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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, June 29, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 127           E-mail us
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Tourism operators bemoan investment insecurity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the tourism industry have called upon the legislature  to take action to clear up some of the investment insecurity that comes from Costa Rica's uneven enforcement of laws.

In other countries companies can be put into operation in days, but in Costa Rica it becomes a process of months, and when finally they are operating some authority appears saying that some anomaly exists and the business ought to be closed, said Ana Saborío, president of the Cámara de Turismo de Guanacaste.

The statement was made before the  Comisión Permanente de Turismo and reported by the Cámara Nacional de Turismo.

As a result of what the representatives called legal insecurity, those who might invest in the tourism sector are reluctant, they said. The condition of tourism operations in Costa Rica now are such that many hotel owners are seeking a buyer or an investor. The uncertainty involved with doing business here is not an incentive for outside investors, the representative said.

Also on their minds were the current rate of exchange between the colon and the U.S. dollar and the slow recovery to the heydays of 2008.

The chamber representatives also urged lawmakers to pass a bill to accept a $19 million loan from the  Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to finance tourism in protected forest areas. Such a loan would improve conditions n some of the national parks, they said. Some lawmakers have objected to the bill and its fate is uncertain.

The loan would inject investments in protected areas of the country to permit better conditions for visitors to enjoy, said  Juan Carlos Ramos of the Cámera Nacional. It is sad that this has become a project that is being archived because the measure has great benefit for the country, he added.

Tourism representatives came from the  Cámara
Exchange rates 2008-2011
on June 29 both years

in colons
*Banco Central de Costa Rica rates

Costarricense de Hoteles. the  Cámara de Turismo Rural Comunitario and other regional groups, as well as the Guanacaste and national chambers.

All agreed that despite a reported increase in the arrival of tourists in 2010, the industry still was behind 2008 earnings.

One reason is the exchange rate. For today, the Banco Central de Costa Rica says that one U.S. dollar will bring  497.72 colons, and it will cost 508.6 colons to purchase a dollar.

These numbers are not far from the 2008 rates. On June 29, 2008, one U.S. dollar would buy  516.34 colons and  522.76 colons would be required to purchase one dollar. The difference ranges from 2.7 to 3.6 percent.

However, there has been inflation since then, and visitors are less likely to spend money freely at the lower exchange rate. Most in the industry agree that tourists are most cost-conscious now.

A 20-room hotel renting rooms at $80 a night would lose 38 million colons a year over 2008 income due to the exchange rate, lawmakers were told. That is about $76,000.

The exchange rate concerns also were echoed by ProTur, a new group that formed to seek legislative benefits for the industry. In some ways the Cámera Nacional is playing catchup.

ProTur has been more aggressive. The group sought special utility rates and other special benefits, but there has been no action to do so in the legislative chamber.

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Workmen are at that bridge
trying to fix the concrete

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The transport ministry made a late announcement Tuesday and said that work would continue today on the Río Virilla bridge on the General Cañas highway. Officials said the work would be started at 11 p.m. Tuesday and end at 5 a.m. today.

This is a high-traffic stretch, and work during peak hours is sure to create a transportation disaster. Detours are planned. This is the main highway between Alajuela and San José. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes also said that work would be done Thursday morning weather permitting.

This latest repair job started June 12. The ministry seeks to replace concrete that has been pulverized by traffic. There is a grid of metal on the bridge deck, and concrete was placed in and over that. Almost immediately the concrete began to crumble.

Canadian woman sentenced
to eight years for drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian woman got eight years in prison Tuesday because she was convicted of trying to smuggle drugs in her luggage.

She was identifgid by the last name of  Depaulo. She was detained last Dec. 10. The case was in the  Tribunal Penal de Liberia because she was stopped trhing to board a plane at Daniel Oduber airport there. The drug, some 1.385 kilos, was hidden in bottles in her baggage, said the Poder Judicial.

Quake rattles Upala

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.4-magnitude earthquake took place at 5;45 p.m. about 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) southwest of Upala, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The quake was attributed to a local fault. The quake wa felt in parts of Guancaste and in Alajuela, the observatory said.

Our reader' opinion
Former publisher questions
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Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a former magazine publisher who was heavily involved in developing online marketing opportunities for clients, I am skeptical of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo’s $120,000 in Web banner advertising with While this is certainly a relatively low-cost marketing program, I question its effectiveness.
The actual experience I have had with banner advertising is that such ads simply do not work. And keep in mind that, as the publisher, it was very important to me and my company that our clients’ advertising be effective. Banner ads are not effective. Very, very few people actually click on a banner ad. Very few people actually even see the ads, as they are looking for something else on the site.
Unless Costa Rica is receiving something else for its money, such as lead-generation online products like webinars, this is not money wisely invested. And given my experience, I question how the country knows it generated 15,000 tourists from the last campaign. Is that the number of page impressions the ads received? I know that my company was never able to tell our clients such results because there was no way to know such results. 
Ken Anderberg

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 127

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Teacher leaders say they are planning more drastic action
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Union leaders representing teachers are promising unspecified more drastic action because they are unsatisfied with the results of the massive march Tuesday.

