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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 136       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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One has to be well-trained to determine the year a Beetle was made. To most, they all look the same.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas

The Bug is a car just made for Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They are vehicles that could have been designed specifically for Costa Rica.

The fuel use is minimal. The underside is metal with nothing to be wrecked by bad roads. They went anywhere and even floated if the river was too deep. The cost was not gigantic.

They are what the Costa Ricans and other Latins call vocheros, vochos or escarabajos, the last word coming from entomology just like in English: beetles.

The official name, of course, is Volkswagen, and the Beetle at one time was the sign of conservation and contempt for Detroit when Detroit was the gas guzzling center of the universe.

The traditional Volkswagen is old enough now so that there is a fan club in Costa Rica, and members were displaying their vehicles, about 60, at the parking lot of Megasuper in Desamparados Saturday. They were celebrating the 10th birthday of the club.

There even were a few variants, like the sporty Karmenn Ghia and the VW bus.

Volkswagen continued to make the Beetle at its Puebla, México, plant long after the model was no longer available in the States. U.S. production stopped in 1977 because the air-cooled VW engine and frame did not meet pollution and crash test standards.

The Mexican plant continued to make the Volkswagen Beetle until two years ago. The plant still makes other models, including a

'Look, Ma, no motor!' The rear-engine Beetle was not where you would want to be in a headon collision.

modern version of the Beetle.

More than one Costa Rican and resident took the bus trip to Puebla to drive back a new VW. Some have several in the family compound.

For popularity it would be hard to beat México City where more than 70,000 VW taxis used to seek customers. They were seen as a major contributor to the pollution there.

When the last traditional VW Beetle rolled off the assembly line, the price was $8,000, up significantly from the $1,200 U.S. price in 1965.

But that is still far cheaper than most new cars, and as a television announcer said at the height of the 1973 gasoline crises: "If everyone had a Volkswagen, there would be no crisis."

The Volkswagen Club de Costa Rica will be showing off their vocheros again for Mother's Day Saturday, Aug. 12, at the same place.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 136

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Lawmaker suggests
massive rail project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawmaker representing Puntarenas said Monday that he would introduce a bill that would permit the national railway company to turn over its work to a concessionaire.

Concessions are the new buzz word in politics even though Alterra Partners has had a rough time getting payment for its management of Juan Santamaría airport.

The lawmaker Monday was Mario Núñez Arias of the Movimiento Libertario. He said he envisioned a passenger train crossing the entire country from north to south, from Peñas Blancas to Paso Canoas. But initially he wants restoration of service from San José to Puntarenas. Lines already are in from the southeast near  Sixaola to San José and to Puntarenas. However, the lines are damaged and not used between San José and Siquirres.

Núñez said he would seek to have the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles sell all its activities except its property and use the cash generated as front money for a concessionaire who can develop a real railroad with new branch lines.

He noted that the Provincia de Puntarenas is largely poor and under developed where there is little work. The rail line would help, he suggested.

Light weapons confab
disappoints Kofi Annan

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

While noting that a United Nations conference that closed Friday put an international spotlight on the illicit trade in small arms that fuel conflict, Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday expressed disappointment that delegates were unable to agree on a common declaration that would guide further action.

The conference opened June 26 to review progress in the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons — the pivotal framework for international, regional and national activity to curtail illegal gun trafficking. However, the meeting failed to adopt an outcome document as wide differences between delegations on follow-up actions remained unresolved.

Through a formal statement released by his spokesperson, Annan noted, however, that “many States sent high-level representatives to the conference, and that many civil society groups contributed energetically to its discussions.”

“To that extent, the conference did succeed in recalling the issue of small arms and light weapons to the attention of the international community, which clearly remains committed to the Programme of Action as the main framework for measures to curtail the illegal trade in these weapons,” said the spokesperson, Marie Okabe.

Delegates from all parts of the world reaffirmed that taking firm steps to control illicit arms brokers was an extremely urgent task, she added.

In his opening address to the conference, Annan reminded participants that every year an estimated $1 billion worth of small weapons are traded illicitly worldwide, exacerbating conflicts that kill tens of thousands, sparking refugee flows, undermining the rule of law and spawning a “culture of violence and impunity.”

In the past five years since the Programme of Action was adopted, nearly 140 countries have reported on illegal gun trafficking, while a third of all states have made efforts to collect weapons from those not legally entitled to hold them,  Annan said in that address. Other progress included increased cooperation among and within regions to stem the flow of illicit weapons across national borders.

Hit-and-run motorist takes
woman victim along

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A motor vehicle struck a 40-year-old woman named Morales, who was walking with her husband in Alto de Guadalupe about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

As a result of the collision the woman was lifted onto the hood of the vehicle, which fled the scene. An hour later police found the woman barely alive in Carmen de Guadalupe, some miles away. She was alongside the road.

