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Pacific lots of Costa Rica
(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Sept. 24, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 189              E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Estimated path of Tropical Storm Matthew predicts that it will come ashore at the Nicaraguan-Honduras line about 6 p.m. Costa Rican  time tonight. Coastal areas in red are under a hurricane warning. The blue line is in Honduras and the Caribbean coast of Guatemala where a tropical storm warning is in effect.
Matthew track
A.M. Costa Rica/U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic

Matthew fails to strengthen to hurricane status
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 2 p.m. Friday

An update Friday at noon said that Tropical Storm Matthew has failed to reach hurricane status and that it is approaching the eastern tip of Honduras and northern Nicaragua.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that the storm was expected to make landfall in a few hours. The arrival was predicted for 6 p.m. Costa Rican time in an estimate made Thursday, but the storm seems to have picked up a little speed overnight.

The storm still is moving a few degrees north of due west at 18 mph or 30 kph. The system is expected to weaken as it passes over land.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in San José said that there was intermittent light and moderate rain on the Pacific coast and in the Central Valley. The rios División and Sixaola on the Caribbean coast and the Savegre south of Quepos were rising, the institute reported.

The weather institute warned of possible flooding in the Santa Elena peninsula, the southern coast of the Nicoya peninsula, Miramar, Puntarenas, Esparza, Quepos, Parrita and Dominical.

Still, the impact from the storm is much less than officials had feared, mainly because it passed further north than originally expected and because it failed to grow much stronger over the Caribbean.

Earlier story below.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Posted at 3 a.m. Friday

The country has ducked the full intensity of Matthew, if estimated storm tracks hold true. The center of the storm is expected to make landfall near the Nicaraguan-Honduran border late today.

Nicaraguan and Honduran officials have upgraded the alert to a hurricane warning. That is in effect from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, to Limón, Honduras, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Although the storm is maintaining a path slightly north of due west, the estimates show that the center of the storm probably will come ashore further north then had been expected. This will
reduce the indirect effect on Costa Rica.

Although Matthew still was classified as a tropical storm early Friday, the system could gather more force as it moved through the Caribbean.

At 3 a.m. the center of the storm was located 390 kilometers east of Puerto Cabezas with maximum sustained winds of 85 kph or 50 mph. It was moving west at 26 kph or 16 mph. Belize issued a hurricane warning late Thursday.

The hurricane center said that Matthew was expected to produce 6 to 10 inches of rain over Nicaragua and Honduras with a maximum of up to 15 inches. It warned of flash floods and landslides.

When the storm was still a low pressure area north of the Venezuelan coast, weather observers feared it would come ashore just north of the Costa Rican
border in Nicaragua. The country already has endured two weeks of seasonal heavy rain, and  some homes along the Pacific coast  were flooded Thursday after Wednesday rains. Several rivers already were running out of their banks, and major highways had suffered serious damage.

Santa Cruz in Guanacaste and Quepos on the central Pacific coast experienced flooding, including some from high seas.

So the national emergency commission, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the Cruz Roja were taking no chances. The emergency commission issued alerts for the entire Pacific coast, the Central Valley and the northern zone, mainly because of the already saturated soil. The alerts also mobilize the local emergency response committees. The commission, correctly called the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, began shipping supplies, tools and other emergency items to the Pacific coast from its central headquarters in Pavas.

Although weather officials were still anxious about the storm Thursday night, the weather institute predicted indirect effects from the storm today through Saturday. That is a change from the four days of intense downpours that had been predicted.  Even at 2 a.m. there was only occasional light rain in San José.

The long arm of the weather system reached as far north as southern Florida, according to the hurricane center satellite photos. The Pacific always endures effects of Caribbean storms because the long arms of the systems reach that far.

couple murdered
in Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 1:45 p.m. Friday
A Cuban-American man and woman in their 60s were found murdered today in their condo in Jacó, police there said

The two were not identified, but a police officer said that the hands and feet of the victims were bound at the hand and plastic bags were over their heads. Agents are seeking a third person who is believed to have lived in the same unit at the upscale Acqua development.

