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(506) 223-1327             Published Tuesday, May 22, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 100              E-mail us    
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Some ideas for the country and new retirees here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Retirees nearly always look for a business on the side after they have gone through a dozen bottles of white wine and witnessed one sunset too many.

Meanwhile, the country is trying to figure out how to take its place in the developed world. It has been trying for hundreds of years, but the brass ring always evades its grasp.

There are options for both the retired expat and the country.

1. That rail line was put there to do more than haul commuters. One blessing of Costa Rica is the rail line from coast to coast. While Panamá is figuring how to spend $5 billion to enlarge its canal, Costa Rica should quietly take over some of the trade by running container trains back and forth from Caldera to Limón.

The project will take some right-of-way repairs in the mountains and a new bridge or two. But the possibility is there. Any idea how much it costs to take a boat through the Panamá Canal? And consider the jobs that will spin off such a venture.

2. In lieu of a good 5-cent cigar, what this country needs is a memorable banana or pineapple liquor. Guaro, the sugar cane alcohol, is the quicker liquor, but México has its Kahlúa and some kind of distinctive tropical drink could start a whole new industry.

3. For the country there is all that untapped thermal power waiting underground to be harvested. The value of such potential became obvious to all during the recent wave of planned and unplanned blackouts. There are some plants but not nearly enough.

4. Meanwhile, Luiz Inacio da Silva, the president of Brazil, is predicting that Latin America will become the new Middle East by producing biofuels for the world. Costa Rica certainly must be considering this possibility.

5. Another one for the country: How about promoting the Gordo lottery to the world. The U.S. Powerball gets customers from all over. The weekly Costa Rican lottery is small change compared to the Powerball's Jan. 24th $254 million winner. But a regional effort marketed by the Internet is a sure winner and would grow.

6. And speaking of gambling, when will Costa Rica tell the United States to buzz off and lay off the Internet gambling?  That is a major income generator if taxed correctly and fairly. Little Antigua took on the United States and won at the World Trade Organization level. The gambling businesses here are looking for better more supportive locations.

7. Speaking of small countries, many bolster their income by producing excessive numbers of
ideas graphic

postage stamps for collectors. Costa Rica produces beautiful stamps, but the Correo Nacional appears to be shy. Private entrepreneurs can pick up the slack. One appears to be doing so already, according to a Web search.

8. Costa Rica has made a mark in the plastic surgery and dental fields by attracting North Americans for good service and reasonable rates. But the marketing is spotty. There needs to be more coordination and effort. And perhaps adequate malpractice insurance.

9. The same is true with retirement and assisted-living homes. Jo Stuart is experiencing life there now, in part, for her Friday column. This is another area that can grow exponentially with the correct marketing.

10. Many possibilities can be found in the fine print of the free trade treaty. If passed the document will provide firm protection to investments here and intellectual property generated here. That means songs, poems, novels, photos, movies and computer programs. There also will be a supplementary law to protect ownership of new plant varieties.

11. Florida has a significant business in pilot training. What better place to learn to fly than Costa Rica, at least in the mornings when the rain has not arrived? Again, the marketing is weak.

12. The language schools already have established themselves here, but the door is open to many other kinds of schools that can take advantage of Costa Rica's pleasant climate and proximity to the beaches. Some small business owners have set up retreats to study Yoga and similar training.

13. Costa Rica seems to have put the bulk of its bet on tourism. But most areas lack the infrastructure to bring back the tourist. Is there a Hard Rock Cafe in Playas del Coco? Building the entertainment infrastructure is what entrepreneurs do well.

This essay is a response to the countless e-mails and calls from North Americans looking to make themselves useful in Costa Rica. If readers have any suggestions, their letters will be published.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 100

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Internet proposition leads
to two raids and an arrest


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Coronado woman received an indecent proposal via the Internet, and the man made a big mistake in sending her photos of nude children, said investigators.

The woman was in an Internet café, and the operators of the business were able to keep the electronic messages until the Judicial Investigating Organization obtained the proper court papers.

Agents had no trouble in locating from where the messages were sent and conducted twin raids: one on the suspect's Heredia home and one at the private bank where he works.

Detained was a 33-year-old man with the last name of Cascante, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was ordered held for two months preventative detention or freed under a million-colon bond, some $1,925.

Six air travelers in Liberia
held on cocaine charge


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Control de Drogas reported multiple arrests of suspected cocaine smugglers at the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia Sunday evening, suggesting that drug merchants are establishing new routes.

Police reported that four women and two men were carrying 35.6 kilos (about 78 pounds) of cocaine in their luggage. The night flight was headed to Toronto, Canada.

Two of the arrested women are from Jamaica. They were identified by the last names and ages of Buchanan, 57, and Gayle, 27. Two female Canadians were identified by the last names of Laurens, 46, and Warburton, 26. The Canadian men were identified by the last names and ages of Attzsgevon, 20, Dwayne, 24.

Taiwanese minister to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taiwan's foreign minister, James Huang, is headed to Belize and an annual meeting of Central American states that support the Asian democracy.

