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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Sept. 13, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 180              E-mail us
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September is Patriotic Month in Costa Rica. Sept. 14 and 15 are days when the country marks its 189 years of independence. The
highways, public buildings and many private establishments are decked out in the national colors.  And now A.M. Costa Rica is, too!

Interamericana washout
Photo by Loren B. Ford
A temporary bridge spans the washout, but vehicles are not yet permitted
More rain hampers work to restore Interamericana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway engineers and workers have yet to restore traffic on the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero, and a local alternate route is proving to be a challenge for passenger cars. Officials predicted over the weekend that the route would be opened after a portable bailey bridge was installed over the washed out area, but Loren B. Ford of Santiago de San Ramón reported from the scene Sunday that rains had hampered the work.

He said that rains prevented adequate stabilization of the fill around the new culvert and prevented transport ministry engineers from certifying the stability of the remaining roadbed that would support the temporary one-lane bridge.

The washout is at kilometer 87 of the highway near the Río Jesús at a point known as the altura de  Cambronero. A corrugated steel water line 2.13 meters (nearly 7 feet) in diameter passed under the highway, and about 20 meters (about 65 feet) of the pipe and tons of rock, dirt, fill and road surface were carried away by a downpour Wednesday afternoon. Ford said the water line is about eight meters (about 26 feet) below the road surface and that a replacement has been installed. The new line is supposed to be made out of cement. However, extensive fill needs to be dumped into the breach
and compacted before a new road surface can be installed.

MECO Constructores has been hired to do the job for the the ministry's Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

The Transit Police are detouring all heavy truck traffic through either El Aguacate or the new Caldera Highway, said Ford.  But light truck, SUV, and sedan drivers are using the old San Ramón-Esparza Highway between Río Jesús and just above a point known locally as Doña Chila's, he added.

Ford said passenger car drivers were foolhardy to take that route because much of the old highway is not adequately maintained by the Municipalidad de San Ramón or the transport ministry and the huge increase in traffic coupled with continuing rains has greatly deteriorated the road, resulting in quite a few sedans getting stuck, he said. 

A grader and probably an excavator to improve road drainage would make a big difference, he said, adding that the alternate route is used frequently when slides fall into the Interamericana.

The transport ministry has advised drivers that they can use the Autopista del Sol to bypass the washout if they are traveling to or from the Pacific or the Central Valley.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 180

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Our readers' opinions
U.S. Embassy experience
is called a nightmare

 
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The United States Embassy in San José is a poor excuse for what most American’s would expect from their embassy. From my visits, past and present, this is the typical experience for an American approaching the embassy in San Jose:

-At the entrance, the guard does not speak English.
-Inside the door, the security personnel do not speak English.
-The security scanners who search you do not speak English.
-Once inside the complex, there is no greeter or help desk.
-The people who take passport photographs do not speak
      English.
-There are no signs or instructions in English.

-There are crowds of people sitting and milling around inside the complex, none of whom are embassy employees.

Since there are no embassy personnel on the grounds to assist anyone, it is not possible to figure out what to do or where to go.

When I visited the embassy I would have had to leave and return with someone fluent in Spanish if it weren’t for the kindness of an American stranger who was bilingual and helped me.

This is an absolutely inexcusable situation and the ambassador should take a few minutes and go inside the embassy with the "little people" and see what the experience is really like.  It is a nightmare and a disgrace that there are no English-speaking employees there to assist Americans in the procedures necessary to get them to the proper service windows. 

The ONLY employee in the embassy who spoke English to me was the man behind the service window and astonishingly enough he initially addressed me in SPANISH!

As an aside, my husband is Canadian, and when he visits his embassy here in San José every employee there is tri-lingual.  They are all able to address him in English, French or Spanish.

I encourage everyone who has had a similar complaint with the U.S. Embassy here to contact Jennifer Van Trump at the U. S. Department of State on 202-647-3519 or e-mail her at vantrumpjr@state.gov and report the incident.  It will be remedied if we take action.

I have one message to the Ambassador regarding this issue: Madam Ambassador, your embassy is a disgrace to the American people it is there to serve.
Jayne Dell
Escazú

Go after those tax evaders
before making new taxes
 
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is with no small sense of resignation that I see La Presidenta introducing yet another tax (this one on corporations, the last one on luxury housing) that seems designed to hit disproportionately on expats and others not able to make their displeasure felt at the ballot box.
 
All the while that collection of existing taxes is almost non-existent, and Ticos make a sport of not paying taxes owed, Even many professionals like doctors and lawyers will only accept cash for their services, presumably so they can avoid taxes.
 
