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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 189          Email us
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Residents report more Nicaraguan activity at Calero
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted Saturday at 1:15 a.m.

Residents in northeastern Costa Rica are reporting more activity by Nicaraguan dredges in the vicinity of Isla Calero.

This was the area where Nicaraguan workers and troops entered a year ago to begin efforts to change the course of the Río San Juan.

Rural residents coming to Barra del Colorado Friday said they had seen activity on the island and that two dredges are now at work there instead of just one. Barra de Colorado is where Costa Rican police have been headquartered since the Nicaraguan incursion.

A resident there said that most police officers left hurriedly, and the suspicion is that they moved closer to the disputed island.

Nicaragua is trying to change the course of the
 river because the international border is the south bank of the Río San Juan. Workers have dug a shallow channel from the river to a lagoon that is close to the Caribbean. That was before Costa Rica got an order from the International Court of Justice in The Hague for both countries to withdraw any groups or workers that they had in the area.

Thursday President Laura Chinchilla complained in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly that international bodies were slow to respond to the Nicaraguan invasion.  Nicaragua seeks to create a marina and location for a hotel in the area but the winding, silted mouth of the river is not suitable for boat traffic. So they are trying to open up a more direct route that can be maintained. Venezuela has bankrolled the dredges.

Costa Rican officials have not said anything about more work on the island, but members of the security ministry air service were meeting with foreign ministry officials Thursday.

Expats have a full weekend with exciting options
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no reason to be bored this weekend.

Events range from a guitar concert to an English language book sale to Shakespeare to a benefit for Parque Nacional Corcovado to the world-class Georgian National Ballet from Tbilisi.

With a little planning an expat could hit all of the events.

The guitar concert Friday is the closing of the XVIII Festival Internacional de Guitarra 2011 de Costa Rica. The event is in the Teatro Nacional at 8 p.m. The festival is in its 24th year. The standout guitarist from Argentina, Juanjo Domínguez, performs. The concert starts at 8 p.m. The best seats are just 15,000 colons, about $30.

Democrats Abroad promises thousands of books at its Saturday sale in Escazú. The organization also says it will have CDs, DVDs, video and cassettes. The event is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in  Plaza Colonial in San Rafael de Escazú. That's on the old road to Santa Ana that goes to the right at the Y at ScotiaBank.

Saturday night he guitars will be gone and the TNT Británico is offering “Much Ado about Nothing” at 8 p.m. Spanish speakers will have translation provided, said the theater.

The romantic comedy debuted in 1598, but the convoluted plot could be from a modern television soap opera. All's well that ends well, however, and the two pairs of young lovers end up married.

Now to see William Shakespeare's play, expats will have to forgo seeing the Georgian National Ballet down the street at the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar. That spectacular presentation is planned for 8 p.m., too. But not to worry.

The Georgians are back on stage Sunday at 5
Gerogian dancers
Georgian Nacional Ballet photo
Ballet dancers fly in unison

p.m. Tickets are pricey and range from 36,000 colons to 12,000 for seats on that third floor.
That's from about $72 to $24. But this is a world-class troupe in the same league with the Bolshoi.

When the Georgian ballet performed at La Scala, it received 14 curtain calls, according to the group's Web site. The ballet has 70 dancers and its own folkloric orchestra.

Says the Web site:

“The role of female dancers is an interesting one. It has a grace and charm of its own, comparable with classical ballet, where every emotion and feeling has its own traditional movement. They are tender and calm, they do small steps and give the impression of slipping.”

Earlier Sunday expats have time to head for the benefit that starts at 2 p.m. Sunday in Santa Ana. The Corcovado Foundation is promising a gastronomical experience with the proceeds going to support the organization's turtle conservation project in Drake Bay on the west side of the Osa peninsula. There also is an auction with promised deals on tourism, dinners and airline tickets, the organization said.

The location is Eventos del Sol in Santa Ana, which can be reached by a turnoff just west of The Forum on the Autopista del Sol. Admission is $50 a person. That includes wine and donated food by five top restaurants or food outlets. The wine is matched with the food, according to an announcement. Reservations may be had at 2297-3013.

