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(506) 223-1327              Published Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 174            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Sala IV likely to ashcan discriminatory beach rule
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Legal circles are buzzing with the expectation that the Sala IV will soon open up the Zona Maritima Terrestre — the maritime zone — to foreigners.  They may soon be able to hold and develop public land next to the beach without making under-the-table deals.

The first 200 meters, 656 feet, of coastal land inland from high tide is Costa Rica’s maritime zone.  The first 50 meters of the 200 meters, 164 feet, is un-exploitable beach land. The rest, 150 meters, 492 feet, is public land.  This area can be developed by private parties through a concession with the state.

Much of the nation's tourism infrastructure at the beaches can be found at least partly on concession land.

Now only Costa Ricans or a corporation owned by mostly Costa Ricans can develop a concession in the public area of the maritime zone.   Law 6043 Articles 47, 31, and its bylaws Article 25 mandates this fact.

Stefano Santini, a 32-year-old Italian businessman, is the crusader trying to change the law that would allow foreigners to hold concessions and develop them. The constitutional court rejected his initial filing because it was not prepared correctly. He tried again and refiled in 2006, and it was accepted.

He based his arguments on a similar case presented to the Sala IV by Beeper S.A., C.V. in 1998.  Beeper S.A. is a pager company which opposed the fact communication companies were restricted to Costa Rican ownership. Beeper, S.A. won.  The case took three years to resolve.

Taca filed a similar complaint against the civil aviation laws that also prohibited foreign ownership on March 29.  The Sala IV resolved the case in record time.  The constitutional court with vote 11156-2007 of Aug. 1 — just last month — found such a restriction unconstitutional.

The legal beagles of Costa Rica believe this reflects a trend for the high court and that Stefano will win his case.

In 2005, a Spanish news service estimated that 81 percent of the concessions in Costa Rica were in the hands of foreigners and only 19 percent in the hands of Costa Ricans. Many of these concessions were granted in direct violation of the law.   In others, the foreigners just skirted the rules by putting a puppet Tico as owner on paper to comply with the law.

These facts show that impractical rules make people break the law.  When using a puppet to circumvent the rules, the puppet may just come alive and fire the puppeteers.   There is a case 
Garland Baker graphic

where this happened and many others that go unreported. Foreigners applied for a concession and gave the majority ownership and power of attorney to a Tico lawyer to comply with the law.  The lawyer just took over one day and left the investors hanging with their mouths open.  After years in court, the lawyer won.  The court stated it does not tolerate or protect abuses of the law.

Many xenophobic legislators are outraged.   They know the writing is on the wall.   Former legislator Nidia González Morera of the Partido Acción Ciudadana wanted to put through a legislative decree to require the foreigners to have 10 years of permanent residency and personal presence in Costa Rica before they would qualify.  Permanent residency is a legal status of residency.  Personal presence is time on Costa Rican soil.  The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería manages this information with entrance and exit data.

The attorney general’s office and the environmental ministry have had their disputes over this valuable area of Costa Rica for the last few years.  Concessions were at a standstill until just a few months ago.

Santini wants the opportunity to file for a concession as a foreigner so he does not have to break or skirt the law.   This makes sense.  Even though decisions from the Sala IV do not always make sense, they will probably make changes to the maritime law, which will have a significant impact on the country and its future.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 174

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Felix track
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
Estimated path of Hurricane Felix will touch Honduras

Hurricane Felix to brush
already soaked Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A powerful Caribbean hurricane will wave its long arms over Costa Rica starting this evening, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. The country will experience at least increased rain because of the storm through Wednesday, weather officials said. The heaviest storm damage usually comes as hurricanes pass by.

The storm, Hurricane Felix, has strengthened into a dangerous category five storm with maximum sustained winds of 270 kph (165 mph). The storm is north and east of Costa Rica and seems to be headed along the coast of Honduras and directly at Belize. The storm track is further south than that of Hurricane Dean, which smacked into the Yucatan last week and then into the México mainland.

The areas of the country that will feel the hurricane the most are the Pacific, the Central Valley and the mountains of the northern zone, said the weather institute.

The country just experienced a wave of rain late last week and over the weekend that prompted a weather alert by the national emergency center. The main highway between San José and Limón, Route 34, was blocked for 18 hours Saturday due to landslides. There were landslides that blocked the Interamericana south Sunday when rain hit.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that there had been some 200 incidents of flooding in the Central Valley that prompted the storm alert Friday. Mentioned specifically were Sabana Norte, Barrio Cuba, San Sebastián and the Hatillos. There also were problems in Goicoechea, Escazú, Tibás and Pavas.

