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(506) 2223-1327          Published Friday, Sept. 10, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 179               E-mail us
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September is Patriotic Month in Costa Rica. Sept. 14 and 15 are days when the country marks its 189 years of independence. The
highways, public buildings and many private establishments are decked out in the national colors.  And now A.M. Costa Rica is, too!

Interamericana passage being restored with bridge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials said Saturday morning  that they were working to reestablish passage on the Interamericana by installing a bailey bridge at Kilometer 87.

The provisional measure allows vehicles to pass through while work continues to fix a main water line and clear debris. The water line is more than two meters in diameter (more than 6.5 feet). It was ruptured by a landslide and the water flowing from it added to the damage.

Workmen were trying to finish the job by midday Saturday.


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The main highway from the Central Valley to Puntarenas and points north has been closed due to slides, and the problem appears to be much bigger than originally thought.

The stretch involved is between San Ramón and Esparza, with the biggest problem at a point known as the altura de Cambronero. This is Ruta 1 that also is the Interamericana.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said that it has hired a private contractor to clear the highway as soon as possible.  The job may take as long as until Sunday. The agency said that the heavy rains Wednesday caused slides and a water line to collapse. MACO Constructores has been hired to do the work.

The agency urged motorists to use alternate routes
road closed
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
This is the blockage on Ruta 205

via Monte del Aguacate and the Autopista del Sol   from San José to Caldera.  The autopista has  problems due to the heavy rain, and a section still is closed between Atenas and Orotina.  However traffic has been getting through. There may be an announcement next week about the condition of the closed stretch where experts have been trying to eliminate dangerous conditions since late June. Vehicles have been smashed by falling boulders and a woman motorcycle passenger died as a result of a collision with one of the huge rocks.

There were problems in other sections, too. The consejo said that a slide Thursday resulted in bockages on Ruta 206 between Opalchi and San Miguel de Desamparados and on Ruta 209's first mile at Palmichal de Acosta. Vehicles were being allowed to pass between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. the agency said. Highway engineers were hoping to have the road opened completely later today. There were some 3,500 cubic meters (about 4,600 cubic yards) of rock, dirt and debris to move.


Puerto Viejo visitor slain while relaxing on beach
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 65-year-old U.S. citizen visiting Puerto Viejo de Limón on the Caribbean coast met his death Thursday morning when someone shot him as he relaxed on Playa Cocles there.

The man was identified by the last name of Edelson. He was believed to have been shot in the back of the head.

Judicial agents inspected the scene and the body was to be taken to the judicial morgue.
Officers said they did not think that the crime was a robbery. Agents are trying to check into the man's background to see what relationship he had with the area.

He had been staying at a nearby hotel.

Police conficated a bicycle at the scene and are seeking information as to the owner.

Such a crime suggests either that the murder was planned or that the criminal was faced with a wave of panic after he committed the murder.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 179

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Moody's raises credit rating
and advises tax changes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Economic efforts by the Óscar Arias administration paid off Thursday when Moody's Investors Service raised the Costa Rican bond rating from Ba1 to Baa3.

The central government was quick to capitalize on the decision and Casa Presidencial paraphrased President Laura Chinchilla and top financial experts saying that the country has to make changes in its tax system in order to stay in the elite group of Latin countries with this favorable investment rating.

The other countries are Brazil, Panamá and Perú, said Casa Presidencial.

Moody's said one main reason for the upgrade was the country's recently tested ability to manage external shocks and to avoid balance-of-payments crisis. Given Costa Rica's relatively high level of financial dollarization and a not-so-flexible exchange rate regime, a balance of payments or financial sector crisis had been one of Moody's concerns, it said.
 
"Costa Rica's debt indicators, both external and public, have improved significantly over the past few years, a process that reflects a consolidation in public finances and decreasing government reliance on external financing," said Alessandra Alecci, a Moody's vice president and senior analyst responsible for Costa Rica's ratings. "On the fiscal front, years of adjustments allowed Costa Rica to pursue counter-cyclical policies without a meaningful deterioration in public indebtedness," she added.

