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(506) 223-1327            Published Thursday, May 31, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 107            E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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For tourism promotion face-to-face is preferred
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expotur keeps growing because it provides a location for face-to-face sales, an effective technique often overlooked in the digital age.

This year there are 25 more stands that last year, 295 total, and the quality is obviously higher. Tourism locations that were top-shelf five years ago are now being out-classed by new, bigger arrivals, a result of the massive investment in tourism destinations.

Much of this is the result of the boom in Guanacaste, but there is a maturity and confidence among the tourism vendors this year that has not been seen in the past.

Expotur with its elaborate displays and deal-making is not open to the public. The location at the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura convention center could not really accommodate many more visitors.

A parallel expo of environmentally sensitive vendors, sponsored by Fundación Corcovado, some 1,000 feet away in the hotel lobby takes some of the green from the larger gathering where luxury is the rule. Costa Rica promoted itself as an environmentally sound vacation choice. This year's Expotur hints at a homogenization with elaborate destination resorts disconnected from Costa Rican culture. They are luxury in the extreme but have little to do with Costa Rica.

The overall tourism trend is that way, too, thanks to the development of the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. Charter and scheduled flights bring thousands of tourists in and out of the airport each year. None has to visit San José or the Central Valley as they did just five years ago when Juan Santamaría airport was the only feasible way to get in and out of the country.

As Óscar Arias Sánchez told the Expotur gathering Tuesday night, tourism has been a major force in reducing poverty throughout the nation because previously impoverished areas have cashed in, thanks to nearby attractions.

The representatives from the 150 firms listed as buyers at the event appear to be taking their jobs seriously. Expotur is known for its after-hours parties and tours, but Wednesday the mood was business, as both buyers and sellers engaged in face-to-face negotiations. Organizers said that an estimated 14,000 sales appointments will take place this week, in addition to an undetermined number of informal negotiations

This is the 23rd year that the event has been put on by the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo. The organization reported that 32 percent of the tourism wholesales listed as buyers are new to Expotur.
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Mock road signs promote some of the country's attractions.

Guantemalan table
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Guatemalan exhibit is heavy on colors.

Also taking advantage of the gathering were tourism professionals and official tourism representatives from Panamá, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Costa Rica hosted 1,725,261 tourists in 2006, but only 819,540 came from the United States and Canada. Europe contributed 234,681. That leaves 671,040 visitors from South America, neighboring countries or elsewhere in the world. So the tourism market is thinner than official totals suggest.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 107

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Lawmakers may ban
physically punishing kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa has decided to consider a measure to prohibit physical punishment of children by their parents. One member also is seeking to move ahead on a measure to extend a prohibition against smoking in public places.

The measure against physical punishment has been languishing in the assembly since 2003 when it was proposed by a current deputy, José Manuel Echandi Meza, when he was defensor de la República. It is a reform of the Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia that eliminates an article that allows moderate punishment of children by their parents.

This measure has been referred to a large committee of deputies which have the power to approve it. The measure has been criticized because there is no penalty.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia and Ministerio de Educación Pública would have the responsibility to provide training to parents and others with a parental role over children.

The tobacco bill came up Wednesday when Guyon Massey of Restauración Nacional suggested moving it to a higher priority in honor of the International Day without Tobacco, which is today. The measure tightens restrictions that already exist and prohibits, among other things, smoking on elevators, said legislative aides. No action was taken.

Our readers' opinions

He is ashamed of the ranters

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It saddens me to read all the anti-American, anti-Bush rants in the paper here.

I'm ashamed of all of you and would tell you to leave the U.S. If you were so unhappy, go live with the Communist. They have a place for you.

But, please, not my Costa Rica. The disrespect you show is bad for the country that gave you the resources to raise yourself and travel the world. God Bless the U.S.A.

Frank Frowiss
San Diego, California
Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Bush is not in charge, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Oh, come ON, people! George Bush isn't a dictator! Dictators have ABSOLUTE POWER. All the other dictatorial characteristics offered by A. M. Costa Rica in their tongue-in-cheek checklist are mere window dressing by comparison.

Bush is under the thumb of the ultra right wing of the Republican Party. He takes regular marching orders from his handlers in the corporate sector and the military industrial complex.

