exchange rate
A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language 
news source
Monday through Friday

These stories were published Wednesday, July 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 137
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Firemen maintain a vigil in front of charred Calderón Guardia building

Recriminations begin over hospital tragedy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the full impact of the hospital Calderón Guardia tragedy became clear Tuesday, Costa Ricans were shocked and enraged that the older section of the building did not have even the most basic fire protection and alarms.

Some 18 person — including three nurses— died in the early morning fire, and official and unofficial sources revealed that the hospital did not have emergency exits, fire alarms or sprinklers. In fact, a well-thumbed health ministry report predicted point by point the tragedy that took place.

The fire consumed some 4,000 square meters, the fifth and part of the fourth floor of the 52-year-old structure. María del Rocio Sáenz, health minister, set the financial loss at $8 million not counting equipment and furnishings.

A page of photos BELOW!

The rapidly moving fire seems to have begun in the only available stairway. Patients in the  neurosurgical unit on the fifth floor and in the cardiology unit on the fourth floor died in their beds or on the floor seeking air.

The light of day revealed a structure with the entire fifth floor charred and with large gaps in the roof. The bulk of the hospital is newer and is an independent structure although just some six feet south of the older building.

President Abel Pacheco told a Tuesday news conference that the required improvements were not made to the hospital because Costa Rica is a poor country and lacks the money. He used the opportunity to push again for the proposed new tax plan languishing in the Asamblea Nacional. Pacheco, himself, is a physician and a sometimes patient at Calderón Guardia. During a 7 a.m. visit to the scene of the tragedy the president ducked a newsman's question about why a similar but lesser fire several months ago at the same facility did not result in reforms.

Pacheco declared three days of national mourning in honor of the victims and said he was considering declaring a national emergency that would allow better management of the fire's aftermath.

Hospital CIMA, a new, private facility west of San José is the only accredited hospital in the country. The remainder of the private hospitals have deficiencies also well documented by health studies. Only the  just-opened Alajuela public hospital has modern fire detection and prevention equipment.

Calderón Guardia is in Barrio Aranjuez, northeast San José two blocks north of Parque Nacional.

Fire Chief Chávez
Hector Chavez, head of the bomberos or firemen was quick to point out the obvious deficiencies when he talked with reporters in the morning:

“The hospital didn’t comply with any preventative measures. It had no fire escapes, no detectors for smoke or high temperatures, no illuminated exit signs and no fire sprinklers.”  Nor
did the hospital have an emergency evacuation plan, although one was listed as necessary several years ago.

About 300 firemen were at the blaze, Chavez said.  There also were many aid workers. A reporter saw persons using normal extension ladders to try to save people trapped on higher floors and patients knotting bed sheets together to escape.  The patients who were saved as well as rescuers said that the stairways had burned down, stranding people in the building. More than 500 patients were in the hospital when the blaze broke out.

One of the patients, Alfonso Perez Alvarado, was a 17-year-old Turrialba youth who had a brain tumor removed 15 days earlier. Doctors said the procedure saved his life.  The operation went well, and he was expected to fully recover, attendants said. He died in the blaze.

Patricia Fallas, a nurse, was found on the fourth floor clutching a flashlight.  President Pacheco said that this mother of two should be regarded as a hero because she saved many lives before succumbing to the smoke. Two other nurses died as well as 15 patients, said hospital workers.

Another victim, a 55-year-old Tres Rios man, Rodolfo Arguedas, also had a brain tumor.   “He couldn’t move,” said his niece Marta Soto Arguedas and nephew Mauricio Monge.  The cousins met for the first time in their lives Tuesday morning while searching a list for the whereabouts of their uncle.

Workers for the judicial morgue started removing bodies from the edifice at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.  Of the 15 patients killed in the blaze, only two were women. The blaze was centered on a male ward.

Dr. Alejandro Hernandez Alvarez, the night head of the emergency room, told reporters that more information would be released at a morning press conference today.

Contributing to this report were Saray Ramírez Vindas, associate editor; intern Jesse Froehling; photographer José Pablo Ramírez Vindas, and editor Jay Brodell.

our daily
our site
2004 photo contest
Send us
news story
Visit our
Visit our
Visit our
Display ad info






A.M. Costa Rica

Second news page

Place a classified ad
Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 13, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 137

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd E-mail Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-9393


Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Readers reply

Raging devaluation
predicted if treaty shelved

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Your editorial regarding CAFTA sidestepping a position and just implying that since the argument in Costa Rica seems lost in details few understand is self defeating. Consider:

The anti folks with their silly self interests sing the same tune in both the U.S. and Costa Rica. Can both be right? Can it destroy the U.S. and Costa Rica with no winners? Sounds silly to me especially looking at the universal success for all involved in NAFTA except unionism.  Clearly CAFTA which is really only a small amount of trade is a negative for only the unions and a very few specific business interests that seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of citizens of both countries. The myth of worker protection and help for the poor perpetrated by unions and progressive politics is self evident in every country in the world that they exist. All they have ever insured is high prices for poorly made or delivered products and services. This is against the interests of the vast majority of citizens in every country.