The ratio of public debt to GDP fell to around 43 percent in 2009, from levels above 60 percent just a few years ago, Moody's said. A similar improvement has been observed in other government debt statistics, suggesting a considerably improved ability to service debt obligations relative to the past and comparable to that of other Baa-rated countries, particularly in the region, it added. It also said:

"Costa Rica's ability to navigate through the global crisis relatively unscathed revealed an increased credit resilience. The economy experienced only a brief and shallow recession in 2009 and is now recovering. Significant capital outflows and pressure on the currency during the crisis did not compromise the country's external position. In Moody's view, the episode was an important stress test given the relatively high level of financial dollarization and an exchange rate regime that still operates within bands. Initial indications of a shift towards single-digit inflation is an encouraging sign that may facilitate the adoption of a more flexible exchange rate regime, thus eliminating another source of potential credit risk."

Ms. Chinchilla and her economic advisers are seeking a value-added tax and other levies to bring in more money to the central government, Moody's said this was necessary: "Given that the expenditure increase observed in recent years has a permanent component, a tax reform or other revenue-enhancing measures will be necessary."

Although the rating is just an opinion on government bonds and the probability that they will be repaid, Moody's research influences even non-government financial transactions.

Costa Rica had been rated Ba1 for 15 years.

Export exposition generates
$26 million in contracts


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Promotora del Comercio Exterior, the commerce ministry's promotional arm, said Thursday that its  Buyers Trade Mission generated at least $26 million in business for Costa Rican firms.

The event, which was at the Hotel  Herradura conference center featured 286 Tico firms presenting their products. Those visiting the booths were the 220 potential buyers from 35 countries, said Promotora. Ab out 40 percent of the potential buyers were new to Costa Rica, it added.

The three major categories were industrial, food products and agriculture.

Our readers' opinions
Proud to be American
and proud of Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading you article today about the things done by the U. S. military at the Port of Limón, it is easy for me to understand why so many people, including U. S. citizens living in Costa Rica, love to bash my home country. Just kidding!

The most generous country on the planet and it seems to always have someone eager and willing to bash us no matter what we do. I bet the almost 6,000 people and 3,000 animals appreciated what was done to and for them during this visit that some Costa Ricans objected to.

From what some people said, I am shocked that they left as I was expecting, from what I read, for them to take over and occupy the country and make Costa Rica our 53rd state. Just kidding! We are not a perfect country nor is our country filled with perfect people, but I am very proud to be an American and also equally proud of Costa Rica.

Mike Michael
Atlanta/Quepos

Mention of other top-10 list
was not newsworthy


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
While I realize that A.M. Costa Rica is your publication, you purport to be publishing news obtained from various news sources. My concern is why you found it necessary to add your personal comments/feelings, re: Time magazine's  article listing their 10 top women presidents.  "In case any of the world leaders gets a swelled head from the Time listing, the magazine in the same Web site lists the top 10 famous toilets."

I'm sure many of the readers, in addition to former readers of your news source are well aware of your leanings but, were your comments actually newsworthy? Or, do you believe your list of the top 10 male presidents would not be included in any lists rating top 10 famous toilets and other such meaningless trivia?  It seems to me like your inferiority complex along with the threaten sense of the growing lessening of male dominance is showing.
 
Charles Bryson
Grecia


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 179

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independence document one
Click HERE to enlarge
Independence document two
Click HERE to enlarge
INdependence document three
Click HERE to enlarge
Method for picking representatives Reasons for independence Cover letter from Guatemala

Independence documents go online at national archive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three documents that told Costa Ricans they were independent of Spain are treasures in the Archivo Nacional where facsimiles will be on display this month in the lobby. The originals are kept safe.

But those who cannot go to the archive in person will be able to find digital copies on the archive's Web site. These are in addition to the expandable graphics above.

Costa Ricans celebrate Independence Day every Sept. 14 and 15. But news of the decree of independence by the council in Guatemala City did not reach Cartago, then the local administrative center, until the night of Oct. 13, 1821.

The original decree of independence still is in Guatemala, which was the regional administrative center of the region that was called a captanía general. The archive has a copy of this document.

The first of the three originals is what amounts to a cover
 letter from the council dated Sept. 17, 1821. It begins "The day 15 of the current year came into effect in this city a glorious independence." Council members signed the document.

The second document is a manifesto that says Guatemala is joining in with other places in New Spain to assert its independence. The third document gives a six -point list to Costa Ricans and asks them to select representatives for a congress to convene in Guatemala City.

Because the letters arrived at night, the tradition is that Cartago citizens read them by lantern light, which is why lanterns or faroles are part of the independence celebration today. 

