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(506) 2223-1327        Pulished Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 181       E-mail us
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Court rejection puts U.S. free trade treaty in peril
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 5:20 p.m.)
The Sala IV constitutional court has found legal flaws in the last piece of legislation designed to implement the free trade treaty with the United States.

The Poder Judicial reported the decision Thursday.

The summary of the decision said that the constitutional flaws were in the way in which the legislation was adopted. The measure is a change in certain Costa Rican laws to better protect intellectual property, such as copyrighted materials, software and designer clothes.

The executive branch immediately expressed its dismay and said it was concerned that the country might not be able to meet a deadline at the end of the month.

Last Feb. 27, Costa Rican officials and Susan C. Schwab, the U.S. trade representative, announced that the country was getting a seven-month
 extension to get its legal house in order so that the treaty would enter into force here. Oct. 1 is the deadline.

The constitutional court said that lawmakers made mistakes by failing to publicize and meet with the Indian tribes over the treaty as required under an agreement with the International Labor Organization.

This was the first time that the court rejected a free trade measure.

Costa Rica signed the treaty in August 2004 and the executive branch has pushed during all of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration to get it passed. The country supported the treaty by a narrow margin in a referendum Oct. 7.

Then Costa Rican officials asked the United States and the other countries that signed the pact for the extension to bring local law up to what was required by the treaty.  Some 11 other measures have passed the legislature.



Heredia exposition will have visitors all abuzz
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They have a honey of a show planned for Sunday in Heredia.

Some 20 of the nation's beekeepers will have a day-long exposition of their trade and products.

The event is being staged by the Centro de Investigaciones Apícolas Tropicales of the Universidad Nacional and the Cámara Nacional de Fomento de la Apicultura.

It will be at the Centro Comercial Paseo de las Flores.

The day is being integrated with the Día de la Independencia, and at 6 p.m., as is customary all over the country, those at the shopping mall will stop their activities to sing the Costa Rican national anthem.

That will be followed by a presentation by the Ballet Folclórico Barbac.

The day starts at 11 a.m. with a showing of "Bee Movie,"  the animated comedy with Jerry Seinfeld and Renée Zellweger providing the voices of the principal characters.

The PG-rated 2007 film features a bee character, Barry B. Benson, (Seinfeld), who ventures into the real world and finds out honey is for sale on grocery shelves.
Bee movie characters
Barry Benson meets a new friend


He decided to sue the human race for stealing the precious liquid. 

Ms. Zellweger provides the voice of a human florist who becomes a friend of the talking bee.

Barry Benson would be additionally upset by activities that follow the movie. The beekeepers will be providing honey tasting and sales.

Organizers also promise the Orquesta Latinoamericana de Cuerdas, cheerleaders, the Compañía Cámara Danza, an exhibition of martial arts, stories for youngsters and a faroles contest.

Faroles are replicas of 19th century street lanterns that are traditional on independence day.




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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 181

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Environmental inspectors
will study new fish kill


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's environment police are going to Batán de Matina in the province of Limón today to investigate the death of fish in the Río Madre de Dios. Residents blame the death of the fish on agrochemicals used on nearby farms.

The environmental watchdog, the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, said it would follow up on work already done by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía employees in the area.

Dead fish and a dead reptile, probably a crocodile, were found in the Canal de Gochen, according to Carlos Arguedas, a member of the board of directors of the Asociación Ambientalista de Protección de Cuencas de Siquirres, said the tribunal. The canal is fed by water and runoff from local farms, the tribunal said.

Earthquake off Panamá
felt in much of country


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake due south of the border between Panamá and Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean rattled southern zone residents and was felt in the Central Valley at 7:36 a.m. Wednesday.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico said the epicenter was 90 kms (56 miles) south of Punta Burica and set the magnitude at 5.6. The U.S. geological Survey said the magnitude was 4.6. This is an area with frequent quakes because it is the junction between two tectonic plates.

Our reader's opinion
Some ideas are offered
to make country safer


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Everyone has heard the excuse that we can not reduce crime until we have more money for police salaries here. Yes I believe this is very important but at the same time there are things that we can do right now that will cost little or nothing at all to implement.

