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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, Aug. 27, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 169     E-mail us
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Limón vote could be president's defining moment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The leasing of the Limón-Moín docks is likely to define the presidency of Laura Chinchilla Miranda in the way the free trade treaty with the United States defined that of her predecessor.

Chinchilla administration officials are considering their alternatives after the Sala IV constitutional court ordered the reinstatement of union leaders who oppose the plan.

Meanwhile other unions are sensing a weakness and have called upon the minister of public works and the minster of the Presidencia to resign.

The Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros Químicos y Afines at the government petroleum refinery urged Ms. Chinchilla to re-evaluate the decisions of the previous administration and defend the state of social rights.

After a meeting with advisors Thursday Ms. Chinchilla said that her government is not going to move backwards in its desire to modernize the Caribbean ports.

The ports are among the least competitive in Latin America, and the Óscar Arias Sánchez government put forth a massive redevelopment plan for the area that hinged on issuing a concession to a private firm that would make massive investments in bringing the port up to modern standards. To do that, the government proposed to buy out the dockworkers.

The dockworkers belong to the Sindicato de Trabajadores of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica. Most dockworkers appear to favor the plan and some are in line to pocket up to $100,000. Those who accept the buyout might quickly find work with the new concession holder.

The union leadership opposes the plan. That is why the dockworkers held a series of special union assemblies in January in which they deposed the board of directors and elected individuals who favor the buyout and concession plan.

It was with these meetings and their actions that the Sala IV found fault.

The Poder Judicial released a text of the court decision Thursday. It showed magistrates were deadlocked on two separate appeals until the tie-breaking magistrate, Luis Paulino Mora Mora, agreed that the actions by dockworkers lacked due process. The vote on both appeals was 4-3. The

final decision called the special meetings a flagrant violation of due process. The members of the old board of directors were not even at some of the meetings.

Union leaders serve for a two-year term, the court noted and said that throwing out the leaders was a violation of democratic process, too. Specifically the court overturned the election of a new board of directors and a Ministerio de Trabajo decree recognizing the new leaders.

When Óscar Arias took office in 2006, he managed to stitch together a 38-person majority in the Asamablea Legislativa. That constituted a two-third majority of the lawmakers. It still took Arias and his designates nearly four years to obtain ratification of the free trade treaty.

Ms. Chinchilla now has less muscle in the legislature, and all the other political parties seem to be lined up against the Limón concession plan. Her Partido Liberación Nacional even had to agree to allow the formation of a commission to investigate concessions Wednesday.

Many of the same groups that oppose the concession at the docks are those who opposed the free trade treaty. There is a touch of xenophobia, too, in that one complaint is that the docks would be run by transnational companies.

Opposition lawmakers said Thursday that the current situation has its roots in the overbearing attitude of the Arias government. The lawmakers called on Ms. Chinchilla not to make the same errors.

The lawmakers are urging what they call a national dialogue on the docks. It also praised the announced willingness by the reinstated union leaders to negotiate with the government. They said that they all recognize the need to modernize the docks.

Activists in the dockworkers union have staged a number of strikes and slowdowns and have barricaded the container terminal.

The project Limón Ciudad Puerto is one of the key priorities of the Arias administration. The plan was much more than modernizing the port. It included a number of infrastructure projects, including parks, and a crackdown on crime. There was a $72 million infusion from the World Bank. But government officials said that the cost of modernizing the port was far beyond what the country could spend. So the concession plan was advanced.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 169

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Slide spawned by heavy rain
kills woman in her home


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An elderly woman died and at least 120 homes were flooded as the 39th tropical wave of the season passed over Costa Rica.

There were flooding problems in locations all over the country, including the Central Valley and the Pacific coast.

The woman died while still sleeping in her home in Puente Negro de Carrizales de Alajuela, said the national emergency commission. A hillside gave way and the slide crashed into the home. The commission said that it cited the place where the death happened as a danger as long ago as 2007. The commission recommended relocation of the seven families it said were in the high-risk area.  Six other homes suffered damage early Thursday.

In Desamparados, engineers were expected to continue to  examine at least eight bridges that might have been weakened by the heavy downpour

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional warned of the tropical wave, a trough of low pressure. But there have been a number this season with varying effects.


Rodríguez ordered to refrain
from obstructing evidence

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trial court admonished former president Miguel Ángel  Rodríguez Echeverría Thursday as it ordered him not to interfere with the collection and presentation of proofs at his corruption trial.

The Poder Judicial confirmed the order and noted that it had been requested by the prosecutor for Delitos Económicos, Corrupción y Tributarios. The prohibition lasts until the end of the trial, the Poder Judicial said.