As many as 15,000 teachers from all over the country marched from the Plaza de la Democracia to Casa `Presidencial. They are unhappy with the education ministry's plan to enact changes in the school calendar. Although the changes appear minor, they would reduce the Christmas vacation from seven weeks to five.

Seven teacher unions marched Tuesday, and one estimate aid the teachers occupied 10 city blocks. The weather was
overcast but there was no rain.

Representatives met the education minister, Leonardo Garnier, and a representative of the president. Later educators said they were dissatisfied by Garnier's insistence to go ahead with the plan, and so they promised more drastic action.

Most Central valley schools had few students Tuesday. Parents had been urged by educators to keep their children home.

Teachers also said they were upset by a reduction of 12 billion colons in the ministry budget, about $24 million. They also have complaints about personnel policies.

Coffee producers have three reasons to be pretty happy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a great year for coffee producers.

Prices for export grade coffee are at the highest point in years, and a family in Dota just sold one lot for $2,000 a quintal.

Now come a report from the University of South Florida that says researchers there have found an as-yet unidentified component of coffee that interacts with the caffeine to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, and they urge people to drink more coffee.

It has been well known that coffee can protect the mind of an older person. The new study may explain why.

Already coffee growers here are basking in a market that has seen commodity prices increase nearly 100 percent over the last year. In part, this is due to bad weather elsewhere. Costa Rican coffee growers had experienced some lean years.

But no longer at the  Luis Ricardo Calderón Madrigal coffee operation in Santa María de Dota. One lot of coffee from the Finca la Estrella there just sold for $2,000 a quintal in an online auction run by the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica.

Bidders had their choice of 31 lots in the annual  Taza de la Excelencia competition. Bidders were in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. They had samples of the various coffees that were sent to them. The lowest price was $400 a quintal. A quintal is 46 kilos, a bit more than 100 pounds.

The South Florida study found that the interaction between caffeine and the unidentified component boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor that seems to fight off the Alzheimer’s disease process, the university said.

The findings appeared in the early online version of an article to be published  in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Using mice bred to develop symptoms mimicking Alzheimer’s disease, the research team presents the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against the memory-robbing disease that is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee, the university reported.

Previous observational studies in humans reported that daily coffee/caffeine intake during mid-life and in older 
A.M. Costa Rica stock photo
Researchers say people should drink four to five cups daily.

age decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the university said, adding that the researchers’ earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice indicated that caffeine was likely the ingredient in coffee that provides this protection because it decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease.

Coffee is safe for most Americans to consume in the moderate amounts  of from four to \five cups a day that appear necessary to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, said the university. The researchers previously reported this level of coffee/caffeine intake was needed to counteract the brain pathology and memory impairment in Alzheimer’s mice, it added, noting that the average American drinks one and a half to two  cups of coffee a day, considerably less than the amount the researchers believe protects against Alzheimer’s

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 127

CR Home real estate

Philip Stouffer/Louisiana State University
 Black-throated antshrike and the white-plumed antbird were both labeled extinct locally
Most bird species seem to eventually recover after deforestation
By the National Science Foundation news staff

Bird species in rainforest fragments in Brazil that were isolated by deforestation disappeared then reappeared over a quarter-century, according to research results published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Scientists thought many of the birds had gone extinct.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, and conducted in cooperation with Projeto Dinâmica Biológica de Fragmentos Florestais, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Manaus, Brazil.

Lead author Philip Stouffer, an ornithologist at Louisiana State University and co-authors of the paper and asociates measured bird populations over 25 years in 11 forest fragments ranging from 2.5 acres to 250 acres in the Amazon rainforest near Manaus.

In the first decade of the long-term study, birds abandoned forest fragments and, ornithologists believed, went extinct. Then in the past 20 years, many bird species returned, while others went extinct or remained extinct.

"Through long-term observations of fragmentation in tropical forests, this study provides verification that local extinction is accompanied by continual recolonization, dependent on habitat size," said Saran Twombly, program director in the science foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

Although species loss following habitat changes can be inferred, long-term observations are necessary to accurately identify the fate of bird populations, said Stouffer.

As the project began, bird populations were tracked before the forests were cut.

During the first year after cutting, bird species disappeared in what the researchers call localized extinction, meaning a species has disappeared from a particular area.

The area was fragmented in cookie cutter chunks as a result of policies that encouraged use of the land, mostly for cattle. But landowners were required to leave a portion of the area uncleared.

Bird populations were measured before the deforestation process
began, then again in 1985, 1992, 2000 and 2007.

Now agriculture has diminished, and areas where fragments meet nearby forests are recovering, Stouffer said. "Early on, the small fragments lost most of their understory birds, and the area that was cut had no forest birds at all."

Between the time the forest fragments were created and 2007, when the most recent measurements were taken, all fragments lost bird species, Stouffer said.

Losses ranged from below 10 percent in the largest, least fragmented areas to around 70 percent in the smallest, most fragmented spots.

Both extinction and colonization occurred in every interval. In the last two samples taken in 2000 and 2007 extinction and colonization were approximately balanced.

