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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Sept. 11, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 180       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Seven on unannounced visit to Bogotá
Top cops getting inside details on Colombian rebels
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The top Costa Rican law enforcement officials are in Bogotá, Colombia, today getting a short course in organized crime and narcotrafficking.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez sought the visit and asked Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, to arrange the details.

A short statement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that both presidents "agreed on the necessity that the very highest authorities of both countries in matters of citizen security and immigration meet to analyze policies of common interest and to establish areas of better binational cooperation with the goal of improving the capacity of fighting against criminality, organized crime and international narcotrafficking."

The visit was a surprise. The trip was announced after officials left for Colombia. Heading the delegation is Fernando Berrocal Soto, the security minister. Also in Bogotá is Francisco Dall'Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor.

Costa Rica has been playing catchup for years in trying to keep track of drug dealers and revolutionaries. Shootouts on city streets that went unsolved were signs of a criminal culture that existed beyond police capacity to control it.

Last Aug. 10 a leader of Colombian revolutionaries, Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, 38, was detained in Puntarenas. As they investigated his activities here, local law enforcement officials realized that he was a key figure in a sprawling drug and arms network operated by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. The rebel group, known as FARC, has about 17,000 loyalists.

Martínez pretended to be a fisherman but he might better be described as the resident agent of the Colombian rebels. He was detained because Colombia sought his extradition for several mass murders.

As officials investigated they found troubling developments within the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. Some Colombians, coming here as political refugees or simply visitors, have been able to write their own ticket to obtain several types of residency here. Martínez gained residency through marriage, but he was not living with his legal wife when arrested. And he was not subject to the usual police background checks.

The immigration agency is in such confusion that

FARC flag says its is the army of the people (EP)
nearly anything can happen there without official oversight.

For years Costa Rica maintained an open door and a friendly attitude toward Colombian refugees, and most were that, persons in flight from the four decades long civil war in their homeland. The Abel Pacheco administration finally required that Colombians first obtain a visa to enter Costa Rica.

Although they may not be connected to rebel groups in their homeland, the lack of roots and other social problems have crated a class of young Colombian toughs who frequently show up in robbery and murder cases.

Other Colombians, connected with one of the four major rebel groups in that country, have constructed strongholds in Costa Rica, mostly in rural areas. Others arrange for fuel and other supplies for the platoons of fastboats that carry drugs from Colombia to points north with the United States as an eventual destination.

Still others are involved in keeping the land routes for drug trafficking open. Tons of cocaine are smuggled through Costa Rica each year, thanks in part to clever methods and also to Costa Rica's open borders.

Other officials on the trip to Colombia are Dall'Anese's assistant, Lilliam Gómez; Mario Zamora Cordero, director general of immigration; Jorge Rojas Vargas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization; Roberto Solórzano Sanabria, director general of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, and Fernando Ferraro Castro, vice minister of Justicia y Gracia.

Representatives of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a right wing rebel group, have approached Arias seeking his mediation skills in negotiations with the Colombian government.

Both FARC and the Autodefensas Unidas are branded as terrorist groups by the United States.

Ceremony commemorating Sept. 11 victims is today at 9 a.m.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The firemen, Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica, and the reserves of the Fuerza Pública will be among those groups showing their respect at a ceremony at 9 a.m. today at the  Parque 11 de Setiembre in Sabana Norte.

Also there will be representatives of the  Camara Costarricense Norteamericana de Comercio and U.S. Embassy officials, the embassy said Friday.

The park is the one just north of the Centro  Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano where a monument to the victims has been installed.
The firemen have taken a strong interest in the attacks since 2001 because so many New York firefighters died in attempting to quell blazes at the twin towers.

In the United States, President George Bush and Laura Bush visited ground zero in New York Sunday. That is where the World Trade Center stood before al Qaida used two hijacked airliners as guided missiles to bring down the two skyscrapers. The president and Mrs. Bush also spoke with firefighters there.

Today the President and first lady will take part in ceremonies at the places where the two other hijacked airliners crashed — a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon just outside Washington.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 180

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Seven died on roads
over the weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic accidents took seven lives over the weekend. Two of the dead were believed to be U.S. citizens.

The first crash involved a car and a tourist bus containing mostly Italian visitors and took place early Saturday afternoon in Bagaces.  The two local occupants of the car died and several tourists were hospitalized but in satisfactory condition.

Two Ecuadorians who were reported to be naturalized U.S. citizens died Sunday afternoon when a passenger bus struck their rented car in Cartago. A third person was hospitalized.

