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(506) 223-1327                   Published Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 157            E-mail us   
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Riot police stand ready to disperse protesting transport drivers near where Óscar Arias Sánchez and four other presidents met Wednesday morning. Police were prepared to use tear gas.

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riot police at the ready
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

New public house project to be constructed on stilts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a reason they are calling the new subdivision Venecia, the Spanish word for Venice. The project is being built in an area prone to flooding in Chacarita, just east of Puntarenas Centro.

But the new residents will find their houses constructed on stilts at least 1.25 meters (4.1 feet). There will be 144 new homes financed by the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda. The residents for the new structures will come from slum housing that now exists in the area. The cost is 926 million colons or about $1.8 million. That's about $12,500 per home including land and improvements.

These are no luxury dwellings. They have two bedrooms, one bath and a combined living-dining and kitchen area.

Ennio Rodríguez, bank manager, said that the current substandard homes now experience flooding, and he believes it is important that the families continue to live in an area where they have lived. Some families already own lots nearby.

By using stilts, the contractor,  Desarrollos Urbanísticos Arias y Quirós S.A., will save money by not having to dig foundations and footers, said the bank. The Fundación para la
house on stilts
Prototype of the stilt houses in Venecia

Vivienda Rural Costa Rica Canadá is supervising the project. The Fundación Costa Rica Canadá is involved, too.

Stilts are a good solution for construction where seasonal flooding takes place. Former president Abel Pacheco, who grew up in the Provincia de Limón on the caribbean coast, was a big proponent of stilts. At least one school in Limón was constructed that way during his administration. The homes at Venecia will be the first on the Pacific coast, said the bank.

Each year heavy rains cause flooding all over Costa Rica. In fact, a school in Pavas was flooded out Wednesday. Residents endure the flooding because they do not have the resources to move elsewhere.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 157

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drug haul in the Osa
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Serguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano

Anti-drug agents inspect their haul of cocaine

Key link in drug supply chain
believed found in Osa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents think that they have uncovered a key part of an organization that is shipping tons of cocaine from Colombia to Guatemala and then to the United States. The drugs move by sea and overland.

The Judicial Investigating Organizatioin confirmed Wednesday that it had detained four men and raided a luxury home in the southern district of Osa in Ojochal. They found nearly 1,500 pounds of cocaine packaged and stored in the mountaintop home.

The four detained Costa Ricans were identified by the last names and ages as Fallas Miranda, 34, Quesada Mendieta, 30, Quirós Campos, 49, and González Mejías, 19. Two of the men are from the San José area, and the others live on the coast.

The regional office of the judicial police said it had received confidential information that allowed it to embark on a two-month investigation.

The arrests Tuesday and Wednesday are believed to be linked to the discovery of a smugglers' camp some 25 kms. south of Quepos Sunday. No drugs were found then, but gasoline, food, water and oil for outboard engines were discovered. Two boats were conficated. Agents have been on the trail since.

The luxury home in Ojochal was raided Tuesday and  Quesada was detained there. A few minutes later agents stopped a car that had left the house and detained Quiros and  González. The fourth man was picked up Wednesday in Pérez Zeldón, they said.

In the home agents said they found 75 packages each containing 20 kilos of cocaine. Agents are trying to link the cocaine to the boats that were found near Quepos.

Agents found the drugs in a bathroom of the luxury home.

Agents are considering the possibliity that the home was used as a control station to mantain contact with boats leaving Colombia with drugs. They found radios and a satellite communication setup there.

The waters off Costa Rica have been used for years as a refueling point for drug smugglers. That way they can carry more drugs and less gasoline and oil for their 100-horsepower outboards. Some boats carry four such motors and use a lot of gasoline.

Costa Rica also is where some of the drugs are unloaded and put on trucks and cars to go north by land. The current administration has been successful in stopping about 25 tons of drugs, both on the sea and hidden in vehicles. The U.S. Coast Guard is on patrol in both the Pacific and Caribbean.

Officals also are trying to establish if the men detained in southwestern Costa Rica have an association with two Colombian men detained as illegal residents Wednesday.

Human smuggling suspect
will go to court today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man will go on trial today for his role in driving two illegal Nicaraguans from Peñas Blancas to Liberia. The man was identified by the last names of Guademez Guadamuz by the Poder Judicial.

The man will face a judicial panel in Liberia. Investigators claim he collected 25,000 colons, nearly $50, from two Nicaraguans for the trip. He was supposed to collect 20,000 colons more, said investigators.

Police seem to have been tipped off and were following the man during his trip. He was detained when the two illegal aliens left the car.

Mattel recall includes
toys sold in Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The toy company Mattel said that some of its products covered with lead-based paint have entered Costa Rica, so the consumer branch of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio has ordered retailers to suspend sales.

