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(506) 2223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 146       E-mail us
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Geothermal plant
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
Some 1,000 construction workers are employed on the Las Pailas project

$130 million geothermal plant more than half done
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After an inspection Monday, top officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that the Proyecto Las Pailas is 65 percent complete.

Heading the tour was Eduardo Doryan Garrón, the executive president of the power and telecom institute.

Las Pailas is a geothermal generating plant on the skirt of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano in Guanacaste. This is a $160 million job that has 1,000 workers doing the construction. The project is being financed by the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

The plant draws heat from the earth to move generating turbines. The plant is expected to be online in 2011.

Energy officials see this as an important project that will reduce the country's dependency of
 imported petroleum. Although much of Costa Rica's electricity comes from hydro sources, there still are petroleum-fired generators that are particularly useful in the dry season when the lakes behind the hydro generating projects are low.

Las Pailas is supposed to generate 35 megawatts or 35 million watts.  Gravin Mayorga, deputy manager of geothermics for the generating giant noted that the generation is unaffected by weather or other outside influences. It runs 365 days a year.
 
Diego Pérez, director of the Proyecto Geotérmico Las Pailas, said that work is at a critical point now as the final wells are punched into the ground to access the natural heat below. The project is using a unique system in which collectors driven into the ground and rock comes in contact with more heat sources below.

The project has been important to the adjacent areas. Some 85 percent of the 1,000 workers on the job are local.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 146

Costa Rica Expertise
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Our readers' opinions
Costa Rica is hypocritical

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I don't understand how Costa Rica can contest the Arizona immigration law when they practice the same thing in their own country. As a tourist, you are required to carry at least a copy of your passport with you, and in some cases they have required you to show the original.

They have routine traffic stops where they ask you to show your driver's license and passport, and if you do not have it, they can detain you. They are routinely conducting raids in areas where immigrants and tourists are known to gather and check every ID.

I have been stopped three times in the last five years while driving in various parts of Costa Rica, and I always carry my passport with me so never had any issues. They asked for my cédula, and when they suspected I was not Costa Rican, they immediately wanted to see my passport, even if they realize you are driving a rental car and staying at a hotel.

Many countries around the world require you to carry your ID with you at all times, so I do not find any problem with what Costa Rica does. What I find hypocritical is how they can contest Arizona doing the same thing as they have been doing for years.
Ben Malek
Marbella, Spain

U.S. is defined by its borders

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

An open letter to the foreign minister:

I have read and come to understand that you are about to file an amicus cureae brief on behalf of the U.S. Government’s  attempt to thwart the head of state of Arizona from discharging her constitutional duties in protecting her citizens from a rogue criminal element that has endangered that state as well as other bordering states.

I would ask you sir that (1) Have you read the border enforcement bill of that state, and (2) have you read the U.S. Constitution, specifically those sections referring to states rights and obligations?

I would suggest that you are the only fool to have placed such an instrument before the courts, and secondly I would suggest that you enforce the laws of your country to safeguard your citizens, which seems to be lacking if one is to believe your media, as reports of high crime rates against expats as well as racial profiling and property loss due to a flawed legal system which is blind to justice and the rule of law.

As well the efficacy of your foreign policy in booting out a friendly nation and replacing them with one who contributed “more funding Money (Taiwan-China) smacks of a woman who leaves her man for another with more money.

There is a word for that. And lastly the permitting of foreign troops on your soil is a sure measure that you do not even respect your own borders, therefore how could one expect you to respect a state that does wish to defend it’s sovereign borders.

A remark from my president with regards to the question of borders was "Is America defined by her borders” the answer was: ”America is not defined by her borders”  I would ask a poll on this question and you sir would find that better than 90 percent of Americans do believe we are defined by our borders.

We are not surprised by the nonconforming to law response of your administration.

It is most unfortunate, that our Hispanic friends to the south of us have been badly abused by both American political parties. In as much as they (not the people) wish to legalize illegal citizens, by leaving our borders unchallenged and broken. The reasons are quite simple sir: The Republicans wish to abuse low-cost labor for their corporate friends and the Democrats wish to covet the illegal for their vote, nothing more.  The American people are disgusted with the base political terms they have been treated with. CAFTA will not avail any of your citizens of any values (other than your elite).