The result has been the plethora of mind-numbingly stupid and inhumane policy decisions that have been spewing out of the White House like so much toxic waste over the last seven years.

Dick Cheney is the real power in the White House. George Bush can't even speak in complete sentences, let alone dictate anything. He possesses a ninth grader's grasp of the intricacies of foreign policy, at best, as is evidenced by his infamous, post 9/11 comment about the need for a "crusade" in the Middle East and his subsequent invitation to "bring it on," directed at a highly motivated group of nut-case, religious extremists who responded by battling the trillion dollar army of the United States to a standstill with small arms and roadside bombs while using the long suffering civilian population of Iraq as their human shields.

To call George Bush a dictator is an insult to dictators. He's more like Howdy Doody than Stalin or Pinochet.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

Expats claim superior insight

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You’ve got to be kidding me. Bush is as bad as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin??!! Has Bush ordered ethnic minorities rounded up and systematically exterminated or sent thousands of U.S. citizens into the gulags for sedition? Bush is out to destroy Costa Rica and the rest of Latin America with NAFTA and CAFTA? Bush is out to militarize and occupy the entire world?

When was the last time anyone saw President Bush wearing a military uniform? What amazes me is that so many ex-pats think that by moving out of the U.S. and living off the grid in San Isidro or Puntarenas that they’re suddenly subject to superior insight that is denied the rest of us who are homebound right here in the U.S. of A.

I voted for Bush and I’m not really happy about many of his policies, I’m especially not happy about his effort to legalize 12 million illegal aliens. I didn’t vote for Clinton, and again I didn’t agree with many of his policies and actions. I never demonized him though. He made, what I believed, were poor choices about prosecuting the war on terror but, alas, he was after all, my president.

When the next president of the United States is sworn in and Bush returns to either Texas or New England, he will be judged either favorably or poorly by history. He will, however, leave office and a new chief executive will take his place to try his or her hand at running this country. Not exactly a very dictatorial system, I fear.

I know that for some reason it’s become in vogue to criticize the U.S. and its elected leader in the last couple of decades. Our government is so styled that we can question and debate our course as a nation, spirited debate is encouraged, and indeed it’s a tradition. Let’s try to maintain modicum of sanity though, let’s try to refrain from showing our collective rear end by not ranting and raving like lunatics.

Roy D. Jacks

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Guest editorial
Has the time come for La Amistad Peace Park?
By Paul Babladelis*
Special to A.M. Cosa Rica

Costa Rica and Panamá were the first Central American nations to form an international park in 1982 and begin management of an ecosystem across borders.  This same international park, Parque Internacional de la Amistad: Costa Rica-Panama, became two separate U.N. biosphere reserves and a single U.N. World Heritage Site.  However, it lacks a single final step to unite the two existing biosphere reserves and become Latin America’s first U.N. transboundary biosphere reserve.

An international park of friendship, La Amistad, has also been referred to as a peace park by many including current president Óscar Arias Sánchez.  In the context of a peace park, La Amistad as a transboundary biosphere is designed to serve a working example of peace between humans and nature, peace between neighboring nations, and an example of sustainable development that strengthens environmental protection.

In Costa Rica’s debt for nature swap during the first Arias administration, the benefits far exceeded the simple benefits of conserving natural areas and expanding parks.  It provided an image and identity for the country. It was a positive connection between the Costa Rican people, nature, and the world.  The country deepened its reputation as a leader in natural resource conservation and showed a green face to the world.

La Amistad is a huge natural area: 584,592 hectares (1,444,558 acres) in the combined Costa Rica and Panamá biosphere reserves.  Exact dimensions of buffer zones and transition zones of the reserves have never been settled but
could easily extend to the Caribbean coast and protected marine areas there.  While global residents benefit from the environmental services performed by the reserves, institutional mechanisms are largely lacking for them to make any sort of payment to support these conservation

efforts.  As a transboundary biosphere reserve, La Amistad would utilize a foundation to provide a means for global actors to support local, national, and binational conservation efforts.

Operation of La Amistad as a transboundary biosphere reserve could also help standardize ideology and rules for natural resource management in both nations.  In a current case, Panamá is implementing four hydroelectric projects that utilize water originating in La Amistad, and Costa Rica has said “no,” at least for now, to similar projects in Talamanca.  A transboundary biosphere reserve would not necessarily seek similar outcomes on both sides of the border, but a similar process to determine who gets to decide and in what ways regarding such projects.

