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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 175       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Nosara study supports feasibility of recycling trash
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A study of solid waste in the coastal town of Nosara shows recycling may be feasible there and perhaps in other tourist areas. The study showed about 35 percent of the current garbage is recyclable and some 52 percent is organic and could be composted or otherwise reused. Like many Costa Rican communities Nosara has a garbage disposal problem.

The study is a thesis paper by Natalia Vega published in Tierra Tropical, the journal of EARTH, an agricultural school near Guácimo on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.

Nosara is on the west side of the Nicoya peninsula near Sámara, but has no paved road and access can be difficult in the rainy season. The town has about 3,500 inhabitants including about 800 mostly foreigners in the “American project,” a development dating to the 1950s. Ms. Vega estimates the population increases by 1,000 or so in the high season, similarly swelling the solid waste problem.

Nosara has its own open-air dump, since the municipality of Nicoya does not provide any service there. In early 2008 the municipality’s main dump was closed by the Ministerio de Salud after a four-year probationary period, provoking a crisis with garbage accumulating in the streets. The ministry’s lone inspector for Nicoya is described by Ms. Vega as having “no notion” of the situation in Nosara.

Nosara’s dump is found on a private parcel only half a kilometer from the center of town. It was essentially loaned for a five-year term 13 years ago. Two cells that were excavated at that time are full. Only the local truck driver has a key, and Ms. Vega was never able to discern a payment method for other deliveries, which are often dumped along the access road.

As garbage pickup in Nosara is not a service of the municipality, there is a private service consisting of three men with a truck provided by a local business owner. Such informal services are not uncommon in rural areas of Costa Rica, especially where there are hotels or other businesses. Some are on the fringes of the gray economy. One in the Currubandé area of Guanacaste was investigated recently for child labor violations after being reported by a sharp-eyed tourist guide.

Ms. Vega said she found the owners of the service increasingly uncooperative as the study continued and never obtained good figures for their earnings from fees and separated recyclables. At best, the workers receive minimum wage with no benefits. The company covers about 70 percent of the district’s population and picks up anything set out apparently without attempting to determine who has paid. Most areas are visited twice a week. Payments were collected by the owner on a bicycle as well as at a local grocery, she reported.

Administration of accounts is chaotic, and Ms. Vega calculated only 60 to 70 percent of those who receive the service pay. The recalcitrant households include some in the American zone, where average incomes are vastly higher than for the rest of the population, though they do pay a higher rate of $10 per month.

A questionnaire found most of the population understands the local solid waste situation and the concept of recycling. In a fine example of the pitfalls of research under these conditions, a local person charged with conducting the survey disappeared with some of the data, so 150 households were questioned instead of the intended 200. Most seemed satisfied with the situation.

A detailed analysis found a high percentage of recyclables relative to other studies in Costa Rica’s central metropolitan area. Organic material at 52 percent by weight was the largest single component. Various categories of non-recyclables (textiles, bathroom waste, low-density plastics) added up to about 13 percent. The remaining 35 percent is theoretically of value and can be recycled.

The biggest component was glass at 11 percent of the total, with recyclable plastics more than 7 percent combined, according to the study. Aluminum is more than 1 percent. These are all much higher than studies in suburban San José have shown. Paper and cardboard combined make up another 9 percent, similar to the other studies. The percentages and total amounts of these relatively valuable items doubtless increase during the tourist season.

Ms. Vega makes recommendations to improve the
Nosara trash
Poster highlights the local concerns

nosara dump
Natalia Vega photo
Nosra dump is exactly what you would expect.

packed for shipment
Natalia Vega photo
Some recyclables, including aluminum cans, are packed for shipment

local solid waste problem. First is to educate the population to produce less garbage. The large  amount of organic material can be fed to animals or dumped “in a hole in the ground.” It would appear that some amount of this already takes place, since at 52 percent the amount of organic material is less than the 65 percent or so considered normal in San José. Some burning also reduces organic garden cuttings and doubtless toilet waste as well. Burning plastic is a tradition that is also a health hazard.

