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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 156
Jo Stuart
About us

The town plaza is the best place to watch the sun set, but it also is within the 50-meter limit.

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling

Playas del Coco struggles with its future
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The main road into Playas del Coco runs through the town, veers around a triangle-shaped piece of land called “la cuchilla” and stops at a park that serves as bus stop, public phone terminal and all-purpose meeting spot. The plaza is also the best spot in the town to watch the sunset.

The plaza is one of many parts of the northern Pacific town that may disappear as tourists flock here and the town struggles to develop quickly enough to keep up. 

The plaza is within 50 meters of the ocean and, therefore, illegal according to Costa Rica maritime law.  On either side of the plaza are restaurants and bars – up to 50 years old – that also may be torn down.  One of those, Casino, is owned by local resident Oscar López.  From one of his beachside tables he sat nursing a piña colada one evening and nodded at the water which is now almost withing spitting distance. 

“We have to move the restaurant back to where the entrance is,” he said.  “But I don't mind.  Its good for the community.”

López is the head of the Comisión de Gestión Turismo Playas del Coco.  And whatever is good for the community is his business. 

Leslie Zelinsky Epling heads another organization in Coco called Cámara Turismo Coco.  She pointed out over the telephone that many of the beachside businesses have been around for decades and to simply tear down the establishments is unfair. 

“This shouldn't happen until there is an alternative for these people,” she said. 

“Some of them have invested more than 20 years into their businesses.” 
Her idea is to convert the road that veers right of “la cuchilla” into a pedestrian-only road and extend the current road straight into the plaza and left around the soccer field before it heads back out again.  The soccer field would be moved further into town and the spot where the soccer field sits would be the new home for the displaced businesses.

She said that the Municipalidad de Carrillo has stopped issuing renewal licenses to the businesses within the 50-meter mark, so something needs to be done soon.

One area where both López and Ms. Zelinsky Epling agree is that the town needs to build a pier for the many cruise ships that anchor in the natural harbor that Coco sits on.  Tourists from these ships would add significantly to the local economy, said López. 

A long-time pier was demolished two years ago because it was deteriorated. But the new structure would be much more. Meanwhile, the community is experiencing rapid growth thanks to several condo projects.

Today, the mayor of the municipality of Carillo, José Manuel Guevara, will decide whether or not to approve plans to build the jetty and also a marina, said López.  López said also that 160 million colons (about $330,000) have already been allocated towards the construction of the jetty. It just needs the mayor's approval. 

But just because the mayor approves something does not mean it happens, said Ms. Zelinsky Epling.  According to her, the mayor approves plans all the time but his approval does not mean the projects come to life.  However, she is hopeful this one will. 

“I am for the cleanliness of mother earth and sustainable development in Coco,” she said.  “A jetty or a pier would add to the cleanliness of the earth, so I hope it happens.”   

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 156

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More reader opinions

Japanese told to fight
if allies invaded

Dear AM Costa Rica:

First let me compliment you on your printing of the articles attacking your comments regarding the use of the A-bombs on Japan. My stepmother is Japanese and from Fukuoka, Japan. It is common knowledge in Japan that the Japanese were being told to fight until the last person.

Those that attacked your comment are like those that protested the bombing of North Vietnam and did not see the connection of limited bombing in the North with supplies to those fighting us in the South.  

I do have regrets that they tried Japanese officers as war criminals. It is crazy to think that people can kill each other but somebody wrote rules on how to and how not to do it. At times none of it makes sense. The terrorists that blow up civilians with car bombs in Iraq were upset about prisoners put naked in pyramids at the prison there with the famous photos of the gal with a guy on a leash.

I have always found it amusing being raised in Japan that many Japanese think the U.S. provoked them into war by cutting off their oil supplies. They never have said how China, Philippines, Vietnam, Korea and other countries they conquered provoked them.

It is sad that often the wealthy profit from wars as the young die. It is more sad that some of the Jane Fondas can be so against war and yet have no compassion for any of our own soldiers that fight and die. Why is it that I do not see the peace protesters helping the disabled Vets when they come home? I guess if they can say Welcome Home 20 and 30 years later though, because it makes them feel better.

Dave Gibson
Memory and logic
seem to be missing

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With regard to Jay Brodell’s article and Chuck Crider’s reply, perhaps we should reflect on history and reality for a moment. When President Harry S. Truman gave the order to drop the first atom bomb on Japan 6th August 1945, it has been estimated that over the years around 200,000 people have died as a result of this bomb being dropped. Japan did not surrender immediately and a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. On 10th August the Japanese surrendered and the Second World War was over.

In 1945 it was estimated that over one million young Americans would have died in an invasion of Japan along with an incredible number of Japanese civilians and soldiers. You may recall that the Bushido code called for a soldier to die honorably in battle.

