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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 167     E-mail us
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Ceramics of every description fill these shelves in a photo released by law enforcement.
ARchaeological collection
Judicial Investigating Organization photo

Agents have their hands full with 2,000 artifacts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The drama that is playing out now as judicial agents confiscate more than 2,000 pre-Columbian artifacts points out the continual tension between private owners and professional archaeologists. The case also has the attention of many of the country's elite because there are many such private collections.

The collection in the center of this controversy contains pieces obtained years ago on private family land in Guanacaste. Costa Rica, based on a 1938 law asserts public ownership of every archaeological object encountered since that year.

The legal history of archaeology since 1938 is extensive with more and more laws being passed, constitutional appeals and counter appeals.

Even museum officials agree that the 1938 law came into being mainly to protect the country's undiscovered assets against foreigners, both pot hunters and academics. Subsequent legislation focused on exportation and sales of archaeological objects. Over the years, museum experts and investigators have confiscated more than 30 collections. Some were overseas.

So far this year, the museum has worked with law enforcement to confiscate two collections. The first

was July 23 in San Rafael de Heredia when 108 pieces, including gigantic stone spheres, were confiscated. Some had to be removed on flatbed trucks.

It was the police action law week that generated more confusion. The large collection was in the home of the museum director's aunt, Ligia  Fumero. The director, Patricia Fumero, has been suspended while an internal audit of her actions is made, according to the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

As with many private collections, museum officials and others knew all about the collection, and many, perhaps all of the pieces were registered with the museum, as the law requires.

Nevertheless, the Ministerio Público said it is opening an investigation into the actions of the museum director. It was the Fiscalía Adjunta Agrario Ambiental that instigated the confiscation of the Fumero collection in Lourdes de Montes de Oca.

The Fumero collection rivals the museum's own holdings with dozens of metates or grinding stones, ceramics, gold and jade. Judicial agents have been working there for three days to catalogue and transport the collection to the museum's storage facilities.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 167

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Decline in U.S. housing sales
is not welcome news here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Housing sales in the United States dropped sharply in July, hitting their lowest level in 15 years. The decline is certain to be felt in Costa Rica where many would-be expats are trying to sell their Stateside home.

Tuesday's report from a business group, the National Association of Realtors, says the number of previously owned homes sold fell more than 27 percent from the previous month.

Real estate in Costa Rica continues to suffer from the stale U.S. market. In the past, newly arriving expats used the proceeds from their home sale to purchase property here and adopt their new lifestyle.

More frequently now expat discussion lists are receiving inquires from North Americans without much money who hope to move to Costa Rica to take advantage of the lower cost of living and the nearly free medical case.

While U.S. sales were down, the average price for a home increased slightly over the same period one year ago. That seems to be the case in Costa Rica where owners have declined to adjust their price downward. Consequently sales are fewer. The bulk of the bargain hunting is by monied interests who are seeking large tracts for future development.

Economists watch the U.S. housing market closely because severe problems in this sector helped start the recent economic crisis.

Several economic reports are scheduled for publication later this week. Economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service predict that measures of future factory activity and the job market will improve, while a separate gauge will show the overall economy growing more slowly.

The country's economic performance and the unemployment rate will be a key issue in congressional elections in November.

Tuesday the top Republican in the House of Representatives called for President Barack Obama's entire economic team to resign. Rep. John Boehner said during a speech in the midwestern U.S. city of Cleveland, Ohio, that the country needs a new approach to its economic problems.

Government rejects claims
that a new Moín is costly


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government counterattacked Tuesday and rejected the notion that fees at a new Moín port facility would be disproportionate. In fact, said the transport minister, the rates would be 300 percent lower.

A unified front of opposition parties Monday asked the government to cancel a plan to award a concession to a private firm to handle the docks. The facility now is run by a government agency, but Costa Rica does not have the funds needed to modernize the docks.