Centros de acopio, centers where the citizenry can voluntarily bring separated recyclable materials, is a concept much beloved by politicians and non-profit types in Costa Rica. Little thought is given to the scale of the problem. The municipality of Desamparados produces more than 200 tons of garbage per day, for example, of which about 15 to 18 percent is recyclable. Ms. Vega similarly advocates a combination of education and community involvement, which based on experience in wealthier countries, will not work until the children now being taught environmental awareness are adults making the decisions.

Nosara does have other elements which might make this strategy sucessful. These include small scale, motivated business owners, a core of well-educated foreigners, and a green image to uphold. The plastic and aluminum component should help pay some of the costs of running the program and the controlled landfill needed for the non-recyclable residuals.

Other plans may be optimistic from an economic perspective: the reality of trucking glass to Cartago when it’s only worth $35 per ton means it may have to be put in a landfill.

Local business owners continue to organize programs to better Nosara’s solid waste problem. Their efforts should make a useful model for other tourist areas in a similar situation, based on the Vega study.  The full report in Spanish is HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 175

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Our readers' opinions
Costa Rica murder rate
reported higher than U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In George Lundquist's recent letter  entitled, "Five blind men see parts of an elephant differently," he first states, in referring to a specific area of Costa Rica,  "This is due to a number of issues like high costs, heavy traffic and high crime."  In a general reference to Costa Rica, he then goes on to say, "There remains essentially no violent and very little non-violent crime."

O. K., I get it now. According to him, Costa Rica has both "high crime" yet has "no violent and very little  non-violent crime."

Seems like old George Lundquist can't decide whether to agree with himself or Garland Baker on this issue, so he does both.

According to Nation Master,  the most recent murder rate for Costa Rica is is 0.061006 per 1,000 people, making them number 19 in worldwide statistics. The U.S.A. shows 0.042802 per 1,000 people and is ranked at number 24 in the same report.

This objectively reflects that living in Costa Rica makes you 42.5 percent more likely to be murdered or to murder someone than if you were living in the U.S.A.

All of which goes to affirm the universal truth that figures never lie, but liars do some time figure.

Allen Mcdonald
Boquete, Chiriquí,
República de Panamá

There is no slowdown
in Atenas, broker reports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
While I have always thought Garland Baker was "right on" legally, many of his articles are so negative that it makes me wonder why he (or you, for that matter) would want to live in Costa Rica, but he has hit a new low in my book with his recent article in A.M. Costa Rica.

Yes I am a real estate broker, and my focus is the Central Valley, so maybe that is why we are not seeing the "slowdown" he speaks of.  Quite the opposite here in Atenas.

We do work occasionally in the Parrita/Quepos area, so let me set the record straight on a few things there.

#1) We have been advising our investors/clients for about two years now that there is simply TOO much speculator-driven inventory in Parrita, Quepos and Jacó.  So advising investors that buying up property with reduced prices in that area is a recipe for disaster!

#2) I would estimate that at probably 70 percent of individual foreigners who buy land in those projects are brand new to Costa Rica or do so sight unseen from high pressure salesmen in "boiler room" sales offices, or are brought down here to see their potential purchase without being allowed to see the REST of Costa Rica.   Promised land that can be subdivided (most cannot) to make a huge profit, or condos that will soar in value (most will not), many are disheartened, and disgusted with Costa Rica when their dream is destroyed.

#3) Years ago all our clients wanted to be near the beach.  We would take them there to satisfy their curiosity, but 99 percent ended up somewhere cooler, somewhere with less mosquitoes and other objectionable critters, and less crime.  Now we are seeing folks who are much better informed. They know there are better places to spend their retirement and their money.

We are now getting quite a few inquiries from people who have lived a while near the beaches, (years in some cases) who love the area but can no longer take the heat as they grow older.
As to prices being reduced, that is just not the case in our area at least.  I just did a search on "reduced" on our own Web site to see what came up:

6 listings out of about 200:

3 were originally listed too high to begin with (one is in Parrita!)