2. Before engaging in the dangerous argument that Costa Rica can wait, please review other countries' attempts to sidestep globalized free trade. Mexico, and Thailand and others have found that the immediate effect is the destruction of their currency. Nothing could be worse for the poor and disenfranchised in Costa Rica than a colon that zooms past 1000 to 1 dollar. Yet that is exactly the effects of protectionism, unionism, and isolationism.
Lastly, consider the scathing retort and analysis I sent you refuting yours and Jo's comments about the U.S. presidential election and that I was exactly right, and yours was exactly wrong. What risk do you wish to take with the lives of Costa Ricans by not exposing the certain continued poverty wrought by their current policies of progressive socialist protectionism. Pretending that ICE, INS, and all the alphabet soup public employee rackets have going are assets to the Costa Rican people is a poverty sentence for all Costa Ricans that are not given one of those jobs to be supported by all the other poorer workers in this country.
Of course we Gringos can just use dollars and live fine, but it is sad to see Costa Ricans embracing the sad failures perpetrated by the American Left when even a cursory look (remember the U.S.S.R. duh!) exposes the universal failures of socialism you espouse. I honestly would hate to be right twice, somehow, someway Central America should embrace the only real thing that can raise living standards for "the people" The right to work and trade in an unrestrained environment.
George Chapogas
Playas del Coco
This writer favors
renegotiation treaty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The conclusion of your editorial that the CAFTA treaty should be shelved is a middle-of-the-road approach. It is an improvement over the support you have continuously voiced. I think the treaty must be renegotiated, and I was surprised to learn that our Nobel laureate Arias is said to support this treaty.

U.S. treaties are idealized, formulated, double-checked, and seemingly negotiated by expert professionals, who are career people. Just the notion that a bunch of Costa Rican laymen are trying to understand the deceiving intricacies of this treaty makes me shudder. Even if the commission was upgraded with economist and law professors, a written treaty is virtually impossible to negotiate in such a manner that there will actually be a win-win result between a giant and dwarf.

Nothing a superpower (although more and more failing in that department) has done and will do is not in its self-interest. American consumerism has always been accomplished on the bent backs of workers in developing nations, and nothing in this treaty is designed to change that selfish policy in any way. The growers should indeed be worried about the lopsidedness of this treaty.

You are correct in seeing that there is no way to predict any possible value for the nation of Costa Rica, whose total population is much smaller than any of the major cities of its "partner." It is hoped that the treaty will funnel direct investments to Costa Rica, thus creating jobs and increasing the living standard to eventually, and that is what so many Costa Ricans wish for, to equal that of U.S. citizens. But this is a wish that is fostered by the pictures Hollywood presents.

The U.S. has severe, seemingly unsurmountable, problems concerning inequality, prejudice, the increasing gap between rich and poor, ghettos, absence of national insurance, crime, pollution and a general unhappiness that the seeking of security on only the material level will cause, than any Costa Rican would desire if they could see the bigger picture and not only the "glamor" as is presented to them on their glueboxes. Even Costa Rican TV is largely patterned after the entertainment lure that makes their colleagues in the States so successful and devious, while avoiding education, introducing creative solutions and problem-solving, which only allows people to make relevant and free-willed decision, instead of emotionally colored ones.

True, Costa Rica wants investors, and the States has them, as is already being demonstrated by the Americanization of Costa Rica. A treaty has a basis by this reasoning. But. But the details must not be just read, but independent studies must be done right here in Costa Rica. This is not being done, while the screaming period over the pros and cons does not do intelligent honor to the complex issues.

For instance, technology firms have internal standards and technology transfer regulations to protect their know-how, which in essence is their bread and butter. Local technology standards must be upgrades and linked to that of the investors. In most cases broad links must be created between firms of both nations. CAFTA does not permit that. The reason is to protect American firms, and to keep control on the U.S. side.

There are many intricate formulations in this treaty, and wording that persons with a master's degree in English cannot understand. There is a purpose for such distorting language. The person not understanding tends to believe that the concept discussed is over their head and that the writer must know better. Treaties that cannot be spelled out in simple language must remain suspect.

I have heard the argument that there is a price to be paid for a small country to be allowed to play in the big league and to receive investments accordingly. But the treaty does not guarantee investments. Not at all, while the many other restrictions and adhesion contracts will still be in effect. Treaties have been shown clearly not be the main factor for foreign investors to supply monies. They are more an U.S. government regulatory tool to protect American companies and their trademarks and copyrights, as well as their patents and technology transfers.

