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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, May 31, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 105         E-mail us
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Air shot of Route 32
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Ruta 31 in Parque Nacional Barulio Carrillo is very much a shelf road, as can be seen in this air view provided by the transport ministry. This is the stretch 23 kilometers north of San José where the mountain has slipped. Transport authorities said Friday that the road would now be open 24 hours a day, weather permitting. Travel had been restricted to daylight hours so that police and others stationed there could see landslides in the making and halt traffic. Officials have been critical of the planning and construction of the 24-year-old highway, and they are trying to come up with a plan to make the gauntlet route safer. This is the key highway from San José to Guápiles and Limón that carries a lot of the nation's truck cargo.

Sonic boom and earthquake made people nervous
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The last thing Costa Rica needs now is another erupting volcano. Poás, Arenal, Irazú and Turrialba are misbehaving daily, and residents in the northern zone thought that the Tenorio volcano joined in last week.

Residents there in Upala near the Nicaraguan border reported hearing a sharp explosion between 6:34 and 6:39 a.m. Wednesday. That was followed by the shock of the 5.6 magnitude earthquake that took place just offshore from Sámara. That happened about 12 minutes after the initial explosion.

Naturally those who heard the explosion and felt the ground move were nervous.

Scientists at the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica in Heredia said that the two events were not related. The explosion really was the sonic boom of the space shuttle Atlantis heading home to Florida after a successful mission. The earthquake happening so quickly thereafter was just a coincidence, scientists said.

The rolling sonic boom of Atlantis was heard mainly in Guanacaste and the northern zone, they said. The same thing happened July 31, 2009,
Atlantis on final
NASA photo
Atlantis approaches touchdown Wednesday in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center.

when the shuttle Endeavor passed over Costa Rica. That event brought calls from guards at three major volcanos who said they thought the mountain was erupting, said the observatory.

The sonic boom registered on earthquake sensors from Cóbano to Turrialba as the spacecraft flew overhead. The sonic boom took six minutes to roll over the country as did the spacecraft. The Atlantis entered the atmosphere about 76 miles high and quickly slowed from its top speed of 25 times the velocity of sound.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 105

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Colombian election ends
in need for a June runoff

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos has taken a commanding lead in the country's presidential election, but appears to be falling short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff.

With nearly all ballots counted, election officials say Santos has 47 percent of the vote to 22 percent for Antanas Mockus.

If Santos' vote total does not rise above 50 percent, he and Mockus will compete in a runoff ballot in June. There are nine candidates in this round.

Even before Sunday's vote, Santos and Mockus were seen as front-runners to succeed popular President Álvaro Uribe, who has served the maximum two terms.  In fact, polls showed the two in a close race. The Mockus campaign may have been hurt when he announced in April that he had Parkinson's disease. He is a former mayor of Bogotá and sought the presidency under the banner of the Partido Verde Colombiano.

Santos is the candidate of the Partido Social de Unidad Nacional.

Millions of Colombians went to the polls, inclding some in Csotas Rica who voted at the Museo de los Niños.

Santos is an economist from one of Colombia's most powerful families.  As Uribe's defense minister, he oversaw the military campaign that largely drove the leftist Fuerzas Armandas REvolucionarias rebels into the hill and jungle regions.

Santos faced unexpected competition from Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher who campaigned on a message of "clean politics."

President Uribe, who has enjoyed immense popularity for bringing more security to Colombia, has been a strong U.S. ally.

Pineapple firm faces claim
for environmental damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state is seeking 116 million colons, some $216,500, in damages against Agroindustrial Tico Verda S.A., a pineapple operation in Guácimo. It was the local municipality that is bringing the complaint.

The case continued Friday before the Tribunal Administrativo Ambiental, which has the power to assess damages.

Tico Verde is one of 20 pineapple operations facing complains of eenvironmental damage. The bulk of the violations are invasion of the zone of protection around ditches and streams as well as springs. There also is a concern about insecticide used by the companies that has gotten into some groundwater.

This is a long-running case. Tico Verde has been under protective orders ofof the Tribunal since 2006 wheinspectorsrfound thathat the pineapple fields were too close to streams, ditches and the Río Guacimito.

The case went to trial May 5.

Desamparados bridge
will be opened today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport official said that they will open the bridge over the Río Jorco today because the work is completed in reinforcing the material around the abutments. Passage was supposed to be restricted Sunday because workers still were repairing a guardrail.