My best wishes to the expats suffering from racial profiling, lawlessness and crime against their persons in your country, Sir!!
Milt Farrow
Titusville, Florida

It's not just the Mexicans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This morning, I did a double take when I saw the article entitled "Costa Rica will contest Arizona Immigration Law."  Costa Rica will file a "friend-of-the-court brief?!"  What sort of double standard is that?  Here we are required to have a form of identification (passport, for example) with us at all times.  Now I see that what's good for some isn't necessarily good for all.  People fail to understand that the law is NOT confined to certain ethnic backgrounds. There are others who enter the U.S. illegally. Not everyone is coming across the border from Mexico!  Lest we forget the tragedy of Sept. 11!
Ann Boyd
Alajuela

Tico laws are far stricter

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

By what right does Costa Rica contest Arizona’s immigration law?  Costa Rica's immigration laws are far stricter than the United States, which the Arizona law mirrors.

I know by experience that just trying to come to Costa Rica to live as retiree takes months of gathering paperwork from various U.S. and Costa Rican agencies, not to mention the nearly $2,000 I spent before we were even prepared to submit the paperwork to the Costa Rican government.  I can’t imagine what it would take to try to get citizenship in Costa Rica.  I don’t think it is possible to just walk across the border into Costa Rica and expect to be welcomed with open arms.  Just view the treatment of Nicaraguans documented by your own articles.

As for Barack Obama’s “effort to reform the immigration laws,” there is no effort.  That is the problem from Obama’s administration and all of the administrations before him.  Arizona and many other states are only asking that the federal government at the very least enforce the immigration laws that are in place.  That is not happening.

Costa Rica needs to clean up its own mess before entering into the sovereign issues of other countries.
Dale E. Lay
Gilbert, Arizona

Costa Rica profiles Gringos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How can Costa Rica, whose 90-day visa is strictly enforced, side with México?  I was shocked to read the foreign ministry instructed its embassy in Washington to seek permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting México's case against Arizona.
 
The Arizona law clearly states documentation papers are only asked for if the person has been detained for a crime.   It is not racial profiling.   Yet, Costa Rica does profile.  I am an expat living here, and I have been stopped many times while driving between cities and asked for my passport and driver's license.  I did nothing wrong to be stopped except I look like a Gringo.  
 
Just as Costa Rica deports those here illegally, I respect Arizona for trying to enforce what the federal government has failed for so long to do.   The United States sends it's military and ships to help defend Costa Rica from drug smugglers yet does nothing to protect it's own borders from the same.
 
If Costa Rica embraces immigration reform for the United States, why doesn't Costa Rica enact an immigration reform law itself where expats can apply for residency without having to pay thousands of dollars and frustrating months of waiting only to be told they need one more form filled out?   
 
Costa Rica's support of illegals crossing over from Mexico into the United States is hypocritical.  Costa Rica does not allow illegals.  Why should México be granted special exceptions allowing them to ignore immigration laws going into the United States?
Linda Bareilles
Grecia, Alajuela

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 146

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

refugee wildlife
Photos by Oscar Brenes
Zone-tailed hawk
Buteo albonotatus

Riverside wren  
Thryothorus semibadius

Hourglass tree frog 
Dendropsophus ebraccatus


Playa Tortuga researchers interested in more than turtles
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A converted pizza joint is the locus for a new research station to study the Playa Tortuga area. The project developers hope to concentrate on the study of the nesting Ridley sea turtles in that area but also promote other biological themes.

The station is near Ojochal on the south Pacific coast.

Together with adjacent private property, some of which is in advanced secondary forest, there is about 40 hectares of wildlife habitat that will eventually be put forth as part of the national network of private natural reserves, said Alexia Maizel, project manager.  The organization is processing tax-exempt, non-profit status in both Costa Rica and the United States, Ms. Maizel said.

