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(506) 223-1327               Published Thursday, July 26, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 147            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Release of cyanide feared
Glencairn halts gold mine work over shifting soil

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Glencairn Gold Corp. has shut down operations at its Costa Rican mine because the earth is shifting and there is fear that cyanide will leak into the environment.

The mine, the Bellavista, uses an open pit procedure in which ore is dumped into a lined depression and then treated with cyanide to remove the gold. The company said in a press release that the ground in the vicinity of the leaching pit and the waste pile is moving at a rate of a centimeter a day.  That's a bit more than a third of an inch.

The company characterized the suspension of work as precautionary.  The mine is located in Montes de Oro near the town of Miramar east of Puntarenas.

The company said it believes the ground movement is caused by the soil being supersaturated with water.

"Based on earth movement patterns in Costa Rica, the geological structure at the site, and the opinions of its experts, the company does not believe that there is a risk of sudden earth movement at this time," the firm said. "However, continued small movements could compromise the sub-liner, liner and drain system. As a further precautionary measure, all cyanide application has been immediately suspended.

The company said that extensive ground monitoring has been undertaken and a number of remedial measures are underway to reduce ground movement including dewatering wells, surface
water control, and redistribution of the weight.

The company said it expects advanced stage studies and analysis to be completed within the next few weeks. An update on the results of these studies and remedial measures being taken, along with the expected impact on the operation for the remainder of 2007, will be provided as soon as it is available, it said.

Gold mining began at the location in April 2005. The company said it sold 38,830 ounces in 2006 at $595 per ounce for total income of $23.1 million. The mine generated an operating profit of $5.6 million, it said.

The mine always has been controversial because of the use of cyanide. It has promised to leave as small a footprint as possible on the land and to donate the reforested mine site and adacent lands once the gold runs out. The Toronto-based Glencairn also owns mines in Nicaragua.

Any flow of cyanide into the enviornment will be fodder for environmentalists, and a large release could be an ecological disaster. The problem at the Bellavista mine also is likely to reflect on a second, unrelated mining project in northern Costa Rica close to the Río San Juan.

There Vannessa Ventures Ltd. and its Costa Rican subsidiary Industrias Infinito, S.A. are trying to bring the Las Crucitas project into production, but it has faced a number of legal hurdles.

Here environmentalists have expressed concern about the proximity of the river and the mine site.

Legislator wants state to shoulder full burden of maternity leaves
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The unemployment rate for women is nearly twice that of men, and one legislator thinks that is because female workers who become pregnant get a three-month paid leave to have the baby.

So the legislator, Mario Quirós Lara of the Movimiento Libertario, has introduced legislation that would require the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social to pay the full cost of a leave.

Now the employer pays the full amount but can be
 reimbursed for 50 percent by the Caja. Quirós  said that this arrangement is a disincentive for hiring women.

Women now have a 9.6 percent unemployment rate while the rate for men is 5 percent, she said. The groups of women with the highest unemployment are those from 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 years, he said, noting that these are prime child-bearing years.

The proposal is titled Law to Reduce the Discrimination of Female Labor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 147

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firemen at work
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Firemen consider how they will get to the source of the smoke.

Firemen extinguish blaze
at three city structures

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firemen saved three structures Wednesday night when fire broke out in a dwelling on Avenida Central just 100 meters east of the Embassy of Nicaragua.

Flames were visible when firemen arrived, but they quickly reduced the fire to a stubborn smolder.

Jorge Marrero, the fire official in charge, said that three structures were involved. A small restaurant, El Buen Comer, appeared to have suffered mainly smoke damage.

Firemen had to cut through the metal roof of a three-unit dwelling at the corner of Calle 27. The structure was reported to be unoccupied at the time of the blaze, about 7:11 p.m.

Firemen from the central station, Barrio Lujan and Guadalupe responded, and traffic was detoured for more than two hours.

Passenger dies despite airlift
after bus rolls over in south

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite an airlift, a woman died after a bus overturned and flew apart in southern Costa Rica Wednesday morning.

Some 50 other passengers suffered lesser injuries.

The woman was among a group of Central Valley residents who were headed to the tax-free depot in Golfito for a shopping holiday.

The accident happened shortly before noon and the Sección Aérea del Ministerio de Seguridad Pública was called upon to make the mercy flight to bring the badly injured woman to San José.

The remainder of the injured were taken to the Clínica de Palmar Sur and to the Hospital Tomás Casas in Ciudad Cortés.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 147

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Arias caught in a bind when he chose Liberia over Nicoya
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration usually does not make major protocol blunders, but holding the July 25 festivities in Liberia instead of Nicoya has turned out to be a mistake.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez even apologized publicly for the change of location Wednesday and promised that all future July 25 activities in his administration will be held in the city of Nicoya. There even was a Sala IV constitution court case against the Liberia location, but magistrates threw out the claim.

Liberia is in Guanacaste, but the holiday is the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya and not Liberia, so residents of the city on the Nicoya peninsula were very territorial. This year is the 183rd celebration marking the decision by political elders of the region to join with Costa Rica and not Nicaragua.

In past years, the celebration and the meetings of the president's consejo de gobierno or cabinet were held in the public park in Nicoya. Arias noted that he had been told that in previous years the official session had been in a number of Guanacaste towns.

During the official ceremony, Karla González, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, said that bids will be sought in December for improvements at the Daniel Oduber airport west of Liberia. Included are plans for $15 million in work.  A second runway will be constructed as will terminals. The work will allow the increase in international flights. The general outline of the proposals had been announced.

