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(506) 2223-1327              Published Thursday, July 29, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 148       E-mail us
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While fugitive, Milanes entered and left country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While Luis Ángel Milanes, the casino operator and fraud suspect, was a fugitive he appears to have been able to enter and leave Costa Rica at will.

A document from the court file has surfaced that Milanes signed in front of his then-lawyer in Paso Canoas in southern Costa Rica April 22, 2008. Milanes was on his way to surrender two months later when he was detained in El Salvador.

In the document, Milanes appoints Álvaro Jiménez Acuña as his legal representative and begins the effort to return to Costa Rica. The document is addressed to the economics crimes prosecutor. The letter appears to be the initial step in his eventual negotiation of a special deal from Francisco Dall'Anese, the chief prosecutor.

In the document Milanes attempts to absolve all his business associates from complicity in the case. He also said that he is the only one responsible for the the criminal case surrounding his former company, Savings Unlimited. He said that if anyone is responsible for whatever irregular situation in the management of Savings Unlimited funds, it is he.

That statement is in contradiction with what Milanes says now.  Milanes has claimed that a former associate, Costa Rican lawyer José Adolfo Somarribas Arias, now fighting extradition in Europe, has access to the bulk of the money.

Milanes has said that he does not have any more money to pay his creditors fully. An estimated $200 million was believed invested with Savings Unlimited when Milanes left Nov. 25, 2002. Creditors of record in the court case account for about $40 million.

In the April 22, 2008, court document Milanes seeks to establish the amount of money his creditors in the case originally invested. He said that he does not want to pay back interest to the creditors who lost money with his firm, in part because the interest rate was very high.

Savings Unlimited was one of those handful of firms that paid monthly interest in excess of 3 percent. In his letter to the prosecutor Milanes did not hint at what kind of business he conducted that could generate such profits. But he did say that since the time he shut the business down
Who? ME?

This is José Adolfo Somarribas Arias, the man Milanes says has the bulk
of the money

Milanes associate
INTERPOL photo

Nov. 25, 2002, there should be no expectation by creditors of interest to accrue.

A similar high-interest operation by the brothers Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho was declared a ponzi scheme by a trial court.

Milanes is facing fraud charges, but the letter to prosecutors makes clear that even before he surrendered he was trying to reduce his financial exposure to investor creditors so he could arrive at some kind of financial agreement that would keep him out of jail.

A Milanes associate is suggesting a deal whereby those creditors who have filed in the criminal case would get about 25 percent of their money. Some say they will accept no deal and want to see the casino owner in jail.

Curiously, there is no mention of his thriving casino business in the letter to prosecutors or the current negotiations. Milanes is offering some land in Santa Ana and the Europa Hotel in San Jose's downtown. He said the package is worth more than $13 million. Others disagree. Most of the casinos operated by Milanes are in leased facilities, but there appears to be a substantial cash flow. The Europa has a casino.

What seems to irk investors the most is that Milanes spent little time in prison. He was jailed briefly when he returned from El Salvador. Since then he has been a regular at his casinos and other nightspots in Costa Rica.

Milanes is a Cuban-American. There is no indication if he is current with his U.S. income tax or if the Internal Revenue Service will put more obstacles in the way of creditors recovering their money.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 29, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 148

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Low pressure probably
means more rain today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather is being affected today by low pressure areas that are creating more instability. This leads to cloudy skies and thunderstorms, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center places a low pressure area off the coast of Guanacaste. There is a low probability that the system will develop into a tropical storm, and the system seems to be moving west or northwest, the agency said.

Today's rains will be mainly in the Pacific coast, the northern zone and the Central Valley, the Costa Rican weather institute said. But rain in the Caribbean mountains can produce flooding below, it added.


Chamber alerting members
to crimes in Quepos area

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cámera Comercial in Quepos is alerting members to a home invasion and armed robbery. An e-mail alert from the chamber said that three armed men entered a home early Wednesday and held a man there at gunpoint while they took items.

A neighbor obtained the plate number of the car the men used, the chamber said. The Judicial Investigating Organization is involved in the case.

The chamber e-mail alert is another entry into citizens taking responsibility to notify their community of crimes, mainly violent ones.