Real estate seminars tout not only the low property taxes, but also the ease and evidently universal practice of vastly underreporting the value of property for tax purposes.
 
Until the government gets more serious about pursuing tax evaders, please hold off on proposing yet more taxes on the few who might actually pay them.
Steve Young
San Isidro de Heredia

U.S. not the most generous,
and aid goes to war zones


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While Mike Michael is right in praising the humanitarian (and zoomanitarian?) assistance provided to some 6,000 people and 3,000 animals by the U.S. military during the controversial docking in Limón, he appears to have a bit of difficulty with context, and with facts.

The people of Costa Rica enjoy a relatively high standard and quality of living largely because they wisely eliminated their own military more then 50 years ago. This has resulted in financial resources being dedicated to the social infrastructure rather than a corrupt military that destroys rather than produces. The primary purpose of any military is to kill and destroy. Of course, every military has doctors and cooks and musicians, but the primary task of the organization is to kill and destroy. No need to take my word for it, just ask the generals.

While said killing and destruction in the name of national defense is justified is debatable, the primary purpose of a military is not.

Regarding the United States as being "the most generous country on the planet," again, while we're all entitled to our own opinions, we aren't entitled to our own facts. It is true that individuals in the United States are very generous when it comes to giving to those in need. But when it comes to the generosity of "the country," as of 2008, the United States as a nation ranks 19th in terms of foreign aid as a percentage of GNP. And the vast majority of that aid goes to Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia, where we are fighting or supporting wars of fraud (Iraq), folly ( Afghanistan) and failure ( the war on drugs in Colombia).

So while I, like Mike, will always commend any acts of compassion, by individuals or governments, if Mike is interested in reality as opposed to "patriotic" proclamations — rather than "We're # 1!," would you buy "We're # 19!" ?

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development . http://www.oecd.org
Jim Shapiro
Carlsbad, California and Costa Rica

U.S. is reported at #9

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yes, the United States as a whole is the most generous country when it comes to charitable contributions, but when it comes to amount per citizen, it ranks ninth, below the United Kingdom and three Arab countries.  There is a chart on Wikipedia which shows the data from 2008 which is the most current available.  I guess this statistic is more important to me as I identify more with the people than the institution.
Kevin Huey
Bello Horizonte, Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 180

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Judicial agents think that this bike with the distinctive decoration on its seat (insert) is a major clue in finding out who shot a U.S. tourist in Puerto Viejo.
bike
Judicial Investigating Organization photo

Agents think that killer left bike at Puerto Viejo murder site
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators are hoping that the killer of a U.S. tourist Thursday left behind his bicycle at the scene. The bike is similar to many used in the areas, but it appears to have a distinctive decoration on its seat.

Agents found the bike near where Steven Edelson died from a bullet to the head.

A friend from California said via e-mail that the killer took the man's backpack. "This man was a gentle man who was simply sitting under a tree playing his guitar and reading a book when he was murdered for nothing. He was traveling with my wife, my daughter and my wife's sister," said the man who identified himself as Boyd Bel of Cotati, California.

Initially judicial investigators said they did not think that
 robbery was a motive because they were unaware of the backpack, That led to one Spanish newspaper to call the crime mysterious.

The crime happened on Playa Cocles in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast in the province of Limón.

"People of Costa Rica and particularly in the area of Limon should know that there is a murderer in their midst who could kill again if the authorities do not apprehend the killer," said Bel in his e-mail.

The murder investigation is being handled by the judicial police based in Bribri. They asked that anyone who could identify the bike call 2751-0252 or the agency's confidential line 800-8000-645.

Puerto Viejo is a major tourist destination on the Caribbean coast


Even municipal building is not spared visit by stray bullet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bullets continue to take their toll on unintended targets. A 6-year-old suffered a bullet wound to the head Sunday when two gangs exchanged fire in La Carpio in La Uruca.

Friday a bullet shattered a west window of the San José municipal building on Avenida 10 not far from Parque la Sabana.

The only individual in the municipal Archivo de Patentes, identified by the municipality as David García Ramírez, was not injured, and the boy shot Sunday appeared to be awake and alert as he was transferred to the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

The shootings follow at least six incidents in the last month where individuals suffered wounds from stray shots. Some died.

The municipality said that the bullet crashed through a first-floor window about 11:30 a.m. Friday. The thick glass was credited with breaking up the projectile. Officials said the shot came during a robbery at the Gimnasio Nacional in the municipal park two blocks away. There was no further information on who fired the shot.

La Carpio, a settlement that is south of Hospital México in La Uruca, has a long history of problems. The dispute erupted Sunday morning between the two youth gangs, and shots were fired. The boy was being examined to see if the injury is more than it appears.

