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These stories were published Tuesday, June 22, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 122
Jo Stuart
About us
But other faults are grave
You can get by Riteve with just one headlight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you want to get your car through the country’s mandatory inspection program, you better not show up with both headlights out or more than one lugnut missing from each wheel.

That’s the word from Riteve S y C, the company that holds the monopoly on vehicle inspections. When it became known that nearly 75 percent of vehicles were failing the first try at an annual inspection, the company came out with some tips.

The company’s inspectors are known to be picky and frequently inconsistent, and there is some uncertainty that inspection devices are maintained adequately.

The company’s release that said having both headlights out is a defecto grave, enough to fail a vehicle. However, any directional signal light that does not function is enough to fail a car, according to the summary provided by the company.

The company also said that if engine oil is low, the car will not be tested for exhaust emissions.

The actual book for evaluating a vehicle is a hefty document, but the company said there are some other frequent reasons vehicles are rejected:

• the hood and doors do not open correctly or may be tied down. This is to ensure the doors or hood do not open suddenly.

• polarized anti-solar film is on the front and back windows, or reflective film is on any window.

• seatbelts, now mandatory, show cuts or signs of wear.

• a slogan or writing is on the rear window or on the front window in the area covered by the wipers.

• a defect in the front windshield affects the field of vision of the driver.

Tire tread wear is not given in terms of depth, but the rules say that cuts, damage or incorrect tire size are grounds for rejection.

Plus you cannot have any decorative lights.

Drivers must assume that all those taxis with "God is my copilot" written on the rear window 

and flashing lights on the dash and back bumper undergo a little adjustment before inspection.

The inspection company also released its list of defects when it announced it would begin charging for reinspections, which previously have been free within a certain time period.

Reinspection now will cost 4,400 colons, some $10 at the current exchange rate, half the initial inspection cost.

Newer private cars are inspected once every two years. Older vehicles are inspected each year.

The company’s list of major reasons for failure says nothing about exhaust emission levels or suspension. A spot check of local mechanics suggest that these are major reasons for failure. Several expressed uncertainty over the validity of the machines used by Riteve. One said he thought that contaminants build up in the computerized emissions device over the course of the day so that many vehicles are unfairly rejected.

Costa Rica’s roads are deteriorating fast, and even in the city nasty potholes and other surprises await drivers. Such shocks can do damage to the underside of the vehicle, including the exhaust pipes, catalytic converter and the vehicle’s suspension system.

Oh, and Riteve said it would be nice if the vehicle had front and back license plates.

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Road safety stressed
for special week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The death of pedestrians in Costa Rica increased 42 percent in 2003 when compared to 2001, according to President Abel Pacheco.

He inaugurated the 16th annual road security week Monday at a point in Hatillo 6 near the Circumvalación highway and a pedestrian overpass. The area is well-known for being a deathtrap for pedestrians who try to race across the four-lane road at night.

Pacheco said his government is working hard to stem the slaughter on the highways. He said transit police have been increased and that millions of colons have gone to improve the condition of the nation’s highways.

The president urged what amounts to defensive driving and avoidance of alcohol by drivers. He said that much of the responsibility is on the individuals.

The situation was ironic because Pacheco and his government are under fire by citizens for the deteriorating condition of the roads. A court-ordered pedestrian overpass at another deathtrap, north of Multiplaza on the Autopista Prospero Fernandez, has not been started.

U.S. coach of Sele
gets walking papers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Steven Sampson, the coach of the Selección Nacional, the national soccer team, lost his job Monday because his team had a lackluster showing in two games with what was considered a lesser Cuban team.

In two games, the Sele, as the Costa Rican team is called, only managed 2 -2 and 1-1 ties against Cuba. The games were critical contests on the path to the 2006 World Cup competition.

Monday morning quarterbacks among the rabid Costa Rican fans were second guessing him for weeks. Sampson, a U.S. citizen, had a winning 12-8 record with the national team. There were three ties, including the two with Cuba.

Costa Rica managed to qualify for future World Cup preliminaries despite the ties. A new coach will be announced this week.

Letter to the editor

Another reply on roads
in the Arenal vicinity

EDITOR’S NOTE; The letter is a response to one Monday from resident Roger Herrera.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am a resident of the Arenal area, so I am aware of the terrible and dangerous conditions of the roads in this area. 

Sir, the reality of this situation is tragic, dangerous, and no laughing matter, as the potholes (or I should say caves) are life threatening. A few of us are trying our best to get the government to fix this road. 

May I ask you sir: What have you done outside of your response letter to some tourists that expressed their concern? You say that residents drive slow and carefully, as if this should be an acceptable solution. 

The fact is, that there are many places where there is no pavement left on the road, and being a native of the area as you claim to be, you must be aware that there are sections of this road that are ready to collapse because of unseen erosion under the pavement. 