There are several other e-mail alert systems in use in Costa Rica now.


Emergency decree sought
for damages Heredia areas


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five legislative deputies have asked President Laura Chinchilla to declare a state of emergency for Heredia in the sections that were hit hard by heavy rain last week.

The areas are an San Pablo, Santo Domingo, San Rafael and Heredia Centro.

About 100 homes were damaged or destroyed by flash floods and some 300 persons had to spend time in shelters. In addition infrastructure like drains, bridges and electrical lines were damaged.

The state of emergency would free up funds so state agencies could provide help.


Manuel Antonio resort helps
replace monkey bridges

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

When high winds ravaged Manuel Antonio and its famous national park June 1, the monkeys suffered, too. Some 30 man-made monkey bridges are being replaced for the benefit of the mono titi or squirrel monkeys.

The project is by Kids Saving the Rainforest, a local environmental organization with financial help from Byblos Resort & Casino.

“Giving the monkeys safe passage over busy roads and populated areas by strategically placing rope “bridges” is an integral part of our work.” said Jennifer Rice, representative of Kids Saving the Rainforest.

“Not only have over a quarter of the bridges been destroyed, but thousands of trees in the rainforest have come down or broken, making it extremely difficult for the monkeys to travel the canopy in search of food and shelter. Some have been electrocuted trying to find new routes because they now have to pass through live wires and transformers. It is crucial to get the bridges up again.” added Ms. Rice.

The project cost about $2,000. Kids Saving the Rain Forest can be located at the organization's Web site.


Students trust Google
to give credible links


By the Northwestern University News Center

Google it. That's what many college students do when asked to read an excerpt of a play for class, write a resume or find the e-mail address of a politician.

They trust Google so much that a Northwestern University study has found many students only click on Web sites that turn up at the top of Google searches to complete assigned tasks. If they don't use Google, researchers found that students trust other brand-name search engines and brand-name Web sites to lead them to information.

The study was published by the International Journal of Communication.

"Many students think, ‘Google placed it number one, so, of course it's credible,'" said Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern. "This is potentially tricky because Google doesn't rank a site by its credibility."

In the published, study 102 students at the University of Illinois at Chicago sat at computers with researchers. Each student was asked to bring up the page that's usually on their screen when they start using the Web.

The activity on their screens was captured on video as researchers gave the students a variety of hypothetical information-seeking tasks to perform online. Time and again, researchers watched students navigate to brand-name search engines — usually Google — and to brand-name Web sites to find information. Researchers also asked students questions about Web sites they chose.

After using Google to get to a website, this interaction occurred between a researcher and a study participant:

Researcher: "What is this Web site?"

Student: "Oh, I don't know. The first thing that came up."

"Search engine rankings seem extremely important," Hargittai said. “We found that a Web site’s layout or content almost didn’t even matter to the students. What mattered is that it was the No. 1 result on Google."

Aside from Google, other online brands that students mentioned most often to complete tasks were: Yahoo!, SparkNotes, MapQuest, Microsoft, Wikipedia, AOL and Facebook.

Some of the students did give more credibility to Web sites ending in dot-gov, dot-edu or dot-org. However, Hargittai said most didn't know dot-org domain names could be registered by anyone, and thus are not inherently different from dot-com sites.

"Just because younger people grew up with the Web doesn't mean they're universally savvy with it," Hargittai said. "Educators should show specific Web sites in class and talk about why a source is or isn't credible."



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 29, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 148

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

Sala IV asks for evaluation of new road lacking sidewalks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One reason the accident rate is so high in Costa Rica is that highways frequently do not have shoulders and urban roadways lack sidewalks.  Consequently pedestrians and bicycle riders use the vehicle right-of-way. This mixing of pedestrians and bikes with motor vehicles often has fatal results, particularly at night.

The Sala IV constitutional court has stopped short of requiring the Ministerio de Obras Públicas yTransportes to install these spaces for pedestrians, but the court asked the ministry to take a look at the problem and report back in three months.

The issue arose in a constitutional appeal about lack of sidewalks on the new highway from Sabana Sur to Hatillo and Alajuelita. Also involved was the ministry's highway arm, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.
A man with the last names of Izquierdo Cedeño filed the appeal. The court told the ministry to evaluate the pedestrian security of the highway and to take remedial action, if necessary.

