A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug.16, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 161
Jo Stuart
About us
Vendors do a good business several times a year when they erect temporary stands near the principal cemeteries.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Departed mothers
are remembered, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The love Costa Ricans have for their mothers continues long after death. Monday was Mother's Day, a time for celebrations, restaurant meals and gifts.

But at the local cemeteries mothers who no longer are here for the celebration were remembered, too. Flower vendors set up shop near the entrances to the principal cemeteries, including the Cementerio General and the Cementerio de Obreros just east of the municipal building in west San José.

Both Sunday and Monday light to heavy rains fell much of the day, but devoted families were out in force.

Rain does not keep a son from placing flowers  at the grave of his mother.

A.M. Costa Rica/Garland M. Baker
Ever feel abandoned
as you hit a hole?

The folks on the Osa Peninsula have 70 kilometers, some 42 miles, of shattered, broken roadway purporting to be national route 245.

For residents, it is not so much the terrible condition of the road but the sense that the central government has abandoned them.

See our story HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 161

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Our readers opinions
Test of 'significance'
is license to steal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You may be wondering why so many known petty crooks are walking around free. In part, the answer lies in a loophole purposefully created by the courts.

Considering that the Costa Rican courts are known for being notoriously slow, I am inclined to think that this loophole was created, not out of any special compassion for these society-abused two-bit thieves, but rather because the courts are finding themselves so backed up with cases of all kinds that they are willing to trade off a little applying of justice of the lesser crimes for the sake of giving some, and perhaps, speedier, attention to others of more significance.

The key word here is "significance." The lower courts have given themselves the power to determine that certain cases are lacking in "significance," in other words, insignificant with regard to the amount of money involved, hence not worth the effort to prosecute. Before, if one had had something stolen from them or was given a bad check, the affected person could go to the court, file a complaint, and the court was obligated to investigate. True, one might have to constantly go to the court to make sure his case was not permanently on the bottom of the file stack, but by “stoking the fire” eventually justice was served. Not anymore.  Now, failing to meet the court’s standard of "significance" permits the court to close the case, leaving the plaintiff with no other recourse than to hire a lawyer if he or she wants to continue pressing charges.

With the adoption of this criterion of "significance" or lack of it, applying justice fairly to all takes on a whole new meaning. "Significance" is a very relative condition. What is an insignificant amount of money for the man with a BMW who lives on the hill in a big mansion could be very significant for his gardener or his maid. Furthermore, if the gardener or maid really need to recover that important something taken away from them, their situation is further worsened because it will cost them even more because now they need a lawyer to continue. So, there is "significance" to these kinds of less affluent people.

How much is the amount in order for the "insignificance: factor to kick in?  Well, that depends. In one court, ¢100,000 (a little over $200) is enough. In another court, an accusation of an ill-gotten ¢40,000 (about $83) was sufficiently "significant" for charges to be processed by the court. No lawyer needed, and maybe justice will be served.

In practical terms, what does the application of such a criteria mean? It means that the petty thief — if he doesn’t get too greedy —  can merrily keep on stealing, knowing he can slip under the significance bar. The same for the small time bogus check writer. Keep the amount small and you’ve got a license to steal . . . issued by the courts.

Walter Fila
Ciudad Colón
U.N. agency should look
at Switzerland, not here

EDITOR'S NOTE: This letter is in response to criticism of Costa Rica's immigration law leveled by the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You have to have a lot of gall to criticize Costa Rica regarding their immigration policies from one of the most restricted countries in the world when it comes to allowing foreigners to live and work in their country.  The Swiss are notorious for their strict enforcement of immigration law.  The pot calling the kettle black doesn't even come close.

Mike Hankins
Santa Ana, Calif.

Summer vacations
cause readership dip

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readership took a dip for A.M. Costa Rica in July, reflecting the summer vacations that took place in North America. Total hits were down 1.5 percent from 2,227,522 in June to 2,194,822 in July.

The only category that showed an increase was the number of pages read by Internet visitors. That category showed a 3.3 percent increase over June, going from 372,965 to 385,140.

Readers were down 4.6 percent from 95,124 to 90,791, and unique visitors, those who are counted only the first time they visit the newspaper pages, were down 3.1 percent from 40,037 in June to 38,786 in July.

A.M. Costa Rica closely follows the cycles of North America because at least half of its readers live there. The newspaper shows its greatest gains just before and during the Costa Rican high season when North America is gripped with cold and tourists seek warmer climes.

A.M. Costa Rica freely publishes its readership statistics and encourages other publications to do so also. A more detailed report is HERE!

Community survey set
on Paquare question

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental group opposed to a dam on the Río Paquare has organized a survey of Turrialba citizens to find out if the people of the community approve.

The vote, scheduled for Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will ask residents: “Do you agree with the Municipalidad of Turrialba granting construction permits to build hydroelectric dams on the Paquare river?  The question, though unbiased, is running under the slogan: “For the Paquare river to remain a natural sanctuary, vote no.”   

The group, “Friends of the Paquare,” said through E-mail that it has worked for several weeks to bring the vote to the people of Turrialba.  Their goal is to close all the legal doors that could allow a dam to be built on the  river, they wrote. 

The debate over whether to build a dam has become significant in the town since presidential front runner Oscar Arias said on television that the building of a dam on the Paquare is of utmost importance.  A dam would allow the country to export hydroelectric power, a plan that Arias said could boost the economy significantly.

The river also is a major whitewater location with rapids up to class 5.
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Is there a road or is there not?

