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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 187       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Canton of Puntarenas celebrating its 150th birthday
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
From the laid back cafes in Montezuma to the crowded beaches near the central city, Puntarenas is a canton close to the hearts of Costa Ricans and foreigners alike.

Although today Puntarenas is known more for its modern tourist attractions and cruise ships, the canton has a deep history and culture.

This month Puntarenas is celebrating 150 years as a canton and will have activities all month. Today President Oscar Arias Sánchez will visit the city of Puntarenas and inaugurate the Nuevo Centro de Atención Integral de Islita and officiate at a consejo de gobierno or cabinet meeting.

Wednesday the city of Puntarenas held a parade, welcomed the national philharmonic orchestra, which made it's first performance outside of San José, and even had a giant birthday cake that was 2.5 meters long, said Sandra Cordero, a spokeswoman for the national tourism institute.

Representatives from the Asamblea Legislativa also celebrated the event Wednesday although most stayed in San José.  The organizer of the celebration, legislator Xinia Nicolas, said she was proud of the cultural, economic and social contributions of the province.
Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, said Puntarenas is close to the hearts of Costa Rica. “It forms a part of our lives, our biography and the history of our country,” said Pacheco, according to a release.

The cantón central de Puntarenas takes up about 3.6 percent of the country's area and includes the districts of Puntarenas, Pitahaya, Chomes,  Manzanillo, Guacimal, Barranca, Monte Verde, Chacarita, Chira, Acapulco, El Roble, Arancibia on the mainland, Lepanto, Paquera, Cóbano on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, and even the distant Isla del Coco.

Puntarenas became a city on Sept. 17, 1858. The decision was issued by then-president Juan Rafael Mora Porras, due to an increase in population, commercial development and port services and in order to submit a spontaneous campaign against filibusters from the southern United States, according to the Universidad de Costa Rica. Puntarenas was a key city in the trip north into Guanacaste via the Río Tempisque, thus an important part of the campaign.

Puntarenas became well frequented as it was a port city and later was connected to San José by the Caldera train.

Cultural events will be held in the canton until the end of the month.

Area gets $20 million present of new sewer system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puntarenas is getting a $20 million birthday present from the central government and the government of Spain. Three other communities also will get water systems as part of the same group of projects.
The announcement came Thursday from the head of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantrillados, the national water and sewer company.

The official, Ricardo Sancho Chavarría, said that the total amount from the Spanish government was $35 million and that the financing was the result of negotiations by President Óscar Arias Sánchez during his recent European trip.

In addition to the central canton of Puntarenas, the southern Limón region around Sixaola, communities in Golfito and towns around Boca de Arenal de San Carlos also would see projects. Work is expected to start sometime next year in all four areas.

In Puntarenas, Sancho said the money will go to install sanitary sewers in 80 percent of the area between Puntarenas and el Cocal, to install sewers in some 80 percent of the area in the settlements of Juanito Mora, Manuel Mora and Gloria Bejarano and sections of Chacarita Norte and Sur, and to purchase the land for a sewage treatment plant and two small tracts for fire stations.
Sancho said the project would benefit about 110,000 persons.

In another project, Conte de Pavón in Golfito will get a new water system. This will benefit about 3,000 persons in Escuadra, Conte, Unión Sur, Camote, Pueblo Nuevo Barrido, Langostino, La Virgen, Jardín, Fortuna, Pilón and Gorrión, said Sancho. The design of this $5 million project will be ready by the end of the year, he said.

Residents have been having trouble with contaminated wells, according to the water company.

The third project is to provide clean water and storage for the San Carlos communities of Boca de Arenal, Pueblo Nuevo, Betania, Los Almendros, Santa Teresa, Bella Vista, San Pedro, Corazón de Jesús, San Marcos and Santa Teresa, said Sancho.

This, too, is a $5 million project for about 5,400 residents.

The project in Limón is near the border with Panamá and will benefit the communities of  Olivia, Margarita, Celia, Catarina and Sixaola, said Sancho. This is a $7 million job to solve the continual problems of water storage and quality in that area, he said. Sancho said that the local wells produce water high in iron and manganese and are not consistent during the dry season.

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Road widening project
planned in Puntarenas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry said Thursday it has allocated 56 million colons, about $102,000, for the design of a road widening project in central Puntarenas to improve access by tourists. The 9.3 km (5.7-mile) stretch will be widened to three and four-lanes, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said in a release.

