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These stories were published Friday, June 7, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 112
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Major projects altering the real estate market
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Major construction projects are making significant changes in the Costa Rican real estate market. New areas are being opened up.

The Tempisque Bridge over the river of the same name is due to open in September or October. The structure will open up real estate along the Pacific beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula as well as access to agricultural land inland. The bridge is some 150 kms. from San José, about 90 miles.

Up to now, travelers either had to take the Puntarenas or Tempisque ferry to reach the peninsula or they had to travel north through Liberia, itself some 220 kms (132 miles) from San José and only about two-thirds of the way to most Pacific beaches.

The bridge, due west of Juntas and due east of Nicoya, will make the river crossing a certain five minute trip instead of the frequent hour wait for the ferry. Already coast towns like Nosara are seeing the effect. The bridge is being constructed as a gift by Taiwan.

Closer to San José, the anticipation of a new road from Santa Ana to Caldera is having an effect on real estate prices all along the proposed route. The highway is behind schedule although many bridges already are constructed. The route will become the principal one to the Central Pacific.

An example of the change that construction projects can have on the market is the forum Office Park in Santa Ana. That town used to be a sleepy one until the multimillion dollar Forum began providing offices to international companies.

Now, real estate agents say, land and dwellings really are high around Escazú and Santa Ana, which forces the average buyer west.

Alexandra Lancaster, a well-known upper-end real estate broker, said this week that she has opened up a satellite office in Puriscal. She described the possibilities there as attractive for expats. The area lends itself to wine grapes and, "There are nice little jewel farms" in the area, she said. The area is about 50 kms or 30 miles west of San José.

Although the wine industry is undeveloped, Ms. Lancaster said that her company was providing grape vine cuttings with sales they negotiate.

In Nosara, Roberto Stoll, associated with Nosara Real Estate, agrees that his town is a hot market. But he also suggested that fear of terrorism in the United States also is driving the market.  The 10-year resident said that he thinks the effect of North Americans moving their holdings to safer areas has an effect at least equal to advances in the country’s infrastructure.

Margaret Sohn, a long-time real estate agent with Carico Real Estate Co., Inc. also has close ties to Nosara. She said that anticipated completion of the bridge has definitely increased the popularity of the middle Pacific beaches, especially Nosara.

"Land (lots) there have been selling like mad with clients actually requesting notice of any new listings," said Ms. Sohn. 

"Naturally that causes prices to rise. Homes do not seem to be affected but I have had one owner whose home has been on the market several years ask if she shouldn't raise the price because of the bridge."

Ms. Sohn suggested that the hot real estate market is a bittersweet situation for her. She is one of those people who hopes Nosara stays "a little bit of paradise, inexpensive by comparison. . . ."


 
Stepping down as queen of clutter is not easy
I had started cleaning out some files and papers when I thought I was going to move. Although it felt good to get rid of some stuff, I couldn’t seem to continue the campaign. I have since decided, for reasons of health, that moving right now is impossible; but I would like to recommend Maria Mojica and her son Jamie Sobalvarro as two very helpful and conscientious real estate agents if you are looking for an apartment. Jamie speaks English and translates his mother’s knowledgeable insights. His number is 353-5507. 

Then, last week, Mavis, dear friend that she is, again invited me to spend some days with her in the hopes that the country air of Ciudad Colón would be good for me. Mavis has books everywhere, including on the top of the headboard of the bed I was using. Looking through the row of books, I saw one that spoke to me. (I tend to believe that things don’t happen by accident.)

Eugene D’Aquili (I believe he was a social scientist) wrote an interesting paper with the premise that among our basic needs is the cognitive imperative — the need to create order in our world. In other words, most people don’t like chaos. 

I was thinking about this one day when I stopped to look in the window of Lehmann’s Librería downtown. The window dresser was filling it with boxes of jigsaw puzzles. I enjoy putting jigsaw puzzles together. I like the process of creating order out of chaos — all those jumbled pieces become a picture! Then I wondered why it was that I couldn’t seem to extend this pleasure to create order to my apartment. There on the shelf in the bedroom of Mavis’ home was perhaps the answer: "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" by Karen Kingston. 

We all know that clutter can make you disorganized. I comfort myself when I can’t find something that I will find it when I am looking for the next thing I can’t find. Kingston maintains that having clutter in the house keeps you from living life to the fullest, and clearing clutter allows "fresh winds of inspiration to enter your home and your life." 

Who wouldn’t like that? Then she tells you something that is quite helpful if you have low self-esteem about your ability to keep things neat. She says substitute the word ‘could’ for ‘should’ ("I could get rid of all of the junk in this room"), and the word ‘won’t’ for the word ‘can’t.’ ("I won’t clean the mess in this drawer.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

right now.") These are empowering words, or at least don’t make us feel like such wimps when it comes to clutter.