For more information on this go the United Nations studies on Trade and Development. There is a long history to learn from, and the call for shelving this CAFTA treaty is very appropriate. Do not just shelf it for some time, but learn from the other treaties and formulate and propose one from a Costa Rican perspective of actual requirements and wholistic relevance.

Oliver Duex
Nuevo Arenal,
We're in doghouse

Note to the Editor!  Regarding letter:

Whistling cat has
some mechanical help

You big dummy! Mimi is not a cat, she is a dog. Where did your idea of a Puss in Boots come from?

Please at your earliest, print a correction and send her your apology before she finds out that she has been referred to as a pussy.

In addition, I don't think it would hurt to send a little something in the way of a forgive me gift . . . any chew toy I'm sure would be appreciated, just made sure it is catnip less.

Jerry Thorman
Santa Barbara, Heredia
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

Real estate agents and services

formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
15 years Costa Rican
real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
Costa Rican-American
Chamber of Commerce
(506) 291-2825 & (506) 291-2826
fax (506) 296-6304   (506) 382-7399 cell

CENTURY 21 Jacó Beach Realty
Selling? Buying? We can do it!
Lic. Tomas Ghormley H., MBA - Owner/Broker
Beachfront, Views, Mountains, Lots, Farms, Beaches, Houses, Condos. Hotels, Restaurants, Projects, Commercial, Investments

First Costa Rican Title & Trust
Protecting your interests since 1994
  Purchase contracts
  Escrow services
  Title Transfers
  Title Guarantees
  Trust Services
  Investment Services
Call us for your real property legal and investment needs at 225-0501 or send us an e-mail at

Title Guarantees issued by First American Title Insurance Co., one of the oldest and largest title companies in the world. The First American difference in protection is that the policies cover unrecorded matters and unknown risks.


James Brohl C.P.A, M.B.A

U.S. Income Tax 
U.S. GAAP Accounting, 
Business Consulting
Providing U.S. Tax return preparation including back reporting and all other filing issues, accounting services 
and business consulting.

Telephone 305-3149 or 256-8620


Williams Dental & Associates
Integral dentistry
Dr. John Williams
¥ General dentistry 
¥ Endodontics
¥ Oral rehabilitation
¥ Prosthodontics
¥ Periodontics
¥ Dental prevention
¥ Maxillofacial surgery implants

Guachipelín, Escazú

U.S. prevention of infection and sterilization protocol

Legal services

Lic.Gregory Kearney Lawson.
Attorney at Law
Villalobos and Savings Unlimited Collections
*Investments  *Corporations *Tax Shelters
*Real Estate Sales in Costa Rica
    *Immigration  *Intellectual Property
*Business procedures  *Family and Labor Law
*Locate People   *Private Investigations
        Ph/Fax: 221-9462, 841-0007

Adolfo Rojas Breedy
Breedy Abogados S.A.
Since 1957. Best experience in: 
¥ Real Estate Transfer of Title and Title Search
¥ Business       ¥ Investments 
¥ Commercial & Civil Litigation
¥ Corporate Law & finance
¥ Capital markets Law
¥ International Taxation
(506) 233-7203/221-0230
Web page:

Bufete Hernández Mussio 
& Asociados
Lic. Arcelio Hernández Mussio
Tel. 218-0829                Cell 365-3088
   ¥ real estate law   ¥ due dilligence 
¥  criminal & constitutional law
¥ Purchase and sale agreements
¥ Purchase option agreements
¥ title guarantee, 
¥ fraud protection
 ¥ Constitution of condominiums
¥ Property Management
¥ Notary public services in general
Offices in San José and
Century 21, Jacó Beach
Authorized Representative
Stewart Title Attorney Referral System

A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

Avenida 11 bis, Barrio Otoya, San José 

Voice: (506) 223-1327
FAX: (506) 223-1190

   In Costa Rica:                       From elsewhere:

     A.M. Costa Rica                     Consultantes Río Colo.
     Apartado 12909-1000            SB 11
     San José, Costa Rica               P.O. Box 025292 
     (506) 223-1327                     Miami, FL 33102-5292

Our new five-star food and restaurant page
with the observations of Dr. Lenny Karpman
Click HERE!


Neurosurgery nurses wear ribbons of mourning

Calderón Guardia:
The aftermath

A body is removed from hospital

Turrialba man rescued from hospital balcony

Joaquin Montenegro Arrieta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Joaquin Montenegro Arrieta, 67, was a patient on the fifth floor.  Shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday he awoke because of the fire.  He and a group of patients tried to leave the building through the exits, he said, but were turned back by the fire.  As a last resort, some persons fashioned ropes out of bedsheets but he doesn’t know if they were used to escape. 