Ask any American soldier that served in the Pacific against the Japanese and he will tell you they were fierce fighters, treated our prisoners like dirt (or did you forget the Bataan death march?), murdered civilians by the score, sent woman captives to be forced whores in field “service” centers and please don’t let us forget December 7th when they launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

I am disgusted by comments about what a terrible thing we did to end the war. Not long ago I met General Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, and I asked him if he would do it again and his paraphrased rely was "with the same circumstances I would not hesitate to do it again." I could not have said it better myself.

Lance Parker, Sr.
Houston, Texas
Reader doubts U.S.
orchestrate attack

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I realize that Al Bollinger is entitled to his opinion as am I. I am impressed that he can read let alone “read that thick impressive libro”. It is apparent that neither he nor any of his relatives had spent any time on the lovely Pacific islands of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Philippines, Okinawa, and Wake Island, to name a few. He said “none of the newer aircraft carriers and destroyers seemed to be in Pearl Harbor at the time”. I don’t know to which ships he is referring to, but from being in the Navy and hearing the old salts speak about the Attack on Pearl Harbor that it was most of our entire Pacific fleet at that time. Granted there were mistakes made in both preparation and defense, but when it is unexpected many things don’t go the way they should.

His statement was: “Something like 9-11 maybe when the passport of one of the principal supposed terrorists was found mysteriously at the base of the WTC disaster zone, (unscathed, I might add).”

That the United States Government permitted or even aided in the 9-11 attack is absurd. Mr. Bolling is undoubtedly not taking his medication. I hope Mr. Bolling is not living in Panamá drawing a U.S. Social Security check or any other benefit that the country might have given him. I am glad he was able to flee The Great Satan (the United States of America) when he could.
Tom Branham
San José
Film explores girls
playing manly sport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the United States, the notion that sports develop teamwork, confidence and discipline among youths is not a new one.  Many young girls and boys play on T-ball, soccer and many other sports teams at a young age. 

In the poor barrios surrounding Tegucigalpa, Honduras, this isn't the case.  Sports are for boys.  But this machismo way of thinking is slowly eroding, according to a film by German director Erika Harzer. 

“Adelante Muchachas,” is the story of Wendy, Seydi, Cristel and Kenia, four Honduran teenagers who play against each other in a soccer match that is the basis for a documentary examining the role they play as women soccer players in a very machismo society. 

The film is scheduled to show in San José Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Sala Gómez Miralles of the Centro de Cine behind the tall Instituto Nacional de Seguros building on Avenida 9.  Entrance is free.
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The idea is to protect the people
An expat wish list for new defensora de los habitantes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Citizens and residents will get a new defender today as Lisbeth Quesada Tristán is sworn in.

The post of defensora de los habitantes is a complex one, and Dr. Quesada will not lack for problems to try to solve even in the area of public heath. She is the nation's ombudsman.

However, expats have a few Constitutional-level problems, too, that could stand review by the new defensora. An expat wish list:

1. Should not the public banks have an iron-clad way of recognizing their clients?  How many expats have been turned away when they tried to cash a check because the teller wants the signature to be identical to something the customer signed three years ago?

Is there not a Constitutional impetus as well as a commercial demand to have the banks install either a fingerprint reader or simply require a thumbprint when cashing a check?

2. There is the little matter of double pricing. Costa Ricans pay a lower price in some restaurants and other places of public accommodation.  Expats, if they are obviously North American, sometimes are charged double or triple.

3. Expats, particularly tourists, are hot targets for thieves and other low-lives. Should there not be an easy way to continue a criminal case even if the victims have left the country?

4. Property theft is a cottage industry here. All a crook needs is a similarly crooked notary who can draft a fake deed. The courts are filled with complaints, and Costa Ricans without money and expats without language skills usually do not prevail.
Should not the courts and the Registro Nacional devise a simple procedure for throwing out obviously faked documents?

5. And should there be a more vigorous action on the part of the notary court to throw out the bad apples?

6. The defensora also ought to take a long look at statistics on pretrial detention and criminal convictions. The perception is that expats get it in the neck whenever they are involved in a criminal case, whether they deserve it or not.

7. A number of investors involved in the failed Villalobos Brothers high interest operation have alleged that Costa Rican government officials were involved in the business and received money and loans. Is a there any truth to these allegations?

8. Many of the North American expats working here are doing so illegally in real estate, sportsbooks and phone banks. Is there not a Constitutional mandate for honest employment and a need to set up an easy way to make these important economic players legal?

9. Costa Rican law (written mostly by lawyers) sets up a commission schedule for lawyer-notaries who prepare real estate sales contracts. The more the property is worth, the more the commission, even though there is no more work involved. The rate is about 1.25 percent of the whole deal.

Should not this monopolistic ripoff be eliminated in favor of pricing by the hour or by the job?

10. The Sala IV constitutional court says the Costa Rican Constitution unjustly prohibited Óscar Arias Sánchez from running again to be president. Doesn't the same Constitution unjustly prohibit foreign residents from voting in Costa Rican presidential elections?

Newcomers Club getting ready to show options to prospective members
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Moving to a new city can be lonely.  Moving to a new country can be downright scary.  To soften that blow, the Newcomers Club of Costa Rica, a women's organization for Costa Rican newcomers as well as long-time residents, is having a fair Sept. 6 to allow English-speaking women the chance to learn about Costa Rica, make new friends and become involved in the community. 

