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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 19, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 185
Jo Stuart
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Sala IV has the next word
Judicial fight freezes beach developments

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Construction of beach developments in Costa Rica has been frozen because the Sala VI constitutional court is considering a complex case that pits the central government against its own employees and environmentalists.

The issue involves the concessions that developers get to build within the maritime zone, which is public land and the first 200 meters from the average high tide line. Construction is not permitted in the first 50 meters, but long-lasting concessions are permitted in the rest.

The constitutional court is considering two actions that include a case filed by the union that represents workers in the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía. The workers union is suing because the ministry changed the rules so that developers now appear to have the right to cut down some of the trees in the maritime zone in order to build hotels and other projects.

President Abel Pacheco started this internal governmental civil war with his Executive Decree No. 31750-MINAE-TUR published May 14, 2004, in La Gaceta, the official public records newspaper, No. 96. Also involved in the document was the minister of Turismo, Rodrigo Castro, and the environmental minister, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez.

At stake is the definition of "ecotourism."  The workers union and many environmentalists do not agree with the definition expressed in a year-old decree. The decree modified the definition of "ecotourism," saying the word now means something that contributes to the welfare of residents nearby and encourages exploitation of the natural and cultural heritage.

An earlier definition of ecotourism put research first and tourism second. It said nothing about cutting down trees.

The 2004 decree permits developers to cut down trees for ecotourism development, some 15 percent of primary forest and 25 percent of secondary forest that happened to be in the maritime zone.

Around the same time as this decree was promulgated and on another front, the environmental minister requested the Procuraduría General de la República, the nation's lawyer, to clarify who regulates concessions in the maritime zone.  The answer, much to the surprise of everyone, was his ministry. This took the power away from the municipalities that have been granting the concessions.

Environmentalist immediately attacked and so did the municipalities.  Each party has a different reason.  The municipalities do not want to lose the power they have had.  The environmentalists do not want to see any more trees cut down in Costa Rica.  The country has been severely deforested in the past 50 years.

A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Signs for the future are confusing

Rodríguez admitted to pressure from Casa Presidencial in two interviews with the press to allow accelerated cutting of trees in the maritime zone.

Two cases were filed with the Sala IV on this issue.  One in May of 2004, shortly after the decree, was filed by FECON, the Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of Natural Resources.

The other was filed in June 2004 by the workers union of the environmental ministry, called the Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores del Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía y Afines de Conservación.

What happens now for all those developers waiting on a concession in the maritime zone?
That answer is in the hands of the constitutional court.  The two cases above have been joined together by the court and accumulated as No. 04-005607-0007-CO.

To be or not to be, to cut down trees or not to cut down trees in the maritime zone, that is the question.  There will be no definite answer anytime soon.  Even when there is, more fights will arise because the issue is at the heart of very opposing viewpoints of Costa Rica’s future development and the meaning of progress.

In brief, this means a long time may pass before another maritime concession is approved in Costa Rica.
Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2005, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 185

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Book sale to benefit
Louisiana school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Democrats Abroad will be running a book sale Saturday to benefit an elementary school in Slidel, La., that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Organizers said they have accumulated more than 2,000 books that will be offered for sale at Plaza Colonial in Rafael de Escazú. Also on sale will be CDs, DVDs and videos.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a price of 500 colons for English-language fiction and non-fiction: literature, mysteries, romance, science fiction, biographies, politics, self-help, health and others, the group said.

More information is available at 249-0719 or 494-6260. David Sagel, president of Democrats Abroad, said a similar sale will be set up in Jacó at a date to be determined.

President of Taiwan
goes on tour Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan will leave Tuesday on a 12-day tour of Central America and the Caribbean.

Costa Rica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nicaragua and Guatemala are among the nations on his itinerary. The Taipei Times quoted a government spokesman as saying the trip is aimed at strengthening friendship between Taiwan and its allies.

Taipei's participation in diplomatic affairs has been a controversial issue since 1949, when Taiwan and China split at the end of a civil war. China continues to claim sovereignty over Taiwan.

Only 26 countries, including Costa Rica and other mostly small nations in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, recognize Taiwan's government.

The United States recognizes the People's Republic of China as China's sole legal government, and acknowledges Beijing's position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of it.

Nevertheless, Chen is expected to receive a medal from the U.S. Congress during a stopover in Miami. He also is scheduled to sign a free trade treaty with Guatemala and attend a meeting of Latin leaders in Managua, Nicaragua.

