A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 12, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 180
Jo Stuart
About us


A Cahuita resident uses a handline to catch dinner near the national park there.  A fallen tree gives him a little advantage.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Increased cable Internet speeds not there yet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A test of a cable computer hookup fails to support an Internet provider's claim that it has jacked up connection speeds.

It was Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. that announced Friday that it had quadrupled  download speeds for users who connect to its service via television cable companies.

The company, known as RACSA, said for no additional cost the lines that previously had a download speed of 128 kilobytes per second had been increased to 512 kilobytes per second. Upload speed was doubled from 64 kbps to 128.

Download speed is the velocity of information coming into the computer, such as the description of a Web page. Uploads are when a computer operator posts a file from the local computer to a computer or server elsewhere.

Both Amnet and Cable Tica provide services that connect computer users to the RACSA
servers. This system avoids the use and charges of telephone connections.

RACSA said the speed of its residential service that had been $35 for 128/64 service has been increased and the new cost would be a very slight reduction to $34.95 as of Oct. 1.

The company also said that its service for small and medium businesses that used to cost $50 was being offered now at the same increased rate of 512/128 for $49.95.

It was the business connection contracted by the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica that was tested. The line connects to RACSA via Amnet. The test was done Sunday night, a time when massive Internet use by corporations should be at a minimum.

The testing was through a service recommended July 12 by RACSA, A Beltrónica Online. The company automatically uploads and downloads some 242 kilobytes of data and then reports the speed with which the Internet connection handled the information.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 12, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 180

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Body of girl found
in river near Sarapiquí

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What everyone feared happened Sunday shortly before noon. Two young fishermen found the body of 8-year-old  Josebeth Adelina Retana Rojas in a river not far from her home in Ticari de Horquetas de Sarapiquí.

Investigators and Fuerza Pública officers quickly put a lid on information about the case and took the tiny girl's body to the Morgue Judicial in San Joaquin de Flores de Heredia for an autopsy. The condition of the body suggested that the death may not have been accidental. The shallow depth of the river weighed against drowning.

One of the youths who found the body said that the girl was in a sack and bound up with twine. However, he admitting to not getting a very good look. He called police immediately.

As is the custom, the tiny corpse was carried away in a white, plastic bodybag in the back of a pickup. She was one of five daughters.

The girl was the object of an intensive search since she vanished on the way home from school Monday afternoon.  Her photo was circulated all over the country by means of the Internet.

There was no immediate explanation why her body was not found sooner. However, it could have been stuck under some dead branches. Officers have searched the banks because the girl was known to play on sandbars in the river. She was last seen under a tree eating the small yellow fruit known as nance.

The girl had a tendency to take her time coming and going from school. She was considered somewhat of a dreamer.

Refinery notes ways
countries conserved

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the government fuel facility, has made a number of suggestions to save gasoline in the country. The suggestions follow what other countries have done.

The agency, known as Recope, said that the United States, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Chile are some of the countries that have taken steps which ranged from going on a form of daylight savings time to restricting the sale of fuel.

Costa Rica is considering unspecified actions to reduce fuel use. The government already has ordered its employees to come to work at 7 a.m., an hour early to avoid the peak rush hour.

Costa Rica also restricts access to the downtown area on a rotating basis depending on the last digit of a vehicle's license plate.

Recope, in a summary, noted that Ricardo Maduro, president of Honduras, had issued an emergency decree ordering public employees there to go to work at 7:30 a.m. and to restrict the use of state vehicles. In addition, gas stations are to be closed Sundays and sale hours restricted during the week.

Nicaragua went on daylight time in April with the goal of saving 26 percent electricity, the bulk of which is generated with petroleum fuel, said Recope.

Panamá has temporarily cut fuel taxes to reduce the cost of fuel. Chile has set up a special fund to stabilize fuel prices by dipping into the nation's concession payments for copper.

In the United States fuel from the strategic oil reserve has been released and foreign tankers have been allowed to dock to unload.

