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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 184          Email us
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Archivo Nacional displays life 150 years ago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Frequently expats will bemoan the loss of the old Costa Rica that they knew when they first arrived here perhaps 15 years ago. They have no idea.

The Archivo Nacional has opened an exhibit that explores the process of Central American independence. The topic is relevant because Thursday was the Día de Independencia. The exhibit runs until Sept. 30 at the archives in Zapote.

As part of the exhibit, the archives has on display early photos of Costa Rica. They are believed taken in the middle of the 19th century, perhaps as early as 1853, and show daily life.

One depicts Cartago market day complete with an ox cart and livestock. Another ox cart, this one loaded with hay, shows up in a photo of Agua Caliente and a local woman posing for the camera. A third is of the historic La Casona in Santa Rosa,
Guanacaste. The structure figured in an 1856 battle in which Costa Rican forces prevailed over the filibusters of William Walker. La Casona is so important to the history of the country that when it was destroyed by fire in 2001, lawmakers voted to replicate it.

The archives also has a number of documents on display on 11 metal panels. The exhibition also contains information on the first years of independence, including the designation of San José as the national capital instead of Cartago, and the birth and death of the Central American Federal Republic.

The archives now is part of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Although it was formally set up in 1881, the holdings include material that go back as far as the early colonial days. The Spanish were strong on keeping records. There also are many other historical documents  on display or available.

Beer is basic, economics ministry study determines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a pragmatic recognition of Costa Rican life, the economics ministry has listed beer in cans as one of the 53 products that make up the consumer basket on which the price index will be figured.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Censos selected 266 possible items, and the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio picked the 53, which also includes some non-food products and personal hygiene items. The price index is weighted toward the products that a low-income family would buy.
The economics ministry will use the index to monitor prices in the marketplace and seek out what it calls distortions.

The ministry said that the list is not supposed to be used for tax purposes or to motivate shoppers to buy items on the list.

However, a recent proposal for a value-added tax exempted certain products in the basic consumer basket, called canasta basica in Spanish.

The list appeared in the Sept. 9 La Gaceta official newspaper.

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U.S. deserves the fate
of former Soviet Union

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I completely agree with Dean Barbour and Steve Meno regarding the U.S.A. and the causes of 911.  If "God Blesses America," than this "god" is no god of mine.

The U.S.A is FUBAR.  The only trick up her sleeve is to start a major war.  She would have already but she is terrified that this time she'll lose.  I've got to get out of here before it happens. 

RIP Osama Bin Laden.  You and GWB showed me the true nature of the country of my birth.  At minimum, she deserves the fate of the old U.S.S.R.
David Temsike
Los Angeles, California

Terrorists are not the blame
for Sept. 11, 2001, attacks

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Muslim "terrorists" had nothing to do with 9/11, simply patsies, as was Lee Harvey Oswald. The US/Neocons/Cheney and their cohorts Israel's Mossad are the culprits. Just do a minimal amount of research. The PNAC came to fruition on 9/11 and the "oil" wars began, while U.S. lives and money are used for Israel's benefit. But I forgot you cannot criticize Israel. What a terrible joke. Don't play the anti-Semite card as the citizens of Israel and the dual citizenship Americans have no Semitic blood. They are Khazar descendants.
Sam Dillon

Eschew  islamophoebia
and get the facts straight

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the great variety of opinions over the last few days printed in A.M. Costa Rica about the U.S. role in world politics and specifically about the atrocious events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the reason for USrael's perpetual strategic wars the citizens of the world would certainly appreciate it if — in view of all evidence — everyone would finally get the facts straight 10 year after 9/11 and would not compare the slime printed in one newspaper to the slime coming out of another and would free themselves from the yoke of orchestrated universal islamophoebia and would regard history not only as a mirror of the past but also of the present and our common future... the world would be a better place for all...

Axel Marquardt  
Hamburg, Germany

U.S. has saved millions
at the expense of its citizens

Dear A.M. Costa Rica;

Mr Barbour's recent letter to the editor about "payback" and "meddling" has reminded me of some topics i am confused about.
Shortly after 9/11,  I saw on a New York news channel that a poll was conducted in Canada in which  80 percent of Canadians answered "yes" to the question  “Do you think that the us had brought the 9/11 attacks upon themselves because of the United States foreign policy?" Apparently they believed like Mr. Barbour that we deserved what we got because of our  "meddling."
This news broadcast was followed by a commercial from the Canadian tourism board asking us citizens to come and spend vacations in beautiful canada!!!!