The Newcomers of Costa Rica organization is a 25-year-old club that meets the first Tuesday of every month, September through May.  Within the club are several groups that meet at different times each month to allow members with the same type of interests to make acquaintances.        

At the fair, coordinators of those groups will be at tables to meet new residents and encourage them to sign up for their respective groups, said Pat
MacKinnon, coordinator of the out-to-lunch group. 

Interest groups ready to start this month are a couple of cooking groups, out-to-lunch, out-to-dinner, horseback riding, Spanish conversation, games and tropical gardening.

New to the fair this year will be classes that cost money to join.  These include photography, piano, yoga, tai chi, computer classes, Slim Tone aerobics and quilting. 

Used books will also be on sale with the proceeds going to the Humanitarian Foundation, said Ms. Mackinnon.  Guests are invited to bring books to donate and also rice, beans and canned food to benefit the aid programs, Ms. Mackinnon added. 

The Newcomers of Costa Rica club costs 5,000 colons ($10.41) a year to join.  Only club members may join the interest groups. 

Drifter, 35, held in Friday murder of schoolgirl, 16
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have arrested a suspect in the hostage-taking of two schoolgirls Friday and the subsequent murder of one of them.

The suspect was identified by the last names of Gamboa Arguedas. He was taken without resistance at a home in Lagunilla de Jacó, south of Tárcoles de Garabito where the 16-year-old was slain.

The dead girl was Luz Elena Guzmán Pérez. Her 14-year-old sister was tied to a tree but eventually freed herself.

The suspect is 35, said officers. He sought lodging in a house Sunday and told the people there he had spent three days without food. The occupants of the house
became suspicious and called police, officers said.

An informal report said that Gamboa was employed on a construction project near where the children were taken hostage.

Gamboa comes from Guanacaste, police said. He owned a suitcase in which officers said they found a school shirt that carried red stains.

The girls were surprised by a masked man as they took a shortcut on a path through a wooded area. The 14-year-old was the principal witness even though the assailant took the older girl some distance away and out of sight of her sister. There is no indication that either girl knew the man.

The girl died from a bullet wound in the chest.

Vannessa files big claim over its gold-mining rights
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Calgary-based Vannessa Ventures Ltd. has filed a $276 million claim against Costa Rica over the company's rights to develop a gold deposit located at Las Crucitas de Cutris in San Carlos.

The company, in a press release, said it had filed the claim and a request for arbitration with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, an agency of the World Bank.

The rights to develop the property are held by Vannessa's wholly owned Costa Rican subsidiary Industrias Infinito S.A., the company noted.

One of the first moves President Abel Pacheco did upon taking office was to outlaw open-pit mines like the one planned by Vannessa.

However, the company already had done a lot of work on the site near the Río San Juan River in northern Costa Rica. The president and the Ministerio de Energía y Ambiente later relented but made the company redo certain studies.

In its release, the company said that the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental, the Costa Rican
environmental watchdog, is currently reviewing responses to questions arising from a review of an environmental impact statement. Vannessa said it is expecting a decision from the agency soon.

However, in order to protect its rights under an investment treaty between Costa Rica and Canada, which contains time limits, the company filed with the Washington, D.C.-based center.

"In the event that the Crucitas project can not be advanced, Vannessa is seeking remedies under the treaty and requesting the arbitration tribunal restore Vannessa's rights to develop Las Crucitas and pay monetary damages of U.S. $5 million and legal and other administrative costs plus interest for lost profits," said the company.  "In lieu of restitution, Vannessa is seeking damages of U.S. $276 million plus compound interest, which includes out-of-pocket expenses of U.S. $36 million and lost profits of not less than $240 million," it said.

Vannessa is no stranger to the international arbitration center. A tribunal already has been established to hear the company's claim against Venezuela regarding the Las Cristinas gold and copper property there, which has been the subject of a complex dispute.

Bees cause ruckus in Escazú neighborhood after being disturbed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children playing in some underbrush where Africanized bees had set up housekeeping caused an insect attack Monday that sent 12 persons to the hospital.

The bee attack took place in San Antonio de Escazú.

Africanized bees are much more aggressive than their European cousins, and most bees south of the central United States are of that type.

Firemen, who are trained in bee attacks responded with appropriate gear, as did ambulances and other rescue personnel. The sting victims were carried off for treatment at two San José hospitals. One was taken away on a stretcher.
Bee attacks take place here frequently, but the number of persons stung Monday is unusual. Officials try to eliminate wild hives of bees to avoid such attacks.

The Africanized bees are offspring of several hives that became loose in Brazil 50 years ago. Because the bees gather honey more aggressively, they are valued by beekeepers.

However, the bees are also known to eliminate the queens of the more gentle European bees that have been the mainstay of honey production in the Americas for 400 years.

Due to their vigor, the Africanized bees have dominated the continents as far north as the more southern states in the United States.

Jo Stuart
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