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(506) 223-1327                     Published Wednesday, May 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 106                    E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Óscar Arias Sánchez greets and talks with Ticos and tourists alike as he steps into a gathering near the Teatro Nacional Tuesday night.
Arias hits crowd
A.M. Costa Rica photo

Arias does not hesitate to dive into passing crowd
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Talk about making your security team nervous.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez walked past his waiting automobile Tuesday night and discussed for perhaps 15 minutes current issues with protesters, tourists and passersby.

More on Expotur . . . HERE!

The scene was in front of the Teatro Nacional where Arias had helped inaugurate Expotur 2007, the tourism marketplace.

When he left the theater, he saw, among others, representatives of The Fund for Costa Rica holding a sign and distributing fliers calling for a building moratorium to save the coastal forests.

Although Arias was circled by at least four
security guards in plainclothes, he also was encircled by curious citizens. Most were not connected with tourism.

Arias has been criticized because security guards and police have been keeping anti-free trade treaty protesters away from places where he makes public appearances. Usually the protesters make a lot of noise and rude comments.

Many other national presidents "hit the crowd" in their travels, but the groups usually are preselected and screened. Arias appeared to have lingered so long Tuesday that his security detail was becoming nervous.

The Fund for Costa Rica will be carrying its message that uncontrolled development is destroying tourism in Costa Rica to the Hotel Herradura where it is participating in the Expotur tourism event.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 106

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in favor of free trade
A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob Mora
Grupo Zeta employees demonstrate in favor of the free trade treaty with the United States.

New Cartago industrial park
could bring thousands of jobs

By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo Zeta says it is in negotiations with three firms that would be the first to settle in its new $5 million Techno Park in Cartago.

If all three deals go through, some 1,500 jobs might be created, said César Zingone of Grupo Zeta.

Eventually the company hopes to have some 25 firms calling the new industrial park home. This would represent a $60 million investment.

Grupo Zeta developed the concept of free zones in Costa Rica and also owns the Megasuper grocery chain. It also is involved heavily in the real estate industry with massive condo projects in Jacó and Escazú.

The plans for the park envision 100,000 square meters of structures, nearly 1.1 million square feet.

Zingone said that his firm was seeking companies of medium and high technology such as those involved in the fiber optic business, telecommunications, energy firms and similar.

Total direct employees could be as many as 5,000 when the park is completed, said company officials, adding that this could mean some 12,000 indirect employees.

Another Venezuelan station
facing a subliminal allegation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's government has accused an opposition television station of using subliminal messages to incite an assassination attempt against President Hugo Chávez, hours after taking another television station off the air.

Venezuela's information minister, William Lara, announced Monday an investigation into the private broadcaster Globovision.  He said the station had encouraged an attempt on the life of Chavez by broadcasting the chorus of a salsa tune, along with footage of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul.

Globovision's director, Alberto Federico Ravell, has denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations ridiculous.

Meanwhile, protests continued Tuesday in Caracas over the closure of the openly anti-government Radio Caracas Television network.  The government refused to renew the station's license.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered Monday to protest President Hugo Chavez's decision to force RCTV off the air, replacing it with a new state-funded channel, Venezuelan Social Television.

President Chavez says the new station will help democratize the media and enhance freedom of speech.

Critics argue that Chavez is increasing state control over the airwaves.  Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders have criticized the refusal to renew RCTV's license, calling it a blatant effort to silence criticism.

Venezuela's information minister also accused CNN of conducting a smear campaign against Venezuela, saying the U.S.-based cable news network had juxtaposed images of Chavez and an alleged al-Qaida leader as part of an attempt to associate Chavez with terrorism.

In Costa Rica President Óscar Arias Sánchez broke his silence on the Venezuelan situation Tuesday when he said in a press release that closing a medium of communications is a mortal injury to whatever democratic system.

Noting that leaders in democratic countries are exposed to critics, Arias said "Possibly we have to create a skin a little stronger because the criticisms are coming frequently."

Zoellick may be getting
top job at the World Bank

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

News outlets in the United States are reporting that Robert Zoellick is the choice of President George Bush to lead the World Bank.

Zoellick, who is now an executive with  Goldman Sachs, is the main force behind the negotiation of the U.S.-Central American free trade agreement. He is well known in Costa Rica, and has traveled all over Central America.