• Let’s get rid of this crazy law that says if you rob someone and the amount of the stolen property is less than $500 you can go free. Is this not a license to rob someone every day? It would not cost anything to remove this law and put the fear of being put in an over crowded jail into the minds of the criminals.

• A North American has a argument with his live-in girl friend and she calls the police claiming verbal abuse, then they remove him from his home. It take months for him to get his house back or pay her off to move out, but a guy can steal your $499 laptop and be back on the street before sunset.

Judges:

• When judges put criminals back on the street even in some very violent crimes, this, too, sends a signal to the criminals.

• Nobody seems to know if these judges are being paid off or they never figured out that their job is to assess crimes and hand out the appropriate punishments that will make criminals think twice about committing their next crime.

• Recently a Heredia policeman was found guilty of being a member of a drug gang and providing tactical information and more, and then he was slapped on the wrist and told he could not be a policeman for three years. Did this not send a signal to all police officers here that it is OK to help criminals for pay?

Our jails are too crowded:

• Maybe so but we have an old prison in the Golfo de Nicoya that sits empty and is being looked at for another tourist attraction. A prison doesn’t have to be a country club, just clean and secure, if we don’t get a handle on crime we won’t need another tourist attraction.

These measures will not take alot of money to implement but they will have an immediate effect on reducing crime in this wonderful country that deserves a better way of life for everyone that lives and visits here.

Actually I am not a very political person when it comes to writing letters but I feel these are things that can be done without much funding and should be brought to the attention of the powers that be.

When we deport a known criminal and his parting words are “See you next week” something is very wrong here.

When a hit-man is caught trying to assassinate a politician and simply deported to be set free or even come back, what will the next guy think.

When people are beaten, murdered, and robbed in their own homes, what do we tell our children as we tuck them into their beds each night?

It is said that “all of the good people in Costa Rica live behind bars and all of the criminals are free to roam the streets” Change is needed all over the world to make it a better place as we all know but there are simple things we could do right now that would greatly improve the quality of life here for everyone that visits or chooses to call Costa Rica their home.

As I have outlined above, some of these things can be done without much money and will have an immediate effect on the future of this country and generations to come.

Please accept this letter as the sharing of Ideas to make Costa Rica a better place, with the bright and prosperous future it deserves.
Tom Roucek
Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 181




An apprehensive Arath Smith, 15 months, awaits his first dental session while Kerry Barrantes Martínez, 5, already is in the chair.
dentists in action
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

Talamanca volunteers handle another 600 dental patients
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About a dozen Bribri women shade themselves from the smoldering sun in a thatched hut. They sort through black garbage bags filled with clothes as the screams of a child cut through the heavy air.

The women's group plans to sell the clothing to help the local health clinic in the Bribrí village of Suretka. And the boy screaming is not being harmed. He's simply getting some work done on his teeth.

Last week a group of more than 20 dentists and dental students visited the Reserva Indígena Talamanca, home to the Bribri, to bring free services to some 600 patients by performing 2,000 procedures, said the leader of the group, Dr. Peter Aborn of San Pedro.

Over the years all sorts of people have visited the native Talamanca region. Many of the visitors, whoever they might be: missionaries, do-gooders, or researchers, give and give without realizing that there could be consequences, said Javier Pereira González, one of two dentists permanently stationed in the Talamanca region. 

The purpose of Aborn's non-profit group, Proyecto Talamanca, is not only to give needed dental care, but to enable locals in the community to receive training. Aborn, originally from New York, has been in Costa Rica since 1995 and is also a professor at Universidad Latina in San Pedro. Recently Proyecto Talamanca helped a young Bribri woman get accepted with a scholarship to study dentistry at the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología.

With an average income of $8 a day, many of the Bribri and Cabécar people would rather have better jobs than handouts, said a Bribri community leader in Suretka.