2 needing to sell fast for health/family reasons

1 building a new home (anxious to get started)

Absolutely nothing to do with the market!!!  We have had many more raise prices than lower.
A big portion of our business is selling retirement homes/property to "baby boomers"   According to Wikipedia "Seventy-six million American children were born between 1945 and 1964".  (this does not include the rest of the world who had their own boom!) They are JUST now reaching retirement age, the influx of folks we have seen is just the tip of the iceberg.  Where are these folks going to retire?  Is there ANYWHERE in the U.S. where they can retire with the level of comfort per $$, climate and level of health care that is available in Costa Rica? Does that sound like the start of a "slowdown" to you?  To compare these times to the 70s makes no sense, you are comparing apples to oranges and that never works!
Yes crime is on the rise and not much seems to be done about it.  In parts of Costa Rica, in parts of the U.S.A., in México, in Guatemala, in Nicaragua, in Panamá.  Maybe we should be part of the solution instead of sitting around complaining how terrible it is.  In my neighborhood we all look out for each other, Ticos (mostly) and foreigners alike.  We don't have a problem with crime here because it simply is not permitted.  Period.  I have lived in Costa Rica a total of 10 years.  There is no fence around my house, my front and back doors are usually open.  I do not live in fear, but I also do not make myself a target!
Costa Rica is a spectacularly beautiful country loaded with nature and naturally welcoming, friendly people, but like everything, there is good and bad.  It isn't fair to  accentuate the negative when there is so much positive!
Terry Mills

Subprime crisis affects
the all world economies

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a curious outsider, occasional visitor, and regular reader of this publication, I never thought I'd be knowledgeable enough to comment on a story here. However, I feel the need to respond to Mr. Berg's letter on the recent real estate article.

Mr. Berg vastly underestimates the subprime crisis. To state that Ticos don't "give a damn about economic problems in the States" and that Canadians "have not been affected by the subprime crisis" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of today's world economy.

Mr. Berg, all world economies are intertwined and as a country the U.S. is the largest. The second largest, China, is still less than half the size. One out of every five dollars on the planet comes from the U.S., and I'm willing to bet the percentage coming to Costa Rica is much larger. For God's sakes man, even Spain is being pulled down by the U.S. subprime crisis.

Simply put, it's about money and the banks that have it. When they suffer, the whole world suffers. Just google the words subprime and Europe to see. Or Canada, if you like.
Jerry Day
Northern California

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 175

Trial set for Nov. 3 in the case of Calderón and medical loan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier and seven other persons go on trial Nov. 3 in one of the nation's two big corruption cases.

The date was fixed Tuesday by the Poder Judicial. The case has major implications for the country because Calderón, if cleared, probably will run again for president. He is the son of a legendary Costa Rican politician.

This is the case in which the prosecution alleges that Calderón, another man who headed the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and others shared in secret $9 million commissions when the country accepted a $39.5 million loan from the government of Finland.

The money was to purchase medical equipment from Finland, but much of the equipment was not what the nation's Caja hospitals needed, it was disclosed at the time.

Eliseo Vargas, a former president of the Asamblea Legislativa, was the executive president of the Caja at the time. Also involved is Walter Reiche Fischel, who headed the pharmaceutical company of the same name.

The men face a litany of corruption and bribery charges. The Poder Judicial said that some 300 witnesses have been called to testify and that the prosecutors' files are in 17 large books.
The trial will be in the Tribunal de Juicio Penal de Hacienda with three judges, Teresita Rodriguez Arroyo, Alejandro López McAdam and Víctor Dobles Obares, presiding.  Calderón had praise for the judges as independent jurists Tuesday.

Calderón was president from 1990 to 1994. He and many of the other defendants are members of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana.

The case had an unusual beginning. The Spanish-language newspaper La Nación revealed in April 2004 that the Caja executive director, Vargas, was living in a sprawling Santa Ana home that actually was owned by an official of the drug company, Corporación Fischel.