One body was in a bathroom and the other in a bedroom, said an officer. The discovery was made by a family friend just before noon,

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There will be a shortage of Mexican beer this weekend on the Caribbean coast. Fuerza Pública officers stopped a truck hauling more than 7,000 untaxed bottles that had been smuggled into the country.

First you shoot' them
and then you honor 'em

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría and the Museo Nacional are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the execution of former Costa Rican president Juan Rafael Mora Porras.

Mora and his brother-in-law Gen. José María Cañas, died by firing squad in Puntarenas. Mora was executed Sept. 30, 1860.

The Casa de Cultura in Puntarenas will host an exposition titled "Mora y Cañas" through Oct. 31. The museums in San José and Alajuela will be hosting a number of historical presentations by academics.

Mora's career typifies the up-and-down circumstances of 19th century Costa Rican politicians. He recently has been declared a national hero. He was the man who led the country to confront the forces of U.S. citizen William Walker in 1856 in Nicaragua. He was ousted by a coup in 1859 and fled to El Salvador., He and Cañas returned in an attempt to take power again, but he was defeated and shot.

Coopemex allegations
filed against its officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor in the Coopemex case has filed a criminal action against Maynor Sandoval López and others involved in the collapse of the savings institution. The allegations are fraudulent administration, publication and authorization of false balances and authorization of illegal acts, said the Poder Judicial Thursday.

Prosecutors have been studying the case since the beginning of the year when raids were conducted to gather evidence. The allegations Thursday were filed by the Fiscalía Adjunta de Económicos, Corrupción y Tributarios, said the Poder Judicial.

Sandoval was manager of the failed institution. Also named Thursday was Rafael García Obando, the firm's auditor, William Villalobos Umaña, the company president, Víctor Hernández Umaña, company secretary and Javier Lara López, who held the post of vocal.

Banco Popular eventually took over the accounts of most of the depositors.

Museums in city open
Monday for free visits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is the world day of tourism, and major museums will be open with free admission.

This includes the Teatro Nacional, which is in itself a museum. But there also are exhibition halls there.

Also open will be the Museos del Banco Central, which will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. This series of museums is under the Plaza de la Cultura in the center of San José.

Also open will be the Museo de la Salle, the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, the Museo Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia and the Museo Filatélico, which is in the main post office building downtown.

The municipal office of tourism is promoting the event to bring people into the city.

Lightning plays havoc
with traffic signal systems

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 40 percent more lighting strikes have been registered in Costa Rica this year when compared to 2009, and officials are blaming the Pacific weather phenomenon La Niña.

The transport ministry said that the strikes frequently knock off traffic signals. In September alone there were 319 such outages, the ministry said. The traffic signals really are complex computer systems very vulnerable to intense electrical activity.

The ministry is asking motorists to report such outages so the signals can be repaired quickly.  The ministry said that the phone number for such reports, 2233-2784, is only answered from 7 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. At other times, the main Policía de Tránsito number would be the one to call: 2222-9330, said the ministry.

Tibás bridge down to one lane

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A water main broke Wednesday and undermined a bridge that connects Cinco Esquinas with Llorente de Tibás. Half the road fell into a stream.

Workmen fixed the main Thursday and brought water service back to the area, but the road is still restricted to one lane. And heavy trucks are prohibited, the ministry said.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 189

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Ms. Chinchilla calls for unified, revised anti-drug strategy
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Drug cartels now threaten the basic stability and social fabric of many Central American countries, Costa Rica’s president told the United Nations Thursday, warning that the battle against narcotrafficking can only be won if nations worldwide overhaul their current strategies.

“If we don’t react, we are at risk of being virtually taken by their gangs with consequences that will transcend local spaces and will turn into a clear challenge to international security,” said the president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda.