An unfortunate side effect of the Costa Rica’s current debate over the Central American Free Trade Treaty is prevalent confusion regarding global connections.  Global relationships are not inherently good or bad. Context matters, and discussion of costs and benefits of cooperation with global partners is complex.  A dialogue concerning La Amistad as a U.N. sanctioned transboundary biosphere reserve would provide a new forum to discuss global cooperation apart from trade agreements or treaties.

Costa Rica and Panama have the legal agreements in place to once again lead the world in natural resource management and create La Amistad Peace Park.  Two separate biosphere reserves exist at present, and lessons learned over the past 25 years provide a firm foundation from which to build.  A public dialogue about formation of a peace park would be a welcome relief from partisan politics and could serve as a positive example of managing borders with neighbors rather than against them.

*Paul Babladelis holds a doctorate in resource development with a specialization in international development.

Student marchers even had a drummer. The sign reads 'We want a clean colegio without rats and flies.'

student protest
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Students march to protest health conditions at their school
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most of the students of the Colegio Superior de Señoritas skipped class and marched on the Ministerio de Salud Wednesday morning to protest what they said were unhealthy conditions in the school.

The march started outside the school at Avenida 6 between Calles 3 and 5 and then moved to the ministry, which is near Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Student Nassira Muñoz Rivera said that the school has
plagues of rats and flies that endanger the health of the students. But it was an overflow of sewage two weeks ago that really got the students upset.

There are about 1,200 students in the public high school.

Complications exist when repairs are to be made to the structure. The school won status as a national heritage site in 1981, so any work must be supervised by the Centro de Patrimonio of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Construction on the school began in 1888.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, May 31, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 107

Chavez threatens another private Venezuelan TV station
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two days after forcing a private Venezuelan television station off the air, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to crack down on another non-governmental TV broadcaster.

It has been two days since opposition-allied Radio Caracas Television ceased transmission, replaced by a state-funded network called Venezuelan Social Television. Protests against the move continue to grow and expand across Venezuela, with students and others taking to the streets in many cities.

Government backers have mounted counter-demonstrations in the capital. President Chavez has brushed aside concerns voiced by international press freedom groups that liberty of expression is under attack.

At the same time, however, officials have launched an investigation of another broadcaster, Globovision, accusing the opposition private television station of using subliminal messages to incite an assassination attempt on the president.

Addressing supporters, Chavez delivered a direct message to Globovision, which has provided extensive coverage of anti-government demonstrations.
He says, "To the people of Globovision, if you want to continue calling for disobedience and inciting a presidential assassination as was done openly two nights ago, when Globovision clearly urged that I be killed — then I am warning you in front of the entire nation that you calm down because I will apply the minimum."

The president did not elaborate, but Venezuelan media experts say Chavez's rhetorical use of the word "minimum" is meant to suggest the opposite, that the maximum sanction would be applied. Moments later, the president said he is prepared to die to defend his beliefs and he asked if opposition media outlets are similarly prepared.

Globovision's director, Alberto Frederico Ravell, called government accusations against his station "ridiculous."

The Inter-American Press Association has labeled Chavez's crackdown on Venezuela's private news media "undemocratic."

Chavez acknowledged increasingly fierce protests in the country, but said upheaval is normal during revolutionary times. The self-proclaimed socialist leader said student demonstrators are being manipulated in defense of Venezuela's capitalistic oligarchy.

Column attributed to Castro wants G-8 to press George Bush on climate change
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban President Fidel Castro is urging industrialized nations to press President George Bush on climate change at a Group of Eight summit next week.

In an article in Cuba's state-run newspaper, Granma, a column attributed to Castro says those attending the meeting should ask the U.S. leader how he really feels about climate change and other dangers threatening peace and basic human needs, such as food.
He also said that he should not try to escape the question with the help of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Leaders from the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia will attend the three-day Group of Eight summit in Germany beginning June 6.

Cuba's 80-year-old leader has not appeared in public since temporarily handing power to his brother, Raul, last July. However, Cuban media have released photographs and video of the president.

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