Costa Rica has been the recipient of foreign aid from Taiwan, including the Puente de Amistad over the Río Tempisque. The country also is bankrolling a highway project near San Carlos and the cost of design for a proposed convention center west of San José.

The foreign aid has become controversial when reporters learned that employees in the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, the foreign ministry, were receiving extra pay from a foundation supported by Taiwan but under the control of officials here. El Diario Extra reported Friday that some of the payments included checks for amounts ranging from 1,2 million colons to 600,000 colons to magistrates of the Sala IV constitutional court. That's about $2,475 to $1,235.

President Abel Pacheco also is being investigated because of a substantial campaign donation that came from a private company in Taiwan that has strong links to the government there.

Woman dies in prison
during conjugal visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wife visiting her imprisoned husband died at his hands Sunday inside prison walls.

The woman, identified as María Guadalupe Córdova Nuñez, 49, died of strangulation after prison guards left the pair alone in what was described as a conjugal visit.

Being held for investigation after suffering superficial wounds was the husband, José Ortiz González, 41, officials said. Guards discovered the death around midday.

Ortiz was in prison doing a 40-year sentence for murder. Informal reports said he claimed to have killed the woman in self defense. He was being questioned Sunday by agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization in Pococí, where the prison is located.  He had been treated for cuts.

He was to be transferred to another prison, officials said.

Two U.S. tourists robbed,
but suspects caught

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men held up two female U.S. tourists Friday morning in north San José, but police managed to capture two suspects quickly.

The robbery took place on Avenida 7 at Calle 10, about two blocks north of the Mercado Borbon. One of the robbers pulled a gun on the tourists who were on foot, police said. The robbers opened the backpacks carried by the tourists and took a camera valued at $250 and some 7,000 colons in cash, about $14.50.

The tourists were identified by the last names of Briffa and Rogers.

The robbery took place in view of two officers, Gradimir Paniagua and Jorge Avendaño, who were a block away, said officials. The officers saw the two men flee, but the fleeing pair only got a block away when police grabbed them.

Officers said the pair dumped a camera and a 9-mm. pistol as they were captured.

The suspects were identified as two Colombians with the last names of  Lerman and Resport. Police said that there have been a string of such robberies in the same area.

Sweep in Puntarenas nets
firearms and suspect vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers staged sweeps through four sections of Puntarenas Saturday night and Sunday morning, checking out 431 vehicles and more than 100 persons.

The sweeps took place in Fray Casiano, Barrio 20 de Noviembre, El Roble and Mata Limón, all areas known to be high in crime, said police.

Officers confiscated seven firearms and 16 vehicles that appeared to have altered numbers or paperwork. Three persons were arrested on outstanding warrants.

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What to say when you want them to put the food on
¡Ya llegue!

“I’ve arrived!” Today’s dicho is one of the most popular among Costa Ricans, excepting, of course, ¡Pura vida!  In a recent poll conducted by Unimer via telephone and published in La Nación, the leading Costa Rican print newspaper, one of the questions was: What is the first thing you do when you get home?

Some 15 percent of Costa Ricans said they greet their parents, spouses, the whole family with ¡Ya llegue! Followed closely by busco comida, looking for food.

This whole phenomenon strikes me as rather odd. I believe the first thing I say is “Hello!” or “Hi!” Then I always deposit my car keys in the same place, since if I don’t I will be sure to lose them. I also leave my cell phone with my keys. That way even when I do forget where the keys are I can call myself and follow the sound of my ringing cell phone to where my keys are.

The next thing Costa Ricans say they do is to turn on the TV. I’m becoming less and less a typical Tico by the moment because among the next things I’m likely to do is check my e-mail, do some telephoning, or get onto the ol’ treadmill for a little exercise.

Many Costa Ricans also say they change their clothes. This is behavior I see in many of my nephews, while my nieces tend to start helping their mothers.

¡Ya llegue! Is a way of saying; “I’m here. Don’t worry about me any more,” or “I’m here. So, feed me.” It is sometimes also a kind of signal to a Costa Rican mama to start preparing the food so her son or daughter can eat and get ready to go either to their second job or to their classes at the university.

Most of my nephews and some of my nieces work while going to school.  A few even hold down two jobs and still find the time to attend classes.

