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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 189             E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Tourist access to pre-Columbian city to be easier
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists visiting the Monumento Nacional Guayabo next year might find an elevated walkway covering nearly the entire length of the monument's protected area, some 700 meters long, about 2,300 feet.

This is one of the projects that the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes has in the works to increase tourist to the ancient city near Turrialba and to stabilize what exists there.

The monument has been in the news lately because it was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers an international historic civil engineering landmark. The monument, part of a city inhabited from about 1000 B.C. to about 1400 A.D., contains extensive water works and aqueducts. This is only the second pre-Columbian site in the Americas to receive such a designation. The first is Machu Picchu.

The site 11 kms (7 miles) north of Turrialba became a national monument in 1973. Although it is famous in archaeological circles, it ranks low on a must-see list of tourists. The protected area is 232 hectares or about 573 acres. The site is shaped like a guitar and runs along the Quebrada Cerdita. Much of the adjacent land is unprotected but certainly was part of the sprawling city.

Not until 1893 were archaeological artifacts systematically collected from the site, and the first major scientific excavations were not done until 1968. There is a lot of work to be done. During a session on the monument Wednesday night some connected with the site complained that the Universidad de Costa Rica has no plans to do a major study and that foreign universities might be solicited.

The walkway will be about two feet above the ground level, and it will provide wheelchair access to the bulk of the site, something that is not possible now with the rocky paths at the monument. Tourists will not have to circumvent the frequent mud.

Plans also call for putting in better restrooms. shaped like a pre-Columbian pyramid. Also in the words are better road signs to direct tourists to the monument.

Even with new construction, trying to keep
Guayabo map
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Arrow shows location of national monument

Guayabo intact is a chore. Experts Wednesday explained that leaf-cutter ants, lichen and water are the big enemies of the monument.

What is visible are petroglyphs, stone paths, walls and circular platforms where, it is presumed, structures stood. Heavy Costa Rican rains can erode the base of the strongest wall, despite the water channels constructed by the earlier Costa Ricans. But leafcutter ants, Atta cephalotes, also can do damage. They are fun to watch as the worker ants carry leaf cuttings to underground farms where fungus grows. But the experts Wednesday said that the ants can create giant chambers that undermine rock structures.

Lichen also seems harmless, but the tiny organisms create environments for other, most destructive growths, that can damage rock, said the experts.

Guayabo, located on the southern slope of Volcán Turrialba, was a population center of about 10,000 persons, archaeologists have estimated. Francisco Corrales, a former director of the Museo Nacional, said there was not a lot of contact between the Guayabo residents and the populations that fabricated the stone spheres in southwest Costa Rica. He is developing a museum of the spheres near Palmar Sur. However, he was one of the spectators Wednesday night at the presentation of the Guayabo plans. He said it was an important site.

A museum might be in the future for Guayabo. Museo Nacional staffers said that much of the artifacts excavated there is in storage. A museum at the site would be a way to display the objects.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 189

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Suspects in Monge carjacking
acquitted because IDs lacking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men accused of robbing the vehicle of ex-president Luis Alberto Monge have been acquitted of the charge  after a prolonged judicial process.

The men got off because no one saw their face to make a positive identification. The robbers wore ski masks.

This was the second trial for the men. The Sala III supreme criminal court rejected the first convictions. The men are Steven Jara Olsen, Walter Pereira Castillo and Estibaly Blanco Perez.

Agents stopped Blanco driving the Monge car a week later. He appeared to be on the way to Panamá. The arrest was in the southern part of the country. The case was in the  Tribunal de Juicio de Heredia.

Jara was set free after the high court voided his 12-year sentence. He was picked up earlier this month, and his arrest caused a delay in the Monge trial. Jara was nabbed at the scene of another carjacking, called a bajonazo in Spanish. The 21-year-old motorist, identified by the last names of Chavarría Campos, tried to drive away when a gang of men tried to rob  him of his Chevrolet vehicle. He was hit multiple times with bullets. His condition was described as grave.

The Monge stickup was April 24, 2004 in Heredia.

Dominican leader seeks
U.N. taxes on tax havens

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández has called on the U. N. General Assembly to consider a possible tax on tax havens, offshore banks and international financial centers to make up for the damage the global economic crisis has wrought on efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“The only way to really tackle achieving the MDGs by the scheduled date of 2015 is for this General Assembly to help create the conditions for a real commitment by nations, governmental and non-governmental institutions to assume as a matter of urgency the tasks of economic and social development for peoples stricken by poverty, hunger, sickness and illiteracy,” he said.

Fernández called on the assembly to declare “a state of emergency” in connection with the goals, which seek to slash these and a host of other ills, all by 2015, noting that an additional 400,000 children and tens of thousands of women will die each year because of the global financial crisis, according to U.N. World Health Organization figures.