Eventually Calderón was sucked in to the scandal when a payment of more than $400,000 from a Panamá corporation operated by a major drug supplier was traced to a second Panamá corporation run by the Calderón family.

Vargas headed the assembly when it approved in December 2001 the terms of the agreement with Finland. The bill zipped through lawmakers in just a few days.

The case is separate from that involving Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría, president from 1998 to 2002, who has been implicated in kickbacks paid by a private company on a purchase of cell telephone lines in 2002 by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. 

Issues are mixed
at supreme court

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, groups with multiple axes to grind showed up at the Corte Suprema de Justicia Tuesday.

One group is seeking a new water law that would protect water sources. The idea of a law was triggered by the effort to run a water line from Sardinal to Playas del Coco and developments there.

Another group opposes the production of pineapples. That protest was sparked by residents of La Perla de Guácimo who are unhappy with pesticide infiltration into the water sources there. They have blocked assess to the pineapple fields.
no hay libertad
  A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas 
  Protesters carry coffin and a sign that says that without justice there is
  no liberty.

Both issues have become important to those organizations already opposing the Óscar Arias administration. They mainly are against the free trade treaty with the United States.

For the benefit of photographers, one protester Tuesday set fire to a sign and then set fire to it again. That sign opposed the country's ratification of the Treaty of Budapest and a law that provides a form of patent to those who create new plant species.

Both were measures required by the free trade treaty.

One bill remains to be passed before the treaty can come into force for Costa Rica. That is a measure expanding intellectual property rights for items like music CDs, trademarked
clothes and books. The Sala IV constitutional court is studying the measure now.

The intellectual property bill already has passed the legislture on a preliminary reading. Opponents, as is their right, asked the Sala IV to issue an opinion.

Costa Rica has until the end of October to pass all the measures related to the free trade treaty to the satisfation of the United States.

Several hundred people showed up. The protest might have lost participants because embattled alternate magistrate Federico Sosto López quit the day before. He admitting giving legal advice to Arias
while he was still sitting as a magistrate. Opponents said this was a conflict of interest.
sign on fire
Sign objects to Sala IV votes on Treaty of Budapest and vegetable species protection

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 175

British scientists will seek to explore Caribbean's deep trench
undersea map
A.M. Costa Rica/University of Southampton graphic
Undersea map shows the location of the Cayman Trough
Have you seen these stories?
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By the University of Southampton news service

Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, are set to explore the world's deepest undersea volcanoes and find out what lives in a lost world five kilometers  (16,400 feet) beneath the Caribbean.

The team of researchers led by Jon Copley has been awarded a grant by the Natural Environment Research Council to explore the Cayman Trough, which lies between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. This rift in the Caribbean seafloor plunges to a depth of more than 5,000 meters below sea level. It contains the world's deepest chain of undersea volcanoes, which have yet to be explored.

The researchers are planning two expeditions over the next three years using the United Kingdom's newest research ship, RRS James Cook. From the ship, the team will send the remotely-operated vehicle Isis and a new British robot submarine called Autosub6000 into the abyss.

The team will look for new geological features and new species of marine life in the rift on the seafloor. Geologist Bramley Murton will use a whale-friendly sonar system to map the undersea volcanoes in unprecedented detail to understand their formation.

At the same time, oceanographer Dr. Kate Stansfield will study the deep ocean currents in the Cayman Trough for the first time, and geochemist Doug Connelly will hunt for volcanic vents on the ocean floor. These volcanic vents are home to exotic deep-sea creatures that will be studied by Copley and Paul Tyler.

"The Cayman Trough may be a lost world that will give us the missing piece in a global puzzle of deep-sea life," says Copley, a lecturer with the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science.

Volcanic vents in the Atlantic are home to swarms of blind shrimp and beds of unusual mussels. But similar deep-sea vents in the eastern Pacific are inhabited by bizarre metre-long tubeworms. The researchers hope to find out whether creatures living in the Cayman Trough are related to those in the Pacific or the Atlantic — or completely different to both.