She told the opening day of the General Assembly’s high-level debate that the illicit drug trade puts in jeopardy the development gains posted by many Central American countries in recent years.

“From being just a transit point, due to our geographical location between the great drug producers of the south and the great consumers of the north, ours have been becoming, with different degrees, countries that produce, traffic and consume drugs.

“We are not free today of any of the manifestations of the drug trade, which has extended its tentacles to many areas of our social life. Youngsters, in their schools and neighborhoods, see their future menaced by the easy offer of drugs; our health systems are overwhelmed by the problem of addiction, the integrity of our institutions is menaced by corruption and aggression, and violence reaches never-seen levels.”

Ms. Chinchilla said it was time for countries to both better coordinate their anti-drug strategies and to overhaul their existing policies, many of which had failed.

“I call to the highest drug-consuming countries so that they undertake more effective actions against such major problems, and cooperate with the countries suffering from a malaise we have not created.

“I make an urgent call for worldwide solidarity in this
Ms. Chinchilla at U.N.
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Ms. Chinchilla gives her talk at the United Nations

chore, and for multilateral organizations to develop an   agenda more integral in its strategies, more balanced on its resources and responsibilities, and better supervised through its development. If no new efforts germinate in a vigorous manner, we will repent very soon of the inaction.”

Since Sept. 14, the president has been outspoken about the threat the drug trade has to the social fabric of Costa Rica. In her speech today she extended the warning to other countries. Wednesday in a separate U.N. speech she asked First World consumer nations to shoulder some of the cost for fighting drugs.

Later in the day, Ms. Chinchilla met with Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary general, and Shimon Peres, president of Israel, among others... Ms. Chinchilla invited Ban to visit Costa Rica for the 30th anniversary of his organization's Universidad para la Paz in Ciudad Colón.

La Cage still has a modern message to share via drama
 Recently two quotes have attracted my attention. The first, something that Israeli President Shimon Peres said: “The best way to produce water is by saving it, not wasting it.”  I’m not sure when he said it, but it is pertinent today.  The other was in last Sunday’s La Nación - a headline stating, “Ticos complain about the garbage, but they don’t recycle.”

It is the rainy season, and I wonder how clean water can be saved, especially when it combines with all of the garbage left in the streets to be picked up by the city.  Not a happy thought to begin the week.

In spite of that turn of mind, I am still chuckling and musing over the latest production of the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica.  “The Birdcage” was adapted by LTG’s Andrew Gardener from the screenplay by Elaine May.  Andrew also plays the part of Albert a drag queen and companion to the gay nightclub owner, Armand, played by Steve Friedman. Andrew is funny and exasperating and sometimes touching as an aging prima donna who feels fat, old and unloved and is wallowing in self-pity.  At the same time this devoted pair is faced with having a dinner party for Armand’s son’s new finance and her parents. Her father is a bigoted (in every sense of the word) Republican senator. Kudos too, to Arnie Harrison for his portrayal of the put upon and baffled Sen. Keeley

There were too many blackouts and scene changes for my comfort level (I began to feel jumpy and disconnected), but all of the actors were convincing characters, and then there was Agador, the Guatemalan houseman (for people who don’t have maids), played by Frederico Echeverria.  He was so in character and so convincing and having such a great time as he minced barefoot on and off the stage, preoccupied with rehearsing for his big star opportunity (should it come) as he coddles and waits on the pair that I and the rest of the audience was enchanted.

Speaking of indulgence, there is a new antidote for women who feel they have lost touch with their femininity and true nature.  Now they are holding “drag parties.”  Women copy the over-the-top clothes (and there are some stunning outfits in “Bird Cage,” as an example) and practice impersonating the exaggerated feminine behavior of female impersonators.  The idea is to regain their own truly feminine self. The world does sometimes feel topsy turvy.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Meanwhile I recall the words of an anthropologist who claimed that homosexuals personified the true sexual behavior of males in terms of activity (not sexual choice) when unencumbered with the domestication by women.  I question who domesticated whom.