Evidently you missed the part of the Ginger and friends letter, where they also expressed their positive feelings about the beauty of Costa Rica and its people (and well deserved) and instead of being offended, you should be glad that they care enough to take the time to contact A.M. Costa Rica to express their feelings and concern. 

We need more like them, and may God bless them. Tourism is perhaps the biggest contributor to the local economy, and if enough tourists complain publicly perhaps CONAVI will start repairing these terrible roads. 

I sincerely hope so; before we lose more lives. 

Marie Parker 
El Aguacate
Vendors get stay
in fight with city

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 500 vendors won a stay of a municipal order to vacate the streets Monday when a court issued a temporary restraining order.

The Municipalidad de San José wants to get vendors off Avenida 4 and 6 as well as Avenida 1 and 3 in the area around the Mercado Central and Parque Central plus sidestreets.

Most of the vendors had dismantled their stands by the time the judicial order was announced. Monday was the earlier deadline. Vendors lost two attempts to get a Sala IV constitutional court stay, but this new stay is from the Secundo Circuito Judicial trial court.

Mayor Johnny Araya and municipal councilmen want to clear the streets of the informal businesses. They offered older vendors locations elsewhere in the city by means of a lottery last week. Fuerza Pública officers turned out Monday in anticipation of violence by the vendors. Such violence was threatened but never developed.

Araya said that the city will increase the number of farmers markets where produce is sold to compensate for the loss in locations for the vendors, but such events usually are just once a week.
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James J. Brodell.........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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Environmentalists call for an end to sports hunting
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco received more than 10,000 postcards and copies of some 8,000 e-mails from all over the world Monday asking that Costa Rica forbid sports hunting.

The man who delivered the messages was Luis Diego Solís Schumacher, president of the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre.

The group wants Pacheco to present this modification of the existing law during the extraordinary period of the Asamblea Nacional when only matters proposed by the Poder Ejecutivo, the presidency, can be acted upon.

The organization said that the majority of Costa Ricans opposed sports hunting. The group cited surveys it had taken. The thousands of postcards and letters from Costa Rica and the rest of the world backed up the group’s position. 

The association also said in a statement that the killing of certain animals, like deer, cause those animals that prey on this species, such as jaguar and puma, to seek out domestic animals, such as cows, for food. Hunting also diminishes the animals tourists come to Costa Rica to see, they said.

Also present Monday at Casa Presidencial was Carlos Luis Rodríguez, the minister of Ambiente y Energía.

Pacheco stopped short of promising to introduce the legislation. 

Rodríquez said that the idea should be taken seriously and studied.

In the last year, in the south, the northern zone and Guanacaste have seen the increase in illegal hunting. Commercial hunters from Nicaragua, for 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
President Abel Pacheco listens while Luis Diego Solís Schumacher explains the meaning of stacks of postcards and e-mail messages.

example, hunted and killed many caiman in a biological corridor in the north for their skins.

Pacheco said that he thought the solution was not to forbid but to guard and protect the wildlife. That is difficult because the government is now short of money. 

Schumacher said that he thought that in the eyes of the president everything depended on passage of the proposed fiscal plan. That plan would raise taxes of nearly $500 million a year, according to official figures. The measure is in the legislature.

Costa Rica already prohibits hunting out of season, without a license or commercial hunting. Also, certain species are protected and certain weapons are prohibited. Protected areas are off-limits to hunters. Fines can range from just 5,000 colons (less than $12) to several years in jail.

Newspaper says Catholic cardinal sheltered pedophile Tico priest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Texas newspaper says a Catholic cardinal in Honduras who may become the next pope gave sanctuary to an admitted child molester from Costa Rica.

The newspaper is the Dallas Morning News which had published a multi-part series on the way Catholic and Anglican church officials handle wayward priests.

The Costa Rican priest is Enrique Vásquez Vargas, who fled this country in 1998, according to the newspaper, after a former altar boy claimed he had been molested repeatedly.

According to the newspaper, the priest ended up in 

Guinope, a small Honduran town in the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa. The newspaper said the head of the diocese, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, declined to be interviewed. The priest left the area shortly after his identity was confirmed.

The newspaper credited Casa Alianza here for generating official action in a languishing case. The newspaper said no arrest warrant had been issued for the priest. Casa Alianza took credit in a separate release for getting a warrant approved this March.

The priest worked in two places in the United States after he left Costa Rica. Vásquez was a priest in the Santa Rosa de Lima Parish in Buenos Aires de Pocosol, according to the newspaper. That parish is supervised by the bishop in Ciudad Quesada, Ángel San Casimiro, according to Casa Alianza.

Legal issues in the Americas will be getting once over here 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Experts from the United States, Costa Rica and the Americas will gather here Thursday through Saturday for the fifth annual University of Florida Levin College of Law conference on "Legal & Policy Issues in the Americas."