Rodríguez by telephone expressed his unhappiness that the offices of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., were being used for a videoconference at which a witness would testify in his case. He made the complaint in a telephone call Tuesday to José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general. Rodriguez was secretary general briefly until the corruption allegations surfaced.

The court said that if the former president disobeyed, harsher restrictions would be leveled. The witness a former driver for the ex-president, testified from another location.

Rodríguez is facing trial with others because of allegations that he accepted money indirectly from Alcatel, the cell phone company that won a major contract.


Region's biodiversity stars
in U.N. conference in Panamá


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Ways to address challenges to biodiversity conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean — which is home to up to 70 per cent of all forms of life on Earth — were the focus of a gathering organized by the United Nations Environment Programme this week.

The region, the most biologically diverse in the world, holds more than 40 per cent of the planet’s bird species, as well as numerous species of migratory birds and aquatic life, such as sharks, whales and dolphins.

However, these species are under threat by fisheries, their habitats are being degraded and their wetlands drained for farming, said the international agency

The three-day gathering, which wrapped up Wednesday in Panama City, aimed to identify ways to coordinate actions to better conserve the rich biodiversity of the region.

Hosted by the Environment Programme and its Convention on Migratory Species, the event brought together representatives from governments and non-governmental organizations from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The region also hosts some of the world’s most important wetlands, including Amazonia and Pantanal, and the conservation of migratory species and their wetland habitats requires cooperation among governments, non-governmental organization and others at the global level, according to the Environment Programme.

In particular, the Gulf of Mexico coast is a critical habitat for hundreds of migratory bird species, which use the area to breed, spend their winter, refuel and rest on their long journeys.

However, in the wake of the recent devastating oil spill in the area, countless fish, along with more than 6,000 birds, 1,000 sea turtles and 80 marine mammals, were found dead, the agency said..
 

Weapons confiscated in the north

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública said it had confiscated 15 firearms and six illegal knives during the month of August in the northern zone along the border with Nicaragua.

The weapons ranged from revolvers to carbines and shotguns. In each case the owner did not have the documentation to carry the weapon, the police said.

This area is like the 19th century U.S. West with minimal police presence and criminal bands, local and from Nicaragua, committing illegal acts, such as rustling cattle. Most residents have weapons.

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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:

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News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
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News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 169

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Democrats

Tibas protest
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Local health committee member Leonora Méndez shields a local cleric known as Padre Roberto from the elements. The symbolic coffin bears names of the services that will be discontinued.

Tibás residents protest cuts in service at local medical clinic
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Planned cuts at the Tibás clinic have neighbors up in arms at the Caja Costarricence de Seguro Social. The cooperative that administers the facility maintains it cannot afford to continue with secondary services like X-ray and pediatrics, according to sources inside the clinic.

The facility also has an emergency room which will see services curtailed.

Another area to see cuts is “medicina mixta,” where after paying a private doctor for a diagnosis, patients can get medications and follow-ups from the Caja.

This large clinic is one of several around the San Jose area administered by private agencies, in this case Cooperativa Autogestionaria de Servidores para la Salud Integral, or COOPESAIN. After 20 years of this arrangement, the Caja made COOPESAIN and the others submit competitive bids to open the field to others.
The cooperative retained the Tibás clinic, but not another in San Sebastian on the south side of San Jose.

The winning bid did not include enough funds for all areas now provided.

Details of staff cuts have not been revealed, though the clinic has about 200 employees, not all of whom are full members of the cooperative itself.

Patients requiring other health care will be attended at the Clodomiro Picado clinic on the south side of Tibás or the Hospital Mexico. The latter is legendary for its lines for non-emergency services, and takes two buses to get there from Tibás. The cooperative’s clinic is near the Saprissa football stadium, and the inhabitants of the heavily residential area are accustomed to the convenience.

In response to media queries, the Caja said the base bid is the starting point for negotiations, and consideration would be given to maintaining existing services.


Get a golden citizen card and maybe a discount on eggs
 After I had lived in Costa Rica just a few months, I came to the conclusion that it was going to take me three times — visits or efforts -— to accomplish or learn anything.  This will be my third column on the subject of the ciudadano de oro.  This time I hope I have the information on the best authority.

The government is continuing to issue ciudadanos de oro.  Of course, you have to be 65 or older and a resident or citizen.   You can go to your local Caja office, if there is one in your community.  Otherwise, you can go to the Caja building in San José on Avenida 2 on the corner of Calle 5 (the street that runs behind the Teatro Nacional). The Caja building is very tall and is south and east of the Theater.   Many buses from the city’s barrios stop in that area.  Information will direct you to the proper department (it’s on the bottom floor in the back).  They will take your information from your carnet and tell you to come back in 22 days to pick up your card.  I discovered mine had expired, but they are now issuing cards without expiration dates.  (Probably the actuary table showed them they could save money.) 