The woman died a few minutes later. Investigators are seeking the car and its driver.

Wigs hid cocaine, police say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Costa Rican women cousins, 19 and 21, face drug trafficking allegations after the Policía de Control de Drogas found what they said was more than two kilos of cocaine afixed to their scalp under fashion wigs Monday at Juan Santamaría airport. The women were enroute to Spain, police said.

Our reader's opinion

Latins would be better off
if Walker really took over

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Just a thought with regard to William Walker...

Most Latin Americans that I know would love to be able to work legally in the United States and come and go without a visa whenever they pleased.

If Juan Santamaría et. al. had not interfered with William Walker, all Latinos would be proud carriers of United States passports and thus able to come and go to the land of the big WalMart whenever they liked.

Making heroes of those who defeated Walker's efforts is ironic at best.

Joseph B. Call
Palmerola, Honduras
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 136

Protesters to march against offshore tuna farm today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who oppose plans for a tuna ranch in the Pacific Ocean off Golfito will be marching to the environmental ministry today to get the project canceled.

Fundación Vida Marina says representatives of more than 15 groups from the Golfito area will gather at Parque Nacional this morning and begin the march about noon uphill to the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The protesters say that keeping tuna fish captive in giant cages just offshore will generate waste and garbage that will ruin the quality of the Gulfo Dulce.

The size of the project is staggering. The tuna firm, Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A., wants to construct underwater holding cages 7.4 kms. (4.6 miles) long and 2.1 kms. (1.3 miles) wide. The cages would be down 22 meters into the water, some 70 feet.
The tuna farm would be about a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) off the coast. The firm seems to have the required approvals. The farm would be stocked by young yellowfin tuna purchased from local fishermen.

Nevertheless, some organizations of fishermen are joining the protest, according to the organizers: the  Cámara de Pescadores de Golfito, the Cámara de Pescadores de Zancudo, the Camara de Pescadores de Punta Banco, and Pescadores de Rio Claro.

Some environmentalists say they think the existence of cages under the water will endanger whales, dolphin, turtles and other creatures.

The protesters today want the ministry to revoke the approval of its Secretaría Técnica Ambiental. Otherwise, they say, they will bring the case to court.

The purpose of the cages would be to fatten the young tuna under controlled circumstances and keep them nearby for harvesting when demand requires it.

Man seeking permit for pistol shoots self in head
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 26-year-old man seeking a firearms permit shot himself in the head fatally Monday morning.
The shooting took place in the Poligono de Tiro in Sabana Oeste in the park of the same name. The man was identified as Robin Vargas Ibarra, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Officials said that the man had heard safety instructions before beginning the shooting but that he seemed nervous.  He had passed the psychological
examination that is required to purchase and carry firearms.

The weapon was the property of those administering the test.

There are conflicting reports. One said that the man shot himself in the right eye. A second report said that he fired after putting the gun in his mouth. An autopsy will determine which version is accurate.

The shooting range is supervised by an organization that is dedicated to that sport.

Nation's libraries reported to be in deep trouble
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The public libraries of the nation are in trouble and officials fear that significant aspects of the country's heritage will be lost.

Although President Óscar Arias Sánchez paid a courtesy call last week at the Biblioteca Nacional just north of Parque Nacional, the problems extend throughout the 58 regional libraries in the country, according to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

María Elena Carballo, the minister of Cultura, said she has sent a budget to the Ministerio de Hacienda seeking more money, but she said that this was not the only way to help libraries.

The suggestion was some form of friends of the
libraries association and help from private industry.

She seeks improvements in the electrical system of the Biblioteca Nacional, some controlled atmosphere storage for certain old collections and better security.
There also are plans to add to the collections and to digitize what already is there. Regional libraries also need connections to the Internet, according to Margarita Rojas, director general of libraries.

The Biblioteca Nacional was closed for two years while workmen  installed steel supports. The building was crumbling. Even now, according to Director Rojas, the structure does not have fire alarms. The building houses 500,000 books and many magazines and newspapers, much of it unique.

In one of the magazines Arias on his tour found a mention of his grandfather,  Juan Rafael Arias.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 136

$80 million plan unveiled for a democratic Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Geroge Bush Monday approved an $80 million program aimed at fostering democratic change in Cuba. The U.S. administration is also pledging extensive support for any Cuban government succeeding Fidel Castro's Communist regime that promises free elections and an end to repression.

The president's approval of the policy recommendations comes little more than a month before the 80th birthday of the Cuban dictator. And the action is clearly aimed at encouraging those in Cuba, who want to see democratic rule on the island once the Castro era has ended.

