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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 167
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photos
A small crowd hears complaints about the government and vehicle inspection.
Tranportation protests spill over to second day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The general strike Monday appears to be continuing today as protests focus almost entirely on the vehicle inspection process and the disrepair of the country’s roads.

What had been described as a multi-issue protest turned out to be dominated by transportation involving truckers and taxi drivers.

Rolling roadblocks of 18-wheelers on key highways reduced movement to a crawl. Most affected were the Autopista Bernardo Soto between San José and Cartago, the Autopista General Cañas from San José to the Juan Santamaría Airport, the Grecia highway intersection, the Circumvalación bypass highway south of San José center, and highways at the nation’s two border crossings. Also blocked were Paseo Colón and Avenida 2 in the downtown.

Truckers also staged a blockade at the Moín docks near Limón.

A San José office worker who lives in Turrialba and commutes by bus said she arrived at 9 a.m. Monday, two hours later than normal due to the slow-moving trucks.

An afternoon protest outside the Asamblea Nacional Monday focused almost entirely in Riteve S y C, the vehicle inspection monopoly. The crowd was smaller than in most similar demonstrations with some 300 persons attending.

By the 2 p.m. protest traffic elsewhere was moving normally except between San José and Cartago.

Transportation workers are unhappy with the sharp increase in fuel due to the rising world price of oil. But they also hate the inspection system and grouse that Riteve, owned partly by Spanish investors, sends Costa Rican money out of the country.

The poor condition of the country’s roads also contributed to vehicle damage that ends up costing vehicle owners more money when they visit the inspection station.

The general strike also was supposed to protest a 4.5 percent pay hike decreed by the government as too little and also the proposed

The sign says ‘Riteve, the sale of repair parts and the shops each day are richer and the Ticos each day more poor.’

free trade treaty with the United States. These issues took the back burner as transportation employees sculpted the strike to their concerns. They started blockading roads by 4 a.m.

Nearly all government offices were operating normally Monday, as were most schools. An exception was the driver’s license bureau of the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes. That was not operating. Some businesses said some employees arrived one or two hours late due to the rolling blockades.

Representatives of President Abel Pacheco held an evening meeting with transport strikers at the offices of the Defensor de los Habitantes in Barrio Mexico, but no accord was reached.

Police generally let strikers set the tempo Monday. Although police were evident, they made no effort to arrest strikers or confiscate their vehicles, even though they were in violation of the traffic laws. There was one unconfirmed report of tear gas being used in Alajuela.

Some officials said that they will not be as patient Tuesday, and some truckers expect confrontations as efforts are made to keep the highways open.


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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Sharon Brodell, one of the newspaper's owners, sizes up a birthday cake destined for hungry guests.

Birthday party draws
mixed crowd of 75

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 75 people showed up to celebrate the third birthday of A.M. Costa Rica Friday.

The party, held at the newspaper offices, was open to all readers, advertisers and friends. The weather cooperated as afternoon showers stopped before the 4 p.m. start.

The success of the party encouraged the newspaper editors to plan a similar event for next year.

The newspaper’s birthday is Aug. 15, but the party was held Friday, Aug. 20, because employees do not have to produce a Saturday edition.

Honduran security
beefed up at embassy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The United States is taking additional security measures at its embassy here in the wake of press reports that al-Qaeda made threats.

The U.S. State Department made that disclosure after the department’s daily press briefing. Reporters had asked Adam Ereli, the department’s deputy spokesman, if the possible presence of a terrorist suspect triggered the terror alert.

Ereli said he did not know, and the written statement came after the briefing.

"The Embassy in Honduras has not received any direct threats," said the statement. "We are aware of press reports about the security situation in Honduras and are taking appropriate measures in coordination with Honduran security authorities."

The suspect is Adnan El Shukrijumah, who has been reported to be in the vicinity.

Event is a full house

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Democrats Abroad say they have a full house for a picnic and voter registration drive Saturday at which Diana Kerry, sister of the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to attend.

The event will be in Aserrí south of San José.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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James J. Brodell.........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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Latin economies need discipline, Treasury aide says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The performance of Latin American economies improved significantly in 2004, but the region must maintain the disciplined macroeconomic policies and advance the legal, regulatory and institutional reforms to increase long-term economic growth, a U.S. Treasury official says.

Recent economic data indicate that the economic recovery in the region is getting stronger thanks to better economic policies and other factors after the difficulties in 2002, said John Taylor, Treasury undersecretary. He spoke Monday to a business group in Florida.

Taylor cited Brazil as a country where the impact of sound economic management on economic growth is most evident.

However, he said, much remains to be done in the region to improve the climate for investment and entrepreneurial activity.

Although the economic expansion has been partially boosted by high commodity prices, it also may derive from enduring structural changes, which are 

pushing the region's economies toward export-driven growth, Taylor said.