I learned that stores honoring the card and giving discounts have a small circular insignia in their windows with a drawing of a Madonna and child and with the words Ciudadano de Oro beneath.  A reader recently wrote to me saying it is now the law in Costa Rica that stores cannot discriminate against credit card owners by offering discounts only if you pay cash.  I am not sure that all store owners are aware of this new law, or have yet adapted, but please feel free to point this out to them. 

You join the Caja health coverage and become an aseguro voluntario upstairs in the same building. You may find the insurance a nuisance, and that you don’t plan to use it, but if you need emergency care sometime, you will be happy you have your national insurance card  if, for instance, you get salmonella from contaminated eggs, like more than a thousand people in the U.S. have. Unlike the family suing those responsible in order to recover the “tens of thousands of dollars” they had to pay for their daughter’s hospital and medical care, you will be rushed to a Caja hospital and taken care of by well qualified staffs. You
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

will get no bill. I was happy to see the two letters to the editor on this subject.

I mentioned eggs because I have a thing about eggs. They are versatile, nutritious and good.  They long have been given a bad rap.  In my 17 years in Costa Rica I have eaten eggs every way they can be prepared, including soft boiled and in homemade mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce as well as uncooked meringue.  I have never suffered from salmonella as a result.  Probably it is because we do not have huge egg corporations where chickens and eggs exist in crowded, unclean factories.  Chickens are not normally infected with salmonella by chance.  They usually get it from their living conditions or contact with a carrier.

It does concern me that in Costa Rica they do not refrigerate eggs.  And as far as I know do not coat them with mineral oil after washing them, which slows the aging and helps preserve the freshness. The less fresh the egg, the more it spreads when cracked into a pan. You can test its freshness by putting the egg in a pan of cold water.  The freshest ones lie on the bottom, the bad eggs float.

When I studied nutrition in the gerontology department at school, I gave my presentation on the importance of eggs in the diet of seniors. (And by the way, the cholesterol in eggs is offset by the lecithin that they also contain.)  They are easy to prepare and to eat, can be an appetizer, a salad, a main course or a dessert.  They are full of vitamins and protein.

As a ciudadano de oro, unless you are allergic to them, include lots of eggs, along with fruits and vegetables, in your diet in order to avoid needing any medical services, free or not, too often.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 169

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Plenty of problems cited by insectors of rural water systems

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An inspection of the rural water systems in Costa Rica revealed a lot of problems, including one system in Jericó, San Miguel de Desamparados, where the water was not fit for consumption by its 1,200 customers.

In La Garita, Alajuela tests showed fecal contamination. In Tamarindo there were questions about the appropriate measurement of the chlorine put into the system.

In Dominical the inspectors found problems in the quality of the water and less-than-adequate treatment.

In none of the locations on the Nicoya peninsula did the inspectors find that the water was being treated with chlorine.

These are some of the reports from the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, which did the inspections. The rural systems are under the supervision of the Asociaciones Administradoras de Sistemas de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Comunales.

There are about 1,827, and they serve about 27.5 percent of the population, said the authority.

Only 80 were inspected in the first half of the year.
water system
Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos photo
Treatment plant at San Antonio Mollejones, Pérez Zeledón, that serves 6,000 persons. Inspectors found the water suitable for human consumption.

In many cases inspectors found the absence of measuring equipment, inadequate delivery of chlorine, problems with pipes and maintenance of the water delivery network.

The various systems were told to put fences around the water source or to clean the system and tanks or to make other remedial work.

Inspections were in Guanacaste, Limón, San José, Puntarenas and Alajuela.



Peace Corps volunteers will embark on energy initiative

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Department of State is providing $1 million to support Peace Corps volunteer efforts that increase rural access to energy, mitigate the effects of climate change, and support the use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in Central and South American communities, in support of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.

With this funding, Peace Corps volunteers will work with international experts, local organizations, businesses, and community members on the ground to create efficient and green solutions to energy challenges in the Americas, said the U.S. State Department, adding:

Under the partnership, Peace Corps volunteers will work
with members of local communities to build infrastructure to support environmentally-friendly energy and to educate communities on climate change and energy conservation. Volunteers will train host-country citizens in the use of alternative fuels and to install, operate, and maintain energy-efficient technology, including biodigesters, solar water heaters, photovoltaic devices, solar and fuel-efficient stoves, and wind or mini hydroelectric power generators.