Also Sunday on the Costanera Sur between Parrita and Quepos, three men died when they were thrown from their passenger car that went out of control and rolled over. A fourth man was hospitalized.

Our reader's opinion

He wonders about future
of real estate market

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I’d like to comment on Mr. Wellingham’s letter to the editor in the Sept. 7 issue of A.M. Costa Rica.

While his comments seem to be directed at giving just cause to the tremendous rise and continued run in the price of real estate in Costa Rica, I can only wonder if his defense is more personal because of his current position of holding several properties with the apparent intent to develop and sell. Also as a R.E. broker, it is his duty to get his client (seller) the highest possible price, even if it is inflated and unrealistic. I’m sure “this place is overpriced” is a term his clients (buyers) have never heard.

His comments citing the apparent relationship between commodity prices and real estate prices may on it’s face be factual, but is it just cause for a continued rise in prices above current levels? Is there a solid causal relationship between the two? I’m not really sure that, in fact, there is ANY relationship between emerald and zinc prices and that of Costa Rican real estate. But if you’re in the business and it sells property, go for it I guess! Reading his letter it almost seems as if he’s predicting an even bigger boom sometime soon.

“The prediction here by smart locals is a big real estate boom coinciding with a regional boom related to high commodities prices.”

I’ll translate. 1) Smart Locals = Sellers or those who bought at inflated prices recently. 2) Big real estate boom = Get in now before the prices go up.

We all know that when financial markets become overpriced that people seek safe harbor in commodities and other hard assets such as real estate. That’s a given. But when even those assets become overpriced, one has to be concerned about some type of correction.

Recent gold prices are a good example. If one had made a large purchase at the recent peak believing that the “sky’s the limit” you would have been in for a real wake up! But just as it is with the current real estate market in Costa Rica, I’m sure there were gold dealers telling buyers that “Now” is the time to get in, it’s only going up!

While the unique control and leveraging of commodity markets is part of the recent increases we’ve seen the same manipulation is difficult in real estate. Large positions can be controlled with small investments in commodity markets. With real estate REAL investment is required. With higher interest rates, real estate which often requires borrowed money is likely to see a decline. How much of a slowdown I’ll leave up to those readers lucky enough to have a crystal ball that works!

The hype and pump being put into selling many projects in Costa Rica would have to make you think that perhaps the “facts” are being adjusted to fit the desire on the part of the sellers to keep this market going. Overpriced property is the norm these days, and the well-informed know that and stay clear.

The current market in Costa Rica can be attributed to several factors. The current world political climate has given many people reason to seek a place like Costa Rica for retirement or relocation. It’s natural beauty and low-cost lifestyle are attracting many baby boomers that are unable or unwilling to relocate to traditional retirement havens that have become overpriced and over crowded. Being lower in terms of land cost then other markets has fueled this market. However that advantage is now being removed as the market in Costa Rica approaches those of many other areas. The sky might be the limit to many of those in the real estate business, but with prices in many areas now in the clouds, well, we know that it can’t continue.

One of the biggest concerns I have with the current market is that which I heard from many of my Costa Rican friends. That prices have gone so far that many local people, even those that have sold and enjoyed large windfalls are being priced out of the market.
That is where the real danger is, for when the very people that we love and enjoy calling our friends can no longer afford to live as our neighbors, the charm and beauty of Costa Rica is lost. It becomes nothing more than a high-priced vacation area with all the evils, if you wonder what that is, look at many of the overpriced beach areas and see what’s going on there!
A.M. Costa Rica’s coverage of this situation in my opinion has been excellent, balanced and fair! Your reports on land scams, questionable real estate developers, legal issues, and the like have been right on target and have given me the knowledge I have needed to make the right choices when purchasing property. I have never looked at your coverage as telling your readers to stay out of the market.

Caution and knowledge are the words I would use to describe your coverage, but the same terms can be used with ANY type purchase ANYWHERE in the world!

As someone that owns property in Costa Rica I’d love to see the market continue to rise forever, but I’m a realist and love the place for all the right reasons, not as someplace to make quick money.

Properly priced real estate is out there. There are many good, honest, and balanced real estate agents out there that will give you great direction on making an investment in Costa Rica. As with any purchase one needs to do their homework and become educated. That is the duty of the buyer to insure that choices are not made on the basis of what may be a bias opinion from others. Being a daily reader of your publication has given me that knowledge and has shown me the good and the bad.

I love Costa Rica as do my family and friends. As with any place in the world there is the good and the bad in Costa Rica. Our only hope is that the mistakes that have ruined many other beautiful places are not repeated in what we think of as paradise!
C.J. Weigert
Long Island, New York
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 180

The Día del Niño meant a trip for some 200 students from the Indian village of Quitirrisí de Mora and the Escuela Ninfa Corrales there. They and other youngsters visited the Museo de los Niños Thursday as part of an activity by Casa Presidencial.