Another suggestion she makes is to list all the places that are cluttered from drawers to shelves in the kitchen to closets to whole junk rooms. Then order them from the least (or smallest) mess to the biggest and cross off the list as you clean up. People like to cross off items on a list, she says. I like to, too, when I can find the list. 

All of this fired me up so that I could hardly wait to get home to start the project.

I mean, how long can you just hang out, enjoy good conversation, read, play scrabble and have your meals served to you? It was time for action. 

Sunday I returned home. First I had to get used to city noises again. No more that Johnny two-note bird that annoyed me in the country. Instead I hear the seemingly interminable wail of the train as it proceeds through the city once again. And Monday night I was awakened by the roar of the crowd. I got up, wondering if they had built a stadium near me while I was gone. No, the sound was emanating from the whole city from various homes and bars. Cheering Ticos responded every time Costa Rica made or almost made a goal and the roar rose over the city below me. I couldn’t help but smile. 

But back to clutter: so far I have cleared out one cupboard of the jars I have been saving just in case they might come in handy. And I did throw out an old journal just to see how that felt (I haven’t missed it), and I have taken a couple of stacks of books to Mora’s. Unfortunately, holding up my progress are all of the habits and routines I have collected that are still in my apartment. (When you go on vacation, you leave them behind.) First I am going to have to clear them out. I could do that tomorrow!

More Jo Stuart HERE!

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Motives exist beside child-stealing, agents suggest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are suggesting strongly that the 3-year-old boy presumed kidnapped Tuesday fell into the hands of international child stealers.

Agents are taking steps to prevent the child from leaving the country. They have notified all exit points repeatedly and with photos. Interpol, the international police agency, was formally brought into the investigation Thursday.

Missing is Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, who lives with his family in Higuito de Desamparados where the crime took place. The boy’s father is an undercover drug agent for the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

Some investigators have been talking openly about a gang involved in the child-stealing business.  They point to the apparent kidnapping of Jessica Valverde Pineda, 4, who lived in Los Guidos de Desamparados when she vanished in late February. No sign of her has been detected. 

Police have searched several residential areas, including one in Pavas and another in La Carpio seeking the boy without success.

The case hinges first on the identification provided by an older brother. The two boys were playing near the family home. The brother said that an acquaintance offered to take the boys to a nearby pulpería or small store. The older boy sought 

permission from his mother. The younger boy presumably went with the individual.

Apparently on the strength of the older brother’s identification police detained a man with the surname of Agüero. A second man, a taxi driver, also was detained. Agents said that Agüero is not talking. The taxi driver claims to have transported Agüero and the boy to Pavas, hence the search. 

If the events took place the way the older brother described them, the younger boy vanished rapidly, perhaps with the help of the taxi.

The child-steal theory contains a few holes, other persons close to the case said. The most prominent hole is why steal children in high-profile crimes when one could easily purchase children from impoverished families here and elsewhere and at the same time obtain all the appropriate legal paperwork?

A second inconsistency is the actual few children that continue to be missing. About four children, including Madrigal and Valverde, have vanished over the last several years, certainly not enough to support an aggressive child-stealing business.

Others close to the search say that revenge against the drug agent father is a much stronger possibility. A drug organization would have the capacity to hide the child and to dodge police. That scenario also would explain the silence of the main suspect, if he was involved at all.

Bush wants new 'Homeland Security' department
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush asked the U.S. Congress Thursday to create a new permanent, cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorists and other threats.

Bush proposed, in a nationally-televised address, the creation of the department with approximately 170,000 federal workers that draws from scores of federal agencies in the largest restructuring of the U.S. government in five decades.

"America is leading the civilized world in a titanic struggle against terror," Bush said in an address from the White House's Blue Room. "Freedom and fear are at war — and freedom is winning.

"So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the American homeland and protecting the American people."

Congress would have to approve the plan, and the president hopes to have it in place within seven months by Jan. 1.

The new Department of Homeland Security would draw its $37.4 billion budget for the 2003 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, from the budgets of the existing federal agencies that would be consolidated into the department.

Among those agencies that would be included in the new department are the U.S. Coast Guard, Secret Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bush said.

The announcement from the White House comes at a time when Congressional committees have begun hearings into potential intelligence lapses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency before the Sept.11th attacks on the United States.

White House aides during briefings earlier Thursday said that current Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge would lead the president's campaign to create the Homeland Security Department before Congress. Ridge functions as an executive adviser to the president and would most likely be chosen to head the new department.

Over-fishing is called big threat to coral reefs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Excessive fishing is depleting coral reef populations, disrupting ecosystem structure, and damaging coastal economies, says a research biologist.