This also is why the president and the cabinet hold an evening meeting each Sept. 14 in Cartago where they welcome the torch of independence that has been carried by runners from Guatemala. Based on the documents, Costa Rican leaders, signed their own act of independence two weeks later.


Water, water everywhere, even on those pant legs
The other day my friend Lenny gave me a lift.  Lenny was soaked from trying to close his umbrella and get into the car at the same time. It was pouring rain during the drive and still raining when we arrived at my apartment.  He shrugged at my concern about his wet shirt and said, "It will dry before I get home.”  And we laughed because that is what most Ticos think: ‘I get wet, it will dry.’ Then Lenny asked me when was the last time I had seen a raincoat in Costa Rica. I thought for a moment and said,

“I think I was wearing it. And I no longer have it.”

Nature is kind to Costa Rica. Especially in the Central Valley. Although the beaches are tropically hot, there are no extremes of temperature in the center of the country. Because of its location in Central America, Costa Rica is buffered by nature from the full force of hurricanes and storms from the oceans.  Of course, we have our volcanoes and earthquakes.  But neither of those threats has as yet devastated the entire country when they occur.

We are now in the rainy season and the aguaceros (downpours) are heavier than I have experienced since I moved here.  Every day when the sky dumps its rain by the bucketful, I wonder what is happening to that water.  Is it being saved or is it simply flowing through the gutters with the trash that is also dumped there and then to the rivers and the ocean.  Is anybody thinking about the future when there may be global need for clean water?

Many people still do not understand the vital role trees perform in conserving our water.  According to my friend Nicole, trees collect the rain and the water drips from the leaves onto the undergrowth and then onto the earth and evaporates into the air.  Where forests have been denuded for one reason or another the rain that falls is not recycled into the air as clouds to fall again.  It is washed into rivers along with the topsoil that no longer has trees to anchor it.  And so I worry and wonder if those in charge and wiser than I are thinking about this and doing something
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

about it. Or will a for-profit organization find a way to
legally procure what water that does flow freely, bottle it and sell it back to the people?

I am surprised that there is not the custom here of having water tanks on the roofs of buildings, at least in areas where municipal water is sporadic, at best. Perhaps Costa Rican roofs would not be strong enough to hold so much water.

Sometimes we humans remind me of that old man sitting on the roof of his home that is slowly sinking into the flood water. He prays to his Lord to save him and is confident that he has been heard.  Soon some people in a boat come by and yell at him that he can ride with them.  He tells them to row on because God will save him.  Two more offers of help arrive, the last one, a helicopter with a ladder.  He waves them off saying the Lord will look after him.  But night falls and the house sinks and as he goes down the man rails at God “I thought you would save me, your faithful follower!”

“I sent three rescuers and you ignored them.” A voice said, "God helps those who help themselves.”

Meanwhile, I save water whenever I can and rush downtown to do my errands in the morning, hoping to get on a bus and home before that crash of thunder announces another downpour.  Umbrellas are everywhere, and I use mine, but still my slacks are soaked half way to the knees.  I haven’t quite figured out yet how that happens.  But before long I will be dry again.  I hope the water evaporates into the sky.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 179


In competitivity, Panamá inches past Costa Rica, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Panamá posted one of the largest improvements in the region, according to the World Economic Forum, which released a report on competitivity Thursday.

The climbing to 53rd this year thanks in large part to a more positive assessment of infrastructure quality (44th, up 21 places from last year), increased macroeconomic stability (29th, up 17 places) and technological readiness (41st, up 18 places), said the forum.

That placed the country ahead of the former Latin leader, Costa Rica.

This advance reflects the country’s recent important investment in upgrading its infrastructure, its sound macroeconomic management in recent times of crisis, its prowess in absorbing technology (ranked 7th for the variable on FDI and technology transfer), and its increase in ICT penetration rates, the forum said. The country also continues to benefit from well-developed financial markets (21st), it added.

Strengthening the quality of its educational system (ranked 89th and 82nd for primary education and higher education and training, respectively) and increasing the flexibility of its labor market and the efficient use of talent (107th for the efficiency of the labor market) are crucial to further reinforce Panama’s long-term growth potential going into the future, the forum said.