Okay, I think I get what there saying, they want the U.S. citizens to come to their country to spend their money before they die? Apparently it's okay that the U.S. gets rich by exploiting foreign countries as long as Americans spend their blood money in their country to help their economy, or maybe they want Americans to be relaxed and rested before the next round of "freedom fighters" slaughter us.
If the United States is so evil, why have the Canadians not banned U.S. citizens from their country and why have they not refused to accept American dollars and do business with the United States?
Recently a  coworker of mine stated that during World War II the Americans knew about the concentrations camps during the war and "did nothing to rescue the Jews." Okay, so wait a minute.  Now, someone is angry that the United States did not "meddle' enough in a foreign war where ten of thousands of American died fighting Germany and Japan. Apparently my coworker thought that the U.S. with its military power and international influences should have some how sneaked millions of jews out of Europe while the Germans were at Octoberfest. I reminded him that the U.S. was not able to save thousands of their own soldiers from slaughter during the Bataan death march, or from the German POW camps.
Yes, Mr. Barbour and his supporters are right, the United States has made many bad decisions that cost the lives of many innocent citizens and soldiers in the U.S. and worldwide, and, yes, we did slaughter thousands of innocent native Americans. but please tell me a country that has not. please tell me of any country that has not been in a war that has killed many innocent people because of land, money, or whatever.  show me a country that has not had policies that has also led to the deaths of innocent people?  
Maybe, Mr. Barbour should think about the millions of people who the United States has saved from tyranny, starvation, exploitation and massacre through the sacrifice of its own citizens.
Tom  Hochreiner
New Jersey/Potrero

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 184

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President says that she is pleased by accord on new taxes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla described approval of her tax reform plan as a moral imperative in an independence day address.

“We have the moral obligation for a political accord, she said. The conditions that our sons and daughters will grow in demand it. This is the most important challenge of our democracy: a social accord for the sustainability of the public policies to take this last push toward a Costa Rica developed for its bicentennial.”

She spoke in Parque Nacional.

The president described Costa Rica's level of taxes as below its level of development and said the country had the biggest financial deficit of 20 Latin American nations. She said she was pleased that others had recognized the situation.

That was an indirect reference to an agreement she and her political party, the Partido Liberación Nacional, has made with the Partido Acción Ciudadana, the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión and others to pass a revised tax package. She said she had renewed hope for a dialogue with opposition parties.

The president's aides appear to have put together a coalition with 38 legislative votes, enough to pass a tax measure. The president's team appears to have backed off some taxes, including those on educational tuitions at private institutions and for private medical services, to win support. Instrumental in the agreement was Ottón Solís of Acción Ciudadana.

The actually proposal will not be known until a proposed law is filed with the legislature. However Acción Ciudadana supports heavy taxes on high earners.

Some observers say that the party is seeking a global tax so that Costa Ricans and residents here will pay taxes on income worldwide in much the same way U.S. citizens do now. That will not sit well with expats.

There are nearly 20 adjustments that Acción Ciudadana seeks in the original Chinchilla tax plan. The president proposed a 14 percent value added tax to replace the 13 percent sales tax. The proposal was described in general terms in the legislature Wednesday.

Juan Carlos Mendoza Garcia, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, also is a member of Acción Ciudadana, He is fond of saying that a tax plan should take from those who have for those who do not.

Ms. Chinchilla said basically the same thing in her speech when she insisted that Costa Rica needs resources for the state to be able to execute what she called its
Ms. Chinchilla speaks
Casa Presidencial photo
Ms. Chinchilla delivers her independence day talk before the Monumento Nacional that depicts filibuster William Walker being driven out by five women representing the Central American states.

redistributive function to insure the welfare and security of citizens in the future.  

Costa Rica's bicentennial is in 10 years. Wednesday night Ms. Chinchilla slammed past administrations for perpetrating what she said were little frauds on the public with fiscal manipulation. Of course, she has been a high member of some of these administrations. She was a justice minister, a security minster and a vice president under Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Thursday was a day for parades as well as speeches. Before her talk, Ms. Chinchilla watched the downtown San José parade made up mostly of schoolchildren. There were similar parades all over the country.