Lawmakers were from Acción Ciudadana, Movimiento Libertario, Unidad Social Cristiana, Accesibilidad sin Exclusión  and Frente Amplio. Some of the opposition parties, like Acción Ciudadana, have opposed the general concept, but others, like Movimiento Libertario, supported it.

The opposition parties said the concession offer was pushed through and lacked transparency, the projections of exports were disproportionate, the proposed rates were based on exaggerated estimates and that the port would become one of the most expensive in Latin America.

Francisco Jiménez, minister de Obras Públicas y Transportes, rejected that argument in a release. His ministry also released a detailed chronology of the steps leading to the request for bids by a concession holder.

Meanwhile, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado urged the government to move forward quickly on the plan. The chamber had been named as one of the business groups concerned about the future rates.

Costa Rica is rated 128 out of 133 countries for its port infrastructure, said the chamber. The average cost of importing and exporting a container is $1,190 while in Panamá the cost is $804, the chamber said.

Jiménez in his release said that Moín was the most expensive port for shippers in Latin America and that there are frequent delays. He argued that legislators should not compare today's rates with the rates of a new and modern port.

The lawmakers seemed to be setting the stage for a court battle over the concessions, which are supposed to be sought soon. Jiménez, in the release, said the concession proposal had gone through all the necessary administrative agencies for review.

Seven traffic officers face
weigh station bribery count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven traffic officers who work at the Cartago weigh station  have been detained and suspended on allegations that they took bribes from truckers with overweight vehicles.

They are members of the Policía de Tránsito, which is part of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte, said Judicial Investigating Organization agents.

The weight station is in Ochomogo on the Autopista Florencio del Castillo. The investigation has been under way since last year, agents said.

The Poder Judicial identified the seven by the last names of  Chávez Mejía, Solano Quirós, Perez Trejos, Ordoñez Montaño, Méndez Rivera and Brenes Aguilar.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
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News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
News of Colombia    
News of Panamá
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 167

Weekend will see the start of annual international book fair
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who love the written word generally love books, too. So they have a treat starting Saturday in the La Aduana exposition center on Calle 23 in San José.

The event is the annual Feria Internacional del Libro. More than 150 literary activities are planned over the course of the event, which ends Sept. 5.

Although the bulk of the books are in Spanish, as are the activities, there is enough to attract even non-Spanish speakers. The event is also a great place to find reference books on Costa Rica and the Spanish language.

Also planned is a special booth for Costa Rican authors. About 80 current works are expected. There also are booths dedicated to children's books and even books for the expat child learning Spanish.
Many of the educational institutions maintain their own press to produce the results of academic research.

As with most cultural gatherings, many of the participants are multilingual.

Cuba is the invitee of honor this year. The country has an extensive literary tradition. Other Latin countries will be represented, too.

A lot of the presentations will involve literary award winners.

The event is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Aduana is the former customs house that just underwent a $6.3 million makeover. The building was designed to process cargo that arrived by train from the coasts. The Estación al Atlántico is just across the street.


Cabezas
Gabriel Cabezas
Teen violoncellist is invited performer
for Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Gabriel Cabezas, the U.S. violoncellist with Costa Rican roots, will be the invited performer when the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional takes the stage at the Teatro Nacional for two performances this weekend.

The concerts are the seventh of the season.

Cabezas is still in his teens and started studying music at age 4. He has performed here before and also with the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland symphony and other major orchestras.

He cut his first CD in February, 2007. It is titled "Moyugba Orisha." Along with Portuguese pianist Alexandra Mascolo-David he explored Latin American violoncello music. Last March his first orchestral work, "March," was performed by the Northbrook, Illinois, symphony.

The program includes a selection from Mozart's "Marrriage of Figaro," " Concierto for Violoncello" by Elgar and Rachmaninoff's "Symphony No. 2." The orchestra will be led Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. by Chosei Komatsu, its permanent director.


