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(506) 2223-1327              Published Wednesday, June 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 122        E-mail us
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New slide again closes key highway to Caribbean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another landslide closed the San José-Guápiles highway Tuesday afternoon and transport officials are not sure when the route will reopen.

This is the main highway from San José that connects to Limón and the Caribbean coast. The route has been closed or restricted repeatedly for the last two months as steep hillsides, weakened by rain, gave way.

The heavy rains were blamed for the most recent collapse that took place about 1:30 p.m. Officials had closed the highway all morning so that Spanish engineers could make tests on the stability of the slopes. The location of the slide is about 22 kilometers north of San José in the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes  said that workers would try to open a temporary route through the mud and rock today so that vehicles halted by the slide could continue their travel. However, others should use an alternate route through Turrialba, an announcement said.

After the waiting traffic clears, officials said they would close the highway again to remove all the debris and material that slid down blocking all
 three lanes. The blockage is said to be about six feet deep. There was no estimate on how long the highway would remain closed then because officials still are worried about motorist safety.

The Turrialba route is two-lane and difficult for tractor trailers to negotiate.

The alternate route adds hours to travel time between the Caribbean and the Central Valley.

There is no estimate but the uncertainty of the highway, Ruta 32, has affected Caribbean tourism. Officials were going to close off the highway three more mornings over the next five days for scientific tests.

Current officials have admitted that they believe the highway, constructed more than 20 years ago, was designed badly. The route through the park is a shelf road with steep slopes on one side and a steep dropoff on the other. There even has been talk of a tunnel or what North Americans would call a snow shed that are used with success for highways and train tracks in the north in areas prone to avalanches.

There have been no firm estimates, but the delays and rerouting of trucks and buses has generated significant financial losses as well as the blow to tourism.


Lawmakers OK sweetheart loan for $500 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature Tuesday night approved a $500 million loan from the World Bank. The loan has a 2 percent interest and repayments do not start for five years.

The bulk of the money will go to pay off foreign debt and for current government expenses. As such, there was criticism from opposition parties, although the Partido Acción Ciudadana finally backed the measure after some $30 million was allocated for education. Education is an investment
with a high return, not an expense, the party said.

The vote on the loan was 42 to 4, and most lawmakers agree with the executive branch which said that the loan and the repayment of government debt will stabilize governmental finances.

Costa Rica is paying higher interest rates on foreign loans.

The loan approval was awaited by the Laura Chinchilla administration, which considered the bill a high legislative priority.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 122

Costa Rica Expertise
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Papagayo hotel told
to stop blocking beach


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV has ordered the Hotel Occidental Gran Papagayo to install moveable posts instead of the current concrete pillars that residents say obstruct the route to the public beach in the Gulfo Papagayo.

A decision of the court announced Tuesday said that an ambulance had trouble reaching an accident victim because the hotel has blocked the only public route to the beach with three concrete posts that prevent even a baby carriage from passing. The accident victim claimed that the hotel has basically taking over the public beach with the approval of the Municipalidad de Carrillo and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The court ordered that the concrete markers be removed and replaced with ones that can be moved in case of emergencies.

The decision said that hotel guests have a more spacious way of reaching the beach.


INTERPOL gets an array
of new police tools


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's INTERPOL agents will have night vision goggles and a raft of other goodies, including a couple of bicycles, thanks to a donation from the Central American Regional Security Initiative via the U.S. Embassy.

The total donation is valued at $54,000, said the Judicial Investigating Organization which now hosts the international Police Agency since last November. The donation includes 16 computers, a high-powered Nikon camera lens, a FAX machine assorted locators, and even a device for breaking down doors.

Among other duties, INTERPOL agents are those who pick up the U.S. fugitives who end up in Costa Rica and those foreigners facing U.S. warrants.


Cocaine production down
in Colombia, up in Perú

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The cultivation of the raw material for cocaine has declined significantly in Colombia, the world’s leading producer of coca, but the situation in Perú remains worrying with the amount of the narcotic grown there consistently rising, the U. N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported Tuesday.

Overall, crop surveys show the amount of coca grown in the four Andean countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru dropping by 5 per cent from 167,000 hectares in 2008 to 158,000 hectares in 2009, according to the agency.

In Colombia, coca cultivation declined by 16 per cent to 68,000 hectares, a drop of almost 60 per cent since the peak production period a decade ago.

“The drug control policy adopted by the Colombian Government over the past few years – combining security and development – is paying off,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency. Cocaine production in Colombia fell to 410 tons, a 9 per cent year-on-year reduction, the agency added.

