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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, May 21, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 99         E-mail us
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Bridge problems
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
More bridge woes

Officials closed a key bridge on the main route from Desamparados to Aserrí early Thursday and massive traffic jams resulted. The damaged bridge was one of two giving highway officials problems.  The Desamparados bridge is expected to be out of service for at least two weeks while abutments are reinforced and the Rio Jorco underneath is dredged.

See story HERE!



Costa Rica prevails in Villalobos arbitration case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An effort by mainly Canadian Villalobos creditors to get money from Costa Rica has failed.

A group of investors brought Costa Rica into arbitration under a treaty that exists between the two countries. The group claimed that Costa Rica did not exercise sufficient oversight to prevent Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos from taking their money.

The arbitration was before a three-member panel at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, a World Bank agency. The panel never got to the heart of the question raised by the creditors. Instead, the case was rejected on jurisdictional grounds.

The exact reason for the rejection is unclear because the decision, handed down Wednesday by the panel, is not yet available from the center and a Web site operated for participants in the case is restricted to only those participating.  However, the Web site did confirm Thursday that the jurisdiction was rejected.

The panel held a jurisdictional hearing in Washington in August. A major question was if giving money to a high-interest lending operation qualified as an investment under the terms of the international treaty. Costa Rica, of course, presented a defense.

Creditors sought several hundred million dollars and organizers of the effort, the best known of whom is Jack Caine.

The legal expertise for the creditors came from the Canadian firm of Cain Lamarre Casgrain Wells, which would have received part of any settlement.

Creditors chipped in thousands of dollars each to
pay for the legal effort and for the filing fees, which many have amounted to more than $500,000.
The idea for an arbitration case developed not long after Luis Enrique Villalobos fled in 2002 and his brother was detained. Oswaldo subequently was convicted for running what a Costa Rican court determined was a ponzi scheme in which the early investors are paid with funds deposited by latecomers. Had the arbitration case prevailed, it would have been Costa Rica, not the Villalobos family, that would have had to pay the settlement amount.

The case was registered for arbitration by the center May 2, 2008, and a three-person panel was named the following month. The panel members were Sandra Morelli Rico of Colombia, the president; Jeswald W. Salacuse, a U.S. academic; and Raúl E. Vinuesa of Argentina.

The arbitration request contains a litany of Costa Rican regulatory agencies that the investors contend were remiss in not supervising the Villalobos operation and its many corporations. Among the agencies criticized are state banks, the Central Bank and agencies that regulate banking and the stock exchange.

The arbitration case is at odds with other investors who blame Costa Rica for conducting a police raid and freezing bank accounts that drove the brothers out of business.

The Villalobos high-interest operation was not licensed by the government. An adjacent money changing operation, Ofinter S.A., was licensed, but the personal deals done by Villalobos were characterized as transactions among friends. Other lawyers argued for years that such friendly transactions might not meet the requirements for arbitration under the 1999 agreement between Canada and Costa Rica.

Luis Enrique Villalobos still is a fugitive if he still is alive. Some creditors did receive a percentage of their investment by participating in the case against Oswaldo here.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 99

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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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.


Real estate agents and services

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with Great Estates of Costa Rica

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Hearing consultant

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earthquake map
U.S.. Geological Survey map          
Red dot shows estimated epicenter.

Unusually long earthquake
gets attention in entire nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just like in real estate, the key to earthquakes is location, location, location.

The 6.1 magnitude quake that took place at 4:16 p.m. Thursday in the Pacific off Quepos had as much force as the one that ravaged Cinchona in early 2008. But the Thursday quake caused some glass to break and some stock to fall from store shelves, but there have been no reports of serious injury.

The quake was unusually long. It lasted from three to four minutes, according to the automatic recorders of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.  The U.S. Geological Survey earthquake center set the magnitude at 5.9. Costa Rican scientists said 6.1

The survey reported that 388 persons from Costa Rica and Panamá had contacted a Web program there to report having felt the quake. Most reports were of light intensity, including a number of reports from the Quepos area. There were a few reports of moderate intensity, including one on the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua.  The reports were from the entire country, from Sardinal in Guanacaste to Cahuita on the Caribbean coast and even as far away as Bocas de Toro in Panamá.

The national emergency commission said that it was evaluating the results of the quake. It said the location was about 30 kilometers, about 19 miles, southeast of Quepos. The commission based its report on the Observatorio data.