“Just today, while this session of the General Assembly of the most important organization in the world is being held, 25,000 children will die in various parts of the planet,’ he said. “That means that one child dies every three seconds and 18 children every minute. At the end of my 15-minute speech before this plenary, 270 children whose deaths could have been avoided will have died.”

Fernández called on the 192-member body to consider new possible funding sources for the Millennium Development Goals, proposing that a working group be set up to present an action plan for his suggested tax on tax havens.

“It cannot be argued that there are not sufficient resources to confront this huge task,” he declared. “The diligent way in which the collapse of the international financial system has been addressed show us something that has always been on the lips of the people, that ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way’. . . "

“There are abundant resources in the world. What is happening is that they are distributed unequally and unjustly, and this is due, among other reason, to the existence of a global financial architecture prone to lack of transparency, secrecy, withholding of capital, evasion and fraud.”

Big stash of water meters
found in Grecia junk yard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents uncovered more than 2,000 water meters when they entered a salvage yard in  Tacares de Grecia Wednesday. All of the meters carried the engraving of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the national water company. Many of the meters were new.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said agents were tipped off to the stash. Meter theft has been a continuing concern for the water company, and the judicial police just held a conference with junk yard owners hoping to stem the purchase of stolen metal.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the water company already has lost 300 million colons or about $500,000. in stolen meters this year. Nearly 10,000 have been taken.

Body linked to boat trip

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four persons went out in a small, open boat from Puntarenas Sept. 13, and Wednesday the second body from that trip has shown up in the Gulf of Nicoya.

The victim was identified by the last name of Bustos, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. She was 45. The body of a man who was on the same boat was spotted a week ago. He was identified by the last name of Mejias. He was 43, the judicial agents said.

The search continues for the two other men in the boat.

Our readers' opinions
Arias right on the money
with environmental talk

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a Villalobos investor, I have been extremely critical of life in Latin America and Costa Rica in particular. I also lived in Mexico for nine years. Mr. Arias is bang on the money when I states we have only eight years left to turn things around on this tiny spaceship called Earth before we annihilate ourselves. Around 2011 our peopleodometer will hit 11 billion souls.

Luckily I live in a country called Canada where we are not yet elbow deep in people but we as a mineral producing country turning the our land into a moonscape in an alarming amount of time to satisfy shareholders. I also see in the Toronto Star that an island in the ocean must be evacuated due to rising sea water which is salty and does not allow crops to grow for the people to feed themselves. They now have new backyard pets called sharks. Thank God I am now 71 and will not be around to witness our downfall.
Gordon Jantzi
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Environmentalism is ploy
to win political power

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

President Arias must have been taken out of context. He must have been warning people about the wackos who believe such lies. And he is right! Environmentalism is the new left. Does anybody remember the stories, oh 10 years back or so, about the dramatic move of leftist and Communist countries towards environmentalism in order to scare the sheep of the planet into making a hard left in their politics. "Make it seem to be life or death and they will become putty in our hands."  And they have! The strong will stand and fight such tyranny.
Ron Guell
New Orleans

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We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

It is hard to believe that our company telephones have been out of service  for at four weeks.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 189

Security ministry tries to crack down on sex tourism ads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Publicizing Costa Rica as a sex tourism destination would be a crime under a proposal announced by the security ministry Wednesday. The prohibition extends to any medium of communications, presumably including the Internet.

The proposal also creates a secret procedure for handling human trafficking cases.

The bill is supposed to be 30 pages long and will be presented to the Asamblea Legislativa in a few days, officials said.

The presentation came on the International Day Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons. The proposed legislation builds on the new and existing immigration laws that contain penalties for coyotes and for harboring illegal immigrants.

In a summary of the proposal, the ministry said that the bill stipulates a prison term of from four to eight years for persons who promote, run programs, campaigns or advertisements, making use of whatever medium, to project the country as a tourist destination accessible for commercial sexual exploitation or prostitution of persons of whatever gender or age.

Since adult prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, that section would seem to be unconstitutional on its face.

The bill also would punish with two to five years the operators of an establishment or place that is a destination or benefits from the trafficking of persons or related activities. The summary does not provide more details.

The bill also would punish those in the business of trafficking in human organs, fluids or tissue.

The measure also would punish those who hold employees in servitude by threats, trickery or force. The penalties would be larger if the victim were a minor.

Officials said that the bill will have 85 separate sections.

The bill also will specify how the law is applied. Among
these precepts is one of confidentiality which includes all   the information and administrative or jurisdictional activities related to the protection of victims of trafficking crimes. Law enforcement would be obliged to put the life, physical integrity, liberty and security of victims first and consider the wishes of the victim. There is a precept against revictimization, too. The summary also said that in all public and private actions involving a minor, the child's rights and protection would be the highest interest.