The closing of the bridge last week caused monumental traffic jams because detours were inadequate. The highway goes to Aserrí and Acosta. Many truckers take the route for points south rather than using the Interamericana.

Costa Rican female boxer
brings home the title

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hanna Gabriel has returned home from Puerto Rico sporting the 154-pound women's world champion boxing belt.

The Costa Rica fighter caught opponent  Gardy Pena with two rights to the head at the start of the first round, and the fight was over. The referee stops the action because it was clear that Ms. Pena could not continue.

Ms. Gabriel returned home Sunday night and was the centerpiece of a motorcade to the downtown form Juan Santamaría airport. She held the title at the 147 level but renounced it last December because she had trouble making weight.

Our reader's opinion
Cattle gets the blame
for Lake Arenal pollution

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been in real estate at Lake Arenal for almost 10 years, and Al Almeida's concern about the pollution of Lake Arenal by human development is absolutely ridiculous. Firstly not only is there a 50-meter setback from the lake for any construction, all of the developers I have worked with around the Lake and I would say that includes about 90 percent of them are just as concerned as Mr. Almeida about the purity of the Lake. 

Further than that there are laws and regulations about how close you can do any construction with regard to the proximity of a river that flows into the Lake. I mean think about it, if developers are involved in a long-term real estate development why would they even consider polluting the very asset that brings there customer and clients here in the first place. And ALL the developers i have been involved in are more concerned than most about the pristine purity of Lake Arenal. His concern is unfounded and ridiculous. The facts prove this out.
If you or anyone simply does a little homework and samples the water in the lake, all they will find is animal waste, cattle in particular, not industrial, or human, zero. Thousands of cattle grazing all the hill sides around the lake, their waste washed into the rivers that flow into the lake. If you want to stop pollution of the lake, limit the number or move the cattle elsewhere.
Terry Moran
Moran Real Estate

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 105

Costa Rica got lion's share of the EU banana quota
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Banana tariffs and quotas announced as part of the recently concluded free-trade agreement with the European Union are a minor modification of an agreement that was made in 2009. That treaty finally put an end to two decades of disputes in international trade forums.

The million ton quota that Anabel González, Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister, trumpeted to the press came partly at the expense of other Central American countries, not just as more access to the European market.

The main gain from the negotiations is that scheduled tariff reductions are formally extended to 2020 when the tax will fall to 75 euros per ton. The 2009 agreement had dropped import duties gradually from 178 euros this year to 114 euros in 2017.

The fall in import taxes not only will make a difference in terms of better prices in the European market, but the commitment implicit of a treaty means more stability in the market which did not exist before.

This is especially helpful for independent producers, who in addition to the other impacts must negotiate with the large companies for marketing, said Luis Umaña of the Cámara de Productores Independientes de Banano. Those often used the uncertainty of the market as a reason to not give good prices.

Much of the banana business is vertically integrated, with the three large companies Chiquita, Dole, and Del Monte having their own plantations, packing facilities, containers, ships, and distribution in rich country markets. Independents, which in Costa Rica account for half of total banana production according to Umaña, must depend on the multinationals’ infrastructure and essentially sell their bananas at the dock.

He accredited the success of negotiations for Costa Rica in part to the local interests of independent growers, relative to the multinationals which by definition operate in a range of countries. Overall, the industry and independents especially are pleased with the outcome. The 50 percent share just reflects historical reality relative to the other Central American countries, he said.

Ultimately during the Spain-Latin American summit that followed trade negotiations in Madrid, Colombia and Peru managed similar tariff reductions to those achieved by Central America. Peru is a relatively minor banana producer but with a substantial organic component.

Access to the European market for bananas has been a long battle that involved repeated visits to international trade forums, until the European Union finally accepted revised quotas. A complex system of quotas and taxes governed the market for most of the 20 years leading up
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Bananas grow in plastic bags to keep out critters.

to the agreement in 2009. At times, markets were closed totally. Other periods allowed limited imports when prices from favored countries reached a certain level. One long stretch had a 20 percent duty on a small quota for Costa Rica. Several adjustments during that time span freed and then restricted access to non-favored producers outside European territories and recently decolonized areas. Along the way, the World Trade Organization ruled repeatedly against the discriminatory treatment afforded Latin American growers relative to favored producers.