One of my young nephews, in his mid 20s, works at the Hospital San Juan de Dios, gets home after a 10-hour workday, changes his clothes and runs to get the bus to the university where he is studying so he can advance to a better-paying position at the hospital. He has a girlfriend, and I’m amazed that somehow he manages to find the time for a social life.

Another nephew has a management position at Banco de Costa Rica. But he is also studying because he wants to advance to the investments department of the bank and manage stock portfolios. My sister does all his laundry, which means, of course, ironing his shirts. Additionally, she prepares his meals, still buys most of his clothes for him, and is his general factotum.

My question to my sister always is: When is that boy going to get married? (“boy?” Ha! He’s 30 years old!)
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

 But, maybe he never will because nowadays where’s he going to find a modern girl who will take over all the duties that his mother performs for him? Iron his own shirts? Are you kidding1? He wouldn’t even know where to start.
My nephew the banker broke his leg playing soccer for the Banco de Costa Rica’s company team. So he was laid up at home for a couple of weeks. Since he couldn’t play he offered to wash all the uniforms for the team.

I was at their house when 22 filthy, stinky soccer uniforms were delivered. “Oh, no.” says my sister to her son at last. “You offered to wash those uniforms, not I. I may be your mother, but I’m not the mother of your entire soccer team!”

My sister patiently explained to him how to put the clothes in the washing machine, add the soap, and even how to turn the machine on.

Then he and I sat down for coffee and a chat about my investment portfolio at that bank. Suddenly, the machine went into the first spin cycle. My nephew jumped up, and, hobbling wildly about on his one good leg began yelling: “Mommy, mommy. Come quick! The machine has gone crazy!”

My sister came into the room, gently calmed him down and explained that the washer was only emptying the dirty wash water out and squeezing it from the washed clothes.

The next shock to my nephew came when the washing was done and he learned that, even though it was raining outside, there was another miraculous device in the house that would actually dry the uniforms (what a concept!).

When all the uniforms were finally washed, dried, and he’d neatly folded them, my nephew gave his mother a big hug and a grateful kiss. But, I have a feeling that he may have gained a little understanding that day concerning all the work his mom does for him, and the phrase ¡Ya llegue! will not be tumbling quite so easily off his lips in the future.

Pacheco spends weekend with some heavy reading
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco faced some heavy reading this week. The report by his ad hoc panel of five advisers  on the free trade treaty came into his hands Friday.

The 66-page document was not made public, although members of the panel said they did not make a recommendation for or against the free trade treaty with the United States. The panel is headed by Franklin Chang Díaz, the U.S. astronaut who was born in Costa Rica.

Pacheco promised to read the document over the weekend and make it public Tuesday, probably at the regular Tuesday press conference that followed the weekly Consejo de Gobierno or cabinet meeting.

Pacheco still has to decide if he will send the document to the Asamblea Legislativa for discussion and a vote. Neither Pacheco nor the legislature can change the document. It must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

Commercial interests support the trade treaty and
want the president to forward the document to the legislature.  Pacheco has insisted that he would not do so until the legislature passes the $500 million tax package known as fiscal reform. With or without the trade treaty lawmakers are taking their time with the tax proposal. The full assembly is sifting through more than 1,500 amendments, most of them put forth by the Movimiento Libertario which opposes the plan.

Most lawmakers favor the plan because it would generate a flood of new money for their special projects, including a $30 million office tower for the legislature.

Pacheco and others said the tax plan will allow Costa Rica to pay down its outstanding debt. However, there is no guarantee that officials will do that.

The key elements are a value added tax instead of the existing sales tax and global taxation, that is taxation of income residents here earn elsewhere.

Óscar Arias Sánchez, the former president who is leading the polls for re-election in February also strongly favors the tax plan.

Latin America and Caribbean
More help urged before disasters take place
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

More attention needs to be paid to longer-term disaster-preparedness training and risk-reduction efforts, as opposed to the equally important but more publicized relief efforts that follow a natural disaster, says Robert Thayer of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Speaking at a conference at the Organization of American States on dealing with natural disasters, Thayer said his agency has contributed, along with many others, to disaster preparedness in Latin America and the Caribbean primarily through the USAID Risk Management Training Program.

Thayer's agency said the program is particularly needed in Latin America and the Caribbean because the countries in the region are vulnerable to a wide range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, tsunamis, landslides, volcanoes and drought.  Some countries also are said to be at risk for complex emergency disasters involving civil unrest, often resulting from political or economic instability.