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 Ms. Chinchilla in the midst of the Costa Rican U.N.

Ms. Chinchilla tells U.N.
drugs threaten rule of law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla told the U.N. General Assembly Thursday that Central America is the victim of a new and terrible aggression. She meant drugs.

“It has generated insecurity, debilitated institutions, corrupted officials, driven addiction, truncated the lives of thousands of youth, destroyed families and converted humble single mothers into criminals. This scourge has eroded the basic structure of our social fabric and has put in peril the very existence of the rule of law in some of the countries.”

She said the region has become prey to a malevolent geopolitics because of its location between the centers of drug production and demand. She said the region must bear the burden of the human costs and said the impact here was collateral damages.

Other Latin voices . . . HERE!

To change this she said she demands “that the international community, in particular the greatest consumers of drugs and suppliers of arms that materialize the violence, assume completely and without further delay, the responsibility of their actions.

Among other things, the nations of the world need to produce a robust, comprehensive and demanding arms treaty “capable of successfully controlling the flow of the machines of death that provoke all types of conflicts,” she said

Ms. Chinchilla was speaking at the opening debate of the international body. This is the time of year when leaders of the world's countries say what is good and what is not so good about their current situation.

For Ms. Chinchilla it was a time to seek international aid.

She said that Costa Rica cannot achieve its development goals without international assistance. “Our relative success should not be penalized, but rather stimulated,” she said.

President Chinchilla also took a swipe at Nicaragua for its invasion of the Isla Calero a year ago.

“Last October, Nicaraguan troops and civilians invaded and occupied part of our national territory, in clear violation of our sovereignty, border treaties, and international law,” she said, adding:

“After exhausting all possibilities of a worthy bilateral agreement, we appealed to different forums of the regional and international system. Our neighbor's government disowned several of them. Finally, thanks in part to the urgent orders of the International Court of Justice, the Nicaraguan contingents had to leave our ground. Nonetheless, while we waited for the final ruling of the Court, Nicaragua, ignoring its orders, has continued the provocations and violations during the provisional measures; more so, it has threatened with other actions that can infringe on our territory. We hope that this does not occur. But, if it were, we will reactivate our action using the mechanisms of the international system.”

She suggested that international organizations should act more quickly in response to aggression.

“lt should react, not as a function of the quantity and magnitude of the detonations, but rather to the severity and persistence of the violations,” she said. “Otherwise, the message to the world would be disastrous. It would imply that, in order to mobilize diplomacy, the shortest route is that of blood. As a country and as a people, we emphatically reject this idea.”

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!
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 189

Prisma dental

Traffic police spent the afternoon nailing violators of the downtown license plate prohibition. These officers were among those operating a license plate and speed checkpoint in front of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros headquarters.

Traffic police
A.M. Costa Rica photo

Many government entities sharing in speed trap windfall
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A handful of government entities from the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia to Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. are sharing in the speed trap windfall.

The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes released a list of who gets what Thursday. The Cruz Roja is getting 15 percent, as is RACSA, which runs the Internet feeds to the traffic cameras that catch speeders. Municipalities, the Poder Judicial and the Policía de Tránsito each get 10 percent. The Ministerio de Justicia gets 5 percent. Some 10 percent is kept to keep the cameras and their radar systems maintained. There are some lesser payouts.

The windfall is now an estimated 4.5 trillion colons, about $9 million if all the motorists caught speeding pay up.

The ministry said that 14,662 motorists were caught speeding more than 20 kph over the posted limits by the cameras.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad gets nearly 9 percent, which could mean 294 million colons or about $580,000 already for highway projects. The speeding fines begin at about $600 and can result in a higher fine and jail time for reckless operation.
The ministry might be jumping the gun. There most certainly will be court cases challenging the fines as disproportionate as well as the failure to inform motorists that they will be subject to a fine. The fine is keyed to the license plate number, so it is possible for someone else to speed and the car owner to get stuck with the ticket.