Latin exports post
17 percent increase

Special to A.M. Costa Rica   

A 17 percent increase in the export of goods from Latin America and the Caribbean in the first part of 2005 marks the second straight year for such regional growth in trade, reports the United Nations.

A new report released last week by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean forecasts a good year for regional trade in 2005, due to better international prices for the region's exports, improved terms of trade, lower interest and inflation rates, and solid fiscal results.

But the report, Latin America and the Caribbean in the World Economy 2004: 2005 Trends, warns that medium-term economic risks for the region remain formidable.  These risks include a large deficit in the U.S. current account, soaring oil prices, an undiminished threat of terrorism, and signs of protectionism among the world's main industrialized economies.

The report said oil prices remain crucial to the region.  Three countries in Latin America are oil exporters -- Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia -- but several of Latin America's small and medium-sized countries are oil importers, and global oil prices of about $60 per barrel are said to impose significant cost burdens for the region.

China has become the largest market for South American goods, with Chinese imports from the region rising from $1.5 billion in 1990 to $21.6 billion in 2004.  If this high demand from China for South American goods continues, the region "can look forward to a lengthy period of strong exports and their terms of trade will be strengthened," said the report.

At the same time, the report said, some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean face increasing competition from China, especially in the textiles market.

Eastern Orthodox
liturgy to be Sept. 18

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eastern Orthodox faithful will celebrate a rare Divine Liturgy Sunday, Sept. 18.

The service will take place at 11 a.m. in Escazú, and the Rev. Alexander of the Russian Patriarchate will officiate. He is based in Panamá.

Orthodox Christians have been without a local priest for years. Perhaps 100 persons, mostly Russians and Ukranians, are followers of the Orthodox faith here, according to one estimate.

Moleben or a prayer service will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m.  Confessions will be available before both services. For information in Spanish, English or Russian readers can call 839-8339 or 390-6762.

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South Korean president heads trade delegation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

South Korea's president arrived in Costa Rica Sunday at the head of a delegation of some 100 company presidents and directors from his country.

Although Costa Rican officials are upbeat about the visit, the lopsided trade between Costa Rica and South Korea certainly will come up. In 2004 Costa Rica exported $11 million to the Asian country and imported some $126 million.

A lot of motor vehicles here were made in South Korea.

The Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, also is here to meet with members of the System for the Integration of Central America. This includes the presidents of most Central American states who are visiting Costa Rica for the session. Roh is the first South Korean head of state to visit Costa Rica.

Roh arrived Sunday morning at Juan Santamaría airport with his wife, Kwon Yang-sook, on a flight from Mexico City where the Korean president met with President Vicente Fox.

Roh and his delegation were greeted at the airport by Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister. In addition to the business people, Roh brought some 80 newspeople and photographers who are likely to make reports to their various media outlets.

The official greeting is today at 8:30 a.m. at the Museo Nacional with a 9 a.m. ceremony placing a wreath at the Monumento Nacional in Parque Nacional.

Roh is supposed to be in La Garita and the Instituto Centroamericano de Administración de Empresas for the rest of the morning to attend the meeting of the Central American leaders.

The Korean president meets with President Abel Pacheco for a private session in the afternoon and

Ministero de Relaciones Exteriores
y Culto photo

Roberto Tovar Faja escorts Kwon Yang-sook and her husband, Roh Moo-hyun, president of South Korea, at the couple's arrival.

then is hosted at a state dinner in the Teatro Nacional tonight. He leaves Tuesday morning.  He and the delegation are traveling by private jet.

In México Roh made it known that he is eager for Mexico to eliminate legal restrictions that prevent South Korean construction firms from bidding on large public works projects. President Fox wants to equalize the trade flow with South Korea and for Seoul to further open its markets to Mexican farm products.

Currently, Korean exports dominate the exchange, valued at approximately $5.4 billion annually. South Korea is Mexico's sixth-largest trading partner.