The extinction process started with birds leaving or dying out. Now, they're coming back.

Of the 101 species trapped with a fine-mesh mist net before deforestation, the researchers detected 97 in at least one forest fragment in 2007.

"A handful of species have gone extinct, but many more species are in flux," Stouffer said. "They come and go."

The project measured only understory, resident birds and not those that live in the forest canopy or may migrate.

"Our samples are snapshots in time," said Stouffer. "They show that forest fragments have the potential to recover their biodiversity if they're in a landscape that can rebound.

"They're not doomed."

The research demonstrates some of the ways birds exist in a human-modified environment, as well as the effects of allowing a forest to regenerate.

"If we consider a balance of abandoned and returned forests within a 20-year window, birds will begin to treat the fragments as continuous forest," Stouffer said.

"Although a small subset of species is extremely vulnerable to fragmentation and predictably goes extinct, developing second-growth forest around fragments encourages recolonization."

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 127

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chávez is pictured on TV
talking with Fidel Castro

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban national television has broadcast new photos and video of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The footage aired Tuesday and showed the two men walking around and chatting amicably.  The TV station said the images were taken the same day and that some of Chavez' relatives also attended the meeting.

President Chávez has not been seen in public since a June 10 operation for what authorities have said was an abscess in his pelvic area.  Chavez's voice was last heard publicly June 12, when he called a television network and said he was on the mend.

Officials say the president is recovering well and should be back for a regional summit beginning July 5 that coincides with the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's independence from Spain. 

French woman is named
Monetary Fund director

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is the International Monetary Fund's new managing director. The 24-member Executive Board made the announcement Tuesday, more than a month after Dominique Strauss-Khan resigned after being charged with sexual assault in New York.

Despite objections from some developing countries, Ms. Lagarde emerged as the frontrunner for the fund's top job.  Mexico's central bank chief and rival candidate Agustin Carstens argued against the European candidate, saying the 187-member institution should reflect the changes to the global economy. But the 55-year-old former lawyer fought back, launching a whirlwind tour that took her from Brazil to China.

"I just had extensive consultation as you know with the membership that has taken me to many corners of the world to visit with, particularly, emerging markets. It was a good occasion for me to indicate my vision of what the fund should be like going forward," Ms. Legarge said.

The visits resulted in endorsements this week from the United States, Russia and China, which along with Europe make up the majority of votes on the fund's Executive Board.

Ms. Lagarde has indicated she would be a strong advocate for developing countries, particularly those in Asia and Africa. 

Ms. Lagarde helped lead negotiations last year that combined European Union and Monetary Fund resources to bail out heavily indebted countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal.  Her appointment makes her the first woman to lead the fund since its founding nearly 70 years ago.

U.N. climate panel head
stresses energy security

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The head of the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Tuesday urged governments to work towards limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, saying the benefits included energy security, better health as a result of lower pollution, employment and higher agriculture output.

“I think it is now for governments to take a comprehensive view and irrespective whether there is a global deal or not on limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases, these co-benefits are attractive enough for governments to pursue on their own because they really are the objective and well-being of every society,” said Rajendra Pachauri, panel chair. He spoke at UN Headquarters.

“If we allow emissions to continue on a business as usual basis then the impact of climate change will become progressively more negative,” said Pachauri when he outlined the details of a panel report that said that renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind, biomass and hydropower could meet nearly 80 per cent of the world’s energy supplies by 2050.

Meanwhile, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that new and renewable sources of energy are essential for meeting rising demand for energy, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 127

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Cocaine storage operation
busted up, agents report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents said they wrapped up a drug smuggling organization Tuesday that had been in operation for five years.

In all, seven persons, five men and two women have been detained, they said.

The rids and arrests today stem from three seizures in May in which more than 1,000 kilos of cocaine were confiscated. Four person were detained in those encounters, said the `Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

The basic role of the drug gang was to store the cocaine in the Guanacaste area until it could be shipped north. Eventually the drugs ended up in México.

Agents conducted six raids Tuesday in barrios Santa Cecilia, La Cruz, Barrio Los Ángeles and Capulin in Liberia. Three persons were detained in these raids, agents said.

The nature of the gang became clear after Dec. 20 when one person accused of being a member was detained with a small amount of cocaine in Guanacaste. He operated as a dealer in Nicoya area, but he also was linked to the larger organization, agents said.

Tropical wave now a storm;
Thunderstorms likely here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The trough of low pressure that was in the Bay of Campeche, México, has become the season's first named storm. It is Arlene which reached tropical storm levels Tuesday. The storm originated as a tropical wave.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), said the U.S. Hurricane Information Center.

In Costa Rica weather experts are predicting another hot day with temperatures at the Pacific coast reaching 33 degrees C (about 91 F). Such temperatures are likely to result in afternoon thunderstorms, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Teen held in stabbing case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

a 19 year old has been detained on allegations that he stabbed his grandmother and other family members. The incident took place Tuesday in Linda Vista de Río Azul in La Unión.

Also stabbed were a cousin and her son, Fuerza Pública officers said. The suspect, identified by the last names of Delgado Tencio, was detained at the scene.

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