The ministry had created a Web page,, where motorists are supposed to be able to check their plate number against those that have been fined. However, rather than just having a list open to the public, the ministry is requiring users to obtain a PIN number via Radiográfica.

Many object to this paperwork and are awaiting publication of the list in a daily newspaper next week.

Meanwhile more cameras are going up. César Quirós Mora, director general of Tránsito, said that today cameras are going into service in Alajuela, bringing the total to 16. Many more are planned. Signs mark the approaches to the cameras.

Meanwhile traffic officers still are enforcing the license plate prohibition in the downtown area. Thursday vehicles with plate numbers ending in 7 or 8 were prohibited, and officers were on Avenida 7 as well as other points downtown handing out tickets.

Happiness defies explanation but is a critical condition
Probably everybody will agree that the more happiness in the world, the better.  But can it be measured?  This is the question Peter Singer, philosopher and professor of bioethics at Princeton, asks in a recent article reprinted on the opinion page of a recent Sunday edition of La Nacion  The answer to his question in title of his article, “Can We Increase Gross National Happiness?” appears to be not at the moment. The world seems to be a pretty unhappy place today, mainly because of economics, but also wars and natural disasters exacerbated by corrupt governments and archaic beliefs.

But in the tiny country of Bhutan, nestled between Bangladesh and Tibet, the government (a monarchy) is interested in making its people happy and trying to figure out what makes for happiness. They seem to be doing all the wrong things to achieve their goal, like making visas difficult for foreigners so outsiders cannot influence them, nor are they part of the global trade network, and they have just banned the sale of tobacco in the entire country.  Non smokers will be happy, but . . . .

Ever since they headed west, Americans in the United States have valued rugged individualism so a lot of thinking and writing about happiness stresses that it is a person’s attitude (i.e. positive) that makes one happy, not outside conditions. In short, you make your own happiness, just like you make your own way in the world.  Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, “Bright-sided,” makes it clear she is not a fan of positivism and points out that it has been co-opted by companies that have laid off people and want their workers to do more for less and be happy about it.  Rugged individualism, combined with positive thinking and religious fervor has become a panacea for many in the U.S.

Elsewhere happiness is measured by what are considered objective criteria, like health and income, and job satisfaction, participation in cultural and other activities. The more affluent countries that are social democracies generally rate high when these factors are considered. Some researchers try to measure it by adding up the good things that have happened to a person in his lifetime and subtracting the bad.

Literature has not been enamored with the subject of happiness, except as an ending or final reward (unless it’s an opera and then death is the favored outcome).  There are many quotes to be found in Bartlett’s on the subject of happiness. They often don’t agree.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Philosopher Singer makes the argument that happiness cannot be measured scientifically or statistically, maybe not even subjectively. But the Bhutan government is serious about the subject, because he adds, “last July, the U.N. General Assembly passed, without dissent, a Bhutanese-initiated resolution recognizing the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal, noting that this goal is not reflected in GDP.”  He ends hoping that more governments will direct their policies toward enhancing well-being and happiness and Bhutan’s idea will become global.

The concept is not new. Thomas Jefferson included the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right in his Declaration of Independence.  It is in the constitution of Massachusetts, and Franklin Roosevelt mentioned it when he was comparing liberals with conservatives.  I am sure it can be found in other government proclamations.

Personally, I think happiness is the absence of fear.  Like recently, my Internet has been down for days, and I felt helpless and greatly fear that one of these days not far in the future, humans will become the robots trained to push the proper buttons so computers can run the world.  Other times in my life I have decided that happiness was the absence of pain.

My favorite take on the subject is “The Happy Prince,” a short story by Oscar Wilde.  It deals not only with happiness but with other emotions common to humans and even swallows.  Some may think it is a childish fairy tale, but I think Wilde encapsulates the foibles of people in his stories and plays.  No matter how many times I have read “The Happy Prince,” I cannot do so without shedding a tear, although I might leave out the ending. 