The highway has steady pedestrian traffic, but when there is a shoulder it is narrow and of dirt. In some cases pedestrians have to walk in the right-of-way.

The appeal also said that the ministry failed to construct pedestrian overpasses or ramps for the disabled. The court did not rule on that part of the appeal.

The court has ordered pedestrian bridges on other major highways. For example, there is a new bridge from Sabana Sur to Parque La Sabana.

The problem is that many pedestrians do not use the bridge and take their chances on the enlarged six-lane highway.


Cultural festival is Saturday on the Nicoya peninsula
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Festival Artístico Cultural de Matambú is planned for one day, Saturday, in the canton of Hojancha in the Nicoya peninsula.

This is the fourth year for the festival, and the emphasis will be on the history and culture of the Matambú. Among other presentations is the well-known Grupo de Danza Folclórica de Matambú

The festival will be in the community hall of Matambú, which is 5 kms outside the canton administrative center of Hojancha

The Reserva Indigena Matambú has about 1,000 residents.  The event is unabashedly promotional with the local development association trying to attract tourists.  There will be a variety of traditional dishes, mostly of corn, and the sale of local arts and crafts.
Nicoya festival

The event begins at 8 a.m., and organizers have scheduled activities for children at 10 a.m. The afternoon is filled with presentations by dance and acrobatic groups, mostly from Guanacaste.

A Santa Cruz band plays at 6 p.m. followed by a dance with the Marimba Marisol. The festival is supported by the regional office of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 29, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 148

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Readers have their say on crime situation in Costa Rica

Former cop gives warning
on methamphetamine

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have only lived in Costa Rica for two months but have enjoyed every minute of it.  When I decided to move down here, I had no expectations that I was moving into a crime-free environment or that I would live like royalty on my government pension.  I have discovered that overall it is less expensive to live here than in my home town in Northern California. 

I have also learned that no matter where you go there will always be people who complain about their current condition.  I moved down here to experience all the beauty, the climate and, most of all, the good-hearted people of Costa Rica.  I didn't move because I was not satisfied with my life but rather to enhance an already good life.  I suspect those who complain the most would do so regardless of their environment. 

That having been said I have a single major concern about the future of life in Costa Rica.  As a retired police officer, I can tell you that everyone who cares about life in Costa Rica should be vigilant about protecting against the importation, manufacture and use of methamphetamine.  It can destroy whole communities, and no single cause can contribute more to the decline of safe communities than the use of methamphetamine. 

The government should be doing everything in its power to deter the presence of this evil drug to include both strict enforcement of laws as well as education and assistance for those who fall prey to this most addictive substance.

There is no place in Costa Rica for this drug and we should all do our part to keep it that way.

Bob McDonald
Playa Tambor


Concerns about crime
affect residency decision


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
Costa Rica is certainly not alone in the world when it comes to crime and attacks upon innocent individuals.  Yes, the financial depression can take a heavy toll on those who are needy.  Sadly, those who display even the slightest degree of wealth make themselves subject to being the victims of robbery. 

However, that is wherein the problem lies.  It is one thing to rob a person, and, another to also physically assault them, harm them and kill them.  This is where the local and national government must do more.  Currently, from all outward appearances, the perpetrator gets off very easily, so there is no deterrent for them not to commit a crime again.  If stronger prison sentences and work programs were put in place, one would think twice before subjecting another person to harm.
 
For two years I have been visiting Costa Rica with the intent of moving later this year and becoming a resident.  Now, I am seriously starting to consider moving to Panamá.  It seems the crime rate in most areas is far less, and justice is handed out faster and more intense. 

I am not alone. There are thousands upon thousands of "baby boomers" like myself who want to make such a move.

If the government of Costa Rica and President Chinchilla want to see the economic and growth benefits the future influx of ex-pats can bring, they need to address this matter immediately, not talk about it and procrastinate, but get to work on it today!
 