Not that donations are bad, but when that's the only resource for people, some start relying on the gifts rather than fighting for government help or creating new job infrastructures, said Pereira. Also gifts like high-heeled shoes and fancy clothing aren't exactly necessary in a place where people walk hours every day through rivers and up rocky inclines, said Pereira, who has lived in the region for two years.

Many in the region don't have electricity or running water, and Hermógenes Morales, Cabécar leader, who said last week there are 25 people in his village without houses.

Many times visitors travel to the region wishing to do humanitarian work. They visit once but don't return, said Aborn. “No one comes back,” he said.

Aborn has been coming back to Talamanca ever since he first saw it in 1997. The New York native came to Costa Rica in 1995, and two years later he had an experience that changed the trajectory of his life, he said. “To qualify as a dentist in Costa Rica, I had to do a year of social service,” said Aborn. “There were 35 placements, and I chose last, so I got the one no one wanted — Talamanca.”

After a flood devastated the area in 2005, Aborn, and Costa Rican dentists Luis Boza and Pereira decided to do something. The group formed campos de trabajo and began to provide supplies and medical care to many of the hard-to-reach communities in the area.

Although the native people of Costa Rica are not permitted legally to sell land, locals in Suretka have offered to donate a plot to Aborn's dental group. The building would house the dentists and allow them to store supplies and transport equipment more easily among villages.

The Bribri women's group that raises money for the clinic, Dama Voluntarias, use clothes donated from members of Proyecto Talamanca to sell in their fundraising. Group coordinator María de los Ángeles Mayorga Oliver said one day the women would like to build a home for patients of the government health clinic.

Many patients travel to Suretka for days and are then told they must wait a week for the next opening or come back repeatedly, said Ms. Mayorga.

Pereira has a dental assistant from the Cabécar region and said the people have showed great interest in becoming more involved in their own medical care and obtaining medical jobs. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social employs a few native people in the area in entry level health care positions, but more advanced medical study for the native peoples is almost never seen.
kids and the dentist
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Javier Pereira, the Caja dentist in Talamanca, explains to the kids that they shouldn't be afraid because nothing bad will happen. This is after one boy cried for over an hour.

woman sorting clothes to support clinic
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
María de los Ángeles Mayorga Oliver, coordinator of Dama Voluntarias, sorts clothing to help support the clinic.

Pereira who sometimes travels four or five hours with a mobile dental unit powered by an electric generator, said he never wants to leave. As he drives his green SUV through rivers, miles of gravel, and muddy inclines, he taps his horn with his knuckles and waves at each friend he passes. 
After nearly 50 honks in a span of two hours, it's a wonder the horn still functions.

The sense of hospitality and friendliness did not go unnoticed by dental students as they worked on teeth in the blistering heat and got to know the villagers, some of whom had traveled by foot for three days to receive dental care.

Ari Herrera, a dental student at Universidad Latina, said the trip was the experience of a lifetime. “I've gone on trips to Siquirres, Guápiles, Tirrases, and La Carpio, but these are the worst conditions I've seen, and the people have such limited resources.” Ms. Herrera said the trip and people were amazing.

Dental student Sol Fernandez said she was surprised at the attitude of the people and how grateful they were.

Members of the dental project return as often as funds allow it, said Aborn. The most recent trip was the biggest and most successful yet, he said.

A Web page for Proyecto Talamanca can be viewed under the dentistry articles section at http://www.dentalmedicinecr.com

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 181


Anniversary of terrrorist attacks reveals worldwide uncertainty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Today, Sept. 11, thousands will stop to remember the victims of the U.S. terrorist attacks seven years ago.

The commemoration comes just after the results of an international poll show that many people do not believe the attacks were the work of the al Qaida terror network. For example, 30 percent of those polled in México said the tragedy was the work of the U.S. government.

There is a memorial ceremony today at 8:30 a.m. in Sabana Norte as there has been every year since. An embassy spokesperson, when pressed, said today's ceremony is open to the public. However, newspeople are being required to register in advance with names and cédula numbers. There was no indication how the public would be screened.