“The Birdcage" is a comedy, but it has a serious message that has provoked my thinking all week.  It centers upon our attitudes, prejudices and convictions and how we divide the world into the acceptable and the unacceptable.
“The peculiarity of prudery is to multiply sentinels in proportion as the fortress is less threatened.”  You might substitute bigotry for prudery.”  This is a quote from “Le Miserables” by Victor Hugo and makes me wonder what it is we think we are protecting by being prudes or bigots.  I don’t know what the original author of “The Birdcage” meant by that title.  I do know that I have long thought that caging birds that are used to soaring is a terrible thing to do.  It certainly does clip their wings so they cannot be what they are.

Before my column was finished, I had an errand to run.  I was at the bus stop waiting for the Sabana Estadio bus.  A young person was on the bench.  At first I thought it was a young woman — she was slim and small boned and her hair was in a snood. She was wearing jeans, tennies and a V-neck, polkadot T-shirt, and no makeup.  Then she answered the phone and her deep voice corrected my thinking.  I also noticed the shadow of a beard.  He finished his call, stood up, we smiled at each other, and he went on down the street.  Oh, I thought.  That is yet another variety of human beings — unisex.  I do think we should be more accepting of those who are not us.

Or, to the question comic Joy Bayhart asked on the "The View," “Do you think I am going to take fashion advice from a drag queen?”  The answer is, “Well, Joy, just maybe.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 189

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U.S. Embassy hosting community meetings on security

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy is conducting a series of four community meetings on crime.

U.S. Ambassador Anne Andrew attended the first meeting Tuesday in San Ramón where about 100 persons showed up, according to local participants. With her was Mexican-born Arturo Venegas Jr., former police chief in Sacramento, California. He is an expert on community policing.

This community outreach is unprecedented at the embassy, where State Department employees usually tread lightly so as not to upset local officials.

The meeting was conducted in Spanish with a heavy attendance of Costa Ricans.

Ms. Andrew pointed out that the United States trained 102
Costa Rican policemen in U.S. schools and 214 more here. She added that her country was soon to begin a four-year program with the security ministry to strengthen police training here.

Venegas outlined the concept of community policing which encourages contact between officers and citizens. Expats who attended were impressed that so many Ticos also attended to discuss citizen security.

The embassy made no announcement of the meeting, and attendance was by invitation.

Similar sessions were held in Quepos Wednesday and in Dominical Thursday. One is planned for Jacó today.  An embassy biography said that Venegas moved with his family to the United States in 1958 and settled in Santa María, California. He began his police career in 1969 in Fresno and became chief in Sacramento in 1993. He retired in 2003.

Calderón promises to make journalist crimes federal cases

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón told an international press delegation he is committed to set press freedom on the national agenda, double efforts to ensure the safety of reporters and push for legal reform making crimes against journalists offenses under federal law.

The representatives were from the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

During a 90-minute meeting in the Los Pinos presidential residence the two press organizations expressed their concern at the increase in journalists’ murders and the level of impunity surrounding these crimes; Calderón said that “the biggest threat to freedom of expression does not come from the government, which has a deep dedication to democracy and tolerance, rather from organized crime.”

Calderón also announced that a centralized process, with civil society participation, will soon be in place to evaluate risks and recommend safety measures. In a second hour-and-a-half meeting with government officials details of the plan were offered by Gustavo Salas, special prosecutor of crimes committed against freedom of expression. He said that early procedures could be beginning next month.

The delegation, was headed by Gonzalo Marroquín, Inter American Press Association vice president, and Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. They said they requested that crimes against journalists be made federal offenses, penalties stiffened, statutes of limitations eliminated, an effective system of protection for media and reporters with the support of civil society created, the work of the special prosecutor’s office strengthened, and new rules for security forces, which have to date hampered the work of the press, be established.