A saying that gains importance in wake of Katrina
Es major dar que recibir.

"It is better to give than to receive.” This dicho, of course, comes from the biblical admonition of Jesus. But there are some subtle nuances in the meaning of this widely known adage that might elude our attention at first glance. There is, of course, much satisfaction in giving to others, but there is also an element of gratitude because we, ourselves, are not in need and have enough that we are able to help others who are less fortunate than we.

The horrible suffering of the tens of thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina should remind us all of this dicho. We who escaped Katrina’s wrath must feel very thankful indeed, while at the same time we are blessed with an opportunity to open our hearts and give to the victims of the storm.

It also seems to me that there is a link between es mejor dar que recibir and last week’s dicho: la union hace la fuerza, “union makes strength,” or, as the English expression goes, “united we stand.” Embodied in this sentiment also is the notion of giving, for we cannot be united unless we all give our support to the effort.

I remember back in 1984, not too long after I’d moved to Indiana, several tornadoes touched down in the southwestern part of the state.

The devastation to several small towns in the area was tremendous. The Red Cross put out a call for volunteers to help distribute food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities to the stricken communities.

Eager to take an active part in the civic life of my new community, I volunteered to drive truckloads of such supplies down to the community of Petersburg, Indiana, a town of about 4,000 people where over half of the buildings had been destroyed. The high school’s gymnasium was one of the few structures near the center of town that had managed to escape significant damage, so it became the center of our relief efforts.

When we arrived, early the morning after the storm, several hundred people were milling around the gym. A young black man, who was part of the National Guard unit that had been called in by the governor to help clean up the mess, began helping us to unload the truck. I noticed that people seemed to be staring at us rather suspiciously, so when I had a moment alone with the black soldier I asked him if he was aware of the same thing. He answered yes,
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

and I asked him why. “It’s because we’re probably the only two people of color these folks have ever seen around these parts,” he replied, with a wry smile.

I spent two weeks working in Petersburg, and little by little the people began to lose their suspicion and to smile and say hello when they saw me. I have always felt very good about that two-week stint I spent in Petersburg, Indiana, because I learned that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from you can stand together with those in adversity – la union hace la fuerza – and give of yourself in order to help out – es mejor dar que recibir. And it makes you feel good too.

Several years later I was shopping at my local supermarket when a young woman, whom I didn’t recognize, approached me and asked if I worked for Indiana University. I answered yes, and she asked me where I came from. With growing curiosity, I replied Costa Rica.

“But I think I know you from my hometown, Petersburg, Indiana,” she continued.  “Oh! Yes,” I said. “I did some volunteer work down there a few years back following those terrible tornados.”

I asked how her family was and if they had rebuilt their house, and she told me all about the new house that her parents had constructed after the storm. I didn’t really remember her specifically, or which house, out of the many that were destroyed, was hers.

But my friendly little chat with this young woman, so long after catastrophe had caused our paths to intersect, made me feel very good inside. Her openness without a trace of reservation gave me the impression that I had touched her life in a far more fundamental way than I had been aware of at the time of our first meeting.

This was the gift she gave back to me.

Readers give their opinions on man with 90 hats
Visitor to this country
should speak Spanish

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Sorry to hear about Tony Bandolitti's hassle with Costa Rica customs — a bad start to any vacation!. However, I'm intrigued by his lack of Spanish despite 36 previous trips to Costa Rica. What on earth does he do there? On those trips, how did he manage to enjoy the fine "culture, people, food, and diverse attractions," with no Spanish in a largely unilingual country? And as a frequent flyer, surely he must have had some second thoughts about breezing through customs with 90 identical hats. 