"This makes further progress on regional trade liberalization ... all the more important to the region's future prospects," he said.

Taylor expressed hope that the recent success in advancing World Trade Organization talks will carry over to the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations.

The agreement the 34 nations reached in Miami in November 2003 calls on all trade area participants to negotiate minimum levels of commitments in each of nine negotiating areas, while allowing countries that want to seek stronger ties to pursue their goals along separate tracks.

Taylor also highlighted Bush administration efforts to support economic growth in the region, increase international trade and promote policies that strengthen small business and encourage investment. He cited as examples the U.S. role in financial crisis prevention and containment, the U.S.-Brazil Group for Growth and the U.S.-Mexico Partnership for Prosperity.

Writer suggests a department of stupid things that happen here
Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I think you should start a new section . . .  to point out all of the stupid things that Costa Ricans passively put up with.

For example:  the stupid yellow hearts painted on the highways to indicate where people have died in car accidents. First of all, in most countries, anything yellow on a street means "do not cross" and anything painted within a lane should be in WHITE not yellow. 

From a reader

Secondly, I find it ridiculous that the government would waste money on this project when they still have not painted the proper traffic control lines in many of the streets of the country. I saw hearts painted on a road with no lines to separate traffic or indicate where intersections are, not to mention intersections without any traffic control devices (no stop signs, nothing to indicate which direction has the right of way). 

Finally, do you think the families of those that died 

in those spots want to be reminded of the deaths every time they pass the spot?????

Anyway, maybe if you started a section to post "stupid things in Costa Rica" (posting pictures would be great) it might get the attention of those committing the stupid acts and finally get them to rectify them. It might also help boost your readership as many of these things are STUPID to the point of being entertaining.......

Another example:  The people squatting on government-owned land near the airport have delayed a $70,000,000 runway expansion project. 

JUST move the people. They have no rights to the government land.  Give them some land in Cartago — anything just get them to move. It is ridiculous that people with no rights can steal government land and stop an important project like the airport.

Just an idea, but one which I think should be started!

Scott Sullivan
EDITOR’S NOTE: We probably will not have a regular feature on stupid things, but we welcome individual letters. 

Pacuare River rafting victim identified as 19-year-old tourist 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials have identified the Canadian tourist who died in the Río Pacuare Sunday as 19-year-old Cristina Dennett.

She was on a raft in the river, a famous whitewater

location about 1 p.m. In a spot known as el rápido de los Indios near Siquirres, Ms. Dennett was dumped into the river and the victim was trapped against some rocks.

Ms. Dennett was with a group of tourists visiting the country for a short time, agents said.

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Panamá Canal enriched fish species, study finds
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Since 1914, when the new Panama Canal connected two oceans, rerouted the Chagres River on Panama's Atlantic slope into the Pacific Ocean and connected watersheds across the continental divide, fish from the Atlantic and Pacific sides of Panama have intermingled. 

But the mix has not resulted in extinction of fish in tributaries on either slope, according to a U.S.-Canadian research team. 

In 2002, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Canada's McGill University visited the Chagres and the Rio Grande Rivers to collect fish. They found that three new fish species had colonized the Chagres River and 

five more had colonized the Rio Grande. Both sides of the isthmus became more rich in species as a result of the canal connection. All of the original species found in each stream in a 1916 survey are still there.

This work makes a significant contribution to the understanding of biological invasion, according to a Smithsonian press release, because it shows that dispersal — the active or passive movement away from the area where the fish hatched — played a more significant role than local ecological interactions in the structure of the fish communities in these two rivers, even after many generations of this great natural experiment.

The study is published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

Wounded suspect held in case of holdup at Adventist high school
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have detained a 30-year-old man they say was part of a gang of robbers who have been preying on educational institutions in the San José area.

The man was detained Friday at a home in Sabanilla de Montes de Oca, agents said. The man, who has the last name of Rugama,  is a resident of Hatillo and was believed to be hiding out in Sabanilla because he knew investigators were seeking him.

The stickup took place at the Colegio Adventista in Hatillo 1, a high school in a southern suburb. A vacationing investigator stumbled on a band of 

robbers and engaged them in a gun battle. The agent was wounded.

The man arrested Friday had an apparent bullet wound on the back of the right leg, agents said. They hope to learn the names of other suspects from the man.

The haul at the high school was about some 1.4 million colons, about $3,200.

A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said at the time of the Hatillo heist that the gang probably was the same one that held up Instituto Jiménez on Avenida 2 a week earlier. That, too, is an educational institution.

New director general named for national symphony here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional has a new director general. He is Juan Francisco Sans of Caracas, Venezuela.

He takes over from Dimas Madriz, according to an 

announcement from the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Desportes.

Chosei Komatsu is the director of the symphony and was reported to be enthusiastic over the appointment of Sans, a pianist who has a lengthy record of accomplishments in the music field.

Jo Stuart
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