Europe for decades protected banana growers in its island territories and ex-colonies even though production costs there were much higher than in mass-production Latin American plantations. In 1998 calculations showed approximate production costs there at $162 per ton while in the preferred countries it was about $500 per ton. France in Martinique, Spain in the Canary Islands, and Portugal in Madeira have residual exporters. Great Britain has favored Caribbean countries while Italy even protected Somali growers when that was still a functioning country. Only Germany among the original EU countries did not wish to restrict trade in bananas.

Eventually the United States even stepped into the fray, since the main exporters from Latin America are U.S.-based multinational corporations. It could place retaliatory sanctions on Europeans products which was hardly practical for Costa Rica.

Elsewhere in Central America things aren’t so joyful following the trade talks, noting that Costa Rica ended up with half the banana quota on offer and Panama 25 percent. Former Honduran agriculture minister Mario Nufio told La Tribuna that “we don’t know if negotiators were brave enough to stand up to others who were smarter, better prepared, and more patriotic.”

Mrs. Chinchilla speaks to adults and children at Villa Olímpica.

Mrs. Chinchilla talks
Casa Presidencial photo

Government considers non-profit to fight violence on kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government is planning an initiative to reduce violence against children. That was reported Sunday by President Laura Chinchilla Miranda as she walked in Desamparados in a march with youngsters. The goal of the march was to focus attention on the problem of aggression and violence against children.

The Hospital Nacional de Niños organized the march, and Rudolfo Hernández, director general of the hospital, participated, as did politicians.
Mrs. Chinchilla told participants that she supports a more dedicated fight that is more efficient against aggression against children. She said that the creation of a national network of care can confront the problem more efficiently. The organization would be a non-profit.

At a gathering of participants in the Villa Olímpica in Desamparados, Mrs. Chinchilla dedicated a minute of silence to what was described as the thousands of victims who have suffered from violence against children. Eight children had died from violent injuries this year. Most suffered at the hands of one or both parents.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 105

Storm that caused problems here kills up to 40 elsewhere

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials in Guatemala say floods and landslides triggered by the first tropical storm of the eastern Pacific season are believed to have killed at least 40 people, with some two dozen missing.

This is the same storm system that brought heavy rains for 13 days to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Now Tropical Storm Agatha, the system pounded Central America and Mexico Saturday and Sunday.  Agatha made landfall near the border between Guatemala and Mexico Saturday with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph (about 47 mph).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reports Agatha is now moving northeastward toward the western Caribbean Sea.  But it said the storm will continue to produce heavy rain over portions of eastern Guatemala, El Salvador, and western and central Honduras over the next day or two.

Officials said at least eight people, including four children,
were killed in separate landslides in Guatemala near the capital, Guatemala City, Saturday.

Thousands of people in Guatemala had already been evacuated due to the eruption of the Pacaya volcano.  The volcano, which is just south of Guatemala City, began spewing lava and rocks Thursday.  The eruptions have killed at least one person and shut down the country's main airport for at least five more days.

One of the areas hard hit by the rain in Costa Rica was Nosara, a well-known tourist mecca on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. Nosara resident Bobbi Johnson reported Friday that her weather station measured 30.75 inches of rain for the month of May.

Rain fell there from May 15 through last Thursday, according to her report. Last Tuesday an incredible 10.2 inches of rain fell, she said.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica fared better than El Salvador and Guatemala. There were no deaths reported, and only about 300 persons were forced to leave their homes due to flooding. Weather officials promoted Agatha to a tropical storm after it moved away from Costa Rica Friday.

Warm ocean seen creating very active hurricane season

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An active to extremely active hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year according to the seasonal outlook issued by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, the center is projecting a 70 percent probability of 14 to 23 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:

    • 8 to 14 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:

    •  3 to 7 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph).

“If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the parent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.”

The outlook ranges exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Expected factors supporting this outlook are, according to the center:

    • Upper atmospheric winds conducive for storms. Wind
shear, which can tear apart storms, will be weaker since El
Niño in the eastern Pacific has dissipated. Strong wind shear helped suppress storm development during the 2009 hurricane season.

    • Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Sea surface temperatures are expected to remain above average where storms often develop and move across the Atlantic.

Record warm temperatures, up to four degrees Fahrenheit above average, are now present in this region.

