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These stories were published Thursday, Aug.11, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 158
Jo Stuart
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Socialism emerges as anti-free trade option
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The alternative to capitalism and free trade can be a stronger dose of socialism, and that is the platform emerging for four political parties that have candidates in the February elections.

This socialistic remedy for development also is being applauded by those organizations which oppose a free trade treaty with the United States.

Simply put, the proposal is that the state take a more active role in the construction of a society in which the wealth is distributed more evenly.

Three presidential candidates are believed to have attended a conference Wednesday morning in which this counterweight to what has been called neoliberalism was outlined. They are José Miguel Corrales of the Unión Patriótica, Ottón Solís of Acción Ciudadana and José Manuel Echandi of Unión Nacional.

Although Solís has said his party would not form a coalition with any other group, efforts are being made inside and outside the political parties to create a unified, left-of-center political apparatus that can win the nation's presidency and gain a majority of seats in the Asamblea Legislativa.

This development also shows the ideological gap that exists between the Partido Liberación Nacional, the most left-of-center established major party, and thinkers on the far left. The presidential candidate for Liberación is Óscar Arias Sánchez, the former president who strongly supports the free trade treaty.

Ottón Solís used to be a member of Liberación but broke with the party in time to be a presidential candidate in 2002.

One of the organizations supporting the
movement, Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos, released a short summary of the Wednesday meeting. Other groups involved are Asociación de Empleados del ICE, the Consejo Nacional de Cooperativas and the Federación de Estudiantes del Instituto Tecnológico. These are organizations that oppose the free trade treaty.

This new development also reflects the recognition by those opposed to rapid change in that they must offer the electorate a positive alternative. The platform is the result of a year and a half of discussions among business people, academics, union leaders, students, feminists and farmers, the report said.

The group called for agricultural independence as a matter of national security. The proposal also seeks to redefine Costa Rica's international role and to seek competitive advantage for Costa Rican products, its education and biodiversity. In addition the country must speed up its process of technological innovation to improve its production processes, the group says.

Economic development must have as a central objective the generation of jobs, said the report.

To achieve these goals, the proposal is for more citizen control of government, a tax plan that redistributes the wealth and a reform of political parties for more participation.

The organizations that support this ideology are those who opposed the free trade treaty. Workers at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad,  known as ICE, wants to maintain state ownership of communications. Farmers of certain crops do not want to see the product imported from elsewhere. The employees union has many members in government organizations that would be jeopardized by competition under the free trade treaty.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 158

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Our readers' opinions

Hindsight leaves out
contemporary standards

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

About dropping the atomic bomb: a lot of folks judge past actions of governments by the sentiments of today. In the past, some American Indian tribes carried on a policy of extermination warfare. When they raided a village they killed everybody: men, women, and children lest the survivors grow up to do the same to their children. We find these actions horrific. However, I must point out they arrived at this policy through means only guessed at by those who look at it today. Was it an exercise in cruelty, or sheer survival?

Evidence is growing that modern man exterminated the Neanderthal. Are we to be sorry this happened? If it went the other way, would descendants of the Neanderthal wring their hands and feel sorry for the loss of Homo sapiens, or glad to be rid of competition?

In World War II one facet of warfare was to bomb civilian populations in order to break the will to fight of the other side by using their government’s anticipated compassion for their civilians. Dropping the A-bomb was such an act. So was the bombing of Dresden, and the London Blitz. I am not proud of the fact that my country used such tactics, but can the descendants of any who fought in past wars judge the past by their current standards?

Standards change.

While it is nice to retain the moral high ground in any argument, one must realize that we were not there, we have not experienced what they did, and cannot judge accurately what motivations they may have had.

It would be good to remember that leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese were training old ladies and children to fight with rakes in anticipation of the coming Allied invasion. Estimates show that the allies expected losses of around a half a million, with losses on the Japanese civilian side of around a million. So by comparison, the loss of three hundred thousand seems to outweigh the total loss of over a million and a half. But can we weigh those options in hindsight?

Or do we remember that we arrived at the ability to deliver such a weapon only days before the Germans did and about two months before the Japanese did?

Would they have used their atomic weapons against us were they faster on the draw? I submit that they would have.

We have cars, cell phones and space exploration, and a lot of us live nice tidy lives. However by the evolutionary time scale we have only just emerged from the wild. Inside, we are still wild men (if our history of warfare is any indication) even though in our hearts we wish to be civilized, compassionate beings.

My advice: do not judge the actions of the past by the motivations of today.