Columnist Jo Stuart was barred from a similar ceremony in 2006 because embassy officials called it a private event. The event today is at the same place, the Parque 11 de Setiembre which overlooks the Sabana branch of the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

The security overkill is one spinoff of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  The terrorism spawned Homeland Security, walking barefoot at airports, overseas wiretaps of Americans and a host of other restrictions on personal liberties. An indirect spinoff is the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A moment of silence at 6:46 a.m. Costa Rican time will mark the point when the first plane hit the World Trade Center's North Tower. Nearly 3,000 people died as hijackers crashed four commercial planes into the twin towers, the Pentagon in Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.

The attacks disrupted air traffic for a week, and Costa Rica suffered a severe blow to its tourism.

U.S. President George Bush will deliver remarks later this morning at the unveiling of a memorial to honor the 184 people who died at the Pentagon.

U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama also will participate. Obama will attend a ceremony near the World Trade Center site, while McCain will attend a ceremony in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this week a memorial honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks was dedicated at Boston's Logan International Airport. The airport was the departure point of two of the hijacked flights.

An independent U.S.-based group called World Public Opinion.org took the survey of 16,000 people in 17 countries and asked who they thought was responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorism.
sept. 11 scene
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Fuerza Pública officers provide added security
at the U.S. Embassy hours after the terrorists
attacks seven years ago.

Majorities in only nine of the 17 countries believed that al Qaida was behind the attacks, a finding that surprised World Public Opinion.org's director, Steven Kull.

He said the result is very striking, given that even Osama bin Laden has publicly made statements affirming that al Qaida was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

An average of 46 percent of the people polled in each country blames al Qaida for the attacks. Kull said an average of 15 percent say the U.S. government plotted the attacks. He added:

"In Turkey, 36 percent have this view, Turkey, one of our allies. Palestinian territories, 27 percent have this view. In Mexico, 30 percent have this view, and perhaps most surprising of all, in Germany, 23 percent have the view that the United States was behind the 9/11 attacks."

Of those who said the United States was the perpetrator, Kull said many believe it was an attempt to justify an impending U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Some 7 percent of the people polled blame Israel for the 9/11 attacks, and one in four questioned say they do not know who was responsible.

People in the Middle East, especially Muslims, were especially likely to tell the pollsters they believe the United States plotted the attacks.

Kull says he interprets the global ambivalence about the origins of the 9/11 attacks as a result of doubts about the United States' role in the world.


Condo project seems to have a mystery source of water
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After weeks of problems, suspicions, people falling ill and allegations of illegalities, the national water company still does not know where the water at Avalon Country Club in Santa Ana comes from, said a representative from the company Tuesday. 

Residents of the condominium project continue to worry about their safety as some said they became ill from drinking the water.

Workers from the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantrillados company shut the water off Aug. 18 when they learned developers had been taking the water without permission before the project was complete, said Pedro Barrantes of the institute's Santa Ana office. 

The water has not been turned on since, said Barrantes by telephone Tuesday. The only water the utility company is providing to the Avalon project is through a three-quarter-inch pipe meant to be used only for construction purposes, said Barrantes. The water from the construction pipe is potable, said Barrantes, but it would not be sufficient for all the residents in the condominium project. Barrantes said he did not know from where Avalon developers were getting the water for tenants.

A three-quarter-inch pipe would be the size installed to provide service to a medium-sized single-family home.
 
One resident, Marcia Jiménez, said she paid to have her water tested and that the results confirmed Wednesday that the water was potable. Ms. Jiménez said the water test made by Laboratorios Labin in Santa Ana put her fears at rest and she has no problems living in the development.

Other residents however are not so upbeat. Two residents said they received powder from the water company to test if their tap water had been chlorinated and the results came back negative, meaning the water has not been treated, they said

One resident, Bob Maillet, said he has had enough and plans to move out of the condominium as soon as possible. Maillet, originally from Alaska, said last month that he thinks the whole operation should be shut down by the board of health, that the water smells and that the owner
actually wanted residents to pay for the water trucked in after the water company shut off the supply. Maillet said he
doesn't feel clean when he gets out of the shower and that he would rather be back camping in Alaska than live in Avalon. He rents.