This is another case of products from China. Mattel has embarked on a voluntary recall, and the ministry would like to know exactly how many products and pieces have been distributed in the country. Most are small figures.

In the United States there are about 84 separate products being recalled, and many bear popular names like Sesame Street, Elmo and Dora.

Two held in death of grocer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have detained two men in the murder of a Desamparados grocer. The man, Gerardo Porras Cruz, 54, died in a shootout with men who tried to hold up the store as he opened up Monday morning.

A judge ordered a man identified by the last names of  Arenas Olgín to be held for three months investigation. He is believed to be Colombian and the man who suffered bullet wounds that required hospitalization after the crime. Investigators detained him at Hospital Calderón Guardia. They also detained another man while he drove a car near the scene of the crime in San Miguel de Desamparados.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 157

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Passers-by, one with a baby, dash across the street between police lines and drivers
Police considered tear gassing drivers who staged job protest
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was promoting peace Wednesday morning but just two blocks away police were on the verge of lobbing tear gas at protesting taxi drivers.

The scene was in north San José near the Museo del Niño. Inside Arias was marking the 20-year-old Central American peace accords with four other presidents. They were considering such topics as development and progress.

Ironically many of the contract taxi drivers, called porteadores, supported Arias and his proposal for a free trade treaty with the United States. What they were protesting was efforts by the transport ministry to put them out of business.

There were reports of police hitting some members of the group that had blocked Avenida 9 with vehicles. Many policemen did not wear name tags, which made the protesters unhappy.

A policeman wore a gas mask and had gas canisters at the ready, but the protest began to dwindle.

Some members of the group did not support the trade treaty, and they were joined by drivers in other parts of the city, including Zapote where highways were blocked.

A planned protest against porteadores by licensed taxi drivers did not take place because of organizing difficulties. That was an accidental blessing because the two groups did not meet, a concern the police had.
gas mask and minister
Policemen without name tags and one ready to launch gas grenades await orders from Rafael Angel Gutiérrez.

Rafael Angel Gutiérrez Gómez, a security vice minister, supervised the police response. Some drivers planned to move closer to the museum and trap there those who were inside, but they were unable to reach the building, which is the former castle-like prison redone as a museum.

The porteadores are not licensed by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, and officials there consider them pirate drivers. But the porteadores disagree, noting that most have incorporated as transportation companies. They provide contract service, they say. Licensed drivers say they steal business.

Arais and presidents
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Presidents Manuel Zelaya, Elías Antonio Saca, Óscar Arias, Oscar Berger and  Martín Torrijos
Five presidents challenged to discuss regional challenges
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez told his four fellow presidents Wednesday that the biggest challenge of the region was in promoting human development for the benefit of each of its citizens.

Arias was speaking at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Esquipulas II peace accords that ended a war that killed 300,000 persons in Central America.

Arias had praise for the political leaders who helped put the peace plan into action. Among those he named Daniel Ortega, the current president of Nicaragua who was president 20 years ago.

Ortega did not attend the morning meeting in San José.

The praise was not mutual. A report from Nicaragua said that Ortega at almost the same time said Arias conspired against the Nicaragua government 20 years ago in foisting the peace plan on the country.

Relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua seem to be chilling as Ortega adopts more authoritarian trappings and aligns himself closer to Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.

Also at the San José event were Elías Antonio Saca González of El Salvador, Oscar Berger Perdomo of Guatemala,  Manuel Zelaya Rosales of Honduras and Martín Torrijos Espino of Panamá.
Arias is generally credited with devising the peace plan that
began to end hostilities 20 years ago. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts. At the time there was civil war in El Salvador between the elite and the general population. There was the Nicaraguan civil war promoted by the United States and its contra creations.

This war spilled over into northern Costa Rica and into Honduras, which was a major staging area for the contras. In addition, Guatemala had its own war between the majority Indian population and the national elite, which controlled the military.

The event Wednesday was sponsored by Arias and the Fundación Arias para la Paz y el Desarrollo Humano. Each foreign president received a booklet prepared by the Arias foundation that summarized the social situation in Central America and included recommendations to moderate the social problems and preserve peace. The text is the result of extensive interviews throughout Europe and Central America conducted by the foundation.

The booklet encouraged access to information, citizen participation and accountability by elected officials as well as protection of the environment. Arias also plugged the free trade treaty with the United States as a good way to assure development.

Luis Alberto Cordero, executive director of the Arias foundation, also listed as problems drug trafficking, juvenile gangs, the economy, poverty and education. He urged the five presidents to meet again within four months to continue discussing these problems.

Maybe Yellow Cabs are to carry missile builders to Paquera
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The giant New York City Yellow Cab company is coming to Costa Rica to put all taxi drivers, both legal and illegal, out of work.

At least that is the thrust of a Spanish newspaper article this week. The article was based on the discovery that the trade name Yellow Cab existed in the Registro Nacional data base.