Despite losing the top position in Central America to Panama, Costa Rica remains quite stable at 56th position, after having climbed 13 ranks from 2006 to 2009, the report said. It added:

The country’s strong position rests on first-class quality education (ranked 23rd and 43rd for primary education and higher education and training, respectively), fairly transparent institutions (51st), and a sophisticated and innovative business sector (ranked 32nd and 35th, respectively), which operates high on the value chain (ranked 28th in the variable measuring value chain breadth). Leveraging its well-educated labor force, good governance standards, and strategic geographic position, the country has been very successful in recent years in diversifying its production and export structure toward higher value-added (notably high tech) and niche (eco-tourism) sectors.

Further, the focus on new technologies (including biotech and aerospace) has been highlighted as a priority of the new Laura Chinchilla administration.

However, the soundness of the macroeconomic environment (108th) remains a problematic area amid increasing security concerns in the country (81st). In addition, the quality of the country’s infrastructure (78th) and the development of the financial market (85th) may represent potential bottlenecks going
forward.

Elsewhere, Colombia continued its hold on 68th place among other nations in the forum report.

Fairly stable at 68th, Colombia displayed competitive strengths in the quality of its macroeconomic environment
(50th), large market size (32nd), and fairly sophisticated businesses (61st), successfully adopting technology and enhancing innovation (ranked 63rd and 65th for technological readiness and innovation, respectively), the forum said.

On the other hand, notwithstanding the important strides realized by the last administration in social pacification, the institutional environment is still characterized by weaknesses at 103rd, with continuing concerns over security (138th), the report added.

Further investment is required to upgrade infrastructure networks to first-class standards (ranked now at 79th), while factor markets continue to suffer from extensive inefficiencies and rigidities, particularly the goods market (103rd), the report added.

Venezuela continued its fall in competitiveness rankings and now is at 122nd spot among nations, the forum said. 
That puts the country behind all other Latin American and Caribbean countries and among the least competitive countries of the world.

Venezuela’s competitiveness landscape appears to be worsening every year, with a notably dismal assessment of the institutional environment (139th, the worst in the entire sample) and factor markets efficiency (139th, 138th, and 132nd for goods market, labor market efficiency, and financial market development, respectively), the forum said. Despite important investment in education and basic services, infrastructure remains underdeveloped (108th) and educational standards at all levels are low (86th and 68th for health and primary education and higher education and training, respectively), while the macroeconomic environment continues to deteriorate (now ranked 113th) despite windfall oil revenues in recent years, it added.
Finally, the country lacks companies that demonstrate sufficient sophistication and innovation potential (129th and 123rd for business sophistication and innovation, respectively), the forum concluded.

Nicaragua and Bolivia improved their competitiveness ranking since last year, according to the forum. But despite posting important improvements since last year, Bolivia (108th, up 16 places in a constant sample) and Nicaragua (112th, seven places up in a constant sample) continue to feature in the very bottom of the rankings, trailing behind most of the world in competitiveness, said the forum's report.

Switzerland tops the overall rankings in The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011. The United States fell two places to fourth position, overtaken by Sweden (2nd) and Singapore (3rd), after already ceding the top place to Switzerland last year.

In addition to the macroeconomic imbalances that have been building up over time, there has been a weakening of the United States’ public and private institutions, as well as lingering concerns about the state of its financial markets. The Nordic countries continue to be well positioned in the ranking, with Sweden, Finland (7th) and Denmark (9th) among the top 10, and with Norway at 14th. Sweden overtook the U.S. and Singapore this year to be placed 2nd overall. The United Kingdom, after falling in the rankings over recent years, moves back up by one place to 12th position.

The People’s Republic of China (27th) continues to lead the way among large developing economies, improving by two more places this year, and solidifying its place among the top 30. Three other economies, Brazil (58th), India (51st) and Russia (63rd) remained stable. Several Asian economies performed strongly, with Japan (6th) and Hong Kong SAR (11th) also in the top 20.

Reflecting the strong resilience within Latin America and the Caribbean in the face of the recent severe global
economic downturn, the competitiveness assessment for the region for this year points to the important progress made by several countries in improving and reinforcing their competitiveness fundamentals. While Bolivia, Panamá, and Paraguay post the largest improvements, many other regional economies improve slightly or remain stable; these include Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.