The most unexpected death due to a stray shot happened Sunday evening, Aug. 22, when a bullet fired three blocks away cut down a Desamparados man, Adelsio
bulet in muncipal bilding
Municipalidad de San José photo
Here is the broken window a bullet hit Friday

Gerardo Paniagua Castro, 25, as he walked with a girlfriend in front of the famous Teatro Nacional.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 180


Innovation seen as engine of prosperity by policymakers

By the news staff of The World Bank

Long considered the silent engine of prosperity in the rich world, innovation is roaring onto Latin America's economic scene as policymakers rapidly realize its critical role in spurring sustained wealth and growth in the region.

An influential group of Latin American presidents, policy makers, experts and business leaders will convene in Miami this week to discuss precisely how to increase the region's investments in innovation, which is lagging far behind the world's average. First World countries spend around 1 percent of gross domestic product on research and development, the cornerstone of innovation, while Latin American economies devote to it only about half of that.

Government and business leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the risks of not injecting additional funds into innovation initiatives, experts say.

Some adverse consequences of keeping innovation in the backburner include less vigorous growth, diminished productivity and loss of markets, which in turn have an impact on job creation and salaries across the board, notes World Bank innovation expert Jose Luis Guasch.

"A glaring consequence of neglecting innovation is that the region's productivity is lagging behind the United States and emerging Asian economies, which can erode export growth," says Guasch, who has been advising Latin American governments and business on good innovation practices.

This is particularly worrisome in Latin America's current juncture where a great deal of the region's recovery and growth — expected to surpass 5 percent in 2010 — can be credited to an increased demand for commodities from Asia and China in particular.

Right now boosting productivity and adding value in the production chain — a seal of innovation — may not be seen as pressing issues, but once the commodity boom peaks and the currently high prices stabilize the story can be totally different, warns Guasch.

Latin America's challenge is to invest the windfall profits from the export bonanza in human capital and innovation to bring people's standards of living on a par with First World countries and some emerging economies in Asia, the expert argues, echoing an upcoming commodity flagship report, to be launched prior to next week's conference.

Chile and Mexico are the only two Latin American countries to have joined the exclusive club of nations boasting some of the highest per capita domestic product on the planet.

The rest of the region has had difficulty catching up to the growth rate of emerging economies such as some Asian nations, which jumped from 15 to 60 points as a percentage of the United State's domestic product while Latin America's remained at 25 percent over the last 50 years.

Innovation, an unappealing term outside its economic context, has become a household name when attached to specific success stories around the world.
Apple, Google, Microsoft, among many others, are often
cited as innovators that have contributed to changing the way humans communicate and to the fortune of their companies and economies in the rich north. Further south, success stories are more difficult to come by, but a few stand out and have become models of innovation in Latin America and beyond, experts say.

Chile discovered the beauty of innovation in the eighties when salmon farms began replacing the less cost-efficient traditional methods of catching the fish in Chile's Patagonian lakes.  These days Chile produces about 31 percent of the world's farmed salmon with revenues of $2.1 billion in 2009.

Innovation however is not only about adding value to raw material production by incorporating a manufacture value. Recently, biotechnology has been adopted to improve production of traditional natural resources in Chile.

Leaching in Chile's vast cooper mines is now done with a genetically engineered bacteria that has replaced the traditional method that involves pouring a mix of water and acid to get through the various layers of rock covering the copper.

"This is far more efficient and environmentally friendly than obtaining the copper via traditional leaching and has a cascading innovation effect through the whole industry," noted Jose Pablo Arellano, economist and former chief of Coldelco, Chile's mining giant.

Chile's embrace of innovation has reached beyond the public sphere to bring into the mix the private sector as well, with a little help from the national council for innovation.

As a result of these efforts there is an increased awareness of the importance of innovation for a country to achieve continued success and to promote the wellbeing of its citizens, notes Arellano.

"The most successful countries have done this as a private-public effort where business, government and academia join efforts to produce the best results," says Arellano.

In other parts of Latin America innovation is also being pursued at full speed. Mexico, for instance, has strengthened its research agency while other countries have created or expanded their science and technology ministries. Brazil's agricultural research corporation has been credited with boosting farming in the country's savannas — vast lands that a few years ago were deemed unsuitable for farming.

Despite these efforts, innovation in the region is by and large a disparate group of individual initiatives rather than a strategic and comprehensive public policy program, so bank and leading regional experts suggest that more needs to be done to have a viable system in place.

Special attention should be given to the transfer of knowledge to small and medium businesses, known as Pymes, which make up 70 percent of the total business universe in the region, they say.

