears the ultimate responsibility. 

Americans seem incapable of learning from one of the most poignant, memorable, and defining moments of recent history.  Prohibition, that noble experiment, ill considered, brought much pain and mischief to Americans before being repealed by Constitutional amendment.  Americans endured Prohibition for 13 years before acting — but even that fiasco pales in comparison with the damage already done by the "War on Drugs". 

Many of the best minds in medicine, law enforcement, journalism, and elsewhere have pleaded for legalization of 'soft' drugs . . . all to no avail.  When will the madness end? The distinguished poet Ezra Pound once declared, "there is a point where stupidity has crossed the boundary of tolerance and decency — therefore I challenge you to a duel."  [paraphrased]

H. Franz 
Las Vegas, Nev.
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.


Accountants


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Telephone 305-3149 or 256-8620
E-mail jrtb_1999@racsa.co.cr


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Guachipelín, Escazú
228-2914/289-9809
e-mail: jwdental@amnet.co.cr
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U.S. prevention of infection and sterilization protocol


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Lic.Gregory Kearney Lawson.
Attorney at Law
Villalobos and Savings Unlimited Collections
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costarica@attorneykearney.com
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Breedy Abogados S.A.
—Attorneys-at-Law—
Since 1957. Best experience in: 
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Web page:  www.breedy.com
902-9/14/05


Bufete Hernández Mussio 
& Asociados
Lic. Arcelio Hernández Mussio
Tel. 218-0829                Cell 365-3088
E-mail: legalxpt@racsa.co.cr
www.forovial.com
• Family law    • real estate law
•  criminal & constitutional law
• due dilligence 
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Offices in San José and
Century 21, Jacó Beach
Authorized Representative
Stewart Title Attorney Referral System


Real estate agents and services


Century 21 Jacó
Selling? Buying? We can do it
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643-3356
Info@c21jaco.com


First Costa Rican Title & Trust
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Call us for your real property legal and investment needs at 225-0501 or send us an e-mail at amcr@firstcr.com

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www.firstcr.com
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formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
15 years Costa Rican 
real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
Costa Rican-American
Chamber of Commerce

margaret@greatcre.com
samargo@racsa.co.cr
www.realtorcostarica.com
(506) 291-2825 & (506) 291-2826
fax (506) 296-6304   (506) 382-7399 cell
229-8/9/0
A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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   In Costa Rica:                       From elsewhere:

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Our new five-star food and restaurant page
with the observations of Dr. Lenny Karpman
Click HERE!

 
Discussing the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, President George W. Bush stands with leaders from Central America and the Dominican Republic in the Rose Garden Thursday. From left, they are: El Salvadoran President Antonio Saca, Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco, Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños, Honduran President Ricardo Maduro, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger and Dominican Republican President Leonel Fernandez. 
White House photo by Eric Draper

 
Pacheco's about-face generates call for national strike
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The United States executive branch has embarked on a full-court press to gain passage of the Central American free trade agreement.

But in Costa Rica many Ticos wonder where did they take president Abel Pacheco and who is that man impersonating him on television. Pacheco, seemingly skeptical of the trade pact when he left home, seems to have become a cheerleader for its passage by the U.S. Congress.

Pacheco’s epiphany has not been lost on local opponents of the trade pact. They plan a national strike Monday. They called Pacheco’s position ambiguous and one that has left them confused. Pacheco is due back home Monday.

Flanked by Pacheco and other Central American leaders, U.S. President George Bush urged prompt congressional passage of the free-trade accord, known as CAFTA, in a Rose Garden appearance Thursday morning.

"For the newly emerging democracies of Central America, CAFTA would bring new investment that means good jobs and higher labor standards for their workers," said Bush. "Central American consumers would have better access to more U.S. goods at better prices."

In addition to lowering trade barriers, CAFTA is designed to boost U.S. foreign investment and provide greater protection for intellectual property rights.

Bush said U.S. businesses will profit from the opening of a market containing 44 million consumers. But he stressed that the benefits of the trade pact would extend beyond financial gains, arguing that the trade pact would help consolidate democracy in the Americas.

"Today a part of the world that was once characterized by oppression and military dictatorship now sees its future in free elections and free trade," he said. "And we must not take these gains for granted."

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Honduran President Ricardo Maduro expressed confidence that increased trade will bring tangible economic benefits to Central America's impoverished masses. 

Critics point out that a similar trade deal between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, caused hardship for Mexican agricultural sectors that could not compete with heavily-subsidized U.S. farm products.

