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(506) 223-1327                Published Friday, Aug. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 163         E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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1919 structure  to be restored
as commercial enterprise

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An historic building in downtown San José has a new owner, and the firm, Arenas Skate & Surf, promises to restore the 1919 building.

The building is called Nuevo Milenio and has been declared a Costa Rican heritage site. It is on Calle 1 opposite La Casona, another historic building that now houses a series of souvenir shops.

Carlos Valenzuela, the architect in charge of the Nuevo Milenio job estimated Thursday that the first phase will take two months. Workmen will build a new structure inside the historic walls so as not to damage the existing building. The work is under the eye of the Departamento del Patrimonio Arquitectonico of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

San José officials are trying to make the downtown more welcoming to visitors and shoppers, in part because of the commercial pressure from suburban malls. The restoration
old building
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
The Nuevo Milenio in downtown San José

job, while not an official part of the municipal plan, fits well with it.

A similar project is taking place in the Provincia de Limón, according to the culture ministry. There the  Pensión Costa Rica has been purchased by Canadian hotel interests who are doing the restoration.

These jobs, although supervised by the culture ministry, are private. The ministry runs a contest each year and awards public money to restoration projects. In Limón owners of both the Black Star Line, built in 1922, and the Restaurante La Mazorca, built in 1908, will get 50 million colons, about $96,000 to do the work.

Arias opts for progressive approach against crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The much heralded national plan against violence turned out to be softer and gentler than anticipated Thursday.

The plan emphasizes prevention and targets juvenile gangs, some of which are soccer fans.

Laura Chinchilla, the first vice president and minister of Justica y Gracia, headed the group that designed the plan. Casa Presidencial called the proposal ambitious.

The plan calls for the development of community networks as preventative measures against criminality. It calls for an alliance between government and civil society.

"During the last political campaign I was very clear in telling Costa Ricans that in my government we would be hard with criminality, but harder still with the causes of criminality," said President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who also attended the presentation in the Museo de los Niños. "This is the best explanation for the existence of this plan," he added.

The central government plan takes a different approach than the one espoused by Fernando Berrocal, the security minister. Berrocal has been encouraging the forces under his supervision to round up known criminals. Police have conducted early morning sweeps to grab those who have outstanding warrants, and they have cleared out informal settlements in overgrown lots.

The Berrocal effort appears to have worked because street crime in San José appears to be down.

Arias has promised to add 4,000 police to the Fuerza Pública over the next four years and appears to be on course to do that. The executive
branch does not control the courts or the Judicial Investigating Organization, which is an element of the courts. Many of the complaints about weak sentences, long delays in trials and inept investigations involve agencies supervised by nation's Corte Suprema de Justicia. This includes the Ministerio Público, the prosecutorial branch.

The overall plan seeks to integrate a series of other national plans, including those against drugs, against sexual exploitation of minors, against violence and for road safety.

Arias proposed cultural events, sports and social events for youngsters at risk of becoming involved with gangs and crime. He also agreed that community involvement was important.

The president also took a shot at those who would provoke violence in the street over the free trade treaty.

Vice President chinchilla said that crime had increased 121 percent from 1990 to 2005 and that
72 percent of the Costa Ricans fear street robberies. The situation has not gotten better even with increased criminal penalties, she said.

She estimated that there were 25 juvenile gangs with about 350 members, including some considered groups of soccer fans. She said that a pilot program targeting juvenile gang members with alternatives like jobs and sports had worked in Quepos. She said crime reports by tourists there declined 25 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Discussion of crimes in Costa Rica is handicapped because many victims, including tourists, do not file reports.

Vice President Chinchilla said that juvenile gangs here still are not linked to gangs that are in the United States and other Central American states. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 163

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Those held for Internet fraud
get varying terms in jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men and a woman were sent to jail for a year Thursday while police and prosecutors investigate allegations of Internet fraud.

They were identified by the last names of Martínez Garro, Pacheco Bedolla, Zumbado Cane, Vindas Gamboa and Campos Rivera. The woman was identified by the last names of Somarribas Ramírez.