The UNODC said cultivating coca in Colombia has become riskier and less profitable for organized crime, noting that coca farmers barely earn over $1 a day. The total farm value of coca production has dropped by 21 per cent, to below half a billion dollars, which is 0.2 per cent of Colombia’s gross domestic product. Coca plots are becoming smaller, more dispersed and less productive, thus increasing the demand of local communities for alternative legal sources of livelihood, the agency said.

Colombia’s action against coca cultivation and cocaine production has been matched by effective anti-trafficking policies, it added. Cocaine seizures within Colombia reached 200 tons in 2009, a significant percentage of the cocaine produced.

In Perú, coca cultivation has continued to rise for the fourth year in a row, having gone up 6.8 per cent to 59,900 hectares last year, compared to 56,100 hectares in 2008. Some 55 per cent more coca is now grown in Perú than a decade ago, although this year’s total is still half of what it was two decades ago, according to the agency.

“If the current trend continues, Perú will soon overtake Colombia as the world’s biggest coca producer — a notorious status that it has not had since the mid-1990s,” Costa warned.

There was little change in coca cultivation in Bolivia with the land under coca increasing by 1 per cent to 30,900 hectares, twice the size of the area a decade ago, the agency said.

“More eradication and greater support for development, not least for alternative livelihoods, are needed in the Yungas and Chapare regions,” Mr. Costa said. “Urgent action is also required to repair the environmental damage caused to regions that have been severely affected by mono-cultivation of coca crops,” he added.

The agency said market forces seem to be making coca less profitable. In 2009, Bolivia’s coca farmers earned 10 per cent less for the coca leaf – $265 million in 2009, down from $293 million in 2008.

“There are limits to what the Andean governments can do if people keep snorting cocaine. It is therefore up to governments in coke-consuming countries – mostly in Europe and North America – to take their share of responsibility and reduce demand for cocaine,” said Costa.


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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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.


For your international reading pleasure:


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 122

Rapid Respose
Rock and Roll

Sala IV orders health officials to act on noise complaints
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In two cases the Sala IV constitutional court has cited the health ministry for acting too slow on complaints by citizens about noise.

The decisions released Tuesday involved a church in El Carmen de Cartago and a gym in Escazú.

The high court calls excessive noise  contaminación sónica. The Ministerio de Salud is responsible for issuing permits for businesses and other locations. Churches, usually evangelical ones, are frequent targets of noise complaints.

In the Cartago case, the church was the Iglesia Evangélica Metodista. The health ministry was ordered to take steps to make sure that at no time will the noise produced by the
church exceed legal levels. The person who filed the court appeal complained of shouts and musical instruments that affected the health environment. The health ministry was told to report back to the court in 15 days on the results of its efforts.

The case in Escazú involved a business known as Gimnasio Brujas en Forma in Escazú Centro, said the decision. The complainant there said that the noise continued for 15 hours a day but that appeals to the municipality and to the health department brought no concrete solution. The court ordered the health ministry to immediately take measurements of the sounds, including in the home of the complainant. The measurements are to determine if the sounds comply with the law. The ministry also was told to issue orders to eliminate any irregularities that the measurements might show. The court called for a definitive solution.


Central market merchants to revive a tradition today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Faith runs deep in Costa Rica, and for a time there was a tradition that merchants at the public market would close their shops and attend Mass once a year to thank God for their earnings.

The Municipalidad de San José is reviving that tradition today. A 10:30 Mass has been scheduled in the Mercado Borbón to be followed by a lunch at the Mercado Central. City officials will join the merchants and Archbishop Hugo Barrantes at both events.
The Mercado Central with its 200 stalls is a tourist spot on the pedestrian boulevard of Avenida Central between calles 6 and 8. It is 130 years old.

The Mercado Borbón with its extensive vegetable and fruit market in the basement is a few blocks to the north. This market is more business and with fewer tourist items.

Technically the religious event is in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the manifestations of the Christian Savior. A life-size statute of the central market's patron is on display there in a glass case.


U.S. Treasury blacklists Costa Rican firms as FARC fronts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Treasury Department has named two Costa Rican agricultural companies as being part of the Leftist Colombian rebel terrorist network.

They are Agropecuaria San Cayetano de Costa Rica Ltda. and Arrocera El Gaucho Ltda. both operated by José Cayetano Melo Perilla, who was designated by the United States in August as being an associate of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombian terror and drug smuggling network. Melo Perilla has denied the allegation.
     
The designations, announced Thursday, allows the Treasury Department to freeze any U.S. assets and sanction companies that do business with either firm. The Treasury Department said that the firms were associated with Frente 48 of the rebels known as the FARC.