The section is in an area justly called La Angostura between El Roble and El Cocal. The firm IMSA Ingenieros Consultores got the job and will have 120 days to present a design, said the ministry. The ministry also wants to have a bike path in some sections as well as pedestrian walkways, it said.

Murder draws 25 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Alajuela man got 25 years in prison Thursday for the murder of a school teacher in Pueblo Nuevo de Alajuela last November.

Prosecutors sought a sentence of 30 years for the man, Henry Cordero Dodero. The case was before the Tribunal de Juicio de Alajuela. Prosecutors say it was Nov. 22 when Cordero jumped the wall around the woman's home, broke in and stabbed her 12 times.

Comments sought on gas price

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said it is considering cutting the gasoline price by 14 colons a liter instead of the 3 colons dictated by its price-setting formula because the computations were skewed by the one-day sharp spike in petroleum prices caused by Hurricane Ike.
The price-setting agency asked for public comments by next Friday on the idea at FAX  2290-2010 or the e-mail

Our reader's opinion
McCain gets little credit
on stance for the 'surge'

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Sen. John McCain claims a huge victory from his stance against virtually everyone else that the surge, which failed in 2005, would work in 2007. On the surface, it would seem to have succeeded.

In reality, the facts are suspect. Indeed, violence against Americans and Iraqis has lessened considerably. We all applaud. But how was this splendid outcome achieved?

We now know that Sunni fighters in Anbar Province are being paid $300 a month by the U.S. Government. The “Sunni Awakening” began six months before President George Bush announced his desire for a surge. McCain falsely claimed that the surge led to the awakening and ridiculed Sen. Obama for not knowing the "facts." Sunnis became disillusioned with their allies, Al Qaeda, and switched sides, in part because of the influx of American arms and money. They drove Al Qaeda out of Anbar Province and reduced violence in the west. The carrot succeeded where the stick had failed.

What is less well known is that we are paying other former combatants to function on our behalf. According to Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty, a second large monetary carrot went to Shi’ite cleric Moktaka al-Sadr. He disengaged his Sadr army from the power struggle with al-Maliki and his government troops. When the government forces attacked his army in Sadr City, American forces had to bail out al-Maliki’s troops.  Al Sadr is responsible for reducing the violence in and around Baghdad. So far, he continues to choose payment over a bloody power struggle.

Many Al Qaeda fighters seem to have relocated to Afghanistan and Gaza. General Petraeus appears to a better commander than his predecessor. We hope that his successor will fare as well. American forces are fighting admirably and Iraqi government troops seem to be improved.

The proposed purpose of the surge was to create a safe haven for the government to establish equitable profit sharing among the Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds and to hold inclusive elections to create power sharing among the same groups. It hasn’t happened except for some tokenism. What has happened is that the government of Iraq has contributed 10 percent of the cost of defending and rebuilding the country, while American taxpayers continue to pay 90 percent. The General Accounting Office says that they have squirreled away $80 billion.

How much credit should go to John McCain? You be the judge. Little if any from my perspective. How misguided was Barak Obama to believe that an infusion of troops alone would not be more successful than it had been in 2005? Without the sub-rosa funding of the Sunnis and al-Sadr and the willingness of the Sunnis to wage war on Al Qaeda, would the violence have ebbed?

It appears now that al-Maliki and his buddies want us out so they can keep the billions of oil revenues for themselves. They undoubtedly hope that we will finish building Baghdad hotels for them to own before departing. Who among us really believes that after 4,000 plus American deaths and a trillion dollars spent that the Shi’ite government won’t use its American-trained and armed troops to ethnically cleanse the country of Sunnis and Kurds?

What has our misguided leadership done? How can any among us ever spin this saddest of all American foreign policy blunders into “victory?”
Lenny Karpman
Central Valley

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first letter involving the 2008 presidential elections. We are open to more.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 187

Observatory photo shows the drop in water level in the volcano's lake over seven years.
Irazú lake
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica photo

Scientists wonder where the Volcán Irazú lake water is going
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Volcano experts are wondering where is the water going from the lake in the crater of Volcán Irazú.

A study shows that the crater has undergone what scientists call drastic changes in form and volume in the last seven years, they said.

The report is from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

The best guess that researchers have is that the northwest wall of the crater has been weakened and the water from the lake is seeping through there.

A report on the volcano crater said that the wall in question suffered loss of material during an intense period of activity at the beginning of the 1960s. That is when the volcano blew its top and spread ash all over the Central Valley for more than a year. In 1994 another explosion is suspected of damaging the wall.
In addition, the report said, an area of gas vents has developed at the base of this wall and has caused some of the material to assume the consistency of workable clay.