The property also borders the northern part of the Río Térraba estuary, with a few mangroves and tidal flats. This estuary is one of the larger mangrove areas in Central America and is recognized as a Convention on Wetlands  international site.

Inventories of the wildlife species in the area are underway with 180 bird species already recorded with a good possibility of 300 once there is more comprehensive coverage at all seasons. Insect and plant studies will start soon, Ms. Maizel said.
The scientific studies, mostly the turtle project for now, are run by biologist Oscar Brenes. Last nesting season from August to January included bringing eggs from the beach where they are likely to be taken by poachers to be protected in a hatchery. The hatchling turtles can then be put in the water. Sara Estrada is the resident research assistant.

This year’s turtle arrival season is underway but holdups with beach use permits have delayed the construction of the hatchery, Brenes said.

Stated goals include education of local people about conservation values and provide them with options of their own, promote networking of foreign and Costa Rican researchers, pinpoint specific research needs especially about marine species and habitats, do beach cleanups, promote recycling, and work sustainability of local fishing.

Specific biological research on higher-level predators and otters, crocodilians, and macaws is planned.

Much of the labor for the sea turtle and mangrove projects is provided by volunteers who can stay at the station once it is expanded with more bedroom space.

When the facility is well-endowed and working, Playa Tortuga Marine Conservation and Research hopes to attract scientists and “citizen-scientists” from Costa Rica and overseas, developers said.


There's danger in trying to protect the sea turtle nests
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A love of sea turtles has taken researchers into the dark of night at Playa Tortuga on the south Pacific coast, not always finding tranquility by the rolling surf and shifting tides.

The Ridley sea turtle has been poached nearly to extinction at the beach that takes its name. According to researcher Oscar Brenes, older folks in the area can remember large arrivals of nesting females at once, whereas now two is a typical night in the season lasting from August to January.

Egg poachers are the primary threat with turtle eggs reportedly worth 200 colons each in local bars where they are eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. A turtle can lay as many as 100 eggs at a time.

The purpose of the patrols is mostly to get to the eggs before the poachers do, so they can be reburied in a protected hatchery and then the baby turtles can be freed directly into the sea.

Three shifts of four hours each maintain a presence on the beach.

Nearby squatters are a factor.

Brenes reports that most of the poachers avoid contact with the patrols but this man is more brazen, even digging up nests right in front of the researchers, safe in the knowledge that they have no authority to do anything.

On one occasion the encounter became aggressive, as Brenes put it, the poacher told them “they were taking his nests, he was mad and screaming and waving around a machete.”

The squatters stayed indoors a different night, while
prohibited the taking of eggs
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Taking turtle eggs is prohibited, sign says

Brenes and another researcher Alex Fonseca were out.
Some activity ahead attracted their attention, upon which they were lit up with vehicle headlights and shot at.

Beaches in the Osa area are known drug smuggling drop points, though the popular ones are more remote than Playa Tortuga.

After this incident the project no longer endangers minors on the patrols and has tried to make up larger groups with community people, though those seem to be mostly resident expats.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 146


Fugitive pair from Panamá are captured on Río San Juan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man and woman sought for investigation of multiple murders in Panamá seem to have spent several weeks in Costa Rica before they tried to flee to Nicaragua Monday morning.

The Nicaraguan army captured the duo on the Río San Juan as they tried to flee from a checkpoint there.

The pair are William Adolfo Cortez and Jean Seana Cortez. They appear to have spent time in Grecia, Nuevo Arenal, Turrialba, and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí before spending a night on the run in the community of La Trinidad. They had been sought since Saturday by Costa Rican law enforcement officers because a prosecutor in Boca de Toro asked the International Police Agency to list them as wanted.

Both are large individuals, and Spanish-language newspapers have been publishing their photos. The story broke Friday when the prosecutor's office in Boca de Toro confirmed that two bodies had been found on property occupied by the pair. By that time they had crossed over into Costa Rica.

They are in custody now in Nicaragua and were being taken to the capital of Nicaragua after their arrest. That happened in a place known as Tambor. The river is Nicaraguan territory, and Costa Rica's jurisdiction ended at the river bank.  However, judicial agents confiscated their vehicle on the Costa Rican side.