Some 10 other persons received lesser terms of preventative detention. These are the persons who were arrested Wednesday in raids all over the Central Valley. They are accused of using fake Web pages and fake e-mails to trick bank customers into giving them their user signons and passwords.

Four men and three women were jailed for four months each. The last names of the men are Beita Beita, Pérez Alvarado, Blota Phillips and Fernández Zúñiga. The three women have last names of Solano Araya, Sanabria Fernández and Jiménez González.

Three men were sent to jail for three months each. They have the last names of Villalta Bogantes, Watson Maclean and Orage Woodley.

Some of those jailed for lesser terms are believed to have been bank customers who let crooks route stolen money through their accounts.

The arrests seem to have generated an increase in complaints. The Poder Judicial said Thursday that there now are 175 cases of Internet fraud being handled by the Fiscalía de Fraudes and the Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Preventative detention is widely used in Costa Rica to keep suspects handy for investigation.

Women's Club benefit
features Christine Komatsu

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christine Komatsu, an internationally known soprano, will perform for the first time in Costa Rica Sunday at 4 p.m in the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

The event is a fund raiser for the Women’s Club of Costa Rica Scholarship and Social Services Projects. Mrs. Komatsu is a member of the organization. Daniela Rodó Aranda, 16, will accompany Mrs. Komatsu.

Tickets are available for a donation of 8,000 colons each. They are available at Libreria Internacional in Santa Ana and Plaza Cemaco, Zapote, by calling 249-1208 or 369-7992, or by e-mail to

African ballet planning
Cartago performance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ballet de Angola will be performing in Cartago Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Colegio de San Luis Gonzaga.

Also performing will be the Compañía Folklórica Tierra y Cosecha of the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, which is based in Cartago.

The ballet is coming under the auspices of the Festival Flores de la Diaspora Africana, which is presenting performances, forums and food expositions in Guanacaste, Cartago, Limón,  Heredia, Alajuela and San José.

More information on the ballet event is available at  873-6917.

Police chase three suspects
after shoppers are robbed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men were detained Thursday after various women had their bags or money taken while they were shopping. The arrests came at the end of a police chase.

The first victim was a woman in the Centro Comercial del Sur en Barrio Córdoba, Zapote, who lost her purse and 189,000 colons ($363) when someone pulled it away with force. Another woman was robbed a short time later in a store, and then the suspect vehicle was believed headed to Hatillo. Police took off after it.

Police managed to stop the vehicle and detained two illegal Nicaraguan men and a man identified by the last names of  Tapia Ibarra. Police recovered $189,000 colons in the car.

Two robbery suspects held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization detained two men Thursday as suspects in a series of robberies in Tirráses de Curridabat.

The investigation began after pedestrians in the area reported being robbed at knife point by two men. Then men entered the community clinic run by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and took belongings of people there. Both men lived in Tirráses where they were detained. They were identified as Estaban Garro,  21, and José Corrales, 25, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Robbery charge nets 7 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who was one of four who robbed a woman at gunpoint in January 2005 got seven years in prison Thursday.

He was identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of  Morales Bermúdez. He had been convicted previously but the Sala I overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.

The woman who was with her boyfriend when the robbers appeared was forced to go to various automatic teller machines to try to withdraw money after the bandits found that she had little money on her. They threatened to steal her car. It appears that the bandits did not get much money.

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Isla del Coco patrol highlights rampant violations of law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican coast guardsmen have just completed a 15-day patrol in the Pacifc and returned admitting that they do not have the resources to adequately protect the Isla del Coco.

The island some 300 miles off the southern Costa Rican coast is a U.N. heritage site and fishing is prohibited within 12 nautical miles of the island. Naturally, a lot of fish congregate there, and fishermen are anxious to break the law.

In their recent patrol, the 20 members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas rescued a dolphin that had become entagled in an illegal net and conducted inspections on fishing vessels.

The patrol was by the Pancha Carrasco and its crew. It was done in conjunction with the private MarViva foundation and the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energia. Experts estimate that there are some 250 different types of sea creatures around the island.

The entire island and the waters are designated Parque
Nacional Isla del Coco. The trip from Puntarenas to the island takes about 35 hours, said the coast guard. Among other discoveries was a boat fishing eight miles inside the prohibited limits.