The diplomat is believed to be on a fence-mending mission after Costa Rica voted against Taiwan's entry into the World Health Organisation in Geneva. Taiwanese officials fear that Costa Rica may be getting ready to court The People's Republic of China as a trading partner.

Taiwan has lavished funds on Costa Rica in exchange for its votes on world issues. Taiwan is recognized by 25 countries, seven of them in Central America.


Our readers' opinions
Who were the customers,
this reader wants to know


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With respect to Mr. Browns support of the Villalobos scam operation, could you please just ask him one question: What legal business were the “brothers” involved in to enable them to pay 36 percent annual interest?

It’s funny, I don’t ever recall even one of their supposed “business customers” coming forward and saying they were true customers of this legitimate operation. Why could they not prove how they were able to pay returns of 36 percent on investment. It couldn’t get any easier than having one of your customers vouch for you (unless of course you had no real customers). Money exchange business works on very slim margins not quite 36 percent!

Marc Lustig
Escazú

Canadian investors appreciate
coverage of Villalobos trial


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am one of the filers in the Villalobos case and wish to commend you on your unbiased coverage of the events leading up to the trial as well as the up-to-the-minute testimonies as they occurred. The pictures and the verdict announcement on May 16th were superb.
 
I am a Canadian and represent a group of small-time investors who were able to retire in a modicum of style because of Luis Enrique Villalobos. The monthly cheques  gave us a life that we would not have had otherwise. For this, we are all greatly appreciative of Enrique.

Unfortunately, when LEV left the country, he took with him our life savings and our lifestyle. Two of our group have since died because they were unable to cope with the shock of their losses. The rest of us eke out a living on government pensions.
 
We also appreciate the Costa Rican government, albeit slow in coming, their justice and recognition of our plight. The court awards will not change our life a great deal but will certain help us to meet our day-to-day demands a little easier.
 
In closing, I would like to say that the sentencing is a little harsh for a senior man. His betrayal of his "friends" is unforgivable, but if he makes restitution (which is the hope of all — filers and others) then, the sentence should be reconsidered in this light and mitigated to a less harsh one.

We all hope that Enrique will come to his brother's aid and restore our faith in him.
 
Thank you again, You are a lifeline for us to keep abreast of the Costa Rican affairs.

I still miss the climate and the friendliness of the people I was fortunate to meet in my 13 years in your wonderful country.

Jim Irwin et al.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 100


Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

rock and roll pollo ad


Tourism professionals getting ready for Expotur next week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The end of May is coming and that means Expotur for Costa Rica's tourism industry.

The big sales event will be all next week, including time for booking agents and others to make trips into the countryside.  The official opening will be a week from today at 5 p.m. in the Teatro Nacional.

A spokesman for the event said that 150 international tourism wholesalers have registered to do business with 295 tourism providers from Costa Rica and elsewhere in Central America.

The bulk of the event will be at the Ramada Herradura Hotel west of town, although visitors will be staying at a number of San José hotels.
This always is a big event for tourism vendors because they can enter into one-on-one negotiations with major purchasers. Some 32 percent of the international wholesalers who participate in Expotur have not been here before, said a spokesman.

This is the 23rd annual edition put on by the Asociaciòn Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo.

Tourism vendors usually knock themselves out constructing attractive booths to wow the visiting tourism visitors. Rainforests, monkeys, whales and pineapples are the order of the day.

Still, many of the deals are made at the after-hours parties.

Vendors from Panamá and Nicaragua also will be setting up their booths.


Politicking over trade treaty centers on legislative delays
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The free trade treaty with the United States was supposed to be approved by the legislature in February — March at the latest.

But now the document is bogged down, and recriminations are flying.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia, fired off a letter Monday to Ottón Solís, the unsuccessful presidential candidate and leader of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. The text was released by Casa Presidencial.

Arias, the brother of the president, took issue with what he said was a threat by Solís to have his party filibuster in the legislature to prevent a vote on the treaty and other related key legislation.

Arias said blackmail, the language of threats, bad faith and disregard for the results of voting should be left behind in favor of dialog and a search for an accord.

Members of the party headed by Solis have sought a Sala IV constitutional court ruling on a change in rules in the Asamblea Legislativa. The government's deputies there represent enough votes to pass the measure, but trade treaty opponents are against the change because it will allow quick approval of the treaty and complementary legislation.
The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado also criticized Solis Monday for suggesting that his party would use parliamentary maneuvers to block action in the legislature.

Meanwhile in the legislature the proposal to tighten the rules of debate and limit the time of each lawmaker was on hold while the court considered the request for a ruling.

The court also is considering a ruling on the treaty as to its constitutionality. If the document is not considered constitutional, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones will call off a Sept. 23 public referendum on the treaty.