There's only one way to find out on the Osa Peninsula.

A.M. Costa Rica/Maayan Baker López

A candidate for the worst roadway in the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is an antidote for those who complain about potholes in Central Valley roads: a trip to Route 245 on the Osa Peninsula. The highway truly is the right-of-way that officials forgot.

Half the route, from Chacarita on the Inter-American Highway to Rincón on the east shore of the peninsula is supposed to be asphalt. The remainder is gravel. Both have not been touched by highway crews for at least a year, said residents.

Those who live there have complained, protested and otherwise attempted to make their voices heard to the central government to no avail. Consequently Abel Pacheco are dirty words. The residents said they feel sold out and abandoned.

The route is 70 kms. from the main highway to Puerto Jiménez further down the east shore of the peninsula. The travel time is five hours as motorists cut their speed to 10 to 15 kph as they endeavor to avoid gigantic potholes and wheel traps. Some parts of the highway are one big pothole.
William Jiménez, one of the few taxi drivers in the area, said that the remote Osa is at the bottom of every governmental budget list and, because the highway is a national road, the municipality cannot or will not do any repairs.

The highway problem here is symptomatic of many roads in the Pacific communities. Many residents think that the government has expended its resources on roads to popular resorts.

But those who live in popular resorts like Tamarindo say that they, too, have been abandoned.

With sky high world prices of petroleum, no one expects any quick solution because asphalt is mostly oil-based.

In the meantime, potholes in asphalt roads will continue to distort suspensions and injure tires while gravel roads become one big swimming pool when rain falls. And in Puerto Jiménez there is a five-hour window, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., when the bus may arrive from San José.  The fexibility is due to the condition of the roads.

U.S. must deal with Venezuelan reluctance on drugs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States says Venezuela's announced intent to suspend future cooperation and coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is unfortunate and will only help drug traffickers and their allies.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said in a statement that it values the "close cooperation maintained for decades between the DEA and their Venezuelan counterparts in combating the illegal trade in narcotics."  This "cooperation has saved the lives of innocent Venezuelan and U.S. citizens," the embassy added.

The administration of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said last week it is severing its ties with the DEA, and charged that the U.S. agency was spying on Venezuela.  The United States denied the charge, saying the DEA's only task is fighting illegal drugs.

The U.S. Embassy said that on Sept. 15, President Bush must notify the U.S. Congress on certification of governments that are fully cooperating under the U.S. International Narcotics Control Act.

"The state of cooperation between U.S. and Venezuelan law enforcement agencies will certainly be factored into that decision," said the embassy.

Under the Narcotics Control Act, the U.S. president is required to submit to the U.S. Congress each year a list of those countries that are determined to be major illicit drug-producing and/or drug-transit countries.  The law requires that part of U.S. government foreign assistance to any country on this "majors" list be withheld until the president determines whether the country should be "certified" as fully cooperating against illegal drugs.
In 2004, Venezuela was one of 24 countries included on the U.S. "majors list" of major illicit drug-producing and/or drug-transit countries.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli added to the U.S. Embassy's comments, by saying  that accusations that the DEA is involved in espionage are "baseless."  He added: "There's no substance or justification" for such charges.

Ereli said it would be "regrettable" if the reports that Venezuela is ending cooperation with the DEA on fighting drug trafficking are true.

The United States, he said, wants to continue counternarcotics cooperation, "but I would note that over the past several months, we've seen a steady deterioration in the government of Venezuela's commitment on this front."

The State Department said in its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2005 that a "remote and poorly secured 2,200-kilometer border is all that separates Venezuela from Colombia -- the world's primary source of cocaine and South America's top producer of heroin."

Colombian cartels and other smugglers routinely exploit a variety of routes and methods to move hundreds of tons of illegal drugs into Venezuela every year, said the report.  It added that cocaine is smuggled from Venezuela to the United States and Europe in multi-ton lots via maritime cargo containers, fishing vessels and go-fast boats.

In addition, the report said armed Colombian guerrilla organizations move through parts of Venezuela "without significant disruption by the Venezuelan security forces."

Chavez, in visit to Brazil, says de Silva is honest man unfairly attacked
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has come to the defense of Brazil's embattled President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, saying conservative opponents are using a corruption scandal to unfairly attack the Brazilian leader.

During a brief visit to Brazil Friday, Chavez called  da Silva "an honest man." The Brazilian president went on national television Friday and publicly apologized
 for the corruption scandal plaguing his administration, while denying involvement.

Da Silva was a staunch supporter of Mr. Chavez during Venezuela's strikes in 2003 and the recall attempt in 2004.

Venezuela and Brazil are exploring avenues for greater economic integration, including a proposed $2.5 billion oil refinery in Brazil that would create 10,000 jobs and process 250,000 barrels of oil a day.

Chile makes a big withdrawal from one of Pinochet's secret accounts
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The government of Chile has seized $1 million from a U.S. bank account held in the name of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Officials from the Chilean Interior Ministry said that the freezing and transferring of the money from an undisclosed bank in Miami, Florida, was done at the request of Chile's State Defense Council.
The secret accounts were disclosed last year by a U.S. Senate committee investigating banks that were still sheltering funds from the former dictator, who headed the military government from 1973 to 1990 after coming to power in a coup.

Prosecutors in Chile are pursuing Pinochet and his family on charges of tax evasion. A judge in Chile estimates that the 89-year-old general has $27 million stashed in banks around the world.

Jo Stuart
About us
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