Arístides Moya, captain of the coast guard boat, said that some 20 vessels were checked, including one that needed mechanical aid.

Most of the boats do not have their papers in order, he said. This includes failure to have a permit to leave port. Other boats lack navagability certificates that authorize the fishermen to be more than 40 miles from the coast.

Current law does not allow for a crackdown on illegal fishing.

The coast guardsmen also check for life jackets, radios and other emergency gear.

The dolphin was in a net spread four miles long just six miles north of the island. Although the dolphin was released, several large fish, including a marlin, already had died.

Chinese ambassador presents his credentials and receives official recognition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new Chinese ambassador officially presented his credentials Thursday. He is Wang Xiaoyuan, who has been in the country nearly since Costa Rica ended its recognition of Taiwan June 1.
The new ambassador has worked for his country's exterior ministry since 1975 and has held diplomatic posts in México, Cuba, Spain, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea and Uruguay. His big job now is to get the new embassy functioning, he told President Óscar Arias Sánchez in his visit to Casa Presidencial

Cain and Abel: Human emotions are not necessarily good
I wish the programs that I like to listen to and watch came on in the afternoons instead of the early mornings.  Especially during the rainy season.  When people remark that you have to run your errands in the morning during the rainy season, they are not kidding.  And in Belén there seems to be a lot of thunder and lightening that accompany the afternoon storms.  Which also means that probably the electricity would go off, and I couldn’t watch them anyway.

So I have spent the afternoons, during the thunderstorms thinking about what I watched this past weekend.  First there was biologist E.O. Wilson, famed for his books, first about ants and now his discoveries and insights on the environment and biodiversity. A couple of his statements have had me pondering.  Not only are species becoming extinct, he said, but also are cultures.  He did not add, but I think he implied, that just as a diversity of species is vital to the continuance of life on this planet, so is a diversity of cultures.  Combine this with another of his statements: that if the rest of the world were to live at the consumer level of the U.S., it would require the fruits of three more planets (at least).  That alone, is a good argument for a diversity of cultures. 

He also said that it is not our ability to reason that makes us human — there already are machines that can do that.  What make us human are our emotions.  I really struggled with that statement.  Then I realized I was viewing it from the mindset that to be human is a good thing.  He made no such value statement.  Human emotions have been responsible for the most horrendous of accomplishments as well as the noblest. Organized war seems to be an exclusively human endeavor.

A vivid expression of human emotion comes early with the story of the brothers Cain and Abel. Abel is a shepherd and Cain a farmer. When both present the gifts of their labor to their God, He accepts Abel’s and rejects Cain’s.  In his fury, Cain kills Abel.  Thus we are all descendants of not just a murderer, but one who committed fratricide. 

John Steinbeck had an interesting interpretation of the story in "East of Eden:" that being rejected for no good reason (that you can tell) is more than one can bear.  I also
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

see in the  story (from an anthropological point of view) that perhaps God was sanctioning hunters and gatherers or at least those who only borrowed the land, not those who possessed and farmed it. We know the world that has resulted since the advent of agriculture.  It is hard to imagine the world had Abel survive and not Cain.

I also heard an intelligent description of what is happening in Iraq and what needs to be done about it by Anthony Cordesman.  Although he didn’t say it in so many words, the impact was what Colin Powell meant when he said, “If we break it, we own it.”  There is no way for the U.S. to walk away from the devastation that has befallen this country as a result of the invasion to get rid of Hussein.  And I am sure that when all the dust settles, another culture will have become extinct.  So far the greatest success there seems to be the proliferation of cell phones.

I am beginning to think that cell phones are as inevitable as death and taxes — and more influential in changing the world than air travel or television.  A group of us listened to a report on a visit to Nicaragua this week.  We commented from time to time that some of the conditions sounded much like Costa Rica 20 years or so ago — except for the existence of cell phones. The difference is that Costa Rica has not had to recover from the ravages of war and dictatorship over the past 20 years. 

By the end of the week I have come to the realization that it is easier to be a ponderer of world events, than a decider.

Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available at the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 163

Death toll in Peruvian earthquake is now estimated at 450
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescue workers in Peru are searching for survivors in the rubble of an earthquake that killed at least 450 people. The quake toppled buildings and homes south of the capital.