Bruce Jacobs
New Jersey


German resident defends
country from criticism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reference to a letter Wednesday:

You are doing exactly what you criticize with others: spreading dirt around.  You have your own business in Costa Rica, and you want the world to hear how wonderful it is living in Costa Rica. Yes Costa Rica is beautiful but also different if you live there (vigilant every second) or just visit (somewhat vigilant).

Your comments are entirely inconsistent!

Blame the crime in CR on the victim for carrying a cell phone, a wrist watch, refusing to live behind burglar bars? There is crime everywhere but Germany does not claim to be “paradise.”
 
How can you complain that your Canadian road trip took so much longer and blame it on accidents? Where is your point of positive news about Costa Rica and negative about Canada? Eventually people died in these accidents, and you were inconvenienced …

Your letter shows how little you have traveled. “Air” is not standard in Europe not even in a four-star hotel. (Yes, it gets hot sometimes in summer and air is nice.) That you did not receive a smile, so what? Can happen in Costa Rica, too.

This four-star hotel where you had to pay for a cart for your luggage — and you complain — was probably cheaper than the same category hotel in Costa Rica where luggage transportation may be offered or not. Pay less and do a little more yourself, carry your own luggage. In Germany it is a question of pay another employee who costs a lot more in comparison to the salario minimo in Costa Rica.

SJO has a total capacity of 17 planes at the same time. Frankfurt airport has 145. FRA is not new (some of it is) and a constant piece of work because of constant growth, and it has to function and it does! It offers everything you may need and more. I just passed thru there last week and it did not look like a Third World airport to me. Only because SJO has a tiny piece of new airport now to say FRA is a dump is . . . .

I can tell you this: if I leave my house in Germany unattended for two months I don’t have to be afraid that it was taken over by neighbor squatters or broken into. If I travel around Germany, Europe I don’t have to be vigilant! 

You want the myth alive about Costa Rica. But stay with the facts. There are good and bad things on both sides! Don’t make good stories up for the purpose of your business or especially real estate!

That there are traffic jams (because of construction) in Germany is a big nuisance but why is a future improvement something bad about Germany and makes Germany bad?

Lucky you that never ever something happened to you or your guests… God protects…

Martin Kautz
Germany and the United States


Invest in the children
to reduce crime rate


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The definition of insanity is often described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If Costa Rica can learn anything from it's bigger neighbors to the north, it's that more prisons, more courts and more trials do not deter or reduce crime.

We spend a good chunk of our annual budget here in California on incarcerating criminals, providing them with court-appointed attorneys, settling lawsuits they bring because their jello was unpalatable and treating medical conditions they brought on themselves. It is insane when you spend more on prisons than schools.

Please learn from our crazy, upside down system. Educate the kids, protect the borders, deter illegal immigration and feed the drug dealers to the ocean. If they knew they were going to be dropped off the coast instead of an air-conditioned prison with three meals a day, they might go somewhere else.

Hara Wayne Maderich
California and Guanacaste
Crime swept under the rug
contributes to the problem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The recent letter by Tessa and Martin Borner of Rincón de Salas who own a bed and breakfast blaming the victims of crime is sickening. It shows a selfish uncaring attitude towards Costa Ricans who have experienced a surge in crime. The time will come when their bed and breakfast will be broken into. They will be victims of a home invasion, their guest's belongings stolen, their car will be stolen, or they will be mugged on the street. 

So many expat business owners are upset when crime in Costa Rica is exposed. God forbid they will lose a guest's reservation.  Crime has been swept under the carpet for years. What we read in A.M. Costa Rica is nothing compared to the amount of crime that is occurring every moment of every day against tourists, Tico and Gringo home and business owners.  I applaud A.M. Costa Rica for not shying away from this subject even in light of the fact that A.M. Costa Rica receives income from its tourist related advertisers. 

I applaud the community organizing of Ticos and Gringos throughout Costa Rica to deal with crime. If crime is not exposed, nothing will be done about it, and all we need is a few tourists being shot dead and the faucet of tourists and their money to Costa Rica will be shut off like we have seen in México. This will result in a greater increase in crime as more Costa Ricans will become desperate and the downward spiral begins. 