Stalling is a strategy adopted by opponents because the treaty has to be approved by early next year. And the legislature must pass the enabling legislation for the treaty to go into force. The government coalition has 38 votes, a two-thirds majority, in the Asamblea Legislativa, enough to pass the treaty.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana cannot take credit for originating the attempt at filibuster in the legislative chamber. The Movimiento Libertario used such tactics two years ago to prevent passage of a government-sponsored tax revision. The legislature then tried to cut off debate with a fast-track proposal but the Sala IV threw that out and effectively killed the tax proposal on a similar constitutional appeal.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 100


U.S. Senate votes to clear way for immigration reform bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate late Monday used a procedural vote, 69 to 23, to clear the way for debate on an immigration reform compromise that was announced by a group of senators from both major parties and the White House last week. Prospects for passage of the deal are unclear, as there are opponents on both sides of the political aisle.

The immigration reform compromise calls for tighter border security and a complex plan to deal with the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented workers already in the United States as well as future immigrants who want to come to this country to work.

Supporters say the measure offers the best hope to reform the nation's immigration system before next year's congressional and presidential campaigns begin in earnest.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, is urging Senate passage of the measure.

"This bill accomplishes our core goals: It provides tough, new enforcement at the border and the work site," said Kennedy. "It allows a realistic path to family security and eventual citizenship for millions of men, women and children already here, and it provides a new system for allocating visas in the future that stresses family reunion and national economic needs."

But there are critics on both sides of the political spectrum.

Many Republicans oppose a provision that would grant undocumented workers legal status to live and work in the United States once they obtain a four-year, renewable "Z visa". They say the provision amounts to rewarding
immigrants who cross the U.S. border illegally.

Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, said "No matter what you call it, X, Y, or Z visas, this bill will grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants all over this country."

Under the compromise, "Z visa" holders could get on a path toward permanent residency and possible citizenship after meeting certain conditions, including paying fines and learning English. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries first.

Many Democrats are critical of the provision to create a temporary guest worker program, which would allow immigrants to come to the United States to work for up to two years. Such immigrants could renew their terms twice, but only after returning to their home countries for a year each time and without a chance to gain legal residency.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, opposes the provision: "It risks the creation of a permanent, revolving underclass of workers with limited rights. The temporary worker program, with no opportunity to share in the promise in America, creates an incentive for overstays, and risks creating a new population of undocumented individuals."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, shares Leahy's concerns, but calls the compromise "a starting point" to debate immigration reform. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure after the lawmakers return from a week-long recess in June.

The House of Representatives is to debate immigration reform later this year.


Study says repeated disruptions in sleep can increase heart attack risks 30%
By the American Thoracic Society  news service

The nighttime breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack or dying by 30 percent over a period of four to five years, according to a study presented at the American Thoracic Society 2007 International Conference Monday.

The more severe the sleep apnea at the beginning of the study, the greater the risk of developing heart disease or dying, the study found.

“While previous studies have shown an association between sleep apnea and heart disease, ours is a large study that allowed us to not only follow patients for five years and look at the association between sleep apnea and the combined outcome of heart attack and death, but also adjust for other traditional risk factors for heart disease,” says researcher Neomi Shah of Yale University.

“We recommend that patients who experience symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea— excessive daytime sleepiness, or snoring along with breathing pauses — consult their physician,” Dr. Shah said. “There is some evidence to make us believe that when sleep apnea is appropriately treated, the risk of heart disease can be lowered.”
In obstructive sleep apnea, the upper airway narrows, or collapses, during sleep. Periods of apnea end with a brief partial arousal that may disrupt sleep hundreds of times a night. 

Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea.

The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a tech­nique called nasal CPAP, for contin­u­ous posi­tive airway pres­sure, which delivers air through a mask while the patient sleeps, keeping the airway open. It has proved successful in many cases in providing a good night’s sleep, preventing daytime accidents due to sleepiness and improving quality of life.

The study included 1,123 patients referred for sleep apnea evaluation. They underwent an overnight sleep study to determine if they had sleep apnea. Over the next four to five years, they were followed to see how many had any heart disease events or died.

Sleep apnea triggers the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, which decreases the amount of blood pumped to the heart. Repeated episodes every night for a few years can starve the heart of enough oxygen when it is combined with the body’s decreased oxygen intake due to the frequent breathing stoppages during the night, Dr. Shah said.


Greenpeace displays bodies of dead whales to push for continuation of  ban
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace displayed dead whales and dolphins in front of Berlin's famed Brandenburg Gate Monday to demonstrate why it believes a whale hunting moratorium should continue.

Greenpeace says it found the dead mammals on various European beaches, saying some drowned while trapped in fisherman's nets while others were badly wounded in collisions with ships. Greenpeace marine biologist Stefanie Werner says 300,000 whales and dolphins drown in fishing
nets every year and many others die from pollution, accidents with ships, or from the effects of global warming.

She asked how can pro-whaling nations justify hunting them?

The International Whaling Commission meets next week in Anchorage, Alaska, where Iceland, Japan, and Norway are expected to push to end a worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

Whaling is a tradition and an industry in those countries.


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