I recommend it to fellow skeptics. You can find it by clicking 

Meanwhile, Pura Vida, as they say in this usually happy little country.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 189

1.25 miles of big ditch
will capture Caldera runnoff

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 80 families living along a highway that goes from Puerto Caldera to Esparza were getting flooded out by road runoff.

To solve the problem, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad put in 2 kilometers (about 1.25 miles) of a giant drainage system. The system is concrete with plastic pipes. There also is a concrete gutter installed along the road.

Among those benefiting are school children who attend the  Centro Educativo de Caldera.

The highway is Ruta 23.

Up until now the homes were swept by muddy water and sediments when heavy rains came. Engineers specified grids on all the pipe entrances to avoid having a child washed away in the running water.
drainage in Caldera road
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
Children make use of the path alongside drainage system

Agents make a large haul of cash at international airport
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a man born in Colombia arrived at Juan Santamaría airport Wednesday, anti-drug police were waiting and gave him and his luggage close scrutiny. They said they found $204,540 in $100, $50 and $20 bills. The money was hidden in a false bottom of a briefcase that is used to carry a laptop.

The man was identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Calvo Carmona. He is 60 and carried a British passport. The man was on a flight that left London and traveled first to Madrid, Spain, and then to Costa Rica, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Officials naturally suspect that the money was the result of illegal activities, although they have not specified what type. They suggested drugs, arms traffic, human trafficking, kidnapping and auto theft.

Carrying large amounts of money is legal, but travelers have to declare the sums as they enter the country. They may be asked to give an account of where the funds originated.
lots of money
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 189

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Dominican president seeks
global financial tax

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Blaming speculation for the high price of food and oil, and arrogance and greed for the global economic crisis, the Dominican Republic called at the United Nations Thursday for new market rules and proposed a 5 per cent tax on financial transactions to spur growth and prosperity.  

With $4 trillion circulating every day untaxed around the world in financial transactions, such a tax would bring in $4.8 trillion annually, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández told the General Assembly on the second day of its 66th annual General Debate.

“Mr. President, $4.8 trillion would not only solve problems related to some countries’ sovereign debt but at the same time there would be enough fresh resources for investing, which would allow a rapid recovery from the current financial and economic world crisis,” he said.

If it was felt that this is not an appropriate way for states to collect income, he noted that more than $10 trillion deposited in tax havens, increasing by $600 billion each year, without a dime entering the tax department of any government, he added.

“In sum, we are forced to accept an increasingly alarming situation of social injustice because of the indisputable and uncontrollable power held by a circle of the world economic elite,” he declared, singling out financial speculation in food and oil, which saw prices of soy, corn, rice and wheat increase by between 107 and 136 per cent from 2006 to 2008, adding 150 million more people to those who go hungry around the world for a total of over 1 billion.

Citing international analysts for figures showing that 30 to 40 per cent of increases for commodities are attributable to financial speculation on futures contracts, he called for limits on the volume of such insurance companies, investment banks, pension funds, and equity funds that are in no way involved in the physical handling of the product, along with an increase in deposit guarantees to disincentive speculative transactions that only contribute to price volatility.

The global financial crisis has been produced “by a lack of clear rules in the international financial system, by arrogance, by greed, and by an uncontrolled eagerness for amassing wealth,” he said.

President Sebastián Piñera Echeñique of Chile noted the need for concerted action by the U.N. and other global bodies to deal with financial and other crises in an increasingly inter-connected world.

“For example, financial crisis, in addition to becoming more frequent, have increasing regional and global implications,” he told the assembly. “The evils of modern society, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime now know no frontiers, territories or jurisdictions.

“And any attempt to deal effectively with global warming, natural catastrophes, health emergencies, hunger and extreme poverty will require much more concerted and effective action by the community of nations and international bodies such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Group of 20, trade organizations and other global and regional bodies.”

In a separate meeting with Secretary Ban Ki-moon Piñera discussed the challenges of middle-income countries, such as income distribution, as well as access to education and health services for all. Ban recognized Chile’s important contribution to UN operations in Haiti.