Workers rescued him from a balcony, he said, and he could hear people screaming for help as he was lowered to the ground. 

The Turrialba resident said it took about 40 minutes to escape the hospital.

He checked in Thursday for an operation. 

Two cousins meet for the first time seeking their uncle, a fire victim

Both cousins check the list of patients
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Marta Soto Arguedas was looking for her uncle. And so was Mauricio Monge. It turns out the uncle for both was a 55-year-old Tres Rios man, Rodolfo Arguedas.

The older Arguedas had the ill fortune to be in the neurosurgical ward Tuesday night. He had been suffering from a brain tumor. He was one of the fire victims.

The cousins met for the first time in their lives Tuesday morning while searching a list for the whereabouts of their uncle.  

Officials had posted lists of patients who had been moved to other hospitals


Very simply . . .  your choices here in Costa Rica of finding your dream home are limited to:

1. a Tico home:  claustrophobic, cold water, and postage stamp land size.

2.  a rare American-style home . . . normally at a VERY inflated price . . . in Grecia, a town of 50,000 less than an hour from San José  there are MAYBE five existing homes for resale suitable for most "gringos."

3.  a renovation;  problem here is that it typically costs more to remodel than to build from scratch.
And of course, we have all heard the horror stories about building in Costa Rica: the builders that absconded with the money —  the five-year wait until completion — the shoddy workmanship . . . and so on.

BUT... think for a minute:  "what do Ticos do when in the market for a new home?"  ANSWER:  "they BUILD" So...just maybe...the horror stories are an exaggeration... or....

The simple fact is this:    BUILDING IN COSTA RICA IS SAFER AND LESS RISKY THAN BUILDING IN THE UNITED STATES.... and obviously the cost is less.

If you are having problems finding your dream home... talk to us.  We work with a small group of very talented and very honest builders who guarantee their work... honor their contracts... and live in the areas in which they build. 

Call us... and come and visit... and see for yourselves .

Call today or e-mail for an appointment:    011-506-444-1695 or 011-506-841-5782  

Heredia woman becomes yet another family violence statistic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Heredia woman died Tuesday and became the 17th victim of family violence this year, said police.

She was identified as María de Los Angeles Morales López, 53. Her presumed killer, a 48-year-old man with the last names of Ureña Umaña, has been taken to the Hospital de Heredia under guard. He was found near the woman's body in a semi-conscious state. He had knife wounds to the neck and arms, said police.

The woman was found with multiple knife wounds in the chest, said police. The death took place in La
Esperanza de Heredia, which is near the tourist center Tica Linda, said police.

In another case of family violence Tuesday a man held his two brothers hostage in a bar in Vásquez de Coronado until police convinced him to surrender.

The man who was arrested has been identified by the last names of Méndez Rodríguez. The two brothers,  Geovany and Yesenia with the same last name, were being held at knifepoint.

The Fuerza Pública credited its psychological unit with making contact with the man.

No change in pre-trial conditions for former president Rodríguez
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez has lost an appeal of his house arrest.

The Tribunal de Juicio del II Circuito Judicial de San José confirmed a ruling by a penal judge that Rodríguez should remain under house arrest until Oct. 14.

The appeals tribunal also rejected a request by the Fiscalía de Delitos Económicos to put the former president back in jail. Rodríguez is under house arrest after posting a bond of more than $500,000.  He got out of prison in March to spend the rest of his
pre-trial period in his Escazú home.

The ex-president had been in la Reforma since returning voluntarily from the United States in October where he was forced to resign as general secretary of the Organization of American States.

Rodríguez is being investigated for possible participation in the bribery scandal involving Alcatel, the French telecommunications firm, and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad stemming from a cellular telephone contract while he was president.

The tribunal decision was confirmed by the press office of the Poder Judicial.

RACSA provides a link to check the speed of an Internet connection
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet provider known as RACSA, wants you to check out the speed of your computer connection. The company is getting a little more user friendly now that its big brother, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, has gone into the residential Internet business via the telephone lines.

RACSA distributed a link this week that will connect computer users to a free service that evaluates their connection.

The Internet has been running slowly lately and
problems with RACSA's computers have been blamed.

However, a company spokesman said that any user who finds a connection speed slower than what he or she is paying for should contact the company's technical support department.

Telephone dial-up connections should be at least 50 kilobytes per second (kbps), said the company. Cable connections through local television companies should be at least 128 kbps incoming and 64 kbps outgoing and perhaps more depending on the speed for which the user has contracted.

The link for checking the speed is HERE!

Jo Stuart
About us
What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted. Check HERE for more details