The action was the 14th set of designations against the FARC and its support networks since 2004 and was taken pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the department said.
"Today's designation builds on Treasury's long-standing campaign against the FARC by exposing their key support networks in Ecuador and Costa Rica," said Adam J. Szubin. 

"We will continue to dismantle the FARC's financial and logistical networks and reveal its facilitators,"  he said.

He is director of the agency's  Office of Foreign Assets Control.

In August the Treasury Department said that Melo Perilla, a Colombian national and resident of Costa Rica, is a narcotics trafficker and important financial contact for the FARC.

At that time the department designated Carillanca Colombia Y Cia S en CS, a Colombian company dedicated to hydroponic agriculture; Carillanca S.A., a Costa Rican company involved in tomato cultivation; Carillanca C.A., a company located in Venezuela whose focus is real estate and construction; and Parqueadero De La 25-13, a commercial parking lot located in Bogota, Colombia. For some reason the two other Costa Rican firms were not mentioned then.


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 122


Child poverty at 63 percent under redefined social rights

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Almost 63 percent of children and adolescents in the region suffer some type of poverty, defined in terms of the deprivations that affect the exercise of their rights, in addition to household income, according to a study conducted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the U. N. Children's Fund.

In the article, "Child poverty: a priority challenge" published in the latest issue of the newsletter "Challenges," Ernesto Espíndola and María Nieves Rico, of the economics commissions's Social Development Division, assert that measuring poverty implies considering a child poor if at least one of his or her human, economic, social and cultural rights is infringed.

The authors advanced some of the results of a study carried out between 2008-2009, which measured the multiple dimensions of child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, linking each dimension to the compliance of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The study, which will be released in coming months, considered factors such as nutrition, access to potable water, connection to sanitation services, housing material and the number of people per room, school attendance and years of schooling and ownership of radio, television or telephone and access to electricity whose deprivation contributes to poverty and social exclusion.
Additionally, it included household income levels and the potential capacity of those resources to satisfy their basic needs.

"Total child poverty is an expression of social exclusion and the means by which it is reproduced. Although children who live a situation of moderate poverty do not suffer a serious deterioration of their life conditions, their future opportunities are hampered. Poor nutrition, school repetition and desertion, lack of expectations and the discrimination they face because they are poor not only affect their rights in the present, but will also leave them in the lowest levels of the social ladder, making them reproduce their precarious conditions in their adult life and therefore affecting the future generations," state Espíndola and Ms. Nieves Rico.

Just as poverty has many dimensions, the response of the state to reduce it must also be multidimensional. The severe and moderate deprivations of the child population may be reversed through direct state intervention to, among other things, ensure the provision of health services and nutrition and access to potable water and sanitation services, as well as through indirect measures, by increasing household income.

The authors suggest additional affirmative actions geared at poor children and adolescents pertaining to social groups that are particularly vulnerable to suffering deprivations, such as those of native origin or from rural areas.



D.C. rights group says Chávez persecuting station owner

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Freedom House Tuesday condemned ongoing efforts by the Venezuelan government to bring criminal charges against the owners of Globovision, the only remaining independent television station in the country.  Freedom House called the continuing persecution of the station's ownership a transparent effort to silence one of the few remaining voices that are willing to criticize the policies of President Hugo Chávez in advance of upcoming parliamentary elections.

Two major shareholders in the private television station have recently come under pressure from the Chavez administration.  Co-owner Guillermo Zuloaga was forced to flee the country to avoid arrest on charges many believe to have been fabricated by the government.  Additionally, the government took over the bank of another shareholder, Nelson Mezerhane, and threatened to seize Mezerhane's Globovision shares as part of the bank takeover.  Currently in Florida, Mezerhane cannot return to Venezuela without
 fear of arrest, said Freedom House, which is based in Washington.

"President Chavez's denial that these actions are politically motivated would be more credible if not for his systematic efforts over the last decade to close the space for independent voices, particularly the voices of those who oppose his policies," said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. "Chavez's continued intolerance for criticism only serves to further weaken what little is left of Venezuela's democratic credentials."  

Frank La Rue, special rapporteur at the United Nations for freedom of expression, denounced the harassment of Zuloaga and said that the arrest warrant was "politically motivated, aimed solely at silencing Zuloaga." Reports of crackdowns on independent media have continually plagued Venezuela during the Chavez administration but have increased in intensity as the opposition prepares for parliamentary elections in September. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 122

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


Arizona immigrant law
puts police in middle


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some law enforcement officials in Arizona are concerned that the state's controversial new immigration law, which takes effect July 29, will create a burden for police. The law requires police in the state to check the immigration status of anyone they encounter in a lawful stop who shows some indication of being in the country illegally. Hispanics fear that suspicion could fall on anyone with dark skin, and result in police harassment of legal residents and citizens. Most police say they are prepared to enforce the law without violating any citizen's rights.