They are suspects in the death of Cheryl Lynn Hugues, who ran a backpacker hostel that Cortez later operated. Ms. Hugues, who vanished in March, was found in a grave on property Cortez operated. Investigators found another body at the same time. They believe it is of Bo Icelar, who vanished in December after Cortez was said to have purchased his tourism business.

Agents also want to question the Cortez couple about three Dutch citizens, a husband and wife and a son, who have
been missing in the Boca de Toro area for three years. The Cortez couple is believed to have said they purchased property from the husband and wife.

Neftali Jaen, a judicial official, said Saturday that two local workers who were employees of the couple have vanished. There may be more missing workers.

Both Cortez and his wife are believed to be U.S. citizens, but they seem to have been traveling on Dutch passports. Cortez has connections in Aruba.

The arrest was dramatic. The pair rented a boat and asked the owner to take them to Barra del Colorado on the Río Colorado, which really is the southern mouth of the Río San Juan in northeast Costa Rica. As they approached a checkpoint on the river, the boat operator either declined to evade it or was not doing a good job, so Cortez is said to have thrown him into the river and took charge of the craft himself.

An army craft with soldiers armed with machine guns eventually stopped their flight.

Cortez, handcuffed to his wife went on another craft with Nicaraguan police officers under army guard. The river is the main transportation route in that part of the country.

Judicial agents are checking in detail the history of the couple's stay in Costa Rica, particularly since they are suspected of multiple murders.

The allegations from Boca de Toro are that the pair would enter into negotiations for property and then take possession by killing the rightful owners. In several cases, Cortez is said to have told neighbors that the previous owner simply left abruptly after the sale.

The Dutch couple and son, who have the last name of Brown, were in the fruit production business.

Panama, like Costa Rica and Nicaragua, does not have a death penalty in its penal code.



Environment tirbunal to report to Osa residents Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo plans to report its findings to the residents of Osa in a meeting planned for Wednesday.

The topic is "Osa, an endangered treasure," so that gives an indication of what the agency will say.

Experts from the Tribunal conducted four sweeps of the canton over the last two years and have cited a number of landowners for environmental violations. The Tribunal said there are 60 open cases now.

Violations range from chopping trees, opening up roads, constructing structures and other activities without permits. Other violations are invasion of the maritime zone, draining mangroves, and movements of earth.

The Tribunal said that because of the fragility of the area, which includes the Osa peninsula and Parque Nacional Corcovado, its experts have paid special attention to that part of Costa Rica.

The work has not been without controversy. Some residents feel that the Tribunal overstepped its mission.

The meeting Wednesday will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Hotel Sierra in Golfito. It is scheduled to end at noon
The Tribunal said that The Nature Conservancy and the Fundación Corcovado helped outline this special report.

Environmental inspectors first went to the southern Pacific coast from July 7 to 11, 2008. The bulk of the inspections were on the coast north of Golfito and involved a number of real estate projects in the hills overlooking the Pacific. The first 13 cases were opened then.

From Oct. 24 to 28, 2008, inspectors were back, and this time they had the benefit of air views of the properties. Some 18 new cases were opened then.

Last Dec. 6 to 10 inspectors were in Drake Bay, and the Golfo Dulce. The Tribunal said at the time that eight hotels had invaded the maritime protective zone and that some put up structures in the 50-meter zone where no building is permitted. Some of the hotel operators deny these allegations, and many of the cases still are pending.

The last sweep of the area was from March 11 to 14 where inspectors found six projects and seven persons they said were in violation. The main violations were tree cutting and putting in roads without a permit.

The Tribunal, created in 1995, is a dependency of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunications. It has the power to hear cases, levy stiff fines and seek compensation for environmental damage.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 146

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. denies it's planning
to go to war in Venezuela


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States says it has no intention of initiating military action against Venezuela in response to threats by the country's president that he would cut off oil supplies if the U.S. backed an attack against Venezuela by Colombia.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Virginia Staab said Monday the United States enjoys a mutually beneficial energy relationship with Venezuela and Washington would like it to continue. 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez told thousands of supporters Sunday that if the U.S. backed Colombia in armed aggression against Venezuela, his country would suspend oil shipments to the United States.  The U.S. is the top buyer of oil from the South American country.