Thayer, regional coordinator for Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in the agency's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, said that since 1989, his agency has trained more than 34,000 individuals and certified
more than 2,100 instructors in 26 countries.  The focus of this program, he said, has been disaster management, training methodologies, technical assistance, and courses including "collapsed structure" search and rescue, damage and needs assessment, shelter management and incident command systems.

Thayer said efforts have evolved greatly since 1989.  The original emphasis, he said, was on "direct training" but then shifted to "training of trainers," resulting in large cadres of trainers in many countries.

The agency strategy, he added, now is moving beyond the training of trainers, focusing more on technical assistance.

Thayer said the international community plays an important role in assisting a nation's relief efforts following a natural disaster. But he emphasized that it is the national governments, not foreign governments or international organizations, that have "the local resources, the motivation, the knowledge of local conditions, and of course, the mandate to respond quickly and effectively."

He added: "It is local and national capacities that need to be promoted.  We can help provide relief after a major disaster, but the critical need is for these local and national capacities to be promoted in advance of disasters, and this is a long-term process."

Chávez says U.S. has plans to invade his country
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Hugo Chávez said Friday that he has documentation of a U.S. military plan called "Balboa" involving planes and aircraft carriers detailing a U.S. invasion of his country Venezuela.

Chávez spoke in a Nightline, ABC News television interview.

He was quoted as saying that if the United States attempts to invade his country, "it would be embarking on a 100-year war." The United States has had tense relations with the Chávez government. Chávez has repeatedly accused Washington of trying to topple his government, an accusation the United States denies.

Chávez has been attending the United Nations General Assembly summit in New York.  Thursday he lashed out at the United States, characterizing the country as a "terrorist state."

In a speech before the United Nations World Summit he said that the world body should move out of New York because of the war in Iraq.

Chávez told the leaders gathered for the summit
Thursday that there were never weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but that the United States still bombed the country. He accused the United States of failing to respect the resolutions of the United Nations, and later characterized the United States as a "terrorist state" during a press conference.

Also Thursday the United States cited Venezuela for having "failed demonstrably to make sufficient" efforts in fighting illicit drug trafficking and drug production during the past 12 months, but said that because of "vital U.S. interests" it will continue to provide aid for certain programs in Venezuela.

President George Bush sent to Congress a list of 20 countries considered major drug-transit or major illicit drug-producing countries, singling out Venezuela and Burma for their failure to make progress in meeting their international counternarcotics obligations, according to Nancy Powell, acting assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

The programs that will continue to be supported are those that aid Venezuela's democratic institutions, establish selected community-development projects, and strengthen Venezuela's political party system, said Ms. Powell.

Weather study suggets link between higher temperatures and bad storms
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Researchers in a new study are suggesting a link between rising global temperatures and an increase in powerful storms.

The study in the journal Science says researchers have found a sharp increase in the number of so-called Category Four and Category Five tropical cyclones since 1970. It says the storms, which are fueled by warm temperatures, increased in number by 57 percent over the period.
Meteorologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said there is a "strong suggestion" of a link between the changing climate and intensifying tropical cyclones. But he says the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina cannot be blamed yet on global warming, adding that the affected region was densely populated along a vulnerable coast.

Climate specialists in the article say more studies are needed over the next decades to draw firmer conclusions.

Our readers give their views
Seeking uncivilized options to keep country civilized
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What is a sensible punishment for a crime? Recently an Alabama judge sentenced a 27-year-old man to life imprisonment for his crimes. What were the crimes that warranted such a harsh sentence? Break-ins, burglaries and general theft. In the judge’s mind, it was not the heinousness of the crimes such as murder, rape or child sex abuse, but the incorrigibility of the criminal. Beginning as a teenager, the young thief accumulated 20 convictions, got suspended sentences and served some time and showed no signs of mending his ways. Was the judge’s punishment a sensible one? Considering other options afforded by the system, the judge must have thought so. But was it really?

If the man serves out his life in jail, actuary charts say he’ll be there for at least 45 years, meaning his “removal” from society will cost the society over $3 million. Does it make sense to spend that much money on a sociopath?  Is there not a better way to deal with a twisted mind than to spend all that taxpayers’ money, regardless how wealthy the society? In an affluent “civilized” society, where physical and capital punishment are viewed as barbaric, there doesn’t seem to be. However, being viewed that way does not make it sensible. So what is a sensible punishment?