If Tony was let down by his language skills, maybe, too, his customs bummer included a dash of anti-Americanism. Readers should know that the U.S. is continuing to arm- twist poor countries into protecting bad behaviour of American citizens from the juristiction of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. This court is recognized by most of the civilized world —  apart of the U.S. and other rogue regimes. Much to Costa Rica's credit, this badly indebted country will continue to recognize the court and forgo some U.S. assistance for the sake of doing what is right. As Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar was recently quoted in the local press:

"We respect the absolute power of the United States. But for the love of God, this is not the way to treat a country that is your friend."

I feel sorry for decent travelling Americans who have a government so apparently detached from  principled behaviour, and so  immune to its image abroad.
Ross Martin
He says 'Get over it!'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You'd think that after 36 trips to Costa Rica Mr. Bandoletti would have learned a little spanish! 
Maybe that would have smoothed the way and made the customs officials a ittle less hard-nosed.  Who knows?
But, hey, this is not the U.S.; get over it!
Tom Deligiannis
A tale from the early 90s:
Gifts for everyone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reading Tony's article caused a flood of old memories, most of which now have mellowed with time since the year I spent in Costa Rica, 1993-94.  I had imported a gorgeous 4x4 from Canada and was itching to get it out of shipping in Limón.  After a couple of futile attempts on my own, a friend told me I needed an aduana so I hired a well known San José company. 

The thing I remember most is that every time you thought you were done, you are never ever done.  We started in San José getting one document stamped but then the action shifted to Limón.  I met up with an agent, a short, good looking, young chap, neat but casualy dressed with a gold chain around his neck, who "knew the ropes."  The morning in Limón consisted of him glad-handing, back-slapping and cheek-kissing various secretaries and officials.  In between I either threw spitballs of 1,000-colone notes in desk drawers left ajar for this purpose or slipped some in between my documents.  I was told at every step how much and where to place it. 

As we moved from building to building we would pass my wife, reading a book, locked inside our rental car who would ask, "Are you done yet, or have you even seen our car?"  We had started by 9:30 am and the process was finished and we exited through the car wash at 3:30 p.m. (one last tip for the car wash of 200 colones). Although the car had sat in Costa Rica for 2 weeks on the dock a quick two-minute wash is done to protect the country.  Of course, this only got our vehicle into the country, and we still had to pay the duties and get a placa. 

Naively, 6 months later, I thought I could just walk into the newly opened aduana office in Liberia and pay my duties at Banco National and be done.  Not to bore your readers my memory of this is one of the motor going out of my 4x4 in the midst of the process,  various phone calls where I was not to use any names, clandestine meetings with our customs agent in restaurants where he showed me my customs documents covered with loads of colorful stamps, cash under the restaurant table, documents which said my vehicle had been reinspected twice up at Penas Blancas, gone down to San José for a safety check, while all the time it was in a garage in Liberia with no motor!  In the end, I was told that by using a government approved agency I had saved $2,000.00 U.S. in duties. 

Soon, 10 months had passed, my temporary paper placa in the car window had faded to the point of invisible.  Friends said I should get a black marker and recolor it.  Why not just get my permanent placa?  The country was out of plates!  That year Costa Rica had an election and the new president made a clean sweep of the customs, and the papers said they fired over 150 customs agents especially at the borders.  So it's 10 years later, and you print Tony's article.  Still as frustrating as ever.  Would I go back, have I gone back?  You bet!

L. McDougall

Public employees just
follow the rules

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Bandoletti may have been a victim of circumstances as he tried to come through customs with 90 baseball caps and feeling there was no need to pay duties on them. The reason for the 90 caps is irrelevant for the non-English speaking customs agents. In their minds, 90 caps are more than one’s needs for personal use.

Should there be English-speaking personnel in the customs department in a country whose principal source of dollars comes from tourism to, at least, let the owner of 90 caps plead his case? Of course, there should be, but Costa Rica’s atrophied government does not allow such sophistication, not withstanding the ever present cries from hotel, car rental and tour operators’ associations, and even the ICT’s, for a no-hassle arrival –and stay- of tourists.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Costa Rican government employees knows that rendering good public service is not of chief concern to them; keeping their job by following the rules, as nonsensical as the rules may seem at times, and, where possible, taking advantage of their post to get a little extra income for themselves, is. Yes, I am aware that there are exceptions to this, so let’s don’t get sidetracked. 