There were sides that blocked the Autopista Bernardo Soto west of the Juan Santamaría airport, officials said. One family escaped without injury when a boulder smashed into their car while they were waiting for crews to clear the way.

Some residents of Río Seco and Paraíso spent part of the weekend in Santa Cruz due to flooding. A giant hole developed in the road between Tilarán and Nuevo Arenal. Officials said it was some 15 meters deep, nearly 50 feet.

With the country already suffering from the effects of the normal seasonal precipitation, emergency center workers are reported to be concerned about what little time they have to prepare for Felix. An additional problem is that Felix is following an uncertain route. It may approach Costa Rica closer than anticipated.

A midnight report from the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 295 miles (475 kms) south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and about 555 miles (890 kms) east of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua/Honduras border. It was moving west at 21 mph or about 33 kph.

Although Felix is an extremely powerful hurricane, it has a very small wind field, said the center.  Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles  (35 kms) from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles or 185 kms, it added. Due to the rotation of the storm, the initial effects will be felt in the south Pacific coast, perhaps as early as this afternoon.

Ex-resident publishes book
on immigration and its effects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former Costa Rican resident has returned north with a call for First World citizens to do more to promote governmental policies to help developing countries lift their people out of poverty.

He is Kenneth D. MacHarg, a former professor at the Evangelical University of the Americas in San José and spiritual leader of the Escazú Christian Fellowship. He makes his opinions known in a new book called "From Rio to the Rio Grande:  Challenges and Opportunities in Latin America." The book was published by Global Village Press.

A summary provided by the publisher said that MacHarg also wants the First World to give those in developing lands a sense of hope and accomplishment and provide a way for them to keep their families intact. The summary also quotes him as saying “Five of the problems that the U.S. faces intimately in Latin America are inextricably connected. They are: poverty, gangs, drugs, violence and immigration."

MacHarg, who characterizes himself on his Web page as a missionary journalist, has written six other books and hundreds of articles for Christian and secular publications, according to the Web site. He has lived in Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica and has set foot in almost every Latin American country, said his publisher.

The book addresses the problem of Latin American immigration to the United States, and MacHarg, using the example of Colombians in Florida who returned home when conditions there improved, says that improvements in the south will encourage back migration.

He also writes about the new immigrations. Said the publisher: ". . . he explores their values, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses that are changing the fabric of our society." MacHarg and his wife, Polly, now live in Carrollton, Georgia.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 174

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New beach cleaner at Jacó gets a workout.
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Jacó getting a little mechanical muscle to keep beach clean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Beaches collect trash the way dogs collect fleas. At a heavily used beach like Jacó, trash pickup is a continual need.

But now the beach cleanup can be mechanized. The Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce plans to inaugurate new beach-cleaning machines Thursday with a ceremony on the sand in front of the Hotel Best Western. The organization said it expected Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of tourism, to attend the 9 a.m. ceremony.

The Beach King II, built by Rockland Manufacturing Co. in Bedford, Pennsylvania, is pulled and powered by a John
Deere tractor. The cleaning device digs into the sand, picks it up on a shifting screen, sifts out trash and other particles and ejects the sand in a level stream to the rear.

The beach cleaners will be operated by the municipality as part of routine daily cleaning operations. Both machines were donated by DayStar Properties, said a release from the chamber.

The beach at Jacó is about 4 kms long, some 2.5 miles. The chamber said that the machines are part of the “Todos juntos por un mejor Jacó” campaign, and that operation of the beach cleaning machines is a milestone accomplishment for recent efforts to improve the local quality of life in Jacó.

Investigators say home invasion bandits are well-organized
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbery investigators say they think that there is one organized band that is targeting the homes of seemingly wealthy residents in the metropolitan area.

Although there have been some arrests, the band contains a number of persons, they said.

The robbers have made a number of home invasions in the last few months in Escazú, Santa Ana and Rohrmoser. They may also have generated copycats.

In a curious case in Curridabat Saturday a man claims three men broke into his home and fatally shot his parents as they slept in bed. Agents are investigating, but they have detained the man, 21.  The home already had been the site of a robbery, but police are not sure the bandits returned because the home did not show signs of being sacked.

Aug. 25 four men broke into a home in Rohrmoser only three blocks from the Pavas prosecutor's office and not far from the U.S. Embassy. The bandits found four children temporarily alone at the home of Douglas S. Nathan, a U.S. citizen. When a family friend returned to the home, the bandits threatened him and made off with appliances and about $25,000 said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Also Aug. 25, bandits got away with about 5 million
colons, some $9,600, from a home in San Pedro de Montes de Oca between 7 and 8 p.m. They broke in through the front door.