Casa Presidencial photos

Nicaraguan elections are Nov. 5
With less than two months to go, Ortega leads in the polls
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — With less than 60 days remaining until the Nicaraguan presidential elections Nov. 5, the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional is leading in the polls.

The perennial party presidential candidate Daniel Ortega with former Contra leader Jaime Morales Carazo heads the 2006 Sandinista ticket. The formula is improbable since Ortega lives in the house confiscated by the Sandinistas from his runningmate Morales Carazo during the civil war that began in 1979.

The incongruity is deeper because Morales Carazo was formerly a contra negotiator and favorite of the U. S. Embassy during the Clinton and early Bush administrations. He was also the personal adviser and padrino of convicted money launderer and ex-president Arnoldo Aleman. When questioned publicly about the house confiscation deal, both Ortega and Morales Carazo refuse to answer and claim that they have made a "private agreement."

The once bitter enemies are attempting to sell a message of reconciliation for the advancement of Nicaragua in a well-organized media campaign (allegedly including Venezuelan financing) that has blanketed Managua with Sandinista billboards and television spots.

The media campaign has led Ortega to the top of the polls with estimates of as much as 34.9 percent of the popular vote. The projected number is within a hairsbreadth of reaching the minimum of 35 percent necessary to win a presidential election outright. This would occur if the leading candidate is more than 5 percent ahead of his closest rival. This curious twist of the Nicaraguan constitution was agreed upon by Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega as part of a bipolar power sharing agreement called the Pacto during the latter days of the Alemán presidency.
Despite the strength of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional in the polls, the right-wing parties are engaged in a brutal struggle for control of their traditional electorate.

The Partido Liberal Constitutionalista led by former vice president Jose Rizo and the Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense led by successful banker and former minister of finance Eduardo Montealegre, are fighting a vicious negative campaign that focuses on claims of public corruption on both sides.

This fight has allowed the Sandinistas to go virtually unscathed in their campaign and to work on mobilizing all of their traditional voters in the rural parts of the country.

Last week a commission of the Nicaraguan National Assembly controlled by Pacto deputies accused Montealegre of criminal conduct in the emission and renegotiation of government bonds following the bank failures in the last 
 days of the Alemán administration.

The initial bond issue was certainly flawed (up to 21 percent interest on dollarised government bonds with no contractual right of prepayment). However the fact that the head of the assembly commission is also the director of the movement to protect the civil rights of convicted felon Arnoldo Alemán casts doubt on the veracity of the report.
The right wing problems are compounded by another money laundering case against Partido Liberal Constitutionalista strong man Aleman and his wife, Maria Fernanda Flores de Aleman, in Panama and persistent pressure by the U. S. Department of State against the Alemán-controlled party.

Fundraising for both right-wing candidates has been difficult since the traditional funding sources in the Nicaraguan business community have not perceived a clear winner, and the hope is that one of the two candidates will drop out of the race. Montealegre however clearly holds the advantage in this area as he is a millionaire and has personal liquid assets that can be directed to his campaign.

The race also holds a wild card candidate who heads a group of former Sandinista leaders who left the party due to disenchantemt with the Ortega-controlled Frente. The party is Movimiento Renavadora Sandinista, headed by Edmundo Jarquin. Jarquin replaced the charismatic ex-mayor of Managua, Herty Lewites, on the Movimiento ticket after Lewites death of heart failure while campaigning in Managua.

Jarquin and his runningmate Carlos Mejia Godoy (a popular
local singer and composer) are running an interesting campaign based on the fact that they are political outsiders and they represent the people tired of the back room deals made by the Pacto candidates of the Sandinistas and the Partido Liberal Constitutionalista.

Jarquin is married to one of the daughters of former Nicaraguan president Violetta Chamorro. Mrs. Chamorro is still the most respected public person in Nicaragua and holds considerable influence with the country's largest daily newspaper, La Prensa.

Although, there has been no overt statements by the former president, Mrs. Chamorro's support could make a significant impact in the closing days of the campaign. Jarquin is also aided by the sympathy caused by the death of Lewites and a clever ad campaign which has increased his popularity in some of the polls up to 19 percent of the total popular vote.   
The remaining candidate is Eden Pastora, known as "Comandante Cero" due to his participation in the armed takeover of government buildings during the revolution of 1979. Pastora ran for mayor of Managua in 2005 and received less than 1 percent of the popular vote. He is currently polling far behind the other candidates.         