Let's hear from Tessa and Martin AFTER THEIR business or home is broken into or after they have been mugged, both of which I personally experienced. They will be singing a different tune.  I would bet that their business is attended to 24 hours a day or it is a fortress. 16 years and not one problem only makes someone real naïve and out of touch with reality.  
Harry Heist
Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Tico asks other Ticos
to back anti-crime petition


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to the article that ran in Monday’s A.M. Costa Rica and the letters that your readers have sent.  As a Costa Rican, I am one hundred percent in support of the petition sent by these groups who live or have businesses in our country and want to give us ideas and be part of a change and solutions that everybody knows we need. 

Security in Costa Rica is a matter that has been worsening in recent years and not enough is being done to stem this increase.  The police do not have enough resources to tackle the problem, and we have a permissive law on the side of the offender and not for the decent citizen.   

Personally and in business, I have a very good relationship with the expat community in San Ramón de Alajuela, where I firmly believe their intentions are good and they are not trying to impose their rules or lifestyle on Costa Ricans.  They want Costa Rica's people and politicians to know that like all the other Costa Ricans, they are concerned and are willing to cooperate so that together we can move our country forward.  I appreciate the initiative of Community Action Alliance of San Ramón and CAP in Dominical along with all the other groups who have donated their interest, time and labor for this petition.

Please, to all the Ticos reading this article, let´s support these initiatives and not lose the support given to us today. Maybe tomorrow will be too late.
César Carrillo Garro
San Ramón de Alajuela

Where is the tax money
to stem criminal activity?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As I have been reading A.M. Costa Rica daily for years, I am also concerned about the constant chatter about the high crime level in Cost Rica.

Although I, too, am very concerned with my personal safety and frustrated with the number of times thieves have damaged and stolen property from my development in Guanacaste, Costa Rica is still a wonderful place.  When I started coming to Costa Rica in the 90s there was very little violent crime as opposed to the conditions now, but the same can be said for virtually all counties.  It’s not just because of the poverty of many Ticos or the drug trade.

The larger problem with Costa Rica is the lack of enforcement and punishment of criminals by the court system, which translates into there being no real deterrent to criminal activity.  That surely is not a way to attract foreign tourism or investment.  

The other major problem as I see it is the lack of cooperation by the government in making it easier to do business in Costa Rica.   For example, the only road from the airport in Liberia, and from the beach/tourist areas to get to the Papagayo Golf & Country Club, which is near my development, are still not paved.  We were promised that this would be done over five years ago.  It severely hurts the golf course business and my development because people don’t want to travel on a dusty, washboard road to get to these destinations.  Millions of dollars have been invested by the owner of the golf course, and by developers like myself and we have been left high and dry by failed promises.

Additionally, all people owning real estate, or doing business in Costa Rica are subject to the threats of fraudulent claims against one’s real estate, that should not exist in any developed country.   And the endless, and snail’s pace, flow of any paperwork that is required for almost any type of transaction is beyond belief. 

Last, the level of taxes imposed on vehicles, appliances, and almost all imported goods dramatically increases the cost of living and makes Panamá, Mexico, and Nicaragua  much more affordable destinations for business or retirement.   With the level of taxation in Costa Rica there should be no problem with keeping commitments to get roads paved, and for the needy to get help, and facilities built to lock up criminals unless a large share of this money winds up in the pockets of corrupt officials.  

And please, spare me the “This isn’t the USA” or the “if you don’t like it go home” jargon.  There is no excuse for most of these problems, period. 
Jim Day
East Lansing, Michigan
Libertad, Costa Rica 

Read A.M. Costa Rica
and carry a sidearm


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you A.M. Costa Rica for reporting the robberies, muggings, and attacks on expats in Costa Rica. This reporting should awaken those among us who are asleep or ignorant of what is actually going on in Costa Rica. Sure, there are crimes in other countries, but we are here! Let's talk about what is happening here!

Without A.M. Costa Rica reporting and being vigilant in warning about the very real dangers here in Costa Rica how in the world would we (expats) know? Maybe it is reported in Spanish newspapers and maybe not. But how many of us actually are able to read the Spanish newspapers anyway?

KUDOS to A.M. Costa Rica. Please, Please keep up the good work of telling us what is happening here and how we can be in danger. If A.M. Costa Rica doesn't report, WE just would not know!

