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(506) 223-1327          Published Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 182         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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U.S. trade official sings its praises
12-year-old trade pact is a disputed guide today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

As Costa Rica considers joining a free trade bloc with other Central American countries and the United States, the big question is "What will happen?"

The honest answer is no one really knows. However, the North American Free Trade Agreement which went into effect in 1994 is a good guide if investigators can cut through the propaganda. Still, even here two sides refuse to concede defeat.

Arias and Libertarios agree: HERE!

Monday an assistant trade representative told the  Senate Finance Committee that the 12-year old North American Free Trade Agreement has caused the United States, Canada and Mexico to become better customers for each other’s goods and services.

On the other side, the League of United Latin American Citizens blames the economic effects of the trade pact on rural agriculture for increasing the flow of illegal aliens into the United States. The organization said that cheap corn imported from the United States wiped out many farmers. Costa Rican rice farmers express similar concerns.

Painting the rosy picture for senators was John Melle, deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative. It is his office that negotiates the trade agreements with foreign countries.

Melle said that since the trade pact entered into force Jan. 1, 1994, total U.S. trade of goods between the North American nations has more than doubled from earlier levels, with Mexico surpassing Japan as the United States' second-largest trading partner behind only Canada. 
The trade representative official said that as a comprehensive agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement not only covers trade in goods, but also government procurement, intellectual property rights, standards and dispute settlement, as well as services and investment, thereby creating a secure and predictable environment that has helped increase investment in each of the trade pact countries.
The free trade pact with the United States that is being studied here in the Asamblea Legislative contains similar broad standards.

Those who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement generally predicted that U.S. exports to México would soar, but it turns out that México is the country benefiting most with a growing trade surplus with the United States.

Even though the trade agreement's contribution to each nation's broader economic performance cannot be measured precisely, Melle told legislators, adding that Mexico's gross domestic product has grown 40 percent since 1993.

But those who are critical of the trade pact say that most of the growth and exports from Mexico to the United States are the result of U.S. firms setting up more plants there. They worry about the impact on salaries in the United States and working conditions in México.

Other challenges the North American countries must confront include the changes in global trade since the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force.

Melle said that the three trading partners have concluded other trade agreements since 1994 and face increased competition in each other’s markets as well as with the economies of such countries as China and India.

The American Friends Service Committee, the Quakers, has studied the trade agreements extensively and has published a number of negative critiques. Predictably, the Quakers are concerned about the human cost of trade agreements. Other groups approach the agreements from an environmental perspective.

Those who would predict the impact of the Central American free trade agreement here now have the other countries to consider as the United States aggressively seeks even more free trade agreements.  Chile, Perú and Colombia are examples.

And as the Costa Rican congress delays approval, lawmakers can look just north to Nicaragua where the trade agreement is in full swing.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 182

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Sala IV tells credit firm
to delete defender's data

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitution court has ordered a credit bureau to delete information about a pubic defender because the woman is afraid organized crime will use the data to threaten her and her family.

The action was brought last November by Karina Redondo Gómez and was decided Friday by the court magistrates. The result was announced Tuesday.

The firm involved is the credit bureau WWW.Datum Net, S.A. The court told the company to delete addresses, photographs, and telephone numbers of the woman.

The principals of the private firm face a fine or jail if they do not comply with the court order, according to Costa Rican law.

The credit bureau obtains its information from public sources, such as driver license records and property ownership documents. So the data that the pubic defender seeks to hide remains available.

Jimmy Dean is focus
of Theatre Group play

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group will be presenting in English "Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" for three weekends,starting Sept. 22. The play will be in the  Blanche Brown Theatre, in Bello Horizonte, Escazú.

Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances are at 2:30 p.m. Playgoers may obtain tickets by calling 355-1623 or online.

Our readers' opinions
Airport security glitch
makes this visitor angry

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
My wife and I currently live in Florida, and we are considering moving to Costa Rica.  As such I have been to Costa Rica several times a year in the past couple of years looking at real estate and learning about the country.  I am going back in October to look at some property in Escazú.
However, my most recent trip to Costa Rica in June left me scratching my head when it came to airport security at Juan Santamaría.  After checking in for our departure flight back to the U.S., we had to get in the only line available  to go though security to get to the departure gates.

As we got to the metal detector we had to place carry on bags on the conveyor belt to the left of the metal detector so they could be scanned.  What astounded us was that people were placing digital cameras, cell phones, I pods, and other small electronic devices into a wooden box as they passed through the metal detector.

The wooden box was then passed around the metal detector so people could get their devices back.  We watched this happen over and over as the line moved forward.
I was shocked.  Small electronic devices were not being scanned, and were being allowed to be passed around the metal detector.  These devices were large enough to conceal a small gun, knives, mace, explosives, etc.
When we got to Atlanta, I notified a Delta pilot of what we saw. I also e-mailed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the matter.  I am not sure if anything was done.

In the U.S. you can not pass electronic items around the security screening process, and I have no idea why this was being done over and over in front of security in Juan Santamaría.  I found it extremely illogical and without any consideration to safety.  On the other side of the security sit large jet aircraft that carry 1,000s of people a day to the U.S. and elsewhere.
I will be checking this out again when I return in October.  If the same process is in place, I will be making quite a vocal stink about it at the airport and I will demand to see the head of security.
John Brier
Pensacola, Florida

Sept. 11 ceremony here
should be public event

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a U.S. citizen who spent several months in Costa Rica and met the lovely Jo Stuart, I am ashamed and horrified that she was turned away from the 9/11 private ceremony.  This occasion should have been open to the public and certainly to any U.S. emigrant.