In addition to Pacheco and Maduro, the other presidents were Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador, Oscar Berger of Guatemala and Enrique Bolaños of Nicaragua. The heads of state met with Bush in the White house cabinet room for 30 minutes before the public appearance.

Bush ended his public talk by giving the audience a traditional blessing in Spanish: "I want to thank you all for being here. Que dios les bendiga."

In another development, the U.S. Commerce secretary engaged in an online discussion in which he strongly supported the trade pact. The agreement would help the nations of Central America, and the Dominican Republic would help consolidate democratic reforms in many of the signatory countries, while also boosting economic growth for all parties, said the secretary, Carlos Gutiérrez.

He called the pact "a state-of-the-art agreement that strengthens all of our regional economies, strengthens our regional competitiveness, and strengthens the young and fragile democracies in the region."

By adopting the pact, the United States would open the gates to free trade with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, creating "the second-largest U.S. export market in Latin America, behind only Mexico," he said.

The World Bank went on record favoring the plan. The free-trade agreement offers an opportunity to enhance economic growth, trade and investment in Central America and the Dominican Republic, the World Bank said in a report.

A preliminary summary of a forthcoming report, released this week, said that the ratification and implementation of the trade pact would play a central role in shaping the future of Central America, and it outlined the potential benefits of the trade agreement.

The U.S. news media consistently has lumped together the presidents of the trade pact countries, saying, for example: "Five Central American presidents are visiting Washington to press Congress on a key economic trade pact and to discuss ways to address regional security problems, including illegal immigration into the United States."

But before he left Costa Rica for the United States, Pacheco was seemingly negative to the pact. He said he was going to empanel a group of five experts to study the pact, and he named Costa Rican born U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz as one of that group.

His comments since he reached the United States seem to be strongly in favor of the pact.

For example, Thursday Casa Presidencial here quoted Pacheco as saying  "I hope, as I always have said since the beginning, that it would be for the benefit of all Costa Ricans and Central Americans."

And he said he had read and reread the treaty and had found nothing that  would, as critics have said, cause Costa Rica to lose its ocean territories. However, he once again said he would rely on his treaty panel to carefully analyze the pact.

Pacheco appeared on CNN en Español. He is supposed to stop for the inauguration of a major tourist resort in the Dominican Republic before returning Monday.

The trade pact faces an uncertain fate in the U.S. Congress. Many legislators from agriculture-rich states have voiced support for the trade pact, while others from heavily-industrialized states or states that receive significant numbers of illegal immigrants have signaled concern or opposition. 

U.S. lawmakers introduced a new bill in the U.S. Congress that would grant legal status to millions of illegal Latin American immigrants in the United States. 

These include illegal immigrants who have U.S.-born children or have married U.S. citizens. Salvadoran President Saca said in a separate interview that he favors the bill because these people have been living, working and paying taxes in the United States for some time and deserve an opportunity. 

The bill, introduced Thursday, would allow tax-paying illegal immigrants to seek work permits and apply for permanent residence, after paying a set of fines. Many are from Central America.

The bill is sponsored by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but it is expected to face tough challenges from those who reject such measures as rewarding immigrants for breaking the law.

The Comisión Nacional de Enlace, formed April 14, is the group promoting the general strike here Monday, the Día Nacional del Agricultor. The group promises a demonstration in San José and in other parts of the country.

The group said it is worried about the loss of national sovereignty and negative impacts on small farmers.

Pacheco has declined to send the treaty to the Asamblea Nacional for discussion and possible approval, in part, because he is concerned about civil unrest generated by treaty opponents. He also has said he wants to see the lawmakers enact a broad tax plan that is the administration’s No. 1 priority.


 
Spartan surroundings with fantastic Mexican food 
NOTE: A weekend check after this review was published suggests that the restaurant may have closed for an unspecified time

Rafael is from central México. His charming wife Charlot is a Tica. In March of this year, they opened TicoMex on the main road that runs from Escazú to Guachipelin, a little north of AM PM and the Multiplaza turnoff on the east side of the road. The small clean Spartan restaurant exudes the warmth you might expect as you enter the home of a friend. Like such a home, the doors are always open, three meals a day, seven days a week beginning at 10 a.m.

The atmosphere is minimalist with paper prints on white walls, varnished wood slat cornices and ceiling, wrought iron tables and chairs, simple cutlery, paper napkins and a side room with chairs and tables to fit kindergarten kids. The draw is the food, not the décor.