This has caused a series of cracks in the wall that would allow for infiltration of the lake water, said the report.

Researches said they will continue to study the strength of the wall but that there is a strong possibility that the wall may collapse.

The subsequent avalanche will not be serious if the bulk of the lake water has drained, said the report.

The lake first formed in the crater after the 1960s activities from rain water. The lake became permanent by 1984, the researchers said, and there was little change in water level for years. Since 2001, however, the water level has dropped some 4.5 meters or nearly 15 feet.

The volcano shares subterranean roots with Volcán Turrialba north of the city with the same name and east of San José.

A change in strategy in the search for worldwide terrorists
There have been reports that the surge in Iraq is a success, although fragile and reversible are still adjectives attached to the word.  There have been discussions about Afghanistan that include the opinions that sending more troops is not the answer. Over the years there has been increase in terrorist attacks around the world (although not in the U.S.). I would like to suggest a new strategy for chasing terrorists.

Instead of continuing this costly current pursuit, why not declare the military war on terrorism over and begin an all out criminal crackdown on terrorists and go after them the way the police and FBI went after organized crime. Thus, instead of an army, we will use the agents, the services and knowhow of the police, the FBI, even the CIA, and open the door to cooperation with worldwide counterparts.

There are many pluses to this move. Immediately, terrorists become enemies of the people, not enemy soldiers or enemy combatants and, thus, can be treated like accused criminals when caught.  The difference in the cost both in lives and money is immense. Al Qada is losing support because of the innocent people it kills, but the U.S. is also losing support for the same reason (Our unintended collateral damage is not being forgiven.) 

Pakistanis are not happy about our troops entering their country but would probably cooperate with a different approach.  The mass destruction of the infrastructure in the countries by our planes and military in search of suicide bombers and terrorists would pretty much cease.  In short, let’s go after flies with a flyswatter instead of a cannon.  The price at every level would be less.

Some of the savings could be used to help prevent the radicalization of religious groups of all stripes.  Jobs, a decent living and education are what are needed, both in the United States and in the countries where we already have been.  Law enforcement already goes after homegrown terrorists – they can easily be prepared to extend that domain.

And now that I have that idea off my mind, on to life in Costa Rica where a lot is going on in the realm of arts and education.  Soon the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano – in the Teatro Eugene O’Neill in Los Yoses – will be showing the upcoming 2008-2009 season of the Metropolitan Opera House direct from New York City via satellite in high definition on a large screen TV. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

The centro will be introducing the season with a gala event broadcast from the Met on Monday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It is by invitation only, but you can e-mail Manuel Arce, cultural director, for an invitation, while they last.

This performance will be free and includes wine and bocas during the two intermissions. The gala will feature Renee Fleming and Act 2 of  "Traviatta,” Act 1 of “Manon” and the last scene of “Capriccio.”  If you were to attend this event in New York, you would be paying $228.

Oct. 2, at 8 p.m., and also at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill, the centro will be showing a movie entitled “My Left Breast.” This, as you may have guessed, is about breast cancer.  But I am told it is funny as well as informative.  It is also a fundraiser to buy prostheses for educational purposes.  Admission is 5,000 colons, less than $10.

And this Sunday there is another morning symphony by our great national orchestra.   Friend Helen called to see if I wanted a ticket not being used.  (People who buy season tickets are very nice about sharing them when they are away.)  The Sunday morning concert will feature Spanish music including Ravel’s “Spanish Rhapsody.”

And to top things off there is a new Japanese restaurant that has opened on the second floor balcony in Plaza Rohrmoser. 

The plaza is a good place in the neighborhood to go to find a restaurant since there is a large food court with dishes ranging from ceviche to pizza, plus a variety of restaurants.  The new Japanese restaurant is Sensu and is quite good and pretty reasonable.  Japanese cuisine is becoming very popular here.

In case you wondered at the juxtaposition of two such different topics – the war on terrorism has been bouncing around in my head and I had to get it off my mind.  All of the nice things happening where I live, I wanted to share.
So there you have it; isn’t that life?

Escazú Christian Fellowship

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 187

for Chile

Chile celebrates its independence in mid-September, too. So youngsters from the local  Escuela de Repúblic de Chile gathered at Parque Nacional to mark the day Thursday with Gonzalo Mendoza, Chile's ambassador to Costa Rica. Although citizens in Santiago derclared their freedom in 1810, years of war against Spanish troops followed.
Chilean celebration
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Palm oil plantation not good rainforest substitute, study says
Queen Mary, University of London, news service

The continued expansion of oil palm plantations will worsen the dual environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss unless rainforests are better protected, warn scientists in the most comprehensive review of the subject to date.