Victims of the 7.9 magnitude quake flooded into partly damaged hospitals and gathered in the streets in the towns of Peru's central coast. Medical workers said they were struggling to treat people with broken bones and bruises caused by falling objects from the Wednesday evening quake.

The quake was centered some 145 kms (90 miles) south of the capital, Lima, where several towns reported massive damage. Peruvian officials said people were killed in the town of Pisco when a church roof collapsed during a religious service. Rescue workers said they feared survivors could be trapped in the rubble of the church or other buildings.

Peru's president, Alan Garcia, declared a state of emergency for affected areas in central Peru.
Garcia said that energy is retained in the tectonic plates of the earth after the initial quake and may cause low intensity aftershocks that will not be as strong as the quake late Wednesday. More than 100 have been logged.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that central Peru has been hit by more than a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or higher since the initial quake.

Some residents in the affected areas complained that relief aid was slow to come, including one woman in the town of Chincha.

She said all the houses fell down, and people have nowhere to sleep. She said no one came to help or even ask if residents were okay. The quake cut the highways between Chincha and Lima.

A U.S. military spokesman said the hospital ship Comfort visited Peru a few days earlier during a humanitarian tour of Latin America. He said the ship could leave Ecuador where it is now docked and return to Peru, if Peruvian officials request U.S. assistance.

Chávez plan for new Venezuelan constitution includes job security
 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is calling for an end to presidential term limits as part of his plans to reform his country's constitution.

Chávez announced the proposals Wednesday during a speech before Venezuela's national assembly. Along with ending presidential term limits, the leftist leader also wants to extend the term of office from six to seven years.

Venezuela's current constitution limits the president to just two six-year terms in office.
Chávez also proposed eliminating the autonomy of the country's central bank, giving him more control over the nation's financial reserves.

Opposition leaders say Chávez is attempting to create a dictatorship similar to that of Cuba's Fidel Castro, a close ally of the Venezuelan leader. Chávez took power after a landslide election victory in 1998.

The National Assembly is expected to approve his changes, as it is controlled by Chávez supporters. If the plan passes the legislature, Venezuelan citizens must vote in a referendum to accept or reject it.

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Our reader express their opinions on mines, trade treaty
He's not sold on crime plan

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Today's La Nacion eagerly reports the Arias administration's plan to reduce the crime oh so prevalent in Costa Rica. According to Vice President and Minister of Justice Laura Chinchilla, those of us who live here, 72 percent fear to walk the streets for being assaulted. Such as my wife at gunpoint around 1:15 p.m. in Escazú, my cousin by marriage who was stabbed to death on his lunch hour in downtown San José over a cell phone and the four home invasions in Escazú and Santa Ana the first two weeks of August.
The Costa Rica answer to crime?
Send the convicted, if ever convicted of anything, away for more years plus teach young people there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, referring to poverty.
Costa Rica has inherently loved to do research on every imaginable topic possible but seems to be impotent on implementation as exampled by the roads, water, sewage, environment, etc. Crime is no exception. After careful study this administrations concludes that there are gangs here, 25 of them with roughly 350 members and in some way many are tied to soccer clubs. A lot do drugs. They are young and have limited education. Duh!
My questions are: What happened to law enforcement in the attempt to curb crime? What happened to "hit the street" protection? What happened to increased patrols? What happened to increasing the police force numbers? What happened to integrating any of the 18 different police agencies? What happened to arrests, detention and trials. And, what happened to cleaning up corruption, the #1 gang in this country and the #1 villain.
Until there is seriousness in Costa Rica, other than what I have now invested in this country, nothing more is coming. I don't care how important the Saudi prince is or how big the Steve Case project. No safety = No tourists = No investments.
John Holtz
Santa Ana

He says that Arias incorrect

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is too bad President Arias had to come out and call opponents to his views on the TLC (DR-CAFTA) liars. First, getting into that sort of name calling is rather unpresidential, and secondly, some of what he has said is simply not true, as proven by the results of the NAFTA agreement which has been in place for over 10 years and after which the DR-CAFTA agreement has been fashioned.