Court upholds dismissal of police officer who evaded taxes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala II supreme labor court has upheld the dismissal of a police officer because his superiors lost confidence in him.
 
The Heredia man appealed his dismissal in 2007. He sought reinstatement and back pay, plus damages.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública ordered his dismissal for cause July 16, 2006, over
an action that took place in September 2004.

Then the police officer was stopped near the border with Panamá with household items on which he did not pay import duties.

Higher-ups in the ministry ordered the dismissal and overruled an internal decision to suspend the police officer.

The court agreed that police officers have to conduct their private life without actions incompatible with their job.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 167


New research predicts one-foot sea level rise by 2100

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Scientists are predicting a foot increase in the sea level by 2100 despite all but the most aggressive geoengineering under all except the most stringent greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.

The prediction was contained in an academic article, "Efficacy of geoengineering to limit 21st century sea-level rise," published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors are academics from China and Europe. Their work was reported by the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

The center said that some 150 million persons are likely to be affected by the rise in sea level.

Coastal Costa Rica is likely to feel the impact of sea level
rise, and there are some academic studies on the effects. One study shows extensive loss of land in Puntarenas centro, which sits on a low sand spit in the Gulf of Nicoya.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on the erosion of beach land that has eliminated in a few places the 50-meter public area established by the maritime zone law. Although the erosion probably was not the result of sea level rise, it is an indication of what might happen as the maritime zone continues to move into the land area.

The sea has risen about 200 feet in the last 10,000 years, And some neolithic cities in Greece are now well under water, as are some biblical era sites.

"The least risky and most desirable way of limiting sea-level rise is bioenergy with carbon sequestration," said the researchers in an academic abstract. "However aerosol injection or a space mirror system . . .  from now to 2100 could limit or reduce sea levels."



Trapped miners not told timetable of lengthy rescue attempt

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean officials say 33 miners trapped in a chamber 700 meters below the surface have not been told they will likely have to wait months before they are rescued.

Engineers are preparing to drill a 62 centimeter-wide rescue tunnel, but they say the work could take four months because of the depth and instability of the mine.

Rescue workers said Tuesday the miners are receiving nutritional supplements and medication through two narrow drill holes. 

Officials spoke with the miners using a newly installed communications system late Monday.  The men have said
to officials that they are fine.  The miners could be heard applauding and singing the country's national anthem.
Rescue workers said the men also asked for toothbrushes.

The 33 men became trapped more than two weeks ago after a shaft collapsed in the gold and copper mine near the northern city of Copiapo.  They were found alive on Sunday.  It is not clear what caused the collapse.

Joyous families have been writing letters to boost the morale of their loved ones.  Officials say they are also working on plans to provide the miners with psychological help as they wait to be rescued.

The mine has a history of accidents and was reopened after having been closed in recent years.

Officials say the miners survived by reaching a chamber off the main mine shaft, and by eating small amounts of tuna and other food they found in the chamber. Chile is the world's largest copper supplier.


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For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 167

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Venezuela ravaged by crime
with no solution in sight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela has stopped publishing official crime rates, but murders, kidnappings, assaults, and robberies have skyrocketed during the past decade.

Funerals of murder victims are a daily sight in Venezuela, where hospitals treat an unending stream of assault victims. Far from containing the violence, police increasingly find themselves targeted by criminals. Every day, mourners crowd the Caracas morgue, including a sister of a slain officer.

"What security can there be if armed officers are killed? Where does that leave the rest of us?" she asked.

The relative, who declined to be identified, notes that rarely are criminals apprehended, much less convicted.

"Tens of thousands of crimes, and where is the justice?" said the relative.

A non-governmental monitoring group, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, reports the country suffered more than 16,000 homicides last year, more than triple the total in 1998 when President Hugo Chávez was first elected. The group says 2009 saw more violent deaths in Venezuela than in war-torn Iraq and civil war-weary Colombia combined.