The airport is a success story in that flights and passengers have increased dramatically to the delight of tourism operators in the region. However, facilities are still primitive despite a new departure lounge.

Minister González also points out that nearly $18 million has been invested to repair major highways in Guanacaste and that some 70 kilometers (44 miles) of gravel roads are scheduled to get asphalt.
Nicoya dress
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Jenny Maria Paez Zuñiga is dressed with hat and bandana to celebrate July 25 while she works at Parque Morazán. This is the second year that city employees dressed up. She said 'Hi' to her sister Rina Paez, who is in Canada.

Fernando Zumbado, minister of Vivienda, reported that in the province some 1,688 families have been given a new home under the government's anti-poverty program.

Forget about getting anything official done in the next week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those expats who need to get something done with the local or central government better hurry.

Monday is a public holiday as is Thursday, and there is little chance of getting anything down between the two dates.

Monday is the observance of the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya, which really took place on July 25. This is one of those celebrations that a new law moved to the following Monday, although legislators are trying to void the measure for next year.

And as of Tuesday pilgrims were on the move with the goal of converging on the basilica in Cartago for the celebration of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles on Thursday. This is the big pilgrimage that mobilized perhaps 1.5 million Costa Ricans. Not all of them are highly religious, but the event is something Costa Ricans enjoy.

From all over Central America pilgrims are on the move.
Those living in the far corners of Costa Rica already have hit the road. They will be traveling from 30 to 50 miles a day. As the day approaches, more and more persons will be seen on the highways and byways.  The Policía de Tránsito considers this one of the major annual challenges.

Vehicles will be rerouted to provide room for pilgrims. By Wednesday the Autopista Florencio del Castillo from Curridabat to Cartago will be jammed. After the morning ceremonies at the basilica Aug. 2, the weary participants take buses home.

They will be rested up just in time for Mother's Day, the Costa Rican holiday second only to Christmas. That is Aug. 15, and it, too, is one of those holidays moved to the following Monday. This year that is Aug. 20.

But Costa Ricans are having none of that. It was the movement of Mother's Day that sparked the new bill in the legislature to quit moving the holidays. So Costa Ricans will honor their mothers Aug. 15, public holiday or not. Then they will do so again the following Monday, which is a public holiday.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 147

Regional strategy designed to put squeeze on youth gangs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Regional cooperation among Central America, Mexico and the United States is focusing on a new strategy to counter gang-related violence and develop programs that encourage young people not to join gangs.

Christy McCampbell, a State Department's deputy assistant secretary, said that the anti-gang strategy is part of an overall security plan for Central America and Mexico being developed jointly by the United States and the countries involved in the region.

Ms. McCampbell said gangs and gang-related crime are considered a significant security threat by the U.S. and Central American governments.

“The problem is very serious,” she said, involving extortion and homicide in Central America and criminal activities in the United States.

Ms. McCampbell said conference earlier this month in Guatemala of the Central American Integration System pointed out that gang-related violence poses social and economic threats and threatens the region’s interest in preserving stable democracies with free and vibrant economies.  She added, however, that there is a tendency of the media to sensationalize gang crime.
She said several U.S. agencies — the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security — all have programs that address different aspects of the anti-gang strategy, involving diplomacy, reintegration of former gang members into society, law enforcement, enhancing the capacity of partner countries and preventing youth from joining gangs.

Thomas Shannon, another State Department executive, announced the “Strategy to Combat Criminal Gangs from Central America and Mexico” during the conference. 
The anti-gang strategy calls for regional cooperation to improve the process for returning deportees who have entered the United States illegally, including gang members, and where feasible, for helping returned gang members become productive members of their communities.

In addition, regional police and justice officials will collaborate to track down criminal gang members through a new Central American fingerprinting exploitation initiative and through joint law enforcement efforts such as a new transnational anti-gang unit in El Salvador.  The fingerprinting plan will help Central American nations acquire data on violent criminals who have eluded capture by slipping across international borders and put them into a computerized system searchable by law enforcement.

U.S. students graduate after getting free training from Cuban medical school
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Eight American students have graduated from a Cuban medical school after six years of studies fully funded by the Cuban government.

The Americans and their peers from at least 25 other countries graduated Tuesday from the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. The Americans must now pass exams in the United States to get medical licenses.

The graduates told reporters that the scholarships they received will allow them to begin practicing medicine in the United States without debt. They say the same education in the U.S. would have cost at least $200,000.

But they say they know they will face prejudice when they return to the United States because of what they call the political situation between the U.S. and Cuba. They say the program taught them that medicine is not just a business.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after Cuban President Fidel Castro took power and steered Cuba toward communism.
The graduates' program was coordinated by the U.S.-based ministry organization, Pastors for Peace. The head of the organization, the Rev. Lucius Walker, said about 100 other U.S. students are enrolled at the school, and 18 more are expected to enroll in August.

Meanwhile, Cuban state media said acting Cuban President Raúl Castro will speak today at celebrations marking Cuba's national day, dimming hopes that the ailing president himself, Fidel Castro, might attend.

Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raúl nearly a year ago during a health crisis. He has not been seen in public since, although he has been filmed meeting with international visitors and editorials attributed to him have appeared in the Cuban media.

In comments published Monday, Fidel Castro blamed the United States for the disappearance Sunday of two Cuban boxers taking part in the Pan-American Games. He said the United States must have paid the athletes to defect. Last year, three Cuban Olympic boxers defected while training in Venezuela. They fled to Colombia and later signed contracts with a company in Germany.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 147

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