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, “We came to Mexico to express our solidarity with the government, the Mexican
people and the country’s media and journalists so that a
common front can be erected against the plague of violence and, in this way, the fundamental right of each citizen to know protected.”

Calderón pledged to push for the federalization of crimes against journalists, a reform proposal sent by the executive branch to Congress in 2008 in response to repeated requests drafted by Mexican editors and publishers, but which to date has remained stalled. The president ordered Interior Minister José Francisco Blake Mora to follow up on this issue with Mexican senate committees. He also demonstrated a willingness to support legal reforms that would bring about stiffer penalties for crimes against journalists and work for the elimination of any statutes of limitations, the visitors reported later.

On one specific issue, Calderón commented that a suspect had been arrested in the case of journalist Armando Rodríguez of the Diario de Juárez, murdered in November 2008. Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez confirmed that the arrest made it possible to determine that the motive for the murder was tied to the victim’s work as a reporter, and that investigations are ongoing.

Calderón also gave his personal word to review non-compliance by the federal government, Baja California and Chihuahua of resolutions made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, petitioned by the IAPA, regarding the murders of Héctor Félix Miranda and Víctor Manuel Oropeza in 1988 and 1991, respectively.

Statistics compiled by the Miami, Florida,-based Inter American Press Association since 1987 indicate that to date 103 journalists have been killed in Mexico and the whereabouts remain unknown of another eight abducted earlier this year. So far this year 10 journalists have been killed – Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, Guillermo Alcaraz Trejo, Marco Aurelio Martínez, Hugo Alfredo Olivera Cartas, María Elvira Hernández Galeana, Juan Francisco Rodríguez Ríos, Evaristo Pacheco Solís, Jorge Ochoa Martínez, José Luis Romero and Valentín Valdés Espinosa.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 189

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Colombia's Santos calls raid
killing top rebel a big victory

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian security forces have killed the military chief of a leftist rebel group in a raid in southern Colombia.  Officials say Wednesday's raid targeted a major rebel compound, where at least 20 other rebels died.

Officials say 30 planes and 27 helicopters took part in the attack on a rebel base in the jungle region south of the capital, Bogotá.

President Juan Manuel Santos said he authorized the operation by soldiers and police officers earlier this week, before flying to New York for the United Nations General Assembly debate.  He said officials had confirmed the death of Jorge Briceño, who was known as Mono Jojoy and served as the head of military operations for the leftist rebels.

Speaking in New York, Santos said Briceño's death was a major victory over the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, known as the FARC.

Santos said Briceño was a symbol of the terrorism and violence that have caused so much damage to Colombia and that his death is the biggest blow to date for the rebel group.

Officials accused the 57-year-old Briceño of having ordered a series of rebel attacks on military outposts and other sites during the 1990s.  Colombian authorities had filed scores of criminal charges against him, including terrorism, murder and drug trafficking.  The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Briceño's arrest.

President Santos said other FARC leaders were likely killed in this week's operation and that officials were trying to verify the identity of other bodies that were recovered in the raid.

He said the operation was code-named "Welcome" and that it should serve as a warning to the rebels.

Santos said the Colombian government is pursuing all FARC members.  He said his administration cannot let down its guard or declare victory yet, because there is much work to be done.

Before taking office as president last month, Santos served as defense minister under former President Álvaro Uribe.  As defense chief, he led a series of military strikes against the rebels, including operations to free several high-profile hostages and kill FARC leader Raul Reyes.

In Bogotá, current Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said five security officers were injured in the raid, which sparked a long gun battle with rebels.

Rivera said the raid uncovered a large jungle compound that Briceño and other rebels used to evade security officials.

He said the site was the mother of all rebel camps and included a concrete bunker with escape tunnels where Briceño was hiding.

In another operation earlier this week, officials raided a rebel stronghold in southwestern Colombia and killed 27 FARC members, including a senior commander. 