So enjoy your lives here- But keep reading and keep ALERT! I personally carry a gun ALWAYS!!! and everyone knows it!  They know because occasionally my shirt slips up and reveals my gun in its holster. I am LEGAL!!! Even though I live in a very nice, peaceful community, the word gets around: The Gringo IS  Dangerous!!!

Very possibly, someone who might be thinking of robbing me will think again. I am NOT an easy target! I highly suggest carrying a gun and not being shy about letting people know. After all, the best defense is a good offense!

Thank you A.M. Costa Rica!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD REPORTING. We don't care what is going on in Germany or Canada or any other country. We live here!

Craig Devries,
Pérez Zeledón


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 29, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 148

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Castro turns author
to chronicle revolution

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro says he plans to publish a book next month that focuses on the Cuban revolution that brought him to power more than 50 years ago.

In comments on a government Web site Tuesday, the former Cuban president said the book would be titled "The Strategic Victory."

The 25-chapter book includes stories from his childhood and chronicles how his band of 300 young rebels fought the army of dictator Fulgencio Batista and eventually prevailed, declaring victory Jan. 1, 1959.  Castro went on to rule Cuba for 47 years until his illness in 2006, when he ceded power to his younger brother Raúl.

Fidel Castro spent most of the last four years in seclusion, but in recent weeks he has re-emerged in public.

Monday, Cuba commemorated the 57th anniversary of the July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago by Castro's fighters.  The attack failed, but Cubans consider it the beginning of the revolution that culminated with Batista's ouster.

The celebration was held in Santa Clara outside a memorial housing the remains of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine who helped lead the armed uprising that put Castro in power in 1959.  Castro did not appear in Santa Clara, remaining instead in Havana to lay a wreath at a memorial to Cuban independence leader José Marti at the city's Revolution Square.

Haitian singer considers
campaign for president


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian-born musician and humanitarian Wyclef Jean is considering running for president of Haiti.

Jean's family released a statement Tuesday, saying that the Grammy Award-winning musician is "committed to his homeland," but he has not formally announced an intent to run for president of the earthquake-shattered nation.

In an interview with CNN, Jean, who grew up in the United States, said he has filled out the necessary paperwork in case he does decide to move forward with a candidacy.  Presidential candidates have until Aug. 7 to register. 

Jean is the founder of the Yele Haiti Foundation, a charity for Haiti that has been active in rebuilding efforts following the devastating earthquake in January.

Current Haitian President René Preval is ineligible to run for a third term. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 29, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 148


Latin American news
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Illegal logging reported
down by 20 percent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Good news has emerged this month for the world's forests.  A new report from the London-based research group Chatham House says illegal logging is down by over 20 percent globally and by much more than that in some of the countries worst affected by the problem.  The news comes only weeks after the European Parliament voted in new laws banning imports of illegally-harvested wood. 

Forests are home to two-thirds of the world's land animals and some 60 million native people depend on them for their livelihood.  But in recent decades, the world's forests have been stripped of trees at a rapid pace. Illegal logging has played a big part.

However, it looks as if the tide may be turning.  A new report says more than 17 million hectares of forest have been saved in recent years because of a major clampdown on illegal logging.

"Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia have all reduced illegal logging significantly - one of our indicators suggest that the illegal logging in each of those countries may have been reduced by anywhere from half to three-quarters," noted Sam Lawson, the report's lead author.  "Illegal logging is down and that has important impacts in terms of trying to prevent deforestation."

Illegal logging is down in part because export countries are cracking down on the problem.

In Cameroon, independent monitoring of forest law enforcement has helped.  Lawson says consumer countries are also having a big impact.

"The most important step is one they're only beginning to take now and that's to prohibit the import and sale of timber which was illegally sourced in the country of origin," added Lawson.  "That's something the U.S. did in 2008 and it's something the European Union is now in the process of doing."

The crackdown has meant a 20 percent downturn in illegal logging. And Lawson says that is real progress. But the starting point was so high that even now the problem remains widespread.

In Indonesia 80 percent of the logs harvested in 2001 were cut illegally.  Today, the number is still 40 percent.  Part of the problem is that a number of big importers, such as China and Japan, are not doing enough to stop the import and sale of illegal timber.


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