President Ollanta Humala of Peru noted that the risks looming over Latin American economies stem from problems originating in the United States, Europe and Asia, such as the high levels of public debt and unemployment.

“Latin American countries are learning to overcome the chronic vulnerability in the face of these crises,” he said in an address that touched on a host of issues ranging from coca cultivation and transnational crime to strengthening democratic institutions and respecting indigenous peoples.

“We have decided to act in a concerted way, coordinating policies to strengthen our economic fundamentals and oversee our financial systems,” he added, stressing the commitment to integration and noting that Latin America is the region with the greatest inequality in the world.    

Also touching on financial issues, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales called for the creation of alternative financial bodies. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had shut off Bolivia’s access to international credit and placed conditions on loans, providing credits to transnational companies instead, he told the Assembly yesterday.

He also called for reform of the 15-member Security Council, where a small group of countries now decide on interventions. “It’s a Security Council for whom?” he asked. “It’s the insecurity council for the Presidents of people who seek cultural and social liberation and recovery of their economic resources.”

President Porfirio Lobo Sosa of Honduras said all sectors of his Central American country had been consulted on the creation of a national plan for equitable economic growth, salaries and productivity in the face of the global economic and financial crisis.

Widespread reform of the education system and the provision of equal opportunities had been made priorities, a family help program hoped to reach about half of the country’s families by 2012, and a nutrition-assistance program was also under way, he told the assembly. As for sustainable development, Honduras was involved in shark-preservation programs and had signed instruments on reducing global warming and controlling chemical products.

Eight men in marine shipping
held as drug gang members

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eight Costa Ricans with background in maritime shipping have been detained as members of a drug gang.

The eight are accused of using their jobs and contacts to modify seagoing containers to hide drugs and then putting the modified containers into service.

The case is linked to that of two Costa Ricans who have been arrested in Spain in the company of a container that held 33 kilos of cocaine.

One of the men detained Thursday was sentenced to seven years on a similar drug charge in 1999, said the security ministry.

Seven persons were detained in Limón and one was detained in Escazú at the offices of Naviera Seatrade, said the Policía de Control de Drogas. They have been on the trail of the gang since the arrests in Spain and the entire investigation stretched back to November 2010, they added.

In all, police executed 12 search warrants Thursday to make the eight arrests. Among the places searched were the homes of the men held in Spain.

One man was in charge of managing shipping containers for a fruit export company, said agents.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 189

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immigraiton arrrest
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y Seguridad Pública photo
Immigration agents detain one woman for a time during the afternoon police action.

Police, immigration agents
sweep section of Avenida 7

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heavily armed police and immigration officials descended on a section of San José known as Tierra Dominicana Thursday afternoon.

Despite the name, those detained for being in the country illegally were Nicaraguans and Colombians.

This is the section on Avenida 7 between calles 6 and 7. Some police officers wore battle gear and carried long rifles.

The Policía de Migración said its agents checked on the status of 53 foreigners and found that 17 Colombians enjoyed refugee status and 20 were already residents.

Two Colombian men and two Nicaraguan men were detained for being illegal. Eight more persons were given appointments to justify their status with immigration officials.

Contraloría report is critical
of Golfito anti-poverty agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's budgetary watchdog issued a blistering report Thursday critical of the Junta Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur. Among the criticism was that the Depósito Comercial de Golfito lacks maintenance and lacks a plan to develop the arrivals of visitors.

The Depósito is the place in Golfito where Costa Ricans and others go to get up to $2,000 a year in tax-free merchandise. The commercial operation was set up to cushion the area against the effects of the end to the banana trade. The Depósito also provides income to the Junta.

The watchdog, the Contraloría de la República, said that the agency, known informally as JUDESUR, maintained 9 trillion colons in securities and was not using this money for the benefit of the persons living in the area. The amount is about $18 million.

The Contraloría also said that the Junta Desarrollo Regional  did not have a clear view of what it is supposed to do. The Junta was set up as an anti-poverty agency. Some 35 percent of the residents in the area are listed as poverty statistics, said the Contraloría citing other government figures.

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