Bush accepted the recommendations of the bipartisan Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba that was set up three years ago to foster democratic change, and try to head off any scheme that would perpetuate Communist control, once Castro leaves the scene.

The commission, in its second report to the White House since 2004, called for $80 million in spending over the next two years to provide uncensored information to Cuba through broadcasting and the Internet, and by strengthening democratic factions in the Caribbean country.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who co-chairs the commission along with Cuban-born Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez, told reporters at the State Department, the report reflects U.S. resolve to stand with Cuban opposition leaders, and the many more Cubans holding similar views, who, she said, have been forced into fearful silence.

"Under a new, two-year, $80 million program, we are stepping up our efforts along multiple fronts," she said. "We are increasing our determination to break the regime's information blockade. And we are offering support for the efforts by Cubans to prepare for the day when they will recover their sovereignty, and can select a government of their choosing through free and fair multi-party elections."

The spending package would support the existing U.S.-funded Television and Radio Marti, and third-country broadcasting to Cuba, as well as efforts to circumvent what officials here say is the Castro government's blockade of Internet information to the island.
About one-third of the money would go to support independent civil society, though how funds would be channeled to beleaguered democracy groups there was not specified.

The commission, which includes prominent Cuban-Americans, also called for tougher enforcement of existing sanctions against the Castro government.

Under what the panel termed a compact with the People of Cuba, it pledged wide-ranging emergency U.S. support for a post-Castro Cuban transitional government, though Commerce Secretary Gutiérrez said it would have to request such aid, and make clear its democratic intentions.

"We will do all this and more, provided we are asked by a Cuban transition government that is committed to dismantling all instruments of state repression and implementing internationally-respected human rights and fundamental freedom, including organizing free and fair elections for a democratically-elected new Cuban government, within a period of no more than 18 months," he said.

Gutierrez said the United States would also encourage support for a transitional government from other countries, multi-national organizations and the private sector, while pledging to discourage third parties from intervening to obstruct the will of the Cuban people.

He did not elaborate. But the 93-page commission report said the Communist government in Havana has every intention of continuing its hold on power, through a succession plan that would make Castro's brother, Raul, the next leader.

It said the Castro regime is actively seeking to control the policy environment on transition, in concert with foreign opponents of peaceful democratic change — led, it said, by the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela.

The report said Cuba's deepening relationship with Venezuela parallels its earlier partnership with the former Soviet Union.

It said the Cuba-Venezuela axis is advancing a retrograde, anti-American agenda for the hemisphere, but that there are signs that the Havana-Caracas relationship is, in its words, beginning to grate on Cuban nationalist sensibilities.

López Obrador files formal challenge to election
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is challenging the results of last week's election. He filed a petition following the very narrow but apparent victory of his opponent, Felipe Calderón.

López Obrador late Sunday asked the Tribunal Electoral to order a manual recount of the votes. He alleged widespread fraud.

The move followed a massive rally Saturday by López Obrador supporters, who filled the streets of downtown Mexico City.

They are angry that Calderón, the candidate of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional, was declared the winner last week by Mexico's Instituto Federal Electoral. Calderón won the vote count by just under a percentage point, less than 244,000 votes.

Despite López Obrador's allegations of voter fraud, European Union election observers have said they found no significant irregularities.

At a recent seminar at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister of México in the ruling party, said it is clear who won the July 2 election.

"I do not think there is any doubt, nor should there be any doubt, that the winner of the elections is Felipe Calderón," he said. "It is a settled question, in the sense that the votes have been counted twice now already. The advantage for Calderón has been the same in the two votes."
Aside from the internal drama going on over the implications of an electoral fight, the biggest concern among participants at the seminar was how the incoming administration will work with the United States. All agreed that the United States has vital interests in Mexico.

"Take for example, the 40 million Latinos living in the United States, comprising more than 14 percent of the overall population, nearly two-thirds of whom trace their origins to Mexico," said Dan Restrepo, moderator and senior policy director for the Center for American Progress. "By 2040, the percentage of Hispanics in the United States will be more than 25 percent. Two of the top four U.S. suppliers, one of which is Mexico, are from Latin America." And he adds the top two U.S. trading partners, one being Mexico, are hemispheric neighbors.

There was also consensus among the experts that Mexico, except for the immigration issues, does not seem to be high on the Bush agenda.

U.S. lawmakers have been heatedly debating immigration reform. The Bush administration wants a new law that would include a guest-worker proposal, under which millions of illegal immigrants would have an opportunity to pursue citizenship under certain conditions. The Bush proposal would also boost border security with U.S. troops.

It appears the drama of the Mexican elections will go on for some time, because the electoral tribunal cannot declare a winner until all legal challenges are resolved. Under Mexican law, they are obligated to review the complaints, but must declare a winner by Sept. 6.

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Jo Stuart
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