U.S. signs deal to improve
use of dollars sent home

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signed separate agreements with Honduras and El Salvador to support an initiative aimed at strengthening economic growth and development in those countries.

Secretary Clinton signed the memoranda of understanding Wednesday with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez in New York, where the U.N. General Assembly is being held. 

The initiative is known as BRIDGE: Building Remittance Investment for Development Growth and Entrepreneurship.  It is designed to help strengthen economic growth through remittances sent from abroad as part of a goal to bring more people into the financial system.  The Inter American Development Bank has estimated that Latin America and the Caribbean receive $50 billion in worker remittances each year from the United States.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 189

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Change of power in Brazil
unlikely to disrupt gains

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Widely viewed as an emerging world power, Brazil chooses a new leader Oct. 3. If pre-election polls are accurate, outgoing President Luiz Inacio da Silva's hand-picked nominee is favored to succeed him and become Brazil's first female leader.

More and more, Brazil is flexing its bulging economic muscle. At a time of constrained global economic expansion, Brazil's projected 7 percent growth rate this year is among the world's highest. An exporting dynamo, Brazil boasts the world's third-biggest airplane manufacturer and agricultural production that could one day rival that of the United States. It is also a world leader in bio-fuels and alternative energy.

Basking in the glow of Brazil's performance is da Silva of the center-left Workers' Party, who has led the country for the last eight years.

At a recent campaign rally, da Silva said that Brazil enjoys stable and accelerated economic growth, which will allow the society to flourish and guarantee a better country for its sons and daughters.

The president prepares to leave office as one of Latin America's most popular leaders, with domestic approval ratings consistently above 60 percent. His chosen successor, his chief of staff, economist Dilma Rousseff, has pledged to build upon da Silva's accomplishments.

Ms. Rouseff says Brazil will be one of the world's most dynamic countries in the next decade. She says foreign investors have a special environment in the country: a stable democracy with no ethnic conflicts, no wars.

Ms. Rousseff's strongest opponent is the Sao Paulo state governor, Jose Serra, who says Brazil can do even better than it has of late.

Serra says there is still much to be done, and that if we compare the progress other countries have achieved with Brazil's potential, there is one inescapable conclusion: Brazil can be even more than it is today.

Serra belongs to the center-right Social Democracy Party of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who preceded da Silva and is credited with many economic reforms that came to fruition during the da Silva presidency.

Former New York Times correspondent Larry Rohter spent more than a decade reporting in Brazil and has written a book on the country, "Brazil on the Rise."

"There has been enormous continuity in economic and social policy," said Rohter. "Lula was elected promising a rupture with capitalism. To his credit, that did not occur. He has, in fact, expanded and deepened many of the social and economic policies of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso years."

Rousseff has no prior experience in elected office, and allegations of influence-peddling have been leveled against members of her staff. Nevertheless, she is widely expected to win the presidential vote, possibly in the first round, according to Rohter.

"Lula wanted her to be president, his successor," he said. "And he has stumped for her. He has been all over the country and made it clear that she is his candidate. The big question was: can he transfer his popularity to her? At this juncture, it looks like the answer is yes."

Analysts say Brazil is experiencing growing pains that will require the next president's attention, including an overburdened and inadequate infrastructure and transportation system.

Investors initially greeted da Silva's presidency with panic, fearing that the former labor leader and leftist firebrand would strangle Brazil's private sector. No such anxiety surrounds the country's current presidential vote, according to Latin America investment and bond analyst Shelly Shetty of New York-based Fitch Ratings.

"We do not expect either of the front-runners, Dilma Rousseff or Jose Serra, to materially undermine the current macro-economic pillars or settings of Brazil," said Shetty. "The question is whether the next president takes a strong economy and makes it even stronger, or misses the opportunity of taking Brazil to the next level."

And that next level could include greater diplomatic clout. Brazil is one of several emerging world powers pressing the United Nations for an expansion of permanent seats on the Security Council.

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