Was Mr. Bandoletti spotted as an easy target for customs agents to pick up some additional revenue for the country — and themselves — because of 90 caps and he couldn’t speak Spanish? Without having observed the events we can’t say. When confronted with having to open his soft bag with the 90 caps inside, how did Mr. Bandoletti  respond? With complying resignation or resistance? When told the caps were going to be placed in government custody pending payment of duties, what was Mr. Bandoletti’s reaction? Complying resignation or resistance?  Without having observed the events, you and I can’t say, but we do know that when dealing with another person, one’s own demeanor can be influential on the outcome. Enough said on that point.

To side with Mr. Bandoletti or the customs agents is not the intent of this commentary, but to remind ourselves that this is not a perfect world and it falls upon each of us not to get caught in the web of imperfections of others through our own imperfections. Being knowledgeable, wary and practical will help. Maybe the moral of all this is: don’t have big bachelor parties in Costa Rica with 90 imported baseball caps, or any combination of the foregoing conditions.

Walter Fila  
Ciudad Colón

Reader thinks attitude
was cause of woes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just had to write you in response to the article by Mr Bandoletti in todays A.M. Costa Rica. I really think he might have had a different experience with a different attitude. I am really sick of people from the U.S. thinking they can travel the world and have everyone cater to them. Always expecting that things will be done the same way as in the U.S. He expects people to speak English. Why doesn't he try and speak Spanish since that is the language of the country.

I will be honest, I am far from fluent in Spanish but I will always try my best to speak the language of the country I am in. Has he ever heard of a pocket dictionary? I learn more everytime I go and have a better experience when I can actually communicate with the people. I have been all around the world and have always found that if you put forth effort then people are more willing to help you out.

I am sure the pushy, inpatient New York attitude did not fly too well with the Ticos. Every time I go to Costa Rica I always experience an American making a bad name for all of us. These people need to wake up and realize when you travel you will experience different customs, attitudes, and general way of doing things than they have back home. If people want things done the way they are in the U.S. then they should stay in the U.S. Mr. Bandoletti was upset that the customs man went home early. He doesn't know what the situation was.

The man who worked for customs could have been sick, had a problem with family or friends, or maybe he just wanted to take off early and have a few beers. Is there anything wrong with working to live rather than living to work? Yes, I know there is a lot of red tape and things dont always run smoothly. Things don't make sense a lot of times (prime example is how the banks run with a different line for every thing under the earth). There are lots of crazy laws that cause businesses headaches and endless paperwork for everything under the sun. You may have to wait a while longer for service since Ticos are relaxed and not in a hurry (except when driving). Tico time is real easy to get used to, if you just don't worry about things and everything always works out in the end as it did for Mr Bandoletti.

I would be willing to bet that he would have gotten things done a lot quicker or maybe avoided the entire problem altogether with a small effort to speak the language (explain his situation), a little kindness, a lot of patience, and a better attitude toward the people. I have noticed on several of my trips to C.R. that the people who complain or are inpatient are the last to be served.

Kindness and a smile will get you a long way in C.R. I know in NYC you have to push to get things done but in C.R. it pays to work with people and take on a Tico attitude. It really is a healthier lifestyle. Bottomline is things are different in C.R. and some things are a hassle and there is a ton of red tape but some of us like things to be different even given the obstacles.

It pays to open your eyes and see how the Ticos operate. There is a whole lot to learn from their way of life and their way of looking at life. I hope they never change and am very glad that things are not like they are in the U.S. and wish more of the Americans traveling to C.R. would take a little Tico attitude back home to the U.S. It would do us all a lot of good to slow down a little and enjoy life, family and friends.

John Rabb
Tallahassee Florida

Jo Stuart
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