Lead author, Emily Fitzherbert from the Zoological Society of London and University of East Anglia said: “There has been much debate over the role of palm oil production in tropical deforestation and its impacts on biodiversity. We wanted to put the discussion on a firm scientific footing.”

Palm oil, used in food, cosmetics, biofuels and other products, is now the world’s leading vegetable oil. It is derived from the fruit of the oil palm, grown on more than 50,000-square miles of moist, tropical lowland areas, mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia. These areas, once covered in tropical rainforest, the globe’s richest wildlife habitat on land, are also home to some of the most threatened species on earth.

The central Pacific region of Costa Rica also hosts palm plantations.

The review, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, singles out deforestation associated with plantation development as by far the biggest ecological impact, but finds that the links between the two are often much more complex than portrayed in the popular press.

Co-author Matt Struebig, from Queen Mary, University of London, explained: “Most land-cover statistics do not allow us to distinguish where oil palm has actually driven forest clearance. Oil palm certainly has directly replaced tropical forest in some areas, but oil palm companies also often have close links with timber or paper pulp companies, giving additional motives for deforestation.”

Within countries, oil palm is usually grown in a few 
productive areas, but it looks set to spread further. Demand is increasing rapidly and its potential as a future agent of
deforestation is enormous, the study says.

Most of the suitable land left is within the last remaining large areas of tropical rainforest in Central Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Where oil palm has replaced tropical forest the impact on wildlife depends on what species survive in the new oil palm habitat.

The study confirmed that oil palm is a poor substitute habitat for the majority of tropical forest species, particularly those of conservation concern.

Ms. Fitzherbert continued: “By compiling scientific studies
of birds, bats, ants and other species, we were able to show that on average, fewer than one-sixth of the species recorded in primary forest were found in oil palm. Degraded forest, and even alternative crops such as rubber and cocoa, supported higher numbers of species than oil palm plantations.”

Even this estimate is likely to be optimistic, because forest habitats are more difficult to survey and some species inhabit plantations briefly before going extinct.

There is little potential to help wildlife within plantations, so ensuring that new plantations do not replace forest and protecting what is left of native forest in and around plantations are the only real options for protecting the majority of species, the researchers say.

International policies demanding evidence of environmental responsibility, in particular that land of high conservation value is not converted to oil palm, can help.

“There is enough non-forested land suitable for plantation development to allow large increases in production without further deforestation,” said co-author Ben Phalan, from the University of Cambridge.

“Unless governments in producer countries show stronger leadership in controlling logging, protecting forests and ensuring that crops are planted only in appropriate areas, the impacts of oil palm expansion on biodiversity will be substantial,” adds Phalan.

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Russian bombers leave
Caracas after exercises

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russian bombers left Venezuela, one week after arriving in the South American country to conduct military exercises.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass reports that the two strategic bombers took off from Caracas in the early morning hours Thursday. While in the region, the bombers conducted air patrol flights over neutral waters in the Caribbean. Itar-Tass says the bombers will patrol neutral waters in the Atlantic and North Arctic Oceans before returning to Russia on Friday.

The Tu-160 bombers arrived in Venezuela Sept. 10, days after Russia announced it would send a naval squadron and anti-submarine aircraft to Venezuela for possible joint military exercises in November.

Infinito seeking funding
to start up Crucitas mine

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Infinito Gold Ltd. has designed an international financial firm to arrange a $66 million loan for its Crucitas gold mine project in northern Costa Rica.  The company is  BNP Paribas, which Infinito said is an AA+ rated world class financial institution. Infinito Gold, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said gold production is scheduled to begin in late 2009 at the open pit mine.

Construction has been underway since June of this year and several buildings have been completed on site along with access road improvements, bridge installation and site preparation, the company said.  Most of the large mill components have been delivered to the site and the project is on schedule and on budget for completion in late 2009, it added.

Some organizations have opposed the project because cyanide would be used to leech the gold from crushed rock, and the Río San Juan is not far away.

Four-wheel crash claims life

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. man died Wednesday after he crashed his four-wheeler into a tree on a beach in Guanacaste, according to a judicial spokeswoman.

The man, Joshua Finney, 32, slammed his recreational vehicle into a tree last week on Playa Grande, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. Paramedics transported Finney to the hospital in Libería with serious injuries.  Finney died Wednesday afternoon in the hospital, according to the judicial release.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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