Four robbery suspects came into police hands Wednesday night in San Antonio de Belén after an apartment was entered by bandits. The Policia Municipal said that a guard heard the cries of the apartment residents, identified as  Francisco and Edgar Gonzáles Navarro, and those of an unidentified woman.

The local police and the Fuerza Pública responded and found four men getting into a vehicle. The men disregarded orders to surrender and took off down a dead-end street the local police said. They began firing at officers who responded and blew out the tires of the vehicle, they said. One suspect suffered bullet wounds.

Investigators said they were trying to link the four suspects with similar robberies that have taken place in Fatima de Belén, la Rivera and in the surrounding areas.

While the four suspects were in jail yet another home invasion took place, this one in Bello Horizonte, Escazú. There Alejandra Mata, a vice minister of Educación Pública was the victim.  Investigators said this took place about 7:30 p.m. when the woman and an employee returned home to her house and opened the electric gate.
The bandits took kitchen appliances, 25 million colons ($48,000) and the woman's vehicle, said investigators.

The fine art of lying, or is it simply avoiding responsibility?
¿Mentirte yo? ¡Nunca!
“Lie to you? Never!” How many times do we hear this when we feel certain the speaker is lying through his or her teeth? In Costa Rica we hear this phrase, or variations thereof, all of the time. I often feel that the people who utter it may actually have convinced themselves what they’re saying is true, at least at the time they say it. It is only later that it turns out to have been a lie, so they don’t really feel responsible.
Are you confused yet? Well, let me explain: In the States the plumber says he’ll be at your house at 10 a.m. to fix your erupting kitchen sink, but he doesn’t show up until 2 in the afternoon. In Costa Rica if the plumber says 10 a.m. he means 10 a.m. but that doesn’t necessarily mean 10 a.m. today.  Or if he says Monday that doesn’t necessarily mean this Monday. He doesn’t consider this lying, just covering all his bases.
Perhaps I’m being unrealistic, or it is just plain old fashioned, but I still expect dinner guests to show up at least near to the appointed time. A friend of ours is notorious for his tardiness. We invited him for dinner once. The agreed-upon evening was Friday, though, given his reputation, setting a specific hour seemed pointless.

We expected him to arrive any time between 5 and 9 p.m. But when he didn’t show up at all, I was miffed.
When I called him next day, he had a battery of excuses, among them, “But you didn’t say what Friday.”  I answered that when “Friday” is the day after tomorrow one can safely assume that is the intended “Friday.” If he was confused about the day he should have called to confirm. In any case, he made it up to us by inviting us to dine at his place the following week. All was forgiven. But he knew I had been seriously annoyed by his irresponsible behavior, and he never came late to any appointment with me again.
Many years ago we bought some kitchen appliances at the duty-free market down in Golfito. The woman representing the truckers told us to expect delivery on Tuesday. I asked her to write down the exact date indicating which “Tuesday” she might have in mind and at least an approximation of the time of day the shipment might arrive. I explained to her that we were returning to the States and if the goods were late we could well be gone not to return to Costa Rica for several months.
True to form, however, Tuesday came and went without witnessing the arrival of our new stove and refrigerator. When the truck finally did arrive, 24 hours late, I did not answer the door. The disconcerted driver pounded away, but all remained silent within. Then, from behind the front door, I heard the driver expressing his frustrations over his cell phone to the woman in Golfito who’d made the arrangements.
Presently the phone at our house rang and I answered it with a cheery “¡Hola!” It was, of course, the mendacious matron. “Señor Soto, Señor Soto!” she said in a state approaching panic. “The truck with your appliances is in front of your house!”
“Oh really,” I coolly replied. “¡Si, si, si!” she went on, her voice rising in pitch and volume with each repetition of the word. “Are you not at home?”

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

“No,” said I.
“But is this not your home phone number?”   
“Yes, this is my home phone number.”

“Then how can you not be at home!?” she asked, now nearing total exasperation.
“Because,” I calmly replied, “You see, I can lie as easily as you can.”
Of course, in the end I did accept the shipment, but I also deducted 25 percent off the delivery charge. When the driver protested, I showed him the paper where the woman had clearly written down the day, date, and time the truck was promised to arrive. I told him I was deducting the money from his fee because the goods were delivered a day late. If he didn’t like it he could take it up with his friend back in Golfito who had set up the shipment in the first place. As you can imagine, he was not what one would call a “happy camper” when he left our house.
This kind of lying is endemic in Costa Rica. The attitude seems to be, “Tell the customer anything to get his money and shut him up, he’ll receive the goods when we get them there, and that’s all there is to that.”