Violence is heaviest in poor areas. But even in middle- and upper-class Venezuelan neighborhoods, many homes resemble small fortresses, encircled by stone or brick walls topped by razor or electric wire. In Caracas' fashionable Chacao neighborhood, Roberto Blanco, 27, says he rarely leaves his home at night.

"There are many robberies in a nearby plaza, where it is dark at night," he said. "And up by the bakery, there are car thefts."

Critics of the government, like retiree Clarise Dominguez, 80, are quick to blame Chávez.

"People get killed over pocket change," said Dominguez. "And where is the president? Why doesn't he take charge and eliminate the criminals?"

Even Chávez backers, like Caracas chef Edgar Sifuentes, list controlling crime as the president's biggest failing.

"The lack of security — the president needs to use a stronger hand to combat it," said Sifuentes.

President Chávez says Venezuela's capitalist past is to blame for the high crime rates

"In the 1980s and 90s, the young had little access to education or work. Prisons began to overflow with young people, many of whom became involved in drugs and drug trafficking. Unfortunately, those habits continue," said Chávez.

Chavez says socialism will reduce inequalities, what he sees as the root cause of crime.

But Caracas-based political analyst Luis Vicente León says the president's words are wearing thin.

"Chávez will either be blamed for his policies or for failing to control the situation," said León.

Opposition leaders say Chávez has no interest in combating violence, noting that a terrified populace is less likely to take to the streets to protest his administration.

Amid all the finger-pointing, some, like Caracas resident Leslie Contreras, fear a breakdown of Venezuelan society.

"Wherever you go, there is misery. The people have changed, caring only about themselves and not the country as a whole," said Ms. Contreras. "And I think we Venezuelans are to blame for the situation — our errors and lack of caring."
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 167


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U.S.-Haitian singer plans
to appeal election ruling


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean is criticizing Haiti's election officials for blocking his application to run for president in November elections. Jean says the ruling discriminates against Haitians who have lived outside the country.

The U.S.-based singer is not giving up his hopes to run for Haiti's president in elections set for November.

At first, the 37-year-old singer said he would accept the decision of election officials who announced Friday that he and 14 candidates would not be allowed on the ballot. Later, he vowed to appeal the ruling, which found he did not satisfy rules requiring all candidates to have lived in Haiti for the past five years.

As a child, Jean and his family moved from Haiti to the United States, where he later launched his music career. In recent years, he has served as roving ambassador to Haiti, and Jean's lawyers say they filed paperwork with election officials to document his status.

In an interview, Jean said he has documents showing that Haiti's government accepted his residency status, but the electoral council rejected his bid for president anyway. "So if I don't have residency and I didn't prove by law that we have five years residency, then why is that piece of paper signed? That means we have proved the residency issue," he said.

Officials with the provisional election council say the decision is final and there is no method to appeal the ruling.

Jean said he is appealing to Haiti's government to address a number of concerns about the approval process used by election officials, who authorized 19 candidates for the presidential vote. He said candidates who have lived outside Haiti were mostly excluded by the provisional electoral council. "It looked like every other candidate that was out was a diaspora candidate and that is a form of prejudice on the CEP's part," he said of the council.

As part of his election campaign, Jean had hoped to reform the relationship between Haiti and the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have fled the country. He said, if elected, he hoped to change the constitution to remove a ban on dual citizenship and offer many Haitians abroad a chance to vote in elections.

Many Haitians rely on money from family members abroad, who send back more than $1.5 billion a year. But Haitians outside the country say residency requirements and other laws can limit their legal rights in their home country.

Whether or not he is allowed to compete in the election, Jean says he hopes to open a dialogue about the diaspora's role inside Haiti.  "Things have to change. We have to look at these electoral laws, we have to look at the constitution again. We have to look at the way we are being represented as the diaspora," he said.

Outside of politics, Jean said that he is continuing to work in Haiti to expand community service programs and create new business opportunities inside the country.




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