Speaking Thursday at a Capitol Hill forum on how best to protect coral reefs, was James Bohnsack of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

He said destruction of reefs has serious implications. The total economic value of reefs is extremely high, he said, with a recent study showing that during a one-year period, natural and artificial reefs in southern Florida alone contributed more than $4 billion in sales, $2 billion in income, and 71,300 jobs to the local economy. This area in Florida, he said, "represents only a very small portion of total world coral reef coverage."

The issue of coral reef protection resonates deeply in the Caribbean, where more than 60 percent of the reefs are under threat, according to the World Atlas of Coral Reefs. The State Department says that in Jamaica alone, 90 percent of coral reefs have been lost in the last 15 to 20 years.

Coral reefs, the marine equivalent of tropical rain forests, play an important role in the food chain because marine animals such as fish, crabs, and eels use the reefs as nurseries to protect their young. Reef ecosystems support large fisheries that people in island nations depend on for food. In addition, healthy coral reefs are a huge tourist draw, which is vitally important to the economies of island countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.

How to balance the need to maintain coral-reef health with coastal development needs is a serious dilemma for those working in this field. Bohnsack said excessive fishing occurs when individuals remove organisms faster than they can regenerate. Burgeoning coastal human 
 

populations, as well as vastly improved and inexpensive fishing technology, contribute to 
over-fishing. The fishing power of both commercial and recreational vessels has also increased, due to technological improvements in navigation, mapping, depth recorders, fish finders, and other fishing technology.

"These trends require greater human obligation, responsibility, and self-sacrifice to protect coral-reef ecosystems and [to] maintain high sustainable fisheries," Bohnsack said.

He added that "people often have unrealistic expectations about coral reefs, do not understand the issues, deny fishing problems exist, and demand solutions that do not require any change in their behavior or usage." He said one problem is that many individuals do not have an institutional memory of what used to be a healthy coral-reef system. As a result, each succeeding generation dismisses historical accounts as "anecdotal, ludicrous, or grossly exaggerated," he said. 

Another speaker at the forum, Barbara Best from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), cited her own concerns about the destruction of coral reefs. She said international trade in coral-reef marine life and products is driving the over-exploitation of reef resources and the use of destructive fishing practices that destroy reef habitats.

These "unsustainable and destructive practices" are altering the ecosystem functions of reefs and greatly diminishing long-term benefits to local communities, said Best, a coastal resource and policy advisor for USAID.

Best indicated that the United States is the number-one consumer of live coral and fish for the aquarium trade, of coral skeletons and precious corals for jewelry, and of articles that are valued as a curiosity (curios). One fall-out from this, she said, is that U.S. consumers of coral-reef products are "inadvertently" contributing to the worldwide decline and degradation of reefs.


 
Parmenio's shooting leads list of dead journalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N. Y. — Costa Rica’s unsolved murder of a radio newsman was a major point Thursday when a journalists’ group issued a list of Latin American reporters and editors who have been killed in the last 10 years.

In Latin America, 67 journalists were killed over the last decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. But only in a small number of cases have those responsible been brought to justice. This is one of the conclusions of a new study by the committee, which has released statistics on the killing of journalists worldwide over the past decade.

The committee says 389 journalists were killed worldwide between 1992 and 2001, most of them murdered in direct reprisal for their reporting. Just 16 percent died in crossfires in wars, while 77 percent were targeted for their work.

Latin America was no exception, where according to the organization's statistics, 67 journalists were killed over the past decade. Colombia, with 29 victims, tops the list. But there was a significant number of murders in other countries in the hemisphere, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Guatemala.

The committee's Latin American researcher, Marylene Smeets, says most of these cases are still unsolved. "Latin America is, unfortunately, no exception to the general rule, that most of the killings of journalists over the last decade are still surrounded by impunity," she said. "There's only a small number of cases, in which people have been detained, brought to trial and sentenced, and the number of cases where the actual person behind the murder was sentenced is even smaller."

Often Latin American journalists were murdered for reporting on corruption, both in government and private business. This may have been the case last year in Costa Rica, with the murder of popular radio broadcaster Parmenio Medina Perez. 

For 28 years, Mr. Medina was the producer and host of the weekly radio program, La Patada, or The Kick, in which he often denounced official corruption. He was gunned down in Heredia  last July, after receiving death threats.

His murder was highly unusual for Costa Rica, which has long been a bastion of democracy and civil liberties in the hemisphere. But despite a popular outcry, Ms. Smeets says, little progress has been made in the case.

"Unfortunately, with the killing having taken place almost a year ago, it still has not been clarified who was behind the killing," she said. "So, here, Costa Rica, which is widely regarded as an oasis of democracy, unfortunately, follows suit of so many other countries, and has the killing of a journalist surrounded by impunity. So far, I do know that the investigation is ongoing, and that we are not losing hope that the murder will be clarified, and we definitely will continue to monitor this killing, as we monitor the investigations into other killings."