 But it’s also possible to lie without saying — or writing — a word. Though the Costa Rican press was positively effusive over the opening of diplomatic relations with mainland China because of the cozy trade agreements that resulted and the anticipation of the arrival of cheap Chinese goods in Costa Rican stores, hardly a word has been mentioned in our press about China’s abysmal human rights record, or the fact that those cheap goods are often produced by what amounts to slave labor.
The same can be said of the trade agreement with the United States: Though countless millions of fulsome words have been said and printed about the glorious benefits this treaty will allegedly provide to ordinary Costa Ricans, our press has clearly repudiated its responsibility to inform the public by neglecting almost altogether to discuss the actual substance of the document. For this reason few Costa Ricans, including, I dare say, many in the government, have not even the foggiest impression of what the trade agreement actually says.
So, it would seem, like sins, there are also lies of commission and omission, but it’s sometimes difficult to decide which of these is the more pernicious. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 174

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Scientist say they have figured out chemistry of red tide
By the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
news service

In work that could one day help prevent millions of dollars in economic losses for seaside communities, chemists have demonstrated how tiny marine organisms likely produce the red tide toxin that periodically shuts down beaches and shellfish beds.

In the Aug. 31 cover story of Science, the team describes an elegant method for synthesizing the lethal components of red tides. The researchers believe their method approximates the synthesis used by algae, a reaction that chemists have tried for decades to replicate, without success. The researchers are with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Understanding how and why red tides occur could help scientists figure out how to prevent the blooms, which cause significant ecological and economic damage. The New England shellfish industry, for example, lost tens of millions of dollars during a 2005 outbreak, and red tide killed 30 endangered manatees off the coast of Florida this spring.

The last serious Pacific red tide was in November 2005 and affected Nicaragua and El Salvador. One woman was said to have died. Officials in El Salvador prohibited the collection and sale of shellfish from Nov. 18, 2005 to March 24, 2006. The economic impact was severe.

The discovery by Timothy Jamison, an associate professor, and graduate student Ivan Vilotijevic not only could shed light on how algae known as dinoflagellates generate red tides, but could also help speed up efforts to develop cystic fibrosis drugs from a compound closely related to the toxin.

Red tides, also known as algal blooms, strike unpredictably and poison shellfish, making them dangerous for humans to eat. It is unknown what causes dinoflagellates to produce the red tide toxins, but it may be a defense mechanism, possibly provoked by changes in the tides, temperature shifts or other environmental stresses.

One of the primary toxic components of red tide is brevetoxin, a large and complex molecule that is very difficult to synthesize.

Twenty-two years ago, chemist Koji Nakanishi of Columbia University proposed a cascade, or series of chemical steps, that dinoflagellates could use to produce brevetoxin and other red tide toxins.  However, chemists have been unable to demonstrate such a cascade in the
red tide on New Zealand coast
National Institute of Water and Atmosphere/M. Godfrey
The dramatic appearance of a red tide algal bloom at Leigh, near Cape Rodney, New Zealand.

laboratory, and many came to believe that the "Nakanishi Hypothesis" would never be proven.

"A lot of people thought that this type of cascade may be impossible," said Jamison. "Because Nakanishi's hypothesis accounts for so much of the complexity in these toxins, it makes a lot of sense, but there hasn't really been any evidence for it since it was first proposed."

Jamison and Vilotijevic's work offers the first evidence that Nakanishi's hypothesis is feasible.

Their work could also help accelerate drug discovery efforts. Brevenal, another dinoflagellate product related to the red tide toxins, has shown potential as a powerful treatment for cystic fibrosis. It can also protect against the effects of the toxins.

"Now that we can make these complex molecules quickly, we can hopefully facilitate the search for even better protective agents and even more effective . . .  therapies," said Jamison.

Until now, synthesizing just a few milligrams of red tide toxin or related compounds, using a non-cascade method, required dozens of person-years of effort.

The new synthesis depends on two critical factors — giving the reaction a jump start and conducting the reaction in water. Conducting the reaction in water is necessary to a successful synthesis. Water is normally considered a poor solvent for organic reactions, so most laboratory reactions are performed in organic solvents. However, when Vilotijevic introduced water into the reaction, he noticed that it proceeded much more quickly and selectively.

Journal's survey of foreign policy experts says world growing more dangerous
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A hundred of America’s most respected foreign policy experts see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disarray, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off-track.  And that’s six years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, which prompted the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the larger war against terrorism.
The opinions are the results of a survey by Foreign Policy magazine and the liberal policy group, Center for American Progress.

Most of the experts surveyed think the next al-Qaida stronghold will be in Pakistan.

They also chose Pakistan as the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists.

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