Chávez also said Sunday that he is canceling a trip to Cuba due to the tensions with Colombia.

Chávez announced last week he was breaking diplomatic ties with Colombia for what he said were false claims by Bogotá that Venezuela is harboring Colombian rebels.  He ordered troops to be on "maximum alert" at the border.

Chávez acted after Colombia went before the Organization of American States' permanent council in Washington to present photographs, maps, coordinates and videos it said show 1,500 guerrillas hiding in Venezuela.

Colombia requested the Organization of American States session after charging that leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, known as the FARC, and the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, or ELN, had taken refuge in Venezuela.  Venezuela's envoy, Roy Chaderton, said the items presented by Colombia's ambassador did not provide any solid evidence of a guerrilla presence in Venezuela.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday that Colombia's allegations are serious and deserve to be fully investigated.

In 2008, Venezuela and Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after Colombian troops raided a rebel camp in Ecuador, killing Fuerzas Armadas commander Raul Reyes and at least 20 other people.

Castro brothers mum
on Cuba's Revolution Day


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba has commemorated Revolution Day without remarks from President Raúl Castro or an appearance by his brother, former president Fidel Castro. 

Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura gave the main speech Monday to tens of thousands of Cubans gathered in Santa Clara to mark the 57th anniversary of the attack that is considered the start of the country's Communist revolution.   

The celebration in Cuba was held outside a memorial housing the remains of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine who helped lead the armed uprising that put Fidel Castro in power in 1959. The former president has only recently been seen in public since falling ill in 2006 and ceding power to his brother, Raúl. 

Revolution Day celebrates the July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago by young rebels led by Fidel Castro.   The attack failed, but Cubans consider it the beginning of the revolution that culminated with dictator Fulgencio Batista's ouster on New Year's Day 1959.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 146


Latin American news
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Concession prohibition
against foreigners upheld


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has upheld a prohibition against awarding maritime concessions to foreigners.

Under Costa Rican law, a maritime concession is granted by the municipality in the area that is from 50 feet to 150 from the coastline. The law says that a concession must be held by a Costa Rican or a company containing more than 50 percent Costa Rican capital. Concessions can be for various reasons, including building a home or a tourist resort.

That law is dodged regularly, but the concept of discrimination against foreigners became a constitutional case. The appeal argued that the concession was only for a fixed period and that circumstances do not vary regardless of whether the concession holder is a Costa Rican or a foreigner.

Many expats live on concession land and sometimes the actual ownership is in the name of a lawyer or some other person the occupants trust.

Periodically the government enforces this rule.

The Costa Rican Constitution prohibits discrimination  against foreigners, but the article also provides a legislative loophole. The article, No. 19, says in part: Foreigners have the same individual and social rights and duties that Costa Ricans do, with the exceptions and limitations established by this Constitution and the laws.

The Sala IV appeal specifically was against sections of the Ley sobre la Zona Marítimo Terrestre, No. 6043.  There was no explanation of the reasoning behind the vote by the magistrates in the short summary issued by the Poder Judicial.


Sala IV rejects argument
against civil union voting


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected a human rights argument against a proposed referendum on civil unions between persons of the same sex.

A brief summary of the decision was released Monday by the Poder Judicial.

Opponents of the referendum argued that the Asamblea Legislativa was incorrect in not excluding from referendum topics the rights of minorities who have been discriminated against historically and excluded from Costa Rican society.

The summary from the Poder Judicial did not say if there were other constitutional appeals pending against the controversial referendum. The Sala IV has ordered the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones to freeze action on the referendum, and this decision did not give the Tribunal the go-ahead. The proposed referendum is planned for Dec. 5, the same time that Costa Ricans vote for municipal officials.

Proponents of civil union between persons of the same sex suspect that the referendum will reject civil unions. The referendum has been planned by organizations associated with the Roman Catholic Church.


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