Colombia, which is a major drug producer and in the midst of a guerrilla war, remains the most dangerous place for journalists in the hemisphere. Leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers, and corrupt government officials have all been implicated in attacks. 

Last year, three reporters were killed in Colombia, two of them in apparent reprisal for their work in reporting on the conflict. A third journalist, a radio and television personality in the port city of Buenaventura, appears to have been the victim of a criminal gang.

All these cases are described in detail, year-by-year, in the new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is based here. 

"The publication of this list has a number of objectives," she said. "One of them is to provide a body of data, from which significant conclusions can be drawn about trends, and dangers that hopefully will serve to carry out advocacy where it is most needed. Secondly, we intend quite systematically to follow the investigations of killings that have not been solved yet, and we hope the publication of our data will help other organizations and journalists to do the same. We feel that, with all the impunity that surrounds these cases, the resolution of a few cases could have an enormous impact, if only because it would show that not everybody gets away with murder."

The Committee's report is available on the Internet, at http://www.cpj.org.

U.S. seeks to reject
tax-dodge technique

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is considering tightening some rules that allow U.S. corporations to escape U.S. taxes by reincorporating in a no- or low-tax country such as Bermuda or Luxembourg.

Such moves to tax havens have increased in frequency and size in recent months, raising sharp criticism in Congress.

In testimony Thursday before a House of Representatives committee, Pamela Olson, acting assistant Treasury secretary, said the administration seeks immediate change to one part of U.S. tax law to prevent a foreign-based company from taking certain tax deductions for interest on debt.

A May Treasury report said such reincorporations under the existing U.S. tax system allow not only U.S.-based companies to reduce U.S. corporate taxes on U.S. operations but also U.S.-based multinational groups to reduce or eliminate U.S. corporate taxes on income from foreign operations.

Olson said Treasury regards such deals as eroding the U.S. corporate tax base while providing an unfair competitive advantage for the companies that pursue them in comparison with competitors that remain subject to U.S. taxes.

Among the former U.S. companies that have recently reincorporated in Bermuda and elsewhere to escape U.S. taxation are Stanley Works, Cooper Industries, Seagate Technologies, Ingersoll-Rand and PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting.
 

Uprooted people
put at 37 million

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An annual survey of the world's refugees and internally displaced persons released Thursday shows that more than 37 million people were uprooted in 2002, having left their homes because of conflict, famine, civil unrest and persecution. The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) compiles the annual census, considered the most comprehensive global survey of its kind.

Afghanistan with 4.5 million refugees is cited as the greatest source-country, though USCR researchers say their numbers may have dropped somewhat with the returns over the last several months. Palestinians at 4.1 million are cited as the second greatest refugee population.

In releasing the 290-page survey, USCR officials expressed concern that nations of the world are allowing post-Sept. 11 security concerns to overshadow humanitarian concerns for the displaced people of the world.

The World Refugee Survey 2002 is available in full at http://www.refugees.org/WRS2002.cfm

France wins tie
in Uruguay match

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUSAN, South Korea — Reigning World Cup football champion France has barely kept its hopes alive to repeat after being held to a scoreless draw by Uruguay. 

With one match left to play in this group, the two second round berths are still up for grabs. That's because both games Thursday ended in draws.

Senegal and Denmark, which began the tournament with wins, played to a 1-1 tie in Daegu. The Danes got their goal on a 16th minute penalty kick from Jon Dahl Tomasson, after he was taken down in the box by Salif Diao.

Diao equalized for Senegal early in the 52nd minute, after some tactical substitutions. But in the 80th minute, he received a red card ejection for a dangerous tackle.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen acknowledged that Senegal was the better side in the second half, especially as the heat began to take its toll on his team. "In the second half, when they played with three or four attacking players, they were very dangerous," the coach said. "So, I thought, maybe, we were lucky in this game to get one point."

But that one point for each ties Denmark and Senegal for first place in Group A with four points and needing only draws in their final matches to reach the second round.

France and Uruguay each have just one point after playing this World Cup's first scoreless draw. They have to win their final matches next Tuesday to have any chance of advancing. Reigning champion France plays Denmark and Senegal faces Uruguay. 

Former president of Peru
dies from effects of stroke

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA,. Peru — Former Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde has died here. Belaunde's family says the former president died Tuesday of complications from a stroke suffered late last month.  Belaunde was president of Peru from 1963 until 1968, when he was ousted in a military coup. He regained the presidency in 1980 and served until 1985.

The former president, 89, was considered a patriarch of democracy in Latin America and one of Peru's most respected politicians. 

Current President Alejandro Toledo declared three days of national mourning for Belaunde. President Toledo said that Belaunde was an exemplary man and an enormous moral authority, a man who inspired confidence in public service. 

Belaunde is survived by three children from his first marriage. Mr. Belaunde's second wife, Violeta, died June 1 of last year. Those close to him say he had lost the will to live following her death.

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