While INS and ICE may not be sold, it is a fact that before the United States would even begin negotiating the terms of CAFTA Costa Rica had to privatize the services they perform. Had they not done so the United States would not have even allowed Costa Rica to continue the talks. Does one suppose United States corporations want to come to Costa Rica for humanitarian reasons? Privatization is another term for profits. Profits are for the corporations at the expense of the people. That is a fact, not a falsehood.

Before they would allow Guatemala to continue with the CAFTA process the country had to change their laws regarding generic medications which will make those drugs more expensive to Guatemalans, but provide profits for the huge United States pharmaceutical corporations. This will still allow the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social to be able to buy generic medicines, but the price will be higher than it is now to the people. That is a fact, not a falsehood.

NAFTA has proven to be devastating for family farmers in Mexico, forcing them off their lands and having to immigrate to urban areas in order to find jobs which were low paying, if they existed. That is a fact, not a falsehood.

Water use in Canada by American firms — or firms with American investors — is subject to the NAFTA. What this means is when push comes to shove — in the oil patch, by industry, for power, for irrigation — Americans, because they have access to NAFTA and all that it guarantees, have superior rights to Canada’s water than do Canadians. Proportional use, no price discrimination, no disruption of “normal channels of supply” and, of course, the protection of Chapter 11 (compensation for profits lost).

Whether you love or hate the NAFTA is not the point. Whether you think water exports are worth exploring or should be banned is not the point. The point is sovereignty. There is a global struggle emerging between commodity and community. Commodity is winning. It is time to draw a line in the sand and say, “here is where the rights of commodities end and the rights of communities begin. Water is that dividing line. Whether you think CAFTA will be different and will protect Costa Rica's rights. You are wrong, and no politician, President Arias or anyone else, can tell you in all honesty that is only a scare tactic. That is a fact, not a falsehood.

Other examples of commodity rights over community rights involves a small Mexican community where a U.S. company wanted to build a toxic waste dump. The Mexican community had a law that prohibited toxic waste to be dump within its jurisdiction, and the national Mexican government backed up the community. A tribunal, which leaves out government or citizen involvement, ruled in favor of the U.S. corporation and awarded them with $50,000,000 USD to be paid by the Mexican government and the Mexican community. Being the TLC is fashioned after NAFTA is there any reason to feel Costa Rica's laws will be heard when a U.S. corporation voices a concern? That is a fact, not a falsehood.

The upcoming Oct. 7 referendum is extremely important to the future of Costa Rica and the people of Costa Rica. Therefore it is important that the people hear the facts. When in doubt look to what has taken place in the NAFTA agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, because the TLC is patterned after that agreement and the fact is you can expect what happened in NAFTA to happen in the TLC.

Also keep in mind that current Costa Rican laws have been made by you, the people, through those you have elected to represent you and are made on your behalf. Laws made under the TLC have been made by lawyers, primarily from corporations and made on behalf of the corporation and profits. Using NAFTA as an example, the laws of the country mean nothing when a corporation has a complaint and all disputes will be heard by a tribunal made up of appointed individuals, typically people out of corporations. That is a fact, not a falsehood.

Dennis Kaiser
Puerto Jiménez

He had tough time getting OK

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
When I read the article by Robert Zylstra about having to pay so that his children could leave Costa Rica, it reminded me of a situation which occurred the last time my family and I visited Costa Rica, which was about 4 1/2 years ago.  My wife is Costa Rican and I am a U.S. citizen. 

Like Mr. Zylstra, we have two children who have dual U.S. and Costa Rican citizenship.  As we were entering the country on our last visit, the official at immigration had no problem letting us in, but informed us that we would have to obtain permission from the immigration office in order for our children to be able to leave the country. 

Like Mr. Zylstra, we were told that this was because our children were Costa Rican citizens and that it was a new law enacted as a countermeasure to child trafficking.  My reaction to this information was that it was absurd. Why not just treat them as U.S. citizens and allow them to leave in the same way thousands of other U.S. children who visit Costa Rica leave without a problem? 