I had plans to live in Costa Rica, but found the red tape too much for me at my age and health conditions. However, I did find out that it is impossible to be in touch with the U.S. Embassy and to get registered with them is impossible.  Now, not to let Ms. Stuart attend is just more shame on the U.S.A. and on the present government who controls our lives.

Marian Rawson
Los Angeles, California

Was this a Bush event
only for the qualified?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Lets see how this headline goes:
“Armed U.S. Marines take over Costa Rican Public Park and deny entrance to Legal Residents of Costa Rica who wanted to remember the victims of 9-11”.

Does that pretty well sum it up?

I guess it really is who is qualified to remember the victims and events and who is qualified to say who should be able to attend these events.  It’s almost as if it was one of Bush’s political events with a selected group of invited guests.

I would like to see one of invitations, if there really are invitations. You indicate your photographer didn’t have one.
Kind of like Laura Bush rewriting the history of Costa Rica in her last speech here in San José.

Or could it be that your columnist was singled out for because she identified by some as holding opposite political view from the Bush administration?
Doug Gesler
Sabana Oeste

EDITOR’S NOTE: The U.S. Marines had nothing to do with barring Jo Stuart from the remembrance ceremony Monday. It was embassy staffers.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 182

Independence day parades may not be until Friday but students from the Escuela
Buenaventura Corrales are practicing, some in period clothing.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Libertarians are in accord with Arias on some measures
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration has a lot in common with the policies of the Movimiento Libertario, according to  Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia.

Arias had lunch Tuesday with Otto Guevara, the former lawmaker and presidential candidate who continues to be the president of the Libertario party. Óscar Arias Sánchez, the president, won election as the Partido Liberación Nacional candidate.

Rodrigo Arias said that he and Guevara are in agreement on the urgency to approve the free trade treaty with the United States, to approve the so-called complimentary agenda that puts the treaty into practice and to break the monopoly now held by state telecommunications agencies and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the nation's only insurance company.

"We agreed that the TLC is not an end in itself," said
Rodrigo Arias, using the acronym of the treaty's Spanish name. "But it is an opportunity given the country to participate and be more intensive in its foreign trade."

Rodrigo Arias also said that Casa Presidencial Tuesday was sending a proposed law to the Instituto Costariccense de Electricidad for review by its board of directors. This is a measure that is supposed to strengthen the state entity so that it can compete with private firms that might appear if the treaty is approved.

If the board of directors agrees with the measure, the proposal will be forwarded to the Asamblea Legislativa.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has predicted that the assembly would vote on the free trade treaty sometime in December. Opponents of the agreement disagree, and some are mounting a series of street protests against the measure.
Costa Rica is the only one of five Latin nations that has not approved the pact.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 182

Heredia teen takes the initiative and gets presidential help
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young Heredia teen is accepting taking hard times without a fight.

The teen, Melissa Vargas, wrote to President Óscar Arias Sánchez to tell him of the hard times in her family, which includes two younger children. She said she would have to drop out of school to help support her family.

The president responded. He had just announced a program for such families.

The teen, who turns 16 Thursday, and her family were guests of Arias Tuesday, where staffers prepared a surprise birthday cake. She is in the ninth grade of Colegio La Aurora.

Arias got a birthday cake later in the day. He turned 66 today.

The president's initiative, the Programa Avancemos, will pay the girl's family 25,000 colons a month so she can stay in school. That's about $48 at the current exchange rate.
In return the family must promise to use the funds wisely and for the benefit of the children.

Casa Presidencial photo
Melissa Vargas blows out the candles on her surprise cake while her family and Arias encourage her.

Telecommunications institute will get a new executive president today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive president of the telecommunications giant Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Jorge Gutiérrez, has resigned after just four months on the job. The  resignation — said to be for health reasons — takes effect Friday.

He becomes the first member of the Arias administration to leave.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez quickly named the No. 2 man at the government agency to lead it and said that he would present the name for confirmation today to the Consejo de Gobierno.
The new head of the electrical generating, telephone and Internet institute will be Pedro Pablo Quirós, an electrical engineer who was educated and worked for more than 20 years in the United States. He now serves as vice president of the institute board.

Quirós has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, and one in electrical engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He also holds a master's of business administration in applied math from the University of Vermont. His last position was with TMX International, in Miami, Florida, where he was general manager for five years.

Argentina and Chile hope to reopen a train route through the Andes by 2010
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The presidents of Argentina and Chile have agreed to reopen a trans-Andean cargo and passenger train route that has been closed for several years.

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and his Chilean counterpart, Michelle Bachelet, announced the plan Tuesday in the western Argentine province of Mendoza. The move is aimed at reopening the railroad by 2010 as part of a $300-million project.
The railway was closed in the early 1980s after operating for more than 70 years.

The two presidents say its reopening is aimed at improving trade relations.

During their talks, Presidents Kirchner and Bachelet also discussed Argentina's natural gas exports to Chile.

Chile relies heavily on supplies from its South American neighbor.

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