A little saying you can use when someone is faking it
La jarana sale a la cara

“The hoax comes out on the face.” When I was a boy we often used this dicho when we thought someone was trying to put one over on us. Like, for example, faking an injury during a game of soccer so the referee will award your team a free kick, or, even worse, a penalty kick! Whenever we suspected this of a player on an opposing team, we would fervently chant this dicho with the righteous indignation of the gratuitously maligned but also with all the conviction of inexorable conquerors.

Well, that was then. These days I am frequently reminded of this dicho when I hear some of the outrageous lies that certain of our political leaders tell in order to justify the abuses of power many of them routinely commit. Often watching them is a study in pure straight-faced equivocation.

But, la jarana sale en la cara usually only bears itself out when liars are vigorously challenged. Of course, this would be much more likely to happen in the case of elected officials if our “free press” would occasionally behave a little more like adolescent soccer players and a little less like political lap dogs.

An in-law of mine loves to gossip. She’s a notorious busybody and a master at canard embellishment. Many people react to her with something like fear, believing it is better to ignore than provoke her.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

 I, on the other hand, being rather bumptious by nature, have often gone directly to her to vigorously refute some malevolent rumor she has been spreading. There is another very eloquent dicho that applies in cases like hers: El que calla otorga, meaning; “he who keeps silent consents.” In other words, a falsehood that goes unchallenged stands.

My in-law may not like me for exposing her malignant mendacity, but she certainly respects me, and she demonstrates her respect by keeping her mouth shut whenever I’m within earshot. It seems that la jarana salga en su cara whenever she knows that there is someone near by who just might expose her. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 11, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 180

Miami Herald lets go three who took government TV money
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Miami Herald says it has fired two reporters and ended a relationship with a freelance journalist after discovering they were paid for taking part in programs by the U.S. government's Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

The newspaper announced Friday that the three were among 10 journalists in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida who received payments for appearances on the government's Radio Marti and TV Marti. Both services broadcast to Cuba with the mission to promote democracy. The payments are in the tens of thousands of dollars over several years.

The head of the Herald's publishing company, Jesús Diaz Jr., said the payments are a conflict of interest that damages the reporters' credibility because they cover such issues as Radio and TV Marti for the newspaper.

The Herald said that Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and writes an opinion column, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio Martí and TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald freelance reporter Olga Connor, who writes about Cuban culture, received about $71,000, and staff
reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covers the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years.

Pedro Roig, who is director of the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, told the Herald it is up to each journalist to follow his or her own ethics.

Two of the journalists in question told the paper they were merely sharing their opinions as part of a panel. Several said they did not believe the appearances were a conflict of interest.

The Herald said the payments were discovered as a result of a freedom-of-information request filed last month, under a law requiring the government to disclose certain types of information upon request.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting is under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the parent organization of the Voice of America. Many newspeople receive payments when they appear on network television shows. The difference with the Miami Hearld case is that payment was being made by the U.S. government.

Despite brochure, Castro may not make summit appearance
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top Cuban official says it is unclear if Cuban President Fidel Castro will participate in the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement that begins today in Havana.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque made the remark Sunday before the start of the six-day meeting. Cuban officials say they mistakenly sent out a schedule that listed President Castro as the host of a dinner Friday for visiting leaders. The brochure generated news stories that suggested Castro was on the mend.

Castro has not made any public appearances since the announcement July 31 that he underwent intestinal surgery and temporarily transferred power to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro.
Those expected at the summit include U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad, who has ignored U.N. demands to stop enriching uranium, is expected to lobby summit participants to support Iran’s nuclear program.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are to meet on the sidelines of the summit in a bid to restart peace talks between their rival countries.

The Non-Aligned Movement has 116 members in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.  The grouping was formed more than four decades ago with the aim of avoiding alignment with the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Calderón seeks to end breach with López Obrador backers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderón has called for reconciliation in his first mass celebration since his narrow election victory in July.

Calderón told supporters in an open air bullring in Mexico City Sunday that he will work to create jobs, cut crime and fight poverty.

Meanwhile, opposition candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has agreed to temporarily end a mass protest in downtown Mexico City.
Lopez Obrador called for the halt to allow the army to hold its traditional Sept. 16 military parade through the city center.

He said Sunday that demonstrators, who are protesting alleged election fraud, have nothing against the military.

López Obrador also called for stepped up demonstrations on Sept. 15 when outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox is due to make an annual address to the nation.

Last week Mexico's top electoral court officially declared Calderón the winner of the disputed election.

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