These efforts will make clean energy more accessible to rural communities, reduce carbon emissions, improve public health, and provide opportunities for individuals and small businesses to generate income.

Peace Corps efforts will begin in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Perú, and Suriname.


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A.M.
Costa Rica
fifth news page
For your international reading pleasure:

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 169

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

La Amistad martini bar
Historia1920 cafe

Profile of ideal officer
sought by Contraloría


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What traits make an ideal cop?

The Contraloría de la República said Thursday that Costa Rican officials who hire policemen do not know the answer to that question.

The Contraloría urged the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública to conduct technical studies in the human resources area to create a profile of the ideal police candidate.

The Laura Chinchilla administration seeks to hire thousands more for the police forces.

The Contraloría said that there also should be studies conducted of the need for police in various geographical areas.

The ministry in the person of Flora María Calvo, vice minister, responded quickly and said that the ministry realized it lacks a concept of the ideal officer. She said that a committee had been formed to look into this matter.

She noted that police candidates undergo physical and toxicological tests as well as investigations of their backgrounds.


Another delay arises
in traffic law changes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry was going to present suggestions for changes in the new traffic law this week, but that did not happen.

Instead, Sept. 2 will be the day when the proposals get to the legislature.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said employees there wanted to study proposals submitted by diverse groups, including a group headed by the Defensoría de los Habitantes.

This is bad news for motorists who have been snagged with violations that now have penalties of up to $600. The previous congress was on the verge of passing modifications to what is generally considered to be a draconian law. But then the time ran out on the lawmakers' term.

The new lawmakers promised to study the matter from the beginning. And then other sectors of the society have their ideas.

Francisco Jiménez, the minister, was reported to say that he could not deliver the documents because he had other things to do. That was interpreted to mean deep discussions with other officials about the situation on the Limón and Moín docks.

Considering the speed with which the legislature moves, motorists now trying to wait out changes in the law before they pay tickets probably will be faced with paying the full amount when they pay their road tax in December.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 169


Latin American news
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Trapped miners face problem
if they are too chubby


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean officials organizing the rescue of 33 trapped miners say some of the miners may have to lose weight to fit through the rescue shaft being dug.

Health officials are preparing exercise programs to keep the trapped miners fit and help maintain their mental well-being. Engineers are working to drill a 62-centimeter-wide rescue tunnel, but they say it could take up to four months to complete because of the depth and instability of the mine.

The miners are trapped 700 meters underground.

Rescue workers have asked the U.S. space agency for advice in maintaining the physical and mental health of the miners. NASA has experience testing and training astronauts for extended periods of isolation. 

Submarine crews from Chile's navy are also being consulted.

Two narrow holes have been drilled to communicate with the miners and deliver food and other supplies to them, including games and even anti-depressants.

The miners have also used the holes to send messages to loved ones.

In a demonstration of stoicism and resolve, the trapped miners sang Chile's national anthem after communications were established with the surface.

The miners became trapped three weeks ago when a shaft collapsed in a gold and copper mine near the northern city of Copiapo. They have told officials they are fine.  Rescuers first made contact with the men on Sunday.

Officials say the miners appear to have organized themselves well and have rallied behind their shift supervisor.

Calderón condemns
killing of Latin migrants


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has condemned the massacre of 72 suspected migrants from Central and South America, blaming drug cartels for the killings. Meanwhile Costa Rican officials are awaiting word if any of the country's citizens were among the slain.

In a statement late Wednesday, President Calderón said the drug gangs are carrying out more extortions and kidnappings of migrants as their resources and recruits dwindle.

The president says government crackdowns on the cartels have significantly weakened them.

Mexican officials are consulting with authorities from several other Latin American countries for help in identifying the bodies of 58 men and 14 women discovered at a farm in northern Mexico Tuesday. They say the migrants are believed to have been from El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil and Ecuador.

An Ecuadorean man, claiming to be the only survivor of the massacre, said the migrants were kidnapped by an armed group and taken to the ranch, near the town of San Fernando, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the border with the U.S. state of Texas.

He told investigators the captors identified themselves as members of the Zetas drug cartel.

Officials say troops went to investigate after the Ecuadorean approached a checkpoint and said he had been attacked at the ranch.  The troops discovered the bodies following a shootout with suspected cartel gunmen. One soldier and three of the suspects were killed.

Mexico's drug cartels are locked in a violent battle for control of trafficking routes into the United States.

President Calderón launched a crackdown on the cartels in 2006. More than 28,000 people have been killed in the country's drug war since he took office.




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