The bill came from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, which held a press conference to announce the existence of the bill. That ministry is headed by Janina del Vecchio.

The bill seeks to promote public policies for the prevention of trafficking of persons, said the summary. Also supporting the bill was the Judicial Investigating Organization., Casa Presidencial, The Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, the Defensoría de los Habitantes and the International Organization for Immigration.  All sent representatives.

The most recent case of human trafficking involved two Costa Rican women who answered a newspaper here and and ended up working as prostitutes in México under duress. They were returned to the country, and another Costa Rican woman was identified as the author of the scheme.

Previous efforts to address human trafficking have suffered from definitions that were too broad. Most foreign prostitutes who come to Costa Rica do so voluntarily, so the element of force does not exist. In addition, many come as individuals, although they may end up living with other prostitutes.

The prohibition against running sex tourism programs or campaigns would seemed to be aimed at excursions like the annual Michigan Boy's trip to the Pacific Coast. A charter jet full of individuals from that U.S. state arrives during the U.S. winter with the stated objective of engaging in fishing. But the visit attracts prostitutes from all over the country who descend on the hotel where the men are staying.

Some offers found on the Internet are far more explicit.
The legislation summary also does not seem to address the fact that most Internet servers are outside the country.

19th century military figure honored today at 200th birthday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Latin American politics were really complex in the 19th century. First they proclaim you a hero. Then they shoot you. Later they name an autopista after you.

The victim of this sea change of public opinion is  Gen. José María Cañas Escamilla, one of the heroes of the war against U.S. interloper William Walker. Today is his 200th birthday, and he will be honored with a floral tribute at his monument in front of the Estación al Pacifico.

That is appropriate because it was Cañas who helped develop the port of Puntarenas. There are statues in that city of Cañas and his brother-in-law, former president Juan Rafael Mora Porras. Mora had his own experiences with abrupt changes in public opinion. He was president at the time of the national campaign against William Walker. In 1859 he was deposed and left to El Salvador, the birthplace of Cañas.

Both men tried to stage a comeback the following year but were jailed and then executed by firing squad in Puntarenas.

Representatives from El Salvador will be at the ceremony today, too, Cañas was born in Suchitoto, El Salvador, in
1809 but married Guadalupe Mora Porras in Costa Rica. She was the sister of both Mora and president Miguel Mora Porras.

Cañas served in the Central American army under Gen. Francisco Morazán Quesada, who fled the country in 1840. Morazán returned to the country two years later, and he, too, was executed after he promoted universal military service for Costa Rican men. He also sought a unified Central America.

Canãs continued to advance. He was minister of war and governor of Puntarenas. He was in the Battle of Rivas April 11, 1856, and helped Costa Rican forces decimated by cholera to withdraw. His name is found on three treaties negotiated in 1857 and 1858 with Nicaragua setting out the borders of the countries. One of his treaties, the  Cañas-Jerez, played a role in Costa Rica's victory before the World Court in the Hague this year.

After his execution, his wife and children returned to Costa Rica where they and their offspring joined the upper circles of society.

It is the autopista form San José to Juan Santamaría airport that bears the name of Cañas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 189

Zelaya gets a litany of support at U.N. General Assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Latin American leaders pressed for the return to office of ousted Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales in their U.N. General Assembly speeches Wednesday, as the deposed leader remained holed up in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa. In his U.N. speech, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva demanded protection for his country's mission in Honduras.

The ouster of the Honduran president in June was condemned by all other member countries of the Organization of American States, and U.N. General Assembly policy statements by several Latin American leaders Wednesday made clear that diplomatic support for Zelaya has not diminished.

Da Silva, whose country by tradition opens the annual General Assembly debate, warned that unless international support for  Zelaya is able to force his return to office, Latin America could see a return to an era when military coups were commonplace.

"Unless there is more political will, we will see more coups, like the one which toppled the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, who has been granted refuge in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa since Monday," said Da Silva. "The international community demands that Mr. Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country, and must be alert to insure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."

The left-leaning Zelaya was arrested and deported by the Honduran military June 28, as he sought to arrange a referendum that could have kept him in office beyond the end of his term in January.

Honduran authorities contend that his ouster and
replacement by interim President Roberto Micheletti was carried out in accordance with the country's laws. But that position was rejected by all other Organization of American States countries, including the United States.

In their U.N. messages, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez also demanded  Zelaya's immediate restoration to power, with the Chilean leader saying Honduras' planned November elections should go forward only with, in her words, the country's "constitutional president leading this process."

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner protested water and power cutoffs this week to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and a local television station that reported Zelaya's return as well as a crackdown on his supporters.

She said the action by Tegucigalpa authorities was misbehavior that not even the 1980s military dictatorships in South America would have engaged in.