But before trying to answer that question, let’s complicate things more by asking it of Costa Rica, a country that considers itself “civilized” but hardly in the affluent category, if an alarmingly increasing segment of the population is becoming poor and collapsing medical, educational, judicial and highway systems are any indication.

When convicted criminals, after a less than expeditious judicial process, can no longer be shoehorned into the existing Costa Rican prison facilities, and with no new facilities on the horizon, the “criminal justice system” opts for turning the lesser criminals back into society or not even bring them to trial in the first place.  The removal-from-society solution for petty thieves is scrapped simply because the country can’t afford it.

So what is the solution for less than affluent countries? What do other countries do in a similar situation?  Some get a bigger shoehorn and make their
 prisons examples of unimaginable inhumanity. Others have “clean-up squads” where the criminal is extra-judicially “done away with”. Certain Middle East countries apply the Islamic solution: surgical removal of the little finger, and, if that fails to get the message across, the whole hand is next. Floggings are not unheard of in some Asia countries.

In view of what appears to be a dismal failing of “civilized” methods to keep the country from falling into a state of barbarism — reading the morning papers, watching the local evening news, observing the amount of razor wire enshrouding the buildings and a widespread neurosis about feeling secure suggest the country may have already reached that point — I think it is time for Costa Rica to consider adopting some “uncivilized” measures to try to regain the country’s civilized status. Since Costa Rica can’t throw money at the problem as the U.S. or Europe appear to be able to do, something else is called for.

If the idea of public flogging, being placed in the stock for a few days, reducing the number of digital extremities or the marking of repeat offenders doesn’t appeal to you, the government’s and the society’s suggestion box welcomes your thoughts. When submitting your suggestion(s), please don’t get into a convoluted theoretical essay on why the criminal is a victim of the society or a dysfunctional home, which may be true; keep focused on the immediate and worsening problem: finding a practical way to keep decent, honest, hardworking people from being victims of these criminals. Once that is achieved, then the deep rooted causes of criminal behavior can be addressed.

Back to the question of what is a sensible punishment? One thing that it is not is locking someone up and throwing away the key. I don’t care how wealthy the country is. Others things it is not are no punishment at all or disproportional punishment like stoning for adultery. Admittedly, it’s a tough question, so perhaps the best way to approach it is by asking a larger question: Is the system sensible? In Alabama’s case, it could use a lot of adjustments. Is the Costa Rican system sensible? Do something that works is what comes to mind, because now it doesn’t.

Walter Fila  
Ciudad Colón       

Country better now
than 20 years ago

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Sorry, I cannot restrain myself from writing about this ongoing aduana discussion. I have lived in Costa Rica for nearly 20 years and have had some dealing with the government agencies: the aduana, the Registro, immigración and the court system. Slowly but surely, I have learned to restrain (to a degree) my American thinking.

Some find it hard to believe it is better now than 20 years ago. The opening of the private mail service, i.e. Aeocasillas, Interlink, Jet Box and etc., has helped us residents a lot because before you had to go to the Correo headquarters in Zapote to pick up a mail package and it was a 2-day process. One day to identify the package, the next day to pick up and pay the tax and timbres.

The private mail service do all the dealing with the aduana. However, you must be a customer of theirs to get their service. I  have not used them, but I understand the Correo (post  office) has become more package friendly. Also the new aduana warehouse is much better than the old one nearer the terminal. As for the (gavilánes) hawks, I use them at all the agencies. I accept them as part of doing business. You can bargain with them if you think they are charging too much, but always establish a price. This may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it depends on what you think your time is worth.

As far as merchandise in your luggage, I can give one small piece of advice. You are going to be stopped and checked if you are carrying a (muerto) dufflebag. The aduana employees are instructed to check all dufflebags. It may not make you feel any better, but they hassle the Costa Ricans more than foreigners. Not sure how active it is at present, but for many years Ticas have been going to the U.S. to buy mainly clothing and shoes to sell on the street. Since one can get a lot of this clothing and etc in a dufflebag they are always checked.

Another small piece of advice, you must not think of Costa Rica as Miami South. Costa Rica doesn’t tell the U.S. how to run the country and the U.S. cannot tell Costa Rica how to run theirs. I was a private guide for some years and found it hard to convince customers they could not bring their travel trailer every year for a few months.

Go with the flow, if you can not live without instant gratification, try somewhere else.