Zoellick was the U.S. trade representative when the treaty was negotiated. He later accepted a top post at the U.S. State Department, but left that for private industry. He played a role in getting China into the World Trade Organization.

Technically the president of the World Bank is selected by its board of directors, but the U.S. president carries great influence. Zoellick would replace Paul Wolfowitz, who is leaving next month after a scandal involving payments to his girlfriend. He also was a Bush favorite.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 106

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When we say 'signs of a dictator,' they all say 'George Bush!'
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not just truth is in the eye of the beholder. So is humor and sarcasm. So when A.M. Costa Rica published a little bit of humor Tuesday, readers were quick to come to their own conclusions.

The piece featured Hugo Chávez, Mussolini, Augusto Pinochet and Charlie Chaplin in his role as "The Great Dictator."

But Dennis Kaiser of Cincinnati, Ohio, saw something else:

"Your article 'Your Handy Guide to Would-Be And Current Dictators' is a very good one, and readers need to be aware of the threats these dictators pose to each and every Tico.

I believe your article pointing out the concern for Hugo Chávez is good, but you might also have included George W. Bush in that article as well, as I believe he, and the United States, poses as large a threat to Costa Rica as does Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, especially with the CAFTA arrangement.

"In targeting your own description of a dictator, George W. Bush does not wear 'funny little hats,' but #2 Dictators do not know where the military man ends and the president begins. You can often times see him wearing military uniforms and strutting about even though he, himself, went absent without leave (AWOL) while he was a member of the National Guard."

Ralph Antonelli of Platanillo, Pérez Zeledón, also had the same idea:

"Except for the funny hats, I think you could have been describing George W. Bush.  Oh yes, and he doesn't speak so well.  Except for that, I think you nailed him."

David Fogg of Los Yoses gave Bush a good score on the dictator checklist:

"Interesting checklist; most interesting is what a good score GWB gets  on this list: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12.

"The main points he "misses" are hats, music, tractors and long boring speeches (he gives short boring speeches) — precisely the least important points on the list.

"Actually, the list looks like it was tailor-made to make sure that certain people (Castro, Chavez) would make the cut and thus be tarred by association with Hitler and Stalin. For instance, I notice that mass murder is NOT on the list, though surely that would be a more important point than headgear."

Now George Bush does wear cowboy hats, but that's OK for Texans and other westerners. To call a nice Stetson or some other 10-gallon a "funny little hat" risks the ire of many well-muscled (although slightly bruised) rodeo stars and even the spirit of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who also came by the hat honestly. Ronald Reagan also liked western garb, but a check of the White House photo archives for the last year failed to turn up one shot of Bush in a cowboy hat.

For Cheryl Pastor of Pacific Grove, California, "your handy guide to would-be and current dictators gave me a cold chill down my back, as I realized how accurate this guide describes George W. Bush!"

We had suggested that dictators try to remake the world in their own image. Said Ms. Pastor:
Lyndon Baines johnson
LBJ Library photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto
Lyndon Johnson, complete with cowboy hat, prepares a barbecue for visiting Latin American ambassadors at his ranch April 1, 1967.

"Bush wants to bring his version "democracy and freedom"� to the world at gunpoint and military occupation.  Iraq now, Iran in 2008, just before the next election.  Hitler did much the same, but he was spreading "Aryanism."�  Stalin was forcing Communist paradise on his occupied countries."

Kaiser also saw this parallel, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement:

"Dictators want a new world, and the Bushs have long had an agenda for the 'New World Order' which actually is designed for a total global economy. NAFTA and CAFTA are a major part of this plan. In order to gain this global economy they first need to split the globe into three major segments, the European Union has been formed, the next is the North American Union which will initially include the United States, Mexico, and Canada with Latin and South America to follow and this is where CAFTA is an important piece for them. It might further be noted that CAFTA, like NAFTA and the North American Union will be controlled by non-elected power elite individual, NOT elected officials of each country.

Readers also suggested that Bush was rewriting the U.S. Constitution by ignoring it. One sign of a dictator, we said, was a quick effort to rewrite the national constitution.