The scare story was nearly a repeat of the Raytheon caper that made the improbable claim that the giant U.S. corporation was going to build a weapons factory on the Nicoya Peninsula at Paquera.

The most recent claim is that the free trade treaty with the United States would give Yellow Cab easy access to Costa Rica and doom the current crop of cab drivers to unemployment. The article was by Marietta Espinoza, who cited as a source Óscar López, a national deputy who opposes the free trade treaty.

It was López of Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusión who raised the issue of Raytheon last November.
The Raytheon tale resonated with treaty opponents who thought that Costa Rica's status of a land of peace would be violated. It turns out that Raytheon in the United States was filing a trademark to protect its name. At the same time a Costa Rican started a company under the Raytheon S.A. name and purchased $125,000 in property near Paquera.

The same kind of confusion has surfaced in the case of Yellow Cab CR S.A. Owner Arturo Agüero said that he incorporated the firm Jan. 9, 2002. It is a Costa Rican company, and he is involved providing taxi-related products like fare meters, he told a radio audience.

López told Diario Extra that the U.S. Yellow Cab firm was just waiting for the free trade treaty to be approved so it could come to Costa Rica. His reading of the treaty is that the government could not maintain its current taxi licensing system. If that were true, Costa Rica drivers could also move to New York and open up taxi businesses there.

Nevertheless, some taxi drivers appear to have accepted the claim as true and have hardened their opposition to the treaty based on what López said. A referendum on the treaty is Oct. 7.

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Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 157

That flood of retiring baby boomers is just a few years away
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Anyone who was wondering where all those expats will come from to fill those Pacific condos and build out those lots need not worry. But the trend spells trouble for North American businesses.

In 2011, the so-called baby boomer generation of Americans born after World War II will hit 65 and start looking at its options for retirement. While more than 78 million baby boomers are contemplating how to spend their golden years, businesses are bracing themselves for labor shortages and the biggest brain drain in history.

According to a recent study by the Conference Board, a global research and business group, organizations are not prepared for the retirement of the baby boomers. Diane Piktialis is a baby boomer working with the Mature Workforce Program at the Conference Board.

"The baby boomer population is going to be retiring in record numbers and the number of workers coming up through the labor force behind them is not enough to fill all the positions that are going to be left vacant," she said.  "Companies not only don't have enough bodies to replace retiring workers, but most organizations have not formalized any programs to transfer knowledge from those mature workers to others coming up through the organization."

A baby boomer is someone born in the United States between 1946 and 1964. After World War II, the United States experienced an unusual increase in birth rates, now commonly described as the baby boom. Piktialis says that, instead of worrying about the retirement of the baby boomers, companies should start finding ways of keeping them on board.

The good news is that while baby boomers may be old enough to retire and cash-in on their benefits, most of them
 don't want to give up active lives. Many are willing to go on working as long as it's on a part-time or flexible schedule.

Some will do so when they move their lives to Costa Rica and other offshore retirement havens. They will be assisted by improved Internet connections.

"All of the studies show that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of these baby boomers, when asked, said that they would like to continue working in some capacity," she explained.  "Part of the reason is the fact that they are better educated and healthier than in the past. People want to stay engaged. They want to contribute. They want to keep their minds intellectually challenged."

To tap into the potential of the baby boomer generation, according to Piktialis, companies and non-profit groups need to rethink their approach to recruitment and start including older people in their search for talent.

Stephen Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor, says that the major impact of the baby boomers' retirement will be financial. He says once they retire and no longer are earning a salary and paying taxes, policy makers will have to find ways to finance government programs in a fiscally responsible way.

"The real issue with the baby boomers retirement is that there are going to be a lot of old people to support relative to the number of workers that are making Social Security contributions. We are currently handing out $30,000 per old person in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid benefits. And when the baby boomers retire, that number in today's dollar will be about $50,000. You are talking about close to $3 trillion, $4 trillion a year in outlays."

The government and the private sector have been busy for years trying to find solutions to the problems the retirement of baby boomers will cause. They have less than five years.

Castro considered keeping his boxers at home to avoid possible defections
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has announced he might bar his country's boxers from competing in the upcoming world championships in Chicago and other Olympic qualifying events to prevent possible defections.

In a column attributed to him that appeared in the Communist Party newspaper Wednesday, Castro described boxing promoters trying to get Cuban fighters to defect as "Mafia sharks lurking about in search of fresh meat."
The 80-year-old dictator also said "Cuba will not sacrifice one bit of honor, nor any of its ideas, for Olympic gold medals." Castro added that Cuba is analyzing all possible alternatives to avoid defections, including changing its boxing roster or not sending any delegation at all.

Cuba wins most of its medals at major international events in boxing. Two of Cuba's top fighters defected during the Pan-American Games in Brazil last month. They were later arrested by Brazilian authorities for overstaying their visas and sent back to Cuba.

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