"Not even in Chile under the dictatorship of General Pinochet, nor in Argentina under the dictatorship of GeneralVidela - perhaps the most cruel dictatorships in Latin America — even then, we didn't see similar conduct with embassies that were actively working to give shelter to refugees," said President Kirchner.

Ms. Kirchner warned that if multi-lateral political action fails to return democracy to Honduras, it would set a very serious precedent in a region where in past decades military regimes killed thousands of opponents and exiled many others.

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Brazil has asked the U.N. Security Council to meet to discuss the safety and security of Zelaya and Brazilian facilities in Honduras, and that the United States, holder of the council's rotating presidency, is working on that request.

Ousted president says he hopes dialogue will reinstate him

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ousted Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales says he has hope that dialogue will soon be re-established with the current government.

Zelaya remains in the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, where he has taken refuge since his return to Honduras Monday.

The leader of the interim government, Roberto Micheletti, says he is willing to talk with the deposed leader, but only if  Zelaya recognizes presidential elections scheduled for November. Micheletti also says he will not discuss dropping any of the charges against  Zelaya.

Meanwhile, the situation at the Brazilian Embassy remains tense. Soldiers and police continue to patrol surrounding streets. A nationwide curfew, airport closings and roadblocks are also in place to keep Zelaya's supporters from rallying around him.
Brazil is calling for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on Honduras. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva told the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday the international community is demanding Zelaya immediately resume his role as president. He also stressed the importance of ensuring the Brazilian Embassy is secure from violation.

Zelaya is in the embassy with dozens of friends, relatives and some embassy staffers.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of demonstrators outside the embassy Tuesday. The ousted leader has urged supporters to stage peaceful protests. One man died of gunshot wounds and five others suffered injuries in confrontations elsewhere in ther capital.

Zelaya was forced out of Honduras at gunpoint on June 28. The interim government accuses the deposed leader of planning to hold an illegal referendum in a bid to extend his time in power.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 189

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Fed will keep interest rates
low for extended period

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. central bank is leaving interest rates unchanged amid a modest increase in economic activity. The Federal Reserve concluded a closely-watched two-day policy meeting Wednesday.

In a statement, the central bank said U.S. economic activity has picked up following a severe downturn, but remains weak. As a result, the Federal Reserve says it plans to keep interest rates unchanged for "an extended period," language seen by many economists as a pledge against a rate hike until sometime next year.

The Fed has kept a key lending rate at just above zero percent since late 2008, coinciding with the deepest and longest recession since World War II. The question for economists is not whether the central bank will eventually raise interest rates from historic lows, but rather when will the Fed conclude it can do so without stalling economic growth.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.7 percent and projected to rise, the central bank is unlikely to tighten credit to any significant degree before 2011, according to RBC Capital Market interest rate strategist, Ira Jersey.

"Our expectation is for growth over the next couple of years to be very slow, although positive, and not enough to bring down unemployment very significantly, which is really what policymakers have to be cognizant of and one of the reasons we think that the Fed's policy will remain very accommodative over the next several years," Jersey said on Bloomberg television.

Since vast amounts of business and consumer activity is conducted on credit, low interest rates are seen as stimulative to the economy as a whole, while high interest rates are seen as restrictive. Central banks typically raise interest rates during boom times to prevent economies from overheating and guard against inflation and, typically, lower interest rates in response to economic downturns and the risk of deflation.

In addition to maintaining current interest rates, the Federal Reserve announced that it is extending the timeframe of a $1.45 trillion program to purchase debt and securities tied to America's beleaguered home mortgage industry. The program was to be completed by the end of the year, but will now continue to operate through the end of March, 2010. A rash of home foreclosures helped precipitate last year's financial crisis in the United States.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 189

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Traffic tickets limited
 to a life of just 10 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic tickets have been limited to a 10-year life, thanks to a Sala IV constitutional court appeal by a man who has tickets on his record from as long ago as 1997.

The man, identified by the last names of Garro Navarro, brought the appeal against the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which maintains a data base. The man said that he had been absolved of some of the infractions.

The man also raised the issue of perpetual punishment, which had been outlawed by the same court.

The tickets show up on the Consejo's Internet data base and also on credit reports when individuals seek to borrow money.

Two more policemen face
allegation of corruption

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A surveillance camera showed a policeman taking a cellphone from a dead man, according to the security minister, who urged Wednesday the installation of some 300 such cameras in San José and 50 more in LImón.

The security minister Janina del Vecchio, said that both the policeman and his supervisor would face action. She vowed again to clean up the Fuerza Pública.

The dead man in the case appears to have been the victim of a heart attack. The events happened at the Centro Comercial El Pueblo in Calle Blancos, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Ms. del Vecchio said that she had a list of policemen who are under investigation for various actions.

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