But I had had enough experience in Costa Rica to know that logic is powerless in the face of bureaucracy, so we dutifully went to immigration who told us, as I recall, that we needed Costa Rican birth certificates for our children, which we, of course, didn't have with us (passports weren't good enough even though it took birth certificates to obtain them). 

So the next taxi took us to Registro Civil to get birth certificates.  Then we went back to a long line in immigration to finally get the proper stamp or sello or certification or paper so that we could avoid having to abandon our children or make Costa Rica our permanent home, effective immediately.  

Needless to say, this is not how I had expected to spend the first day or two of our vacation.  Now I assume that all Costa Ricans who have children and wish to travel outside of their country with their children have to get the same certified permission to do so, but I have no direct knowledge that this is the case. 

I completely understand Mr. Zylstra's distress at his wife having to pay that bribe, but my question is:  If his children visit every year, why did he never encounter a problem leaving the country with them until now.  This incident I am relating happened to us over four years ago?  I do not recall how much money it cost us to get the permission, but I do know it took quite a bit of time and we almost missed our bus to the beach because of it. 

If I had been given the choice between getting the permission or paying $60, it would have been much more convenient to pay the $60.  But then of course, I wouldn't have the permission and the same situation would presumably present itself on our next visit.  So I am glad I have the permission, for now, at least until they pass another law.  Ah Costa Rica!  The patience you have taught me!
Brian Crawford
Tupper Lake, N.Y.
He's worried about gold mine

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
My name is John Maisel.  I am the founder of the Peace with the Earth project here in Costa Rica.  I also have a reforestation project that I am personally funding in the hills between Parrita and Puriscal.
I have been an active environmentalist and world peace leader for more than 30 years.
I have not spoken out before about this gold mining controversy, but I feel that it is time now because the possibility exists of true catastrophe for the nearby people.
Many years ago when the Communists left Poland, I visited this exploited country to evaluate the damage that had been done there.  There are some toxins that when they are introduced into the environment virtually NEVER go away.  I visited more than 50 miles of public beaches in  Poland where there were warning signs posted that stated...NO Swimming...Mercury Poisoning. Mercury and cyanide are two of the most toxic, long lasting pollutants that are extremely harmful to young children and cause birth defects.
Costa Rica is one of the final pristine jewels of this planet.  It is the passive nature of the citizens of Costa Rica that concerns me.  I love them for the loving and gentle ways...and at the same time those of us who have traveled the world and seen first hand what greed can do to the earth must help make everyone aware of the long lasting potential disaster at hand.

Near where I live in Texas the United States government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on repairing the earth for the damage caused by the petro chemical industry. These hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on very small areas.  Costa Rica does not have that  kind of money to spend on such operations as this gold mine polluter. The owners can just walk away and return to Canada once the cost of the damage they cause is too much for them to pay...then they leave the damage for Costa Rica.
Their permit should have never been granted.  How idiotic is it that in such a place of beauty which has great instability in its soil, earthquakes and the tremendous amount of rain that can be present at any given time that these considerations were not paramount in the decision to allow this permit.
If this problem expands, I ask that AM Costa Rica keep the public posted of the ground water hazards and also lead the way to criminal persecution of the owners and investors in this gold mine here in Costa Rica and in the world court.  Once that cyanide gets into the ground water system. It does not go away. It just keep poisoning generations of babies. The cancer rate in Harris and Galveston counties in Texas is far beyond the national average because of air and water pollution.
Either we are part of the solution or we and our apathy are the problem, not just those who place private profits over public interests.
John Maisel
Peace with the Earth Project

Costa Rica's better than Texas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have to wonder whether Mr. Robert Nahrgang S. of Escazú ("Country throwing off remains of 20th century socialism." Aug. 15) is actually living on another planet, particularly concerning his assertion that with the approval of CAFTA I "will have some choices where to get [my] cell phone, Internet and insurance needs satisfied."

When we moved here from Texas three years ago, we had been living west of Houston just south of a community of about 150,000 people.  We had two cell phones on the, then, Cingular network, and GSM was not available.  There were times when it took up to 10 minutes to locate a signal after turning on the phone in the morning, and the cost of the service was about $100 per month.  In Costa Rica we were able immediately to get four GSM lines which we use as much as we need and my total monthly bill is always under $30.