There were arrests in Alajuela, Heredia, Hatillo, Alajuelita, Guadalupe and Desamparados. Most of the anti-social behavior was fueled by illegal drugs and alcohol.

The Fuerza Pública said it had detained 70 persons who were rowdy at independence day activities. Police said that the allegations ranged from carrying a weapon illegally to domestic violence to drug possession.

Officers confiscated 100 grams of marijuana, nine doses of cocaine and nine crack rocks.

Here's one woman's approach for making new friends
When I first came to Costa Rica, I brought a word processor with me.  Remember them?  I had used a Mac at work and loved it but couldn’t afford to bring one with me (I thought).  Within a month my processor had broken down.

But that was only one of the many mistakes I made when I first came to Costa Rica. It took me almost three years to find an apartment I loved, then an earthquake took its toll on the building, and I had to move.  It took half a year to make friends.

Recently I met someone who seems to have done everything right.  Carol arrived in Costa Rica less than a year ago.  Like me, she is a woman alone.  Unlike me, she brought her cats and her car with her.

Her first apartment, she discovered, was too small for her and her cats, but she quickly found an incredibly reasonable one with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry – and a pool.  (By now I have bought two refrigerators and won one in a raffle; no pools anywhere I have lived.)  But what she did that amazes me is she joined just about every club operating in the Central Valley – and there are many.  She began with the Women’s Club (always a great choice if you are a woman alone here). Within that club are many “sub clubs” like the Newcomers and the Out to Lunch and the Book Club. Other social groups like the Computer Club and the Wine Club include men.  There are also clubs for Democrats and Republicans living abroad, and The Little Theatre Group, to mention a few more.   In my first six months here I had joined two clubs and knew perhaps 115 people by name and face.

After living here for five months, Carol held an open house for her new friends.  She hired a bartender, a car parking guard and an extra maid.  They were necessary because there were 120 people on her invitation list.  Two-thirds were able to accept. (People come and go, often using Costa Rica as a jumping off place to visit other countries.)  I wish I had done as Carol did — except for the cats and the car.  I continue to not want to own anything, and Garland Baker’s recent column on the problems with property confirms my decision.  Although a car, or maybe even a Segway looks pretty good to me now.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Carol also knows how to share some interesting wisdom.  She mentioned a friend of hers in the U.S., a woman in her early 80’s, who was overweight and short of breath.

She tried to do as her doctor told her – walk – but said that her back ached when she did.  He suggested that she go to a supermarket and push one of their carts up and down the aisles.

She chose Home Depot or Costco, I believe, and learned where every item in the store was. Her backache went away and she lost eleven pounds in the first few months.

I think that is a great suggestion.  A full cart is probably even better. My back doesn’t ache, and I don’t want to lose weight, but I need the exercise. I prefer supermarkets and would not mind learning about every item they have.

I also recently became acquainted with another woman, thanks to the taping of her conversation nearly 28 years ago.  I knew very little about Jacqueline Kennedy when she was in the White House because I was living abroad when Kennedy was elected.  I learned that behind her wispy, little girl voice was a well-read bookworm and researcher who loved the classics and history.

One of her quotes has stayed with me.  I heard Diane Sawyer say it and am not sure if it is original with Mrs. Kennedy or she was quoting someone, but she said, “It is not their military that makes a country great, it is their culture.”

Thinking back through the history I have read and the countries that have been great, I think that is true. What is also true is that women have had a lot more to do with culture than they have with the military.  At least until recently.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 184

U.S. has managed to reduce sea turtle deaths by 90 percent
By the Duke University news service
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The number of sea turtles accidentally caught and killed in fishing gear in United States coastal waters has declined by an estimated 90 percent since 1990, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University Project GloBAL and Conservation International.

The study has relevance for Costa Rica where shrimp harvested here is banned from the United States because fishermen kill too many turtles.

The Duke report, published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, credits the dramatic drop to measures that have been put into place over the last 20 years to reduce unintended catches or bycatch in many fisheries, as well as to overall declines in U.S. fishing activity.

The study's authors estimate that 4,600 sea turtles die each year in U.S. coastal waters. Before measures to reduce unintended catches were put in place, total sea turtle takes surpassed 300,000 annually.  Of these, 70,000 turtles were killed.