The Avalon administration has not been forthcoming in the case, and reporters have been unable to reach the owner of the condominium project, identified as Alberto Rampoldi. The project is supposed to have 350 units.

A receptionist at Avalon Country Club said Wednesday she did not know if the water was safe to drink and hung the phone up on a reporter. Residents say the former administrator, Margel Giacometto, recently quit as have a number of administrators before her.

The woman said to have taken her place, Hazel Vargas, did not return a reporter's call.

During the period that the water company completely cut its services off, Avalon Country Club residents did not have water for almost a week, they said. Residents received water for about two hours per day, said Ms. Jiménez. That is the time when her husband got sick.

After the water was cut off, residents reported seeing water trucks bringing in the water for about five days. That suddenly stopped and now no one seems to know exactly where the water is coming from, said a resident.

According to Eduardo Solano, a representative from Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, developers were never supposed to have moved people in before the project was finished.

Maillet said he and his wife were told when they moved in that the project was almost complete.  The phone lines, supposed to be available right away, took three months, he said.

There is still a gym, a swimming pool, and three more buildings that have not been completed and construction starts at 6:30 every morning, he said.
 
On top of it all, both renters and owners paid a monthly condominium fee of more than $100 each month, they said. Part of that fee was meant to go towards the water, according to residents.

There is at least one group of homeowners that has hired a lawyer and wants to take the case to court to see the payment records, said residents.


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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

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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.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Protests in eastern Bolivia
sack television station


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Demonstrators in eastern Bolivia clashed with police and broke into government offices Tuesday, as protests escalated against President Evo Morales' planned economic reforms.

Mobs in Santa Cruz raided the state-run telecommunications company, the tax agency, and the state-run television station. Video footage showed the protesters kicking down doors, entering offices, and smashing property.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who fought back. It was not immediately clear how many were injured.

An e-mail from a protester in San Cruz called the Channel 7 television outlet a hated propaganda arm of the Morales government. The writer said the country was in full scale revolution.

In the southern city of Villamontes, demonstrators tried to seize control of a key gas plant. Officials said protesters failed to disrupt the gas flow from Bolivia to Brazil.

Opposition groups in Bolivia's oil-rich eastern provinces began a series of large-scale demonstrations last month, to protest Morales' plans to redistribute natural gas revenues to the poor.

The president's critics are also concerned about his plans to write a new constitution. They say Morales leans too far to the left and is allied too closely with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.

Mr. Morales denounced Tuesday's violence as a "civic coup."

Two Russian bombers
reported in Venezuela


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russian news agencies are quoting Defense Ministry officials as saying that two Russian strategic bombers have landed in Venezuela as part of military maneuvers.

The media reports say the Tu-160 bombers arrived Wednesday and that North American Treaty Organization fighters followed the Russian planes during the long flight to Venezuela. 

The reports also say the bombers will remain for several days, carrying out training flights over neutral waters before returning to Russia.

Earlier this week, Russian officials said they would send a naval task force to the Caribbean later this year for possible joint exercises with Venezuela.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 181



Costa Rica moves closer to clinching soccer qualification
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Brian Ruiz scored a goal in both the first and the second half to propel the Costa Rican national team to victory Wednesday afternoon over Haiti. The game was played on a soggy field in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the final score was 3-1.

The win puts Costa Rica at the top of its four-team group half way through the initial round in preparation for World Cup berths. Costa Rica could clinch its Group C qualification in a return match with Suriname Oct. 11. Costa Rica beat Suriname 7-0 Saturday.

Ruiz scored the first goal just 12 minutes into the game, but
Haiti's Alain Vubert evened the score 22 minutes later. Ruiz scored again toward the end of the second half, and teammate Alejando Alpizar put in an insurance goal a few minutes later.

In other action, the U.S. team beat Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 in a game played in Illinois. And México defeated Canada 2-1 in a game played south of the border.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football will send three and perhaps four teams to the world cup matches in South Africa in 2010. Three slots are certain but the fourth depends on a conference team beating the fourth place team in another conference.


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