The quake was due to the tectonic plates stressing each other. The Coco Plate is being pushed under the Caribe Plate with the smaller Panamá Block pushing north.

The commission said at 6 p.m. that there were no reports of significant damage. It also discounted the possibility of a tsunami or other ocean problems caused by the quake.

The site is about 80 kilometers or 50 miles south southwest of San José.

Liberia gallery will host
exhibition by Swiss artist

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The expanded Hidden Garden art gallery in Liberia will host a private opening tonight of the works of Swiss artist Helga Denoth. Her show opens to the public Saturday. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A gallery summary said of the artist "she takes us by the hand to walk in a world harmonized by the science of color combination, in abstract images proposing defined feelings."

In addition, a sculpture garden will be exhibited, with works in iron, recycled, and other materials, and are intermixed with paintings. The artist's works are pure art, and sometimes functional, like garden chairs and mobiles. The works reflect the joy Helga found in Costa Rica, the gallery said.

The Hidden Garden is eight rooms. Owner Greg Golojuch calls it the largest in Guanacaste.  The gallery exhibits over 200 artworks comprised by more than 45 artists, and he will strive to launch new exhibitions every 15 days or so, he said.

The artist in residence is Carlos Hiller and his underwater images. The gallery is five kilometers west of the Liberia airport on highway 21.

Early leadership is topic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Archaeologist Ricardo Vázquez will discuss leadership in native Costa Rica at the Museo Nacional today at 3 p.m. His emphasis will be the period from 1000 to 1600 in the Caribbean of Costa Rica.

The talk is part of the new exposition, “Costa Rica: Tierra de Maravillas.” Vázquez is the curator of the exposition. He has done field work in the Las Mercedes zone in Guácimo on the property of Universidad EARTH. He also has worked at the nearby La Iberia site.

The museum is just east of Plaza de la Democracia between avenidas Central and 2 at Calle 17.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


For your international reading pleasure:


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 99

Judicial agents search public university in financial probe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An army of judicial agents, mindful of a near riot at another state university, moved into the Instituto Tecnológico de Cartago Thursday to confiscate evidence in a probe of mismanaged public funds.

A principal target in the investigation is Eugenio Trejos, who was a candidate for president in February. He is the university's rector and the person in charge.

The investigation predates the election. The Poder Judicial said that the university's internal auditor filed a complaint last October, as did an unidentified person. No arrests were made in the raid but many boxes of documents were taken.
The case is in the hands of the Unidad Especializada de Fraude of the Ministerio Público.

The university's press office said that 12 cases were involved and that 10 had been resolved via an internal process. It also said that no individual has been accused formally.

A lot of agents participated because when judicial investigators chased a man onto the Universidad de Costa Rica campus last month a brawl broke out as students, professors and employees defended what they thought was the institution's autonomy.

There were no problems Thursday at the Cartago institution.


Nation's first quarter exports are higher than in 2009
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's exports are up 12.9 percent in the first four months of 2010 compared to the prior year, said  Promotora del Comercio Exterior.

Total exports were $3.2 billion.

April exports were strong and amounted to $772 million, which is 2.1 percent higher than the year before, the Promotora report said. The past year saw a decline from previous years in total exports.
Industrial exportations, mainly computer chips and electronic cables and connections, amounted to 72.1 percent or $2.3 billion of goods exported in the first four months of the year, the organization said.

Food products were up 12.9 percent with sugar showing a $42 million increase. Even salsas showed a $5 million increase to $22 million total.

Agricultural exports were $827 million or about 25.7 percent of the total. Both concentrated and unconcentrated milk showed a 189 percent increase.


Rule No. 1: We have met the gremlins, and they is us
I have preached to others and certainly I, myself, know that when something needs fixing, even something as sophisticated as the Internet connection, you must first start with Rule No. 1. 

Sunday in the middle of the afternoon my Internet connection stopped working.  This was very upsetting because I couldn’t use Skype to call either of my children, or my sister, which I wanted to do because I am planning a trip.  No e-mail coming in and none to answer, and I couldn’t read any newspapers or articles online.  To say I was irritated is an understatement. 