The study used data collected from 1990 to 2007 by the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine rates across more than 20 fisheries operating in Atlantic waters from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, and in the Pacific Ocean, along the West coast and around Hawaii.

It found that overall unintended turtle catch rates, including both fatal and nonfatal run-ins, have fallen about 60 percent since 1990.

Shrimp trawls in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. accounted for up to 98 percent of all unintended catches and deaths during the study period.

All six marine turtle species that occur in U.S. waters are categorized as threatened or endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species List. They are loggerheads, leatherbacks, hawksbills, olive ridleys, Kemp's ridleys and green sea turtles.

Unintended catches are an acute threat to sea turtle populations worldwide.  High rates can be indicative of unsustainable fishing practices that negatively impact the health of marine ecosystems.

"The reduction of bycatch and mortality shows important progress by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which serves as a model for reducing sea turtle bycatch in other parts of the world," says Elena Finkbeiner, a Ph.D. student at Duke and lead author of the paper. "Our findings show that there are effective tools available for policymakers and fishing industries to reduce sea turtle bycatch, as long as they are implemented properly and consistently."

Among the mitigation strategies that have helped reduce bycatch are the use of circle hooks and dehooking equipment in longline fisheries, to reduce the severity of turtle injuries; the use of turtle excluder devices in shrimp trawl nets to allow captured sea turtles to escape and the implementation of time-area closures to restrict fishing activities at times and places turtles are most likely to be present in the highest numbers.
sea turtle
Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons
A healthy adult loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).

Piecemeal regulation remains a problem, the study notes.  Sea turtles are currently managed on a fishery-by-fishery
basis, which means that bycatch limits are set for each fishery without accounting for the overall population impacts of all the takes added together. This fragmented approach leads to total allowed takes that exceed what sea turtle populations can sustain.

"Bycatch limits must be set unilaterally across all U.S. fisheries with overall impacts to populations in mind, much as it's done for marine mammals," says co-author Bryan Wallace, director of science for Conservation International's Marine Flagship Species Program and adjunct faculty member at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The researchers note that actual bycatch rates are likely higher than what the study reports because in many fisheries, particularly the shrimp trawl fishery, the number of on-board observers who document bycatch on fishing vessels is low relative to the sheer volume of fishing that is occurring.

Costa Rica once again is under a U.S. embargo because Washington does not think the country does enough to protect sea turtles, according to the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, an environmental organization. The Costa Rica shrimp trawling fleet catches and drowns 15,000 sea turtles a year, the organization estimated in July.

Costa Rican shrimp has faced four embargoes since 1999, the organization noted. The latest is 2 years old and has just been extended.

“The national shrimp trawl fleet has shown that they have no interest whatsoever in marine conservation nor sustainable fisheries,” said Randall Arauz, president of the organization known for short as Pretoma.  “They don’t only kill turtles, they also target snappers and groupers, threatening sustainable artisanal fisheries,” he added in comments printed in July.

Much of the problem is the reluctance of local shrimp trawling captains to use turtle excluders. The United States extended the prohibition on Costa Rican shrimp last May.

Pretoma noted then that Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panamá, and Suriname have been certified and can ship shrimp into the United States.

World tourism leaders meet in Spain to consider ethical conduct
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

United Nations officials Thursday stressed that the tourism industry must ensure it does business in an ethical manner, saying that irresponsible travel could harm societies and the environment despite its benefits to the global economy through job creation and community empowerment.

“A tourism sector without an ethical conscience can harm our planet,” said Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the U.N. World Tourism Organization, at the opening in Madrid, Spain, of the first International Congress on Ethics and Tourism.

“We need to place ethics, responsibility and sustainability at the core of all our actions and ensure the adoption of and adherence to the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism,” said Rifai.

In his keynote address to the two-day congress, the U.N. high representative for the alliance of civilizations, Jorge Sampaio, called for shared responsibilities in tourism.

“Sustainability requires a common vision of basic values in our increasingly interdependent world,” said Sampaio. “Because it involves the movement of millions of people, tourism can play a pivotal role in creating a shared sense of responsibility.”

Rifai highlighted the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, which will be ‘Tourism – Linking Cultures,’ as a clear
example of the potential of tourism to contribute to the aims of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative launched in 2005 by Spain and Turkey under U.N. auspices to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide. The day is celebrated Sept. 27.