"Spurring innovation in Pymes is key to pushing the change agenda in Latin America as they are the main production and source for job creation," says Guasch.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 180

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Quake rattles southern zone

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A quake with a magnitude of 4.5 rattled the southern zone early Sunday, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The epicenter was estimated to be about 28 kilometers (some 17 miles) northeast of San Vito de Coto Brus. The experts said that the quake was caused by a local fault.


U.S. citizen snagged

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourist police in Tamarindo said that they detained a U.S. citizen Thursday on suspicion of distributing marijuana. They identified him by the last name of Carjavei. They said the man was followed as he drove his truck to the center of the Pacific beach town.

Police said they found four bags totaling 140 grams of suspected marijuana in the vehicle.

Castro denies interpretation
of his comment was correct

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro says he was misinterpreted when a visiting U.S. journalist quoted him in a recent article as saying Cuba's Communist economic model no longer works.

Speaking Friday in Havana, Castro said he meant the exact opposite of the quote contained in an Internet posting by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine.  

Goldberg wrote Wednesday that he asked the 84-year-old former president if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries.  Goldberg reported that Castro replied, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."  There was no immediate response from Goldberg to Castro's comment on being misinterpreted.

Goldberg recently traveled to Cuba for interviews with Castro, who discussed subjects that included the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, along with Iran and Israel.  

Goldberg was accompanied by Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sweig was quoted in Goldberg's article as saying Castro was not rejecting the ideas of the 1959 revolution that brought him to power.  Sweig said the comments on Cuba's economic system appeared to be an acknowledgment that under the Cuban model, the state has too big a role in the economic life of the country.


Mexican prisoners flee
at jail near the U.S. border.


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Eighty five prisoners have escaped from a Mexican jail near the U.S. border.

The prisoners escaped Friday from the facility in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas.  Mexican officials are looking into the possible involvement of two missing prison guards and 44 other employees in the escape.

The incident follows a scandal in July, when authorities discovered that officials at another prison in the northern state of Durango had allowed convicts out of that facility to carry out revenge contract killings.

In a separate development, authorities say gunmen killed 25 people in drug gang attacks Thursday in Ciudad Juárez, marking the deadliest day in more than two years for the Mexican border city.  Juárez is Mexico's most violent city and has been on the front lines of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war on drug cartels. 

President Calderón began his war on organized crime shortly after taking office in late 2006.  Since then, drug violence has surged and more than 28,000 people have been killed.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 180


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Carrillo citizens pressing
for resignation of mayor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Citizens in the Canton de Carrillo on the Pacific coast said they will block the access to the area to force the resignation of Carlos Cantillo Álvarez, the municipal mayor.

The Poder Judicial confirmed in February that prosecutors in Santa Cruz have been at work on a case since October involving the mayor. The situation involves the area around the massive Hotel Rui, which opened for business about that time. The Poder Judicial said that the allegations being studied include destruction of a primary forest, destruction of mangroves, elimination of the public right-of-way, abuse of authority and failure to do official duty.

The Poder Judicial said that the allegation of destruction of a primary forest involves work that was done with machinery owned and operated by the Municipalidad de Carrillo. For that reason a number of documents from the municipality were the object of a search in early February at the municipal building, the Poder Judicial said. The documents were confiscated, the judicial agency said. The mayor was identified then as a target of the investigation.

A citizen's group said that members were upset that the mayor continues in office despite widespread publicity about the criminal allegations, including those made by the Contraloría de la República. An e-mail from the group said that if the competent authorities do not remove the mayor from his position in 10 days, they will move to blockade the canton.

Family of missing woman
puts up Web page to help

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The family of a missing French woman has put up a Web page to help find her.

The missing woman is 33-year-old Kim Paris, who was seen last Aug. 25 leaving the Latitude 10 Resort with one of the resort bicycles after noon. She carried a French passport and had been born in Canada.

A.M. Costa Rica reported the disappearance Sept. 8.

The Web page is http://www.findkimparis.com/
   
The case is being handled by the Judicial Investigating Organization in Cóbano.

Medical manufacturer here
inaugurates new facility


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

St. Jude Medical Inc. has inaugurated its plant in El  Coyol. The company announced last year that it would come to Costa Rica and invest $40 million in a 20,000-square-meter facility.

The medical device maker is based in St. Paul,  Minnesota, and employs 14,000 worldwide. The company has 250 persons here and says it expects to begin exporting heart valves by the end of the year.  Casa Presidencial said the firm plans to increase its workforce to some 2,000 by 2015. President Laura Chinchilla participated in the inaugural Friday.

The company reported $4.7 billion in net sales in 2009.




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