These results confirm the important strides the region has made in recent decades toward sounder fiscal management, increased market efficiency and openness, and export diversification, among other areas, said the authors of the report. All of the above, beyond setting the region on a more sustainable growth path in the long run, have helped it weather the global economic crisis that began in 2008. In particular, the reduced debt levels (with longer maturity profiles) of most countries in the region, coupled with their increased foreign reserves, have been instrumental in reinforcing their resilience and ability to support their economy with stimulus measures, the report said.

Although regional GDP contracted by 1.8 percent in 2009, it is expected to grow by 4 percent in 2010, driven by increased domestic consumption and better external conditions — a satisfactory performance by historical standards and more solid than that projected for advanced economies, which is considerably lower at 2.3 percent, said the forum.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 179

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

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Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church

firefighters
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
San José firefighters present a wreath at the gate of the U.S. Embassy to show their solidarity with New York firemen shortly after the terrorist attacks.

Saturday is ninth anniversary
of  al-Qaida attacks on U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The country has planned a series of events to honor the nearly 3,000 people killed in the coordinated assaults by al-Qaida hijackers.  The hijackers took over four commercial airliners, crashing two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The 110-story buildings collapsed, trapping and killing many employees and rescue workers.

Another plane hit the Pentagon, the U.S. military headquarters just outside Washington, while the fourth went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers fought their hijackers.  That plane is believed to have been destined for Washington.

President Barack Obama will commemorate the anniversary Saturday at a Pentagon memorial service, while Vice President Joe Biden will attend a ceremony in New York.

First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to speak at a ceremony in Shanksville.

Added to this year's anniversary is bitter controversy about plans by a Muslim group to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center.

Opponents say the proposal is disrespectful to the victims of the 2001 attacks, while supporters say the center will help bridge differences between the West and the Islamic world.

President Obama has said he supports Muslims' right to build a place of worship near the site, known as Ground Zero, but he also said he would not comment on the "wisdom" of doing so.  Critics, including some Republican lawmakers, accused him of being insensitive to the families of the victims.

Work continues at Ground Zero on a museum and memorial to pay tribute to those who died in the 2001 attacks.  In 2008, an outdoor memorial opened at the Pentagon.  A national memorial also is being built at the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania.

Florida insurance firm
earns right to operate here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The insurance regulator said Thursday that Best Meridian Insurance Co. of Coral Gables, Florida, has received approval to operate here.

The Superintendencia General de Seguros said that the firm has operations in Venezuela, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic and the Cayman Islands.

It is the 10th firm to receive approval. The regulator was created by the same legislation that opened the monopoly government insurance market to private firms.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 179



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Environmental agency hit
for managing development


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's watchdog came down on the environmental regulators Thursday with a report critical of the management of the coastal zones.

The watchdog, the Contraloría de la República, said that the environmental regulator had weaknesses in approving the change of use of land in the areas and that this affected forests, mangroves and wetlands including restricted areas. The Contraloría listed Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca Manzanillo and the Humedal Nacional Cariari.

Basically the environmental agency, the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental, is accused of letting developers run roughshod over the environment.

The Contraloría said that the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones should issue new orders to the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental, its dependency, to reform the way coastal development projects are evaluated.

The Contraloría report covers the peak construction time along both coasts, from Oct. 1, 2004 to last Dec. 31.

The environmental ministry does have the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo that has conducted several sweeps along both coasts seeking environmental violations.

Mother Nature plays rough
with storms, quakes, tides

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mother Nature is giving the country a rough time. There have been two significant earthquakes already this month. About 45 persons were in shelters in Abangares and about 150 homes in Alajuelita and elsewhere were flooded. And the highest seas of the year are predicted for early today on the Pacific coast.

The national emergency commission said that heavy rains Wednesday and early Thursday affected 15 communities and resulted in 30 persons being lodged in emergency shelters. Most of those flooded out were in Abangaritos in Guanacaste, the commission said.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that there were 10,000 lightning strikes in the country from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday. Most were in the Central Valley, the government company said. The institute has a network covering the entire country as part of its protection for the electrical grid. A man and his nephew died from lightning Wednesday when they walked under the shelter of an umbrella. That was at San Ramón.

The first felt earthquake was centered about 5 kilometers northeast of Quepos. that was Monday at 9:32 p.m. The magnitude was 4.5, said the Obvservatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. It said the second was Thursday at 3:25 a.m. about 15 kilometers northeast of Ujarrás de Buenos Aires in the southern part of the country. That was registered at a 4.1 magnitude.





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