Hispanic groups in Arizona have condemned the new state law for what they describe as encouraging racial profiling, but the law's defenders say it specifically bars police from detaining anyone based on ethnic or racial appearance. Arizona law enforcers are now training to carry out the law as it is written.

Hipolito Acosta, a former federal immigration agent who now works for a Texas-based consulting group, recently helped make a training video for the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board on how police should carry out their new duties.

"It is like enforcing any other law," Acosta said. "You have to have certain factors built up before you make that stop and this law is no different, with the exception that there must have been some kind of lawful encounter before they start trying to determine those other factors."

The new law says an officer stopping any person or persons and inquiring about their immigration status must have "reasonable suspicion" of someone having violated federal immigration law. But what does that mean? Acosta provides an example.

"Let's say there are some bags in the vehicle which contain possibly some basic necessities, some water bottles, which would indicate a possibility that these individuals might have just crossed the border and walked through the desert, which happens quite a bit," Acosta said. "So the officer would then probably ask the individuals a simple question, did they have some identification or where they were going."

One thing that makes discussion of this law difficult, however, is that many people outside law enforcement have not read the law. Sergeant Fabian Pacheco, public information officer for the Tucson Police Department says many Hispanics fear the law out of ignorance.

"A lot of people who are really worked up about this law, many of them, when you ask them if they have ever taken the chance to read the law you will be surprised, most of them have not, they are just going off all kinds of rumors that they are hearing regarding what and what not police are going to engage in," Pacheco said. 

Pacheco says 40 percent of the Tucson police force is Hispanic and that all officers, regardless of race or ethnicity, are trained to avoid racial profiling. Still, he says, he worries that the controversy created by the new law will cause many people, especially undocumented immigrants, to avoid the police and refrain from cooperating with criminal investigations.

Pacheco also worries that officers' time will be taken up dealing with illegal aliens rather than responding to more serious crimes.

"Officers in the past could quickly deal with a situation and then go back in service and deal with those calls for service that are of concern to people here such as responding to violent crimes or burglaries, robberies, stuff like that," Pacheco said. "Now they may be stuck at a call dealing with an undocumented immigrant."

Some police officials also worry that officers could be sued by Arizona citizens who accuse them of not doing enough to enforce the law, while at the same time being criticized by civil rights activists for being too aggressive in carrying out the law's requirements.

Opinion polls in Arizona show overwhelming public support for the law, but few experts believe it will have an impact on illegal immigration. Arizona has become the point of entry for more than 40 percent of illegal entrants from Mexico since the federal government began programs to tighten control of the border in California and Texas. Phoenix has now become the world's second-worst city for kidnapping, next to Mexico City, and some Arizona authorities say smugglers of drugs and illegal immigrants are to blame. Ultimately, both critics and supporters of the new state law agree, the problem can only be solved by the federal government.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 122


Latin American news
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Telecom agency reports
most filings are incomplete


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones is trying to learn who uses the radio spectrum so it can be reorganized, but nearly 74 percent of the individuals and firms providing information have failed to include important information, the agency said Tuesday.

The biggest omissions are technical data like location of towers, their heights and types of equipment, the agency said.

In all the agency received 233 submissions of which most were requests for concessions on those frequencies.

The Superintendencia, an agency of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, was empowered by the June 2008 telecom law. Among other actions, the Superintendencia awards frequency concessions as it is going to do for cell telephones this year.

It said that the rules for obtaining a concession are on its Web site.


Massive flooding hits Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Brazil say flooding triggered by days of driving rain has left at least 41 people dead and tens of thousands of others homeless. More rain is in the forecast.

The torrential rains have pounded the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco since Thursday, causing rivers to swell and burst their banks.  The floodwaters also have toppled bridges and cut roads to dozens of cities.

In Alagoas, the worst-hit area, officials say more than 60,000 people were forced to abandon their homes.  State officials say the Mundau River flooded near the town of Uniao dos Palmares, leaving at least 500 people missing.

In Pernambuco state, civil defense officials say the flooding killed at least 12 people and that more than 40,000 others are homeless.  Officials expect the number of known deaths to rise.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva held a crisis cabinet meeting and announced that $55 million in emergency aid would be sent to the affected areas.


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