So I called Amnet.  I was nervous because my last bill from them said I owed  ¢47,000 and while I had checked with my bank and been told I did not, the bankers could be wrong.   Actually I tried to call Amnet.  Every time I was put through to technical support, I heard music for a while, then a busy signal that sounded as irritated as I was. So I tried a connection that dealt with the status of my account.  I was told there were two names on the account.  Since I couldn’t give them the information they wanted they told me to disconnect (“they” is the recorded voice.)

Then I called my neighbor, Doug, and asked if his Internet was working.  It was.  So the problem was narrowed to my apartment.  I tried to access my Web address on Doug’s computer.  No success.  So I called my son in California (on Doug’s working Skype).  He has talked me through problems on my computer, but I needed an operating Internet in order to get help.  I asked him to see if he could get into my mailbox, and while I was waiting, he did.  “No problem,” he said and read me a couple of my latest messages.  I was beginning to take this whole thing as a personal attack.  “Why don’t you call Nestor, your technical adviser?” he asked. 

Well, because, secretly I was beginning to think that if it wasn’t Amnet’s fault, it was Nestor’s. I was now going down the lane that every time someone does something to my computer they screw up something.  “Thanks,” I said.

Monday I tried again to reach Amnet, but I had a yoga class to go to.  I took my last bills with me planning to go to Amnet’s office after yoga.  After yoga I forgot to do anything but come straight home.  So I called my editor and explained the problem (I generally don’t want to tell my friends when I have problems with my PC because they to a person just smile (smugly and without sympathy) and say “You should have bought a Mac.”  My editor also has a Mac but he is sympathetic to my woes.  I asked him
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


to tell me again how I get on my A. M. Costa Rica address.  He told me.  It didn’t help.  I still couldn’t get through.  He could.  “Why don’t you call your new technician?” he suggested.
    
“Thanks,” I said.  And took a taxi to Amnet’s office – or rather their former office. Amnet has moved to a new building in Sabana Sur less than a block from where I had my yoga class.  How unlucky could I get.  In the air conditioned-to-freezing new office, I was told that my account was up to date and that I was the only one on it.  So I asked the young woman if she would try to reach technical services and find out if it was Amnet’s problem or my computer’s (or Nestor’s).  She tried.  She couldn’t reach them either.  Finally I asked when they had moved. A couple of months ago, she said.  Gee, no notice on my bill, not even an Internet message to their customers telling them.  Well, we all know the Internet is unreliable.

My next to last hope was gone.  It was Monday and Tuesday was coming.  I called Nestor, my 15-year-old consultant,  and told him about my problem. He told me about turning off my modem and waiting, etc. etc. All of which I had done, but did again. No results. So he said he would come over as soon as his mother was off work. 

Nestor came over and as his fingers began flying over the keys, I left him to my computer.  Bad vibes don’t help technicians.  About 15 minutes later he came into the living room where I was chatting with his mother.
 
Any luck? I asked.

“It’s fixed,” he said.  Then I had to go and ask him what was wrong with it.  “The blue cable in your computer was loose” he said.  Then I remembered that I had moved my computer on Sunday so I could clean my desk; I must have pulled the cable just a little. 

Ah, yes, Rule No. 1: Make sure it is plugged in.  It avoids a lot of Sturm und Blame.  


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 99

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

bridge repair
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Worker surveys undermined abutment while dredging work takes place in the Río Jorco.

Desamparados road link to points south is out of service

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bridge on a major highway suffered damage to a concrete guard wall and then engineers found out that water had washed away much of the fill around abutments.

So highway officials and the Policía de Tránsito closed the route early Thursday. It is a main highway from Desamparados to Acosta and Aserrí as well as a route to southern Costa Rica for truckers who want to avoid the Interamericana.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the highway department, estimated the bridge over the Río Jorco will be out of service for at least two weeks.

Two alternate but circuitous routes are being offered for those who have to make the trip.

Thursday heavy machinery was in the river dredging the channel. Officials hope that a clear channel will keep rushing water away from the abutments. Fill around the
bridge has been washed out and there is space between the bridge and the highway.

Meanwhile in Limón province, a bridge over the Río Banano became undermined, and national route 241 is closed there. That is a 15 meter bridge, about 49 feet. The Desamparados bridge, located in San Rafael Arriba, is twice that length.

Officials said the main reason they closed the bridge was due to the damage inflicted by a vehicle. This put the bridge in danger of collapse, they said.