Most of us who crave Mexican food beyond tacos and burritos, yearn for chile heat. You can get it at Tico Mex, but only if you ask. Out of deference to Tico disdain for anything spicy hot, los chiles picantes don’t reach the diner without an invitation. Rafael will make your meal exactly as you want. He is even willing to prepare classic dishes not on the menu with a day’s notice. The menu does offer many options at very reasonable prices.

For breakfast, choose from huevos rancheros, huevos Mexicana, huevos ahogados, huevos al gusto, chilaquiles con queso or Tico-style gallo pinto with eggs, ham, tomato and sausage made by Arlyn, the Tico cook. All the breakfast plates come with orange juice, coffee, toast or tortillas and cost only ¢ 1,500. A fruit platter with the same additions is ¢ 1,200.

For lunch and dinner, my favorite first course is an outstanding Aztec tortilla soup loaded with crunchy tortilla strips and buttery avocado in a rich well seasoned chicken broth (¢ 1,500). The recipe is from Rafael’s mother, Dona Eva. The soup of the day and the cold, refreshing weekend avocado soup are ¢ 1,000.

For the rest of the meal, choose from three tacos with salsa, refried beans and guacamole (¢ 1,850), two tostadas with salsa, lettuce, refried beans, sour cream and cheese (¢ 1,400), a toasted ham, cheese, onion and lettuce sandwich (¢ 1,100), three chalupas or three crispy flautas with all the trimmings (¢ 2,200), a large well endowed burrito (¢ 1,300) and your choice of three smaller burritos, two gringas, or two empanizadas with the other goodies (¢ 2,000).

From Charlot’s side of the family comes olla de carne (¢ 1,500), typical casados (blue plate specials) of meat in gravy, chicken or cutlet, with rice, beans, potatoes, salad and roasted ripe plantain (¢ 1,350), chicken with rice (¢ 1,350) and farmer’s steak with corn on the cob, potatoes, rice, beans and tortillas (¢ 2,980).

To put Rafael’s generosity and culinary skills to the test, Joan and I invited two sophisticated diners along for pre-ordered meals of chicken in a mild green chile and 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

On 
the 
food
we eat

 

unsweetened chocolate mole sauce and meatballs in a  rich, dark mole sauce made with three kinds of chiles. The meal began with half bowls of tortilla soup so we could still enjoy our two main courses. As I remembered, Dona Eva’s Aztec rendition was superb. 

Joan is a fan of tortilla soup and has eaten it all over Mexico. She never had better. But even half orders were rich and filling. Undaunted, we ate our way through two additional courses and chips and dips. We sampled pureed black beans, guacamole, a smoky chipotle chile sauce, and pico gallo and drank nice margaritas.

Next came albondigas (meatballs) Mexican style, browned on the outside and moist and tender inside with herbs and diced hard boiled eggs within. The dark luxurious mole sauce inspired one of the diners, who shall remain nameless, to add the sauce to that person’s list of foods that should be eaten naked. The dish was only mildly spicy. It came with white rice. Tortillas and a fresh salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing came to the table with it. Alas, I had over-ordered. None of us were looking forward to the last dish. Our cacophony played off contented sighs against distended groans. Then came the tender chicken pieces in a velvety smooth green nutty sauce that defies my armamentarium of adjectives to describe. Three of us licked our plates clean. I had to loosen my belt. It was even better than the previous dish.

We rested and chatted for about 45 minutes and then concluded our binge with coffee, tea and tiny meringue kisses and ginger cookies made by a local woman and sold in small bags. Rafael and Charlot are still trying out different Mexican desserts. He is clearly one of those chefs who loves to prepare good food and beams when he pleases customers. She is a gracious hostess.

Romantic and atmospheric? Definitely not. A diamond in the rough? Yes. 

Menu offerings? Good food at great prices : ´´ to ´´´, $-$$. 

Special advance orders? Great tastes at very reasonable prices: ´´´, $$. 


 
 
Chavez mixes oil with politics to expand influence
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Last month  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez opened an office of his country's state-owned oil company in Cuba. This is part of an overall Chavez strategy to distance Venezuela from its traditional ally, the United States, and broaden the market for the nation's rich deposits of oil and gas globally.

President Chavez said the opening of the office in Havana is one more step towards regional integration free of what he referred to as the "colonial" control of Washington. Venezuela already provides Cuba with a lifeline in the form of 80,000 barrels of petroleum a day, for which Cuba has paid practically nothing in cash.

Back in Venezuela, Chavez critics questioned the logic of opening an office in Cuba to serve the Caribbean, when Venezuela itself has a Caribbean coast. One opposition congressman suggested this move was just one more favor President Chavez has done for Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro. 