Bobby Ruffín
Offshore oil platforms
proved their stability

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I belive the oil platforms just proved how safe they are.

I guess all have heard that shortly it will be posted in La Gaceta an increase of 10 percent in gas price for car and home use. That about an average of 38 colones a liter. Not much news for those driving a gas-guzzling Land Rover but for the poor that do not have a car the price of gas is meaningless until it affects the delivery cost of rice, beans and masa.

We saw complete devastation in hurricane Katrina. Homes gone beach front lost and one two many lives. What we also saw was one oil platform that broke loose in port and an oil platform with a container loose. There was not one mention of a single drop of oil caused by an oil platform failure during this tremendous storm.

So enviromentalists where do you now stand to argue against exploration of the oil off the Costa Rican coast. The platforms have just proven themselves to be very safeworthy. Why should you get your agenda in the way of Costa Rica’s abillity to become more self sufficient. Why should you cause the poor of this country to suffer more as the cost of living increases. So why not back off.

Rich Vienneau
Playa Potrero

Complaints about hospital
in San Vito de Coto Brus

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

According to “Enfoque Sur,” a monthly newspaper centered in Coto Brus, there have been completely avoidable deaths and disabilities and other problems due to irregualrities in the medical attention given at the Social Security Hospital San Vito in San Vito, and there are ongoing protests and calls for the replacement of the hospital’s current medical director.

Many of the problems that have caused death or near death have to do with intestinal parasites.  I have been told by a doctor at the hospital that the government knows that the water outside of San Vito centro is contaminated, that the aquaducts are in very poor condition, and that there has been no notification to the people of these areas that there water is not potable.

The government suggests that everyone boil their drinking water and then add five drops of chlorine to the water and wait an unknown amount of time before drinking it or avoid drinking the water altogether.

If the doctors at the hospital know that there is an endemic problem with intestinal parasites and disease-causing bacteria in the water and yet dismiss all complaints about stomach pain when patients come in for help, they are obviously failing to do their duty and should not be allowed to practice medicine in Costa Rica.

Getting an appointment for a gastroscopy takes more than a year.  This is so even if there is evidence of a bleeding ulcer or other internal bleeding.  There are no routine screenings of stool samples and blood samples for parasites, occult blood, or the various disease causing bacteria associated with polluted water.  This situation is intolerable.  People are dying needlessly!  One recent death was of a teenage girl!  Babies are dying!

There are three related important stories here.  1.  The failure of AyA to maintain the infrastructura to supply potable water to the people of Costa Rica   2.  The failure of the government to test the water properly to maintain standards and to advise citizens of the dangers they face in order to avoid epidemics, deaths, and unnecessary hospitalizations and disabilities and 3. The failure of the medical personnel at the Hospital San Vito to properly diagnose and treat their patients.

I might also mention that on a recent trip for a blood test and urinalysis (upon which I had to insist much against the doctor’s wishes), the laboratory informed me I couldn’t have a urinalysis because they didn’t have containers for the urine.

I found a grocery store across the street from the hospital that had a large number of empty and washed baby food jars on sale for this purpose.  They charged 100 colons each for the recycled jars.  I was then able to get the urinalysis done.  But I found out in yesterday’s consult for the results of the tests, that standard tests for hepatic function and renal function were not done because the hospital did not have a supply of reagent with which to perform these routine analyses.  This is providing good health care????

The hospital does not have a radiologist or an orthopedist.  When I broke my hand, a nurse with a couple of day’s training in the use of the X-ray machine, took the X-rays.  Another “orthopedic” nurse pulled the fingers out straight then wrapped them around a ball of gauze and taped them into place and that was the “setting” of the broken fingers.  They did not heal correctly, needless to say, and I cannot to this day close my right hand completely or even cross my fingers for good luck!

In the five years I have been a member of the Caja system, I have been given one Pap smear and no mammogram at all. There is a little card I’m supposed to show to the doctors whenever I’m seen to make sure my tetanus shots are up to date. They do not want to see the card nor even touch it.  I received the card once when there was some kind of a push for tetanus vaccinations, and it has not been looked at since.  This despite my having been bitten by dogs, a coatimundi, and another unidentified wild animal and having to be treated in the ER each time for these rather serious deep puncture wounds.

So, I think you have three stories to follow up on with some investigative reporting.

Mary Thorman
Linda Vista de San Vito, Coto Brus

Jo Stuart
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