“With nearly one billion tourists crossing international borders, tourism is one of the best ways for people to experience, interact with and learn from new cultures. This cultural exchange spurs dialogue among nations and peoples, fostering mutual understanding, respect and ultimately, peace,” he noted.

At the congress, the U.S. tourism organization and the Alliance of Civilizations signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen relations and formalize the organization's support for the Alliance’s mandate to “improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions.”

Organized by the tourism organization and Spain’s General Secretariat of Tourism and Domestic Trade, the congress has brought together more than 450 tourism officials, business leaders, international organizations and experts in the field of ethics and tourism to debate how to guarantee responsible and sustainable tourism.

Issues to be discussed include gender equality, tourism’s role in poverty reduction, sustainable tourism practices in both the public and private sector, and codes of ethical conduct.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 184

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Haitians riot to protest
presence of U.N. Troops

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Haiti have clashed with hundreds of protesters demanding United Nations troops leave the country after peacekeepers allegedly sexually assaulted a young man.

Police in the capital city of Port-au-Prince fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators Wednesday, while some demonstrators threw rocks at police.

The protest was sparked after a video taken on a cell phone showed several Uruguayan peacekeepers taking part in what appeared to be a sexual assault on an 18-year-old man.  The video was widely seen on the Internet.

Uruguay's president has apologized to Haiti, saying Uruguayans were humiliated by the "criminal and embarrassing" behavior of a few of their soldiers.  The government has also dismissed a naval officer and recalled five soldiers over the incident. A Uruguayan team is in Haiti investigating the incident.  When U.N. peacekeepers are accused of misconduct, it is up to their country of origin to investigate and discipline any offenders.

The U.N. said Wednesday it had also sent a senior team to the Caribbean nation to enforce the organization's zero tolerance policy for misconduct.  The team will meet with the leaders of Haiti's U.N. mission as well as with Haitian authorities in an effort to show how seriously they take the allegations of sexual abuse.

More than 12,000 U.N. troops and police officers serve in Haiti, as part of a force created in 2004 to help stabilize the impoverished and politically volatile country. The U.N. increased the size of the force by a third last year after a devastating earthquake killed more than 220,000 people.

South American countries contributing troops to the Haiti mission have agreed to ask the Security Council to reduce the number of troops deployed there. Officials now believe conditions have improved enough to withdraw some of the additional troops, providing Haiti's security is not comprised.

Haitian President Michel Martelly has condemned the apparent sexual assault.  However, despite Wednesday's protest, Martelly is not currently expected to ask that the entire force withdraw.

Couple who used Twitter
murdered for drug report

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Mexican couple have been killed in apparent reprisal for their exposure on social media of drug trafficking activities.

The bodies of a man and a woman aged between 25 and 28, showing signs of torture, were found hanging under a footbridge in Nuevo Laredo in the northern state of Tamaulipas on the border with Texas. With the bodies, whose identity was not immediately disclosed, there were placards signed with the letter Z, a reference to the Los Zetas drug cartel, and containing threats and warnings that the same thing could happen to anyone else using Twitter to expose drug trafficking. This is one of the social networks the drug traffickers also use to communicate their criminal activity.

The Inter American Press Association, the hemispheric press group, condemned the killings. Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, called on Mexican officials to “give as much priority to this case as to those of professional journalists who are murdered because of the work they do.” He is president of the association.

“It is necessary to defend every statement, opinion or expression, whether through traditional news media or the new technological media, and this defense should be a commitment that all of us – society at large and the press – have to make together,” he said. “We are all aware of the importance that social networks have for the dissemination of thought and, as in this case, for denunciations and transmission of information, for which reason they should be protected as genuine news media.”

Presumed Shining Path rebels
blamed in killing in Perú

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peruvian military officials say two troops have been killed in a helicopter attack by Shining Path rebels.

They say the soldiers were patrolling the Apurimac and Ene river valley when they came under fire Wednesday.

Authorities say Shining Path rebels have ties to the drug trade in the valley area.

The Maoist Shining Path rebels began their insurgency in 1980, eventually killing tens of thousands of people.  Violence declined sharply after the capture and conviction of its founder, Abimael Guzmán, in 1992, but the rebels continue to carry out smaller attacks.

Attacks have occurred primarily in remote areas used to produce coca, the raw material used in cocaine.