The alternative is to go on hand-wringing until our will to survive is surmounted by our unwillingness to do what is needed to survive and the next threat comes up and clobbers us, sending us the way of the Neanderthal.

Dallas Taylor
Sedona. Ariz.
Situation and facts
were skewed a little

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Just a general comment on the atomic bomb discussions. No one is doubting that an invasion of Japan would have cost many Allied lives or that many of the soldiers and populace of Japan would fight fiercely to defend their home when invaded (as I assume many of the writers would).

The point being made is that it was not an either/or situation. There were other choices aside from - “drop the bomb” or “invade.” Many historians (Japanese and western) agree that Japan was in a desperate situation and was very close to collapse, there was certainly a philosophical struggle going on in Japan as how best end the war. The Japanese desperately wanted to find a way to end the war and still maintain face. The war would have ended without an invasion, discussions were under way, and Japan could not have lasted much longer.

In looking back, many people feel that there was a feeling in the military and administration that we needed to demonstrate this weapon to the world, now that we spent four years building it, or perhaps it was believed that a simple diplomatic surrender would be a satisfying end for the American people. Therefore, perhaps the situations and facts were skewed a little to make it seem like we had no other choice, but to drop the bomb. Gee, that sounds familiar. I guess history does repeat itself.

In response to one of Mr. Tom Branham comments: Mr. Al Bollinger is absolutely correct in his assessment of the damage at Pearl Harbor – none of our carriers were in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, so none was damaged. A few destroyers (Shaw, Cassin, and Downes) were in harbor and hit, however none were sunk or damaged beyond repair. Since I wasn’t in the Navy and Mr. Branham might not believe me, here is a link to the official damage report

James Wolf
Orlando, Fla.

Blaze hits building at hospital in Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire destroyed a storage building at Hospital Tony Facio in Limón early Wednesday, but firemen were able to keep the flames from spreading.

Officials said the blaze took place in an aging storage structure due to what initially appeared to be a short circuit. A fire that killed 19 persons July 12 in Hospital Caldeón Guardia in San José appears to have had its start in a storage room there. The damage estimate could be as high a $1 million because a number of computers and hospital equipment were stored in the structure, as were medical supplies.
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NAFTA decision held up as proof treaties won't erode environment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. officials are calling a trade decision an “indication of the prerogative of states to take action to protect public health and the environment without running afoul of the investment protection provisions of international trade agreements and investment treaties.”

The crowing follows a decision by a three-member tribunal set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The panel dismissed a $970 million claim filed by a Canadian methanol producer challenging California’s regulations of the gasoline additive MTBE. The tribunal also awarded $4 million to the United States in costs.

Although the decision does not directly affect the Central American Free Trade Agreeement, U.S. officials are distributing the decision in an effort to show that local governments still can maintain strong environmental safeguards and not run afoul of a trade treaty. The information here on the case is based on a release by the U.S. State Department.

The claimant, Methanex Corp., submitted the issue to arbitration in 1999 alleging that California’s ban of the use of MTBE in gasoline was a violation of the investment protections of the treaty known as NAFTA.

The arbitrators unanimously dismissed Methanex’s claim on jurisdictional grounds and determined further that, even if they had jurisdiction, the claim also failed on the merits.
The methanol produced by Methanex is, among other things, used as an ingredient to produce the gasoline additive MTBE. Based on findings that MTBE contaminates drinking water, California banned the use of MTBE in California gasoline. Methanex claimed that the ban violated the provisions of NAFTA’s Chapter 11 prohibiting nationality-based discrimination against investors and their investments, requiring fair and equitable treatment of investments and prohibiting uncompensated takings of property. Methanex also alleged that the ban on the use of MTBE related to Methanex because it was adopted with the intention of harming Methanex and other foreign methanol producers in order to benefit the U.S. ethanol industry.
The United States maintained that the California measures did not relate to Methanex and therefore could not be the basis for a NAFTA Chapter 11 claim. It also maintained that Methanex was not treated differently from U.S.-owned methanol producers, was not treated in violation of any minimum standard of treatment required by international law and did not suffer an expropriation of its property.
The Tribunal agreed with all of these arguments made by the United States. It held that Methanex did not face any nationality-based discrimination, was not treated in a manner that could be said to violate international law standards and did not suffer an expropriation of any property interest. Moreover, the Tribunal held that the California measures were not intended to harm Methanex or other foreign methanol producers and did not otherwise relate to Methanex, thus the claim was not covered by the investor-state arbitration provisions of NAFTA.

Raid on house in Paso Canoas nets bags of coke and two suspects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a brother and sister Tuesday and said they were in possession of 275 kilos (606 pounds) of cocaine. A raid and the arrests took place in Paso Canoas, said the Judicial Investigation Organization. 