Before North and South America joined three million years ago, there was a deep water passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic. This means that the undersea volcanoes of the Cayman Trough could harbour a missing link between deep-sea life in the two oceans. Finding out just what lives in the rift will help scientists understand patterns of marine life around the world.

"The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on our planet, so we need to understand its patterns of life," said Copley. "Deep-sea exploration has also given us new cancer treatments and better fiberoptic cables for the Internet, both thanks to deep-sea creatures."

Working at depths of more than five kilometers will take the deep-diving vehicles close to their limits. Isis is the United Kingdom's deepest diving remotely-operated vehicle reaching depths of 6,500 meters (21,300 feet). The team will control Isis from their research ship to film the ocean floor and collect samples with its robotic arms.

Autosub6000, a new unmanned undersea vehicle built in Southampton, can dive to 6,000 meters (about 19,700 feet) deep. Autosub6000 is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) – a robot submarine that can carry out missions on its own, without being remote-controlled.

The team will launch Autosub6000 from their ship to survey the area and hunt for volcanic vents on the ocean floor.

"These undersea volcanoes lie within British seabed territory recognised by the United Nations," said Copley.

"We now have the technology to explore them." The public will be able to follow the progress of the expeditions through web pages updated from the ship. The team will also invite a school teacher to join them and share the scientific adventure with classrooms around the world.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 175

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Acquittal sought in case of thief killed by dogs in Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor in charge of the Natividad Canda Mairena death case will ask the trial court today to acquit two Fuerza Pública officers who are defendants.

This is the case of the Nicaraguan sneak thief who was killed by two guard dogs while police and others watched.

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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 week day.

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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.


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The Poder Judicial said that after hearing the evidence in the trial in Cartago the prosecutors involved could not establish for certain that the policemen could have fired their service pistols without putting in jeopardy the life of the victim.

The prosecutors also determined that the officers had not had the training to handle a situation like this, particularly at night when the target is moving, said the Poder Judicial.

The death happened Nov. 10, 2005, when Canda, a drug addict and thief, tried to sneak into a salvage yard in la Lima de Cartago. He was caught by two Rottweiler guard dogs who would not let go.

The case was high profile because part of the episode of Canda struggling on the ground in the jaws of a dog was televised as were the policemen watching. Finally firemen arrived and got the dog away by using a high-pressure hose.

The salvage yard owner, who also is on trial, said he did not want to go near the dogs when they were in the fury of attack.

Canda's mother from Nicaragua is at the trial seeking compensation. At the time the case also tapped some Costa Rican prejudices and generated Nicaraguan jokes and even led to the unrelated killing of a Nicaraguan during an argument about the case a few days later.

The defense is supposed to wrap up its case this week.

New campaign seeks to help
children facing cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children suffering from cancer will receive better care, said the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil and the Ministerio de la Presidencia Tuesday, as officials announced a campaign called “Un dólar por un ángel.” They hope to raise around $600,000 in the next year, according to Angie Ortega Umaña, an aide in the Presidencia.

The goals of the campaign are simple; to improve the equipment in the hematology unit in the Hospital Nacional de Niños, to supply more special medicines to the unit, and to expand the existing infrastructure. 

The president of the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil, Jeannette Arguello, said that through this campaign, the generosity of the Costa Rican community will be a huge inspiration for many homes.  The central idea is to mobilize the population around the theme of children's cancer.

Roberto Thompson, a vice minister, asked Costa Ricans to collaborate in this cause to help families through these difficult situations.  He also said that if everyone would donate just a dollar, the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil would be able to convert dreams to reality.  The organization is just looking to improve the services to these little angels, he said.   

To donate, persons who would like to contribute are being asked to send a dollar a month for a year.  Interested donors can call the Asociación Lucha Contra el Cáncer Infantil at 2255-0231 or can donate money electronically to the accounts 00171-0 to the Banco de Costa Rica, 218583-3 to the Banco Nacional and 4-00578415 to Banco Promerica, the Presidencia said..

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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