Telecom use soars in world
as prices fall, U.N. says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The use of information and communication technologies continues to accelerate worldwide, spurred by a steady decrease in the price of telephone and broadband Internet services, the United Nations telecommunication agency said Thursday.

New data in the U.N. Telecommunication Union’s  annual report, entitled “Measuring the Information Society 2011,” ranks the Republic of Korea as the world’s most advanced ICT economy, followed by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland.

The report includes the 2010 information and communication technology price basket index, which spans 165 economies and combines the average cost of fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband Internet services. It found that the price of such services dropped by 18 per cent globally between 2008 and 2010, with the biggest decrease in fixed broadband Internet services, where average prices came down by 52 per cent.

Also featured is the information and communication technology development index, which ranks 152 countries according to their level of access, use and skills, and compares 2008 and 2010 scores. Most countries at the top of that ranking are from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The United Arab Emirates and Russia are ranked first in their respective regions, while Uruguay leads in South America.

Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Vietnam and Russia were some of the most dynamic countries between 2008 and 2010, with all of them making substantial improvements in their index ranks.

All countries included in the index improved their scores, underlining the increasing pervasiveness of these technologies in today’s global information society, the report notes.

In developed countries, mobile cellular penetration has reached saturation, with average penetration over 100 per cent at the end of last year, compared with 70 per cent in developing countries.

Mobile broadband services are also spreading fast. Some 154 economies worldwide had launched 3G networks by the end of last year. Wireless broadband Internet access remains the strongest growth sector in developing countries, growing by 160 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to the report.

Conversely, the number of dial-up Internet subscriptions has been decreasing rapidly since 2007 and, based on current trends, the death of dial-up is expected to become a reality over the next few years, the report predicts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 184

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Hidden Garden art work
This is 'Sereno,' an acrylic work

Monteverde nature lover
opens art exhibit Saturday

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rican artist Marco Tulio Brenes opens his exhibit "Beginning of Life," Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Guanacaste.

The exhibit runs through Oct. 20, the opening Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Marco Tulio is a talented artist from the Monteverde area, and this exhibit combines both his paintings and sculptures, said the gallery.

Nature photographer and graphic designer Mauricio Maple said this about the artist:

"The most important thing for an artist is their connection with nature, environment, earth, roots and whole life. When he gets to have this balance, when in harmony with these elements so powerful and nutritious,when you can watch, listen, we investigate and use is when your hands are born seeds, trees, fields, bellies, colors, light. . . . This is called love of life, and that's Marco Tulio Brenes, a true master of organic art and a lover of nature."

The gallery is 5 kilometers west of Daniel Oduber airport on the highway to the Pacific Beaches.

Fitch rates Banco Nacional
as stable long-term issuer

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Fitch Ratings has assigned a BB+ long-term issuer default rating to Banco Nacional de Costa Rica. The rating outlook is stable, the company said. The firm also awarded a handful of other ratings, all in the BB+ and B range.

Banco Nacional has the broadest and most diversified depository base in the banking system, which represents a significant competitive advantage, Fitch said. In terms of assets, the bank offers universal banking services and keeps its loan portfolio relatively balanced between wholesale and retail exposures, it added. The bank complements its services with subsidiaries involved in non-credit business activities.

Banco Nacional has recently tempered its appetite for credit risk after its strong expansion in recent years and the effects of the global financial crisis resulted in a serious deterioration in loan quality, said Fitch. As of June, 90-days past due loans accounted for 3.56 percent of total loans, which compares unfavorably with the banking system's average of 2.37 percent, the rating firm added. Non-performing loans, which are concentrated in real estate exposures, seem to have reached their peak and should stabilize in the coming months, it added.

The bank's profitability, restricted by its heavy and rigid operating expense structure, has traditionally been modest, and profits were further weakened after 2009 because of increased loan loss provisions, Fitch said, adding that this expense will continue to put pressure on 2011 profits, which are expected to be lower than those of 2010. Having absorbed most of the losses for non-performing assets in 2011, Banco Nacional's net profits may bounce back in 2012.

Founded in 1914, Banco Nacional is one of Costa Rica's oldest banks and is the largest one in that country's financial system, Fitch noted. Historically, it has held a dominant position within the banking system, evidenced in its high market share in both loans (28.5 percent as of June) and deposits (30.6 percent). The bank carries out its operations through an extensive network of 171 branches and has a staff of 5,697 employees, the rating agency said.

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