The White House archives also failed to yield a photo of Bush on a tractor. The article Tuesday joked that dictators like tractors, and Hugo Chávez was pictured on a bright red tractor. In fact, the media of authoritarian regimes are filled with photos and videos of steel plants, hydro projects and tractors.

At the very least, the response to the story shows how polarized the United States has become.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, May 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 106

End of a banking era

Workmen install a Scotiabank sign atop the downtown building that once sported the Interfin name. Scotiabank agreed nearly a year ago to purchase the nation's biggest private bank for $293.5 million, so the change was a long time in coming. The building is just east of the Teatro Nacional

Interfin was founded in 1979 and grew into a multinational web of financial enterprises.

Toranto, Canada,-based Scotiabank has operated in Costa Rica since 1995.

Scotia bank

Young pianist helps officials get Expotur off to a good start
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The unexpected star of the opening of Expotur 2007 Tuesday night was a 13-year-old pianist who wowed the crowd of about 350 with three classics.

The boy is Josué González, who has been identified as a rising star and is now under the supervision of music teachers at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

González played three times during the speeches and awards that are Expotur. His first work, Ludwig van Beethoven's "Rondo a Capriccio in G," drew polite applause. Halfway through the program, he returned with Frederic Chopin's "Polonaise," frequently called "militar."

Immediately before the keynote talk by Óscar Arias Sánchez, the young pianist blasted the gathering with a stirring interpretation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in G major."

As the pianist took a polite bow, Arias was among the first to recognize the quality of the effort. He sprang to his feet and walked from the speaker's table to congratulate the boy. His actions brought the crowd to its feet, and the shy pianist had to take a half dozen bows.

The unexpected performance was contrasted with the expected words from Carlos Lizama Hernández, who told the gathering and Arias that the tourism industry wanted more: more infrastructure, more opportunities for training and a way to cut through the bureaucracy when smaller firms seek incentives they are entitled to under the law.

He is president of the Asociación Costarricense de Professionales in Turismo, which is putting on Expotur.

He likened the work awaiting the tourism industry to a raft trip down the Río Pacuare, an effort that requires discipline, fearlessness and enthusiasm.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of Turismo, characterized Costa Rica as moving toward being a zero carbon destination, that is one where the carbon emissions of aircraft bringing tourists here are offset by trees liberating an equal amount of oxygen.

He also praised the plan for eight regional tourism offices.

Arias recounted the successes of Costa Rican tourism and said it was a solution to eliminating poverty. Some 56 percent of the tourism jobs are outside the metropolitan area, he said.

Arias agreed that infrastructure must be modernized. He also said that rural tourism was a way to distribute democratically the economic benefits of tourism.

He also said that steps were being taken to simplify the paperwork problems for foreign investors.

He got a laugh when discussing the animals that are found in Costa Rica. He said there were snakes and then said there were snakes in abundance, an obvious reference to politics and not reptiles.

He said he had faith in the Costa Rican people and that they would choose the correct route in the referendum on the free trade treaty Sept. 23. For his part, he listed the reasons that he would vote yes.
If the treaty is not approved, Costa Rica will send a profoundly negative signal in its commercial relations with the rest of the world, he said.

The emphasis now switches to the Hotel Ramada Herradura where tourism vendors will engage in negotiations with wholesalers, mostly from outside Costa Rica, for two days. The estimated 260 companies participating from Costa Rica and Central American have stands set up to show their wares. However, the event is not open to the public.

tourism winner
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Ricardo Araya Cubillo displays his tourism award

Four receive tourism honors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A businessman and former president of the tourism chamber, Carlos Muños Céspedes, received the award Tuesday as the outstanding international promoter of Costa Rican tourism. His was one of four handed out at the inaugural of Expotur 2007, the tourism marketplace.

The award is in recognition of having spent 40 years carrying word about Costa Rican tourism to foreign lands.

Awarded recognition as the national promoter of tourism was Agustin Monge Puig, a hotel developer and president of Grupo Marta.

Praised as a pioneer of tourism was Ricardo Araya Cubillo, who is now developing the Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa after decades of development work in tourism.

Carlos Lachner Guier received a special Expotur award. He is a director of many companies here, including Radio Monumental and BAC de San José. He also is a director of the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

Each award was the figure of a campesino with an identifying plaque at the base.

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