    • High activity era continues. Since 1995, the tropical climate patterns have brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions in sync, leading to more active hurricane seasons. Eight of the last 15 seasons rank in the top 10 for the most named storms with 2005 in first place with 28 named storms.

“The main uncertainty in this outlook is how much above normal the season will be. Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Niña develops this summer,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Niña to develop.”

Scientists will continue to monitor evolving conditions in the tropics and will issue an updated hurricane outlook in early August, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 105

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Statcounter numbers
A week's report from Statcounter on A.M. Costa Rica

Technology now helps count
visitors to world's Web pages

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica continues to improve in its Internet rankings. The Amazon subsidiary Alexa said Sunday that the newspaper now had a world ranking of 85,012 and a ranking in the United States of 37,979.

The figures represent a 20 percent increase in visitors over the last three months, according to Alexa. The newspaper has a traffic rank of 142 in Costa Rica. That means that 141 Web sites in Costa Rica are visited more often. For example, La Nación has a Costa Rica ranking of 11.

The Alexa rankings include utility sites. Many individuals go to the Radiográfica Costarricense site to read Web mail. The same is true for Yahoo. Worldwide Google is No. 1.

As with all statistics, the numbers have to be considered critically. Alexa, like some other sites that purport to measure visitors, relies on a toolbar that Internet surfers trigger as they move from site to site. If the Web surfer does not have a tool bar, the activities are not recorded.

At best, Alexa and others give an indication of popularity, although many advertisers use the site data to assess advertising reach, that is the number of visitors who may see an ad.

A.M. Costa Rica editors have placed a small bit of Java code on each page to keep track of visitors. The code talks to computers at and gives an instant record of Web page visitors. That is why the newspaper can say with confidence that its Web pages receive from 32,000 to 35,000 visitors a day.

A.M. Costa Rica also is willing to provide access to the site to potential and current advertisers. The newspaper suggests that advertisers open up a free Statcounter account to keep track of from where visitors to their own Web site come. For example, an advertiser can see the number of visitors generated by A.M. Costa Rica advertising.

Google's Adwords program also gives a report on visitors to its advertising, but the company has been troubled with fake clicks.

Getting accurate measurements of visitors to a Web site is vital to any sophisticated promotional campaign.  With data, advertisers can cut through the fog of self-promotion. For example one site here says it is the "No. 1 online English newspaper." It has an Alexa world ranking of 694,638, 1,949 in Costa Rica and 493,229 in the United States. That means hardly anyone reads it.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

News from the BBC up to the minute

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BBC sports news up to the minute

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 105

Latin American news
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World Health says women
targeted for smoking ads

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In observance of World No Tobacco Day today, the World Health Organization is urging global action to protect women and girls against the ill effects caused by tobacco use. It is calling for a ban on all tobacco advertising, especially on those targeting women and girls in developing countries.

The World Health Organization accuses the tobacco industry of using seductive ads to attract women and girls to smoking. It says the industry is aggressively targeting women because it needs to recruit new users to replace those who will quit or die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.

A new survey on youth smoking in 151 countries indicates almost as many girls use tobacco as boys. And in some countries, including Bulgaria, Mexico, New Zealand and Nigeria, more girls are using tobacco than boys.

The director of World Health's tobacco free initiative, Douglas Bettcher, calls this an alarming sign.

"It could mean that we are on the cusp of a much worse global tobacco epidemic amongst women," he said. "The significance of the finding is very worrisome since the evidence shows that girls and boys who smoke are likely to remain smokers in adulthood."

The World Health Organization says tobacco-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, strokes and cancers, kill more than five-million people a year. About 1.5 million of them are women.

Moreover, it says about 430,000 adults die from passive smoking. About 64 percent of these deaths are among women. The World Health Organization says pregnant women and their babies also are vulnerable to the harms of second-hand smoke.

The World Health Organization reports men account for 80 percent of the world's one-billion smokers. In large emerging markets, such as China and India, 60 percent of men smoke. Some 3 to 5 percent of the smokers are women.

Bettcher notes this leaves a huge gap that the tobacco industry wants close by marketing its product towards women. He says the tobacco industry is spending heavily on seductive advertisements that try to make women associate tobacco use to beauty and liberation.

Bettcher says the tobacco industry uses numerous tricks to get women to smoke. For instance, in Japan, he says pretty pink cigarette packs are promoted to attract women. And in Egypt, one maker uses a cigarette package that resembles a perfume container.

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