But some experts disagree. Mazhar Al Shereidah, an Iraqi by birth who has lived in Venezuela 38 years and is one of the nation's top petroleum analysts, says Cuba has a logistic advantage because of its location and may also have significant resources to develop.

He says that waters off the coast of Cuba, like waters in the South China Sea near Vietnam, have long been neglected because of political considerations, as well as technological barriers.  He says that the Venezuelan oil company, in partnership with Brazil's Petrobras, which has extensive experience in deep-water operations, could strike it rich in Cuban territorial waters. 

But Chavez tends to mix political strategy into his energy policy, according to the editor of the Caracas-based "Petroleum World" online magazine, Elio Ohep.

"He uses oil as a political weapon. He goes to the Caribbean countries and says, 'we are going to help you. I see you have a lot of traders selling you all this fuel oil at high prices. We are going to give it to you at cheap prices. We can do it, we are the producers.' But then, when the time comes at the Organization of American States, he will say, 'Hey, listen, give me a hand here 

and support my candidate for secretary-general of the OAS,’" says Ohep.

Politics may also play a role in the Chavez government's move to expand markets in Latin America and Asia. Venezuela is working with neighboring Colombia to build a pipeline to the Pacific coast where tankers could load oil for delivery to China and other Asian nations where demand is rising. Mazhar Al-Shereida says this makes perfect economic sense.

He says to have only one customer is to put yourself at the mercy of that one customer. He notes that the United States has also avoided having just one supplier, buying oil from a number of other countries. He says, Venezuelan oil represents about 12 percent of total U.S. petroleum imports, but the United States currently represents around 70 percent of Venezuela's export market.

At the same time, the Chavez government has moved to increase royalties and tax payments from foreign companies working under lease agreements.

Ohep says the companies raised little fuss about the changes, because they see big potential here. He says, "The companies did not say anything, except for one company, Exxon-Mobil, which said, 'Look, you are changing the rules, without consulting us.' The government says, 'Yes, we changed the rules, but this is in the contract. Look at the fine print, you signed it.' The other companies said, 'Okay, we are making a lot of money, much more than projected, all right, fine. Plus, we want to get more capacity.' "

Venezuela is currently the world's fifth-largest petroleum producer. With the development of methods to extract crude from heavy tar-like deposits in the Orinoco belt in the eastern part of the country, Venezuela could be considered to have the largest reserves in the world. 

As oil prices go higher, the Chavez government will have money to fund the president's political agenda both inside and outside Venezuela. Still, in spite of his antagonistic relations with Washington, Hugo Chavez has maintained the supply of oil to U.S. refineries and analysts see little short-term threat to the commercial relationship on which both countries currently rely.


 
More emphasis being placed on human trafficking
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The nations of the Western Hemisphere are becoming increasingly aware of the seriousness of a crime called trafficking in persons, reports the Organization of American States.

The hemispheric organization said the coordinator of its anti-trafficking in persons unit, Phillip Linderman, found that many victims of the crime end up being exploited in the commercial sex trade or in other types of forced labor, such as in agriculture, manufacturing sweatshops, or domestic servitude.

Trafficking in persons can occur within a country or across international borders, said Linderman, who is a U.S. State Department employee on loan. Human trafficking, Linderman said, typically preys on women, children, migrants and others in extreme poverty.

The Organization of American States has been discussing the human-trafficking problem with Japan, said Linderman. A Japanese delegation met earlier in 2005 with organization acting Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi to discuss how to address the crime. A preliminary study commissioned by the organization said an estimated 1,700 victims from Latin America and the Caribbean are trafficked to Japan every year.

The organization has also retained an expert to study the trafficking of Chinese migrants to countries in the 

Americas and hopes to begin a dialogue with China on the issue, Linderman said.

"The OAS is well positioned to speak for the hemisphere on this issue," he said, adding that the organization's 34 member states are working to increase the exchange of information about the problem.

Linderman also said the organization is holding a number of seminars in the Americas about human trafficking. The next seminar on the issue is scheduled to start Wednesday in Bolivia.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report, said Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana and Venezuela in the Americas and six other nations worldwide were not doing enough to stop the trafficking of thousands of people forced into servitude or the sex trade every year. The State Department said 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked globally each year. The State Department calls human trafficking "a modern form of slavery."

However, on Jan. 3, the State Department issued a Trafficking in Persons Interim Assessment that said Guyana was making "appreciable progress" in devoting more resources to anti-trafficking in persons efforts, "cooperating with the international community, modernizing national laws to sanction traffickers and keep minors out of prostitution, rescuing and protecting victims, and taking prevention measures."


 
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