Officials said they arrested the pair, identified by the last name of Arrieta, during an evening raid on the woman's house in that town on the Panamanian border.

Officials had been monitoring the house for a couple of months after neighbors tipped the agents off, they said.  The woman was supplying eight different distribution houses in Paso Canoas, Ciudad Neily and Río Claro among others, officials said. 

Tuesday, agents received a notice from neighbors that the pair was expecting a large delivery, so the house was staked out, officials said.  The raid started when the agents saw cars with Panamanian license plates pull up behind the house, they said. 

In the house, they found 11 nylon bags containing packages of cocaine behind a cupboard in the woman's bedroom, officials said. 

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Evidence from the raid in Paso Canoas

They confiscated the cocaine along with three cellular phones some of which had Panamanian phone lines, they said.  They also confiscated an electronic scale and a Hyundai Elantra, said officials. 

A drug-sniffing dog confirmed that the car was used to transport the cocaine locally, said officials. 

The drug was dispensed partly in soda straws, said officials.

Free trade pact with Caribbean nations wins OK
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has approved a free trade treaty with the Caribbean countries. Some 41 lawmakers voted in favor of the pact on its second reading Tuesday before the Asamblea Legislativa. Just 7 voted no.

Some 94 percent of Costa Rican exports will be free of import duties within four years, according to terms of the agreement.

However, major products, like sugar, rice, chicken and beer are not covered by the agreement,

Costa Rica exports about $70 million a year to the Caribbean countries. Imports are only $17 million.
The countries involved are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica, San Cristóbal and Nieves, Santa Lucia, San Vincent and the  Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The agreement divides the Caribbean countries into developed and less developed categories, and the less developed countries can import all their products duty-free to Costa Rica, except oils, soaps and certain excluded products.

The products that can be exported immediately free of duties include ornamental plants, cheese, milk-based drinks, palm hearts. medicines, fungacides, PVC tubes, tires, refrigerators, stoves and some clothing. 

Women run enterprise providing goat products on Nicoya Peninsula
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Goat milk, yogurt, cheese and other products are now available in the southern Nicoya peninsula town of Cóbano due to the efforts of seven local women there.

They have formed the Asociación de Empresarias Caprinas La Flores.  According to Flores Ortega, president of the group, the seven women manage all parts of the process from the initial well-being of the goats to the selling of the final product.

Of the 50 goats the group owns, 14 of them produce milk – over 100 liters per week. The women create
their products using traditional methods and sell the final products to tourists at the Cóbano agricultural fair every Monday.    

A liter of milk costs 1,000 colons ($2.07), a kilo of goat meat goes for 2,000 colons ($4.14).  A liter of yogurt costs 1,500 colons ($3.11) and a kilo of cheese is 6,000 colons ($12.45).

“The idea was born because the peninsula was saturated with lactose products from milk cows,” said Eunice Solózarzano Leitón, one of the producers,  “while no one had exploited the production of goat milk.”

Architects plan to center their conference on tourism and development
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The VII Congreso de Arquitectura held by the Colegio de Arquitectos de Costa Rica will focus on tourism, said the organization.  The conference is scheduled for Sept. 8, 9 and 10.

Many well-known exhibitors are invited to the conference to share with participants their experiences and touch on international themes, said a press release.

Planned themes include: the national tourism development plan 2002-2012, investing in development, Guanacaste as a tourist product and real-estate agency and the phenomenon of tourism as a cultural and economic agent among others. 

Thursday, Sept. 8, is the inauguration and the actual conferences will take place on Friday, Sept. 10, and Saturday, Sept. 11, said a press release. 

The theme of tourism will be studied because it is now such an important part of the economy of Costa Rica, said the release.
Before the conference, starting Sept. 5, officials at the colegio expect to be visited by a large number of architects from all over Central America who are coming for a meeting of the Federación Centroamericana de Arquitectos.  Members of that federation are expected to participate in the conference as guests, said the release. 

The following days, Sept. 6 and 7, officials expect a meeting of the Federación Panamericana de Asociaciónes de Arquitectos.  That organization is made up of architects from North, South and Central America.  Officials expect them to participate in the conference as well.

The conference is planned for the auditorium at Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos.  The cost of admission is $50 for the general public and $30 for students.  The cost includes entrance to all the talks, materials, coffee breaks, snacks, entrance to the commercial fair afterwards and a certificate of participation. 

For more information contact Marcela Matarrita Zeledón at 202-3940 or 202-3900 extension 4016.

Jo Stuart
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