A land line in Texas affording local access to Houston (barely a dozen miles away from our home) cost $60 per month.  Here, with local service throughout the country, our monthly bill is almost always under $10.

Even though we were very close to Houston, broadband service was unavailable in our area at the time we left Texas, and we struggled with 56K dialup.  In Costa Rica we have a 3 Mbps/256 Kbps cable modem system that, if not perfect, works better than the Texas system did.

Our homeowners insurance in Costa Rica on a house of greater value is one-fifth the cost of the insurance on our house in Texas.

The combined cost of property taxes and bilingual private school tuition for our daughter in Costa Rica is less than the cost of property and school taxes in Texas, and she is receiving a far better education than she was getting in the inferior Texas public school system.

Instead of Mr. Nahrgang S. calling for Costa Rica to throw off the remains of 20th century socialism, perhaps he should consider relocating to America's 21st century capitalist paradise.  Of course, if he wants to pay more for less, I suppose he'll get his way if CAFTA is approved.

Steven A. Roman
San Antonio de Belén

We have a pro-treaty bias

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading your article, "Lies, damn lies and tall tales about the free trade treaty," I feel compelled to register my objection to your pro-treaty bias.

To be sure, I don't care that you support ratification of the treaty.  However, I would prefer your support to be an editorial one.  Often, as in this article, you mask your support for the treaty by supposed factual reporting.

Consider that after implying that you are a "disinterested observer," all three of the alleged "lies" you mention have been told by the treaty opponents.  Are we to believe that the proponents of the treaty are 100 percent truthful?

It is also not clear to me that the "lies" you cite really are lies.  The article states that they are, but never provides a single reason for reaching this conclusion.  I, for one, would appreciate understanding your rationale for concluding that they are lies.  As the article stands, you essentially ask me, the reader, to trust that you have assessed the facts and know that these are lies.

Then too, there is the crystal ball problem.  Personally, I'm not persuaded that either the treaty's proponents or its opponents can really forecast what will happen if it is ratified.  I have read controversial parts of the treaty myself, and frankly been comforted by them.  However, I also know that what the treaty says in "black and white" isn't what will necessarily happen.  Treaties become "interpreted," obscure subsections end up surprisingly trumping sections that were initially comforting, and the powerful forces that mangle a treaty to their advantage sometimes dare the less powerful ones to challenge them — and then delay the challenges forever.

Because of this crystal ball problem I doubt that any assertion or counter assertion regarding the treaty can flatly be called a lie.  Some may be more likely and others less likely, but I honestly believe that this is all the closer that any of us can come here. Yet you call three arguments of the anti-treaty forces "lies."

I also noticed that this article mentions that although some farmers (rice) "do" oppose the treaty, other farmers "strongly support" it.  Well, there you go again.  The opponents get acknowledged while the supporters are considered to be "strong" in their support.

Truthfully, I'm not sure that you (or many other expats) have bothered to understand the arguments of the treaty opponents.  In one of your quips a few weeks ago you asked how the head of the technical university in Cartago could oppose a treaty that would provide his students with jobs.  Clearly you don't get it.  Opponents are not opposed to jobs, economic development, or even global trade.  Rather, they forecast that costs to Costa Rica of ratifying CAFTA in its present form are greater than the benefits.  Are they mistaken?  Perhaps.  But they aren't all ignoramuses.  Or liars.

And, in the spirit of noticing that you don't get it, I had to chuckle over your opening metaphor about the lying Pinocchio opponents having such long noses that they couldn't drive their cars.  I'll bet that the 20 percent or so of Tico car owners overwhelmingly support the treaty.  These are the folks who are already disproportionately involved in global commerce and who stand to win big with more of it.  It's the rest of the Ticos for whom a no vote on the TLC is tempting and possibly wise. 

They have to ask themselves whether the benefits of the treaty will "trickle down" to them in sufficient amounts to justify that which they may lose.  It's a tough issue for them to decide, and their reservations deserve a response more nuanced than simply calling them liars.

Ken Morris

EDTOR'S NOTE: We have assessed the facts and know that the specific allegations that we mentioned are lies.

A.M. Costa Rica
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