Hosted by the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law at the Marriott Hotel, the event is organized by the University of Florida’s law school's Center for Governmental Responsibility and will feature three general sessions and six workshops on such issues as economic integration in the hemisphere, proportional response under rule of law to organized crime and terrorism, human right to property and sustainable development, conflict resolution and legal education and professionalism.

Keynote speaker Friday evening will be Sonia Picado Sotela, president of InterAmerican Human Rights Institute and former InterAmerican Human Rights Court judge and past dean of the University of Costa Rica law school. Others presenting remarks that day will include Douglas Barnes, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy; Hermann L. Faith, executive director, Costa Rica-U.S. Foundation for Cooperation; and Yamileth Gonzalez, rector, and Rafael Gonzalez Ballar, law school dean, University of Costa Rica.

Workshop speakers will include Jose Miguel Alfaro, former vice president of Costa Rica and now deputy high justice on the Corte Suprema de Justicia; Adrian Jorge Makuc of the Agrentina Ministry of Economy; Dennis Jett, University of Florida International Center dean and former U.S. ambassador to Peru and Mozambique; Carmen Diana Deere, director, Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies of the University of Massachusetts; Buddy MacKay Jr., past Florida governor and lieutenant governor and former special envoy for the Americas representing the U.S. president; Josh Markus of Carlton Fields P.A., Miami, and chairman of the American Bar Association's section of international law and practice; and Elizabeth Jenkins, magistrate judge, U.S. District Court, Florida. 

Presentation of the Jon Mills Award for "Significant Contributions to Relations Between Florida and the Americas" will be made at the Friday banquet. 

In addition to the University of Florida law school and the University for Costa Rica Faculty of Law, others sponsoring this week's event are Costa Rica-USA Foundation, Center for International Business Education and Research of the UF Warrington College of Business, Upchurch Watson White & Max with offices in Florida and Alabama, and the Florida Journal of International Law.

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Where were you
Sunday afternoon?

They really do use the bandstand in Parque Morazán for music. The Symphonic Orchestra of the University of Costa Rica was there Sunday for a music festival sponsored by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y  Deportes. However, few people showed up to enjoy the free event.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

U.S. to provide $5 million in turtle protection
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate has passed a bill to authorize U.S. spending of up to $5 million a year to support foreign governments' programs to protect endangered sea turtles.

The Senate passed the bill without debate Friday just days after the House of Representatives' passage June 14. For the bill to become law, it still requires the president's signature.

All seven species of marine turtles have been included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. The turtles' populations have 
been devastated by fishing; destruction of nesting habitat; poaching of turtle eggs, meat and shells; and pollution.

"Marine turtles are now among the oldest living creatures on earth," Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, chairman of the House fisheries conservation subcommittee, said in a press release. "They may have outlived the dinosaurs, but without our help their-long-term survival is in serious peril."

The bill passed by Congress was modeled after earlier legislation aimed at conserving elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, great apes and migratory birds.

Under the bill, the U.S. secretary of the interior would decide where to spend the money — up to $5 million a year in the fiscal years 2005 to 2009 — based on applications by foreign governments. Those governments might use such a grant to pay for monitoring of trade in turtle products, tracking the movement of sea turtles by satellite, protecting nesting beaches, or trying to stop poaching.

SpaceShipOne pilot, 63, becomes first commercial astronaut
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A California team has achieved the first manned space flight by a commercial venture, an event being hailed as an aviation milestone. Pilot Mike Melvill completed the flight Monday, becoming the world's first commercial astronaut.

His ship, called SpaceShipOne, took off into the glare of the sun rising over the desert. It was perched below a jet aircraft.

Then the spacecraft fired its engine, and soared straight up. It entered the blackness of space for just a few minutes.

However, the pilot said the craft suffered a failure in its stabilization system, which put it slightly off course for a time in the upper atmosphere. "We had a backup for that system. I went to the backup and the backup saved the day," he said.

Pilot and craft broke the limit of 100 kms. (62 miles) that determines the edge of space, traveling past it by just 124 meters.

In the weightless environment, pilot Mike Melvill took a short break from his arduous flight tasks. "I 

reached in my pocket, and I took out some candy-coated chocolates, all different colors, and I let them go in front of my face. And they just spun around, little sparkling things. And I was so blown away I couldn't even fly the airplane," he said.

He described the view from the cabin. "The sky was jet black above, and it gets very light blue along the horizon. The earth is so beautiful, the colors of the earth, the colors of the high desert, and along the coastline. And all that fog or low stratus that's over L.A. looked exactly like snow. The glinting and gleaming of the sun on that low cloud looked to me exactly like snow. And it was really an awesome sight," he said.

The pilot, 63, already held speed and altitude records. After the flight, a U.S. aviation official handed him the first commercial astronaut wings ever awarded.

SpaceShipOne was designed by Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who spent more than $20 million on the project. Both say the flight is a milestone in commercial space travel. Rutan says he envisions an orbiting space hotel, with suborbital crafts like his offering paying passengers the thrill of space travel.

Jo Stuart
About us
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