The consejo said that persons traveling from Acosta toward San José can go through Alfonso XIII, San Juan de Dios and San Rafael Abajo.

The other option is to pass by the Buen Pastor women's prison in San Rafael Abajo. But that route is not suitable for heavy trucks, officials said. Police will be supervising the detours, officials said.

Desamparados is south of San José.



Key rail bridge will be replaced to avoid flood damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A troublesome rail bridge over the Río Chirripó between Matina and Estrada is being replaced. The span is an important one for the transportation of agricultural produce for export.

The low, 40-meter (131-foot) bridge is damaged each year by flood waters, and repair is a constant process, said the national emergency commission. A contractor will dismantle a bridge at Lomas del Toro and rebuild it at the bridge site. The railway is in constant use.

The bridge is among 21 urgent projects that were identified last year on the Caribbean coast by a commission.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencies is working with the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles to get the bridge job done in 90 days. 

The estimate is 371 million colons or about $700,000.

In addition the emergency commission is dredging this river, the Banano and the Sixaola in anticipation of the
rail bridge
National emergency commission photo
This is the bridge that will be replaced.

rainy season. The commission also is purchasing garbage trucks so that residents will not dump trash in the river.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 99

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Calderón tells Congress
immigration reform is key


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mexico's president is appealing directly to the American people and their elected leaders to reform immigration laws and strengthen gun control along the U.S.-Mexican border. 

The Mexican president was cheered as he entered the House chamber, and was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you, his Excellency Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, the President of Mexico," said Nancy Pelosi.

From his first words, this speech was different.

"It is a great honor to stand before you today," said Calderón.

Usually, foreign leaders address Congress in their native language.  But President Calderon chose English, instead of Spanish.

"I have come here as your neighbor, as your partner, as your ally, and as your friend," he said.

It was a sign that his remarks were not designed for domestic consumption in Mexico, but rather to capture the attention of the American public. He spoke bluntly, as sometimes only a friend can do.  He talked about border violence, and the need to find a way to curb illegal immigration.

The Mexican leader said comprehensive immigration reform is critical to border security.

"What we need today is to fix a broken and inefficient system," said Calderón.

President Calderon went on to criticize a new law in the border state of Arizona that requires police to question anyone they believe may be in the country illegally.  That law was sparked, in part, by an outbreak of violence along the border.

Mexico's president said his government is making an all out effort to go after criminals and drug gangs responsible for the bloodshed.  He said Americaust do its part by re-imposing a ban on the sale of military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Calderón said these assault weapons are fueling the violence.

"We have seized 75,000 guns and assault weapons in Mexico in the last three years," he said. "On more than 80 percent of those we have been able to trace, came from the United States."

The Mexican president was the first foreign head of state or government to address Congress this year.  Wednesday, he was honored at the White House with all the trappings of a state visit.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 99


Latin American news
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12 suspects face allegations
of being part of drug ring


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In an ominous development, anti-drug police detained a couple Thursday and found five military shirts with insignias and letters that may link the pair to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

The pair were detained in an anti-drug sweep that captured 10 other persons. The anti-drug police said they had busted up an organization that stores drugs for the local market and also sends drugs to storage locations in Nicaragua.

Six Costa Ricans were detained as well as four Nicaraguans, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Raids took place in Lomas de Ocloro, Cuidadela 15 de Septiembre, Los Guidos in Desamparados, Patarra, Paso Ancho and Goicoechea.

Two other persons linked to this case had been detained earlier, police said.

Police said the two Colombians, a man with the last name of Orozco Galeano and a woman with the last names of Llantén Luicio, were the leaders of this organization. They were detained in Mata de Platano, Goicoechea.

Anti-drug police said they confiscated firearms and doses of crack cocaine as well as a steel box used to compress marijuana. Orozco had been detained in 2003 with 536 pounds of marijuana and 9 million colons, police said. They did not say if he were jailed.

Some of the other suspects also had prior convictions, but they were free under conditional liberty, police said.


Three held in market holdup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men face allegations of robbery in Heredia stemming from the stickup of the AM/PM supermarket in Santa Cecilia Feb. 24.

The men were arrested Wednesday in San Rafael de Alajuela and in San Antonio de Belén. They were identified by the last names of Espinoza Cuevas, Centeno Espinoza and Ramírez Ledezma.


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