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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 192       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Another frequently overlooked treasure is the Museo Nacional butterfly garden. It is not as well publicized as some of the commercial ventures, but it is in the
downtown of San José. These residents, morphos and perhaps an Owl butterfly or two, gather for afternoon refreshments.

Putin says Russia might help Chávez go nuclear
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he is ready to consider helping Venezuela develop a nuclear energy program.

Putin made the comment Thursday as he met with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez outside Moscow. Earlier, the Kremlin said it would lend Venezuela $1 billion so the South American country can buy Russian military hardware.

There was no further explanation of Venezuela's nuclear plans. The country has extensive petroleum reserves. But Chavez did say in 2005 that his scientists were trying to diversify energy production in the face of global warming. He said Venezuela was considering a nuclear option.

Argentina, Brazil and México each have two reactors used for generating power.

Nuclear projects by Venezuela are sure to raise concerns in Latin America and the United States because Chávez is rearming the country. Some reactors can produce enriched uranium that is vital to weaponry. Chávez himself is widely considered a major source of instability in the region.

Among his Russian purchases are modern fighter jets that could deliver bombs throughout northern South American and parts of Central America.
Chávez has been friendly with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who is causing so much concern in the United States and Israel because of his country's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has visited Nicaragua and President Daniel Ortega there.

Chávez is making his second trip to Russia in two months. The visit comes as a Russian naval squadron sails to Venezuela for joint military exercises. Earlier this month, two Venezuelan bombers conducted air patrol flights over neutral waters in the Caribbean.

Venezuela's efforts to forge closer ties with Russia come as both countries criticize U.S. foreign policy.

Separately, Chávez is seeking to boost ties with China through increased oil sales to reduce his country's dependence on the United States.

The Venezuelan leader Thursday said his country aims to increase oil exports to China to one million barrels a day within four years.

Venezuela currently sends China more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

Chávez, however, said his plan to increase oil shipments to China does not mean a cut in supplies to the United States. Before flying to Russia, Chávez visited China to meet with President Hu Jintao and sign deals on energy cooperation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 192

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Part of security proposal
reported out by lawmakers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special committee has sent to the Asamblea Legislativa a proposed security bill that appears to be diluted from the original.

This is the legislation that was sought by Casa Presidencial to stem what many perceive as a national crime wave. The executive branch spent a year drawing up the proposals.

The measure that has been reported out unanimously by the Comisión Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana is only half a loaf. Lawmakers did not address organized crime, immigration laws and firearms. These topics still are being considered.

However, the current bill also includes a section of trafficking in persons, both internationally and inside the country. The full details are not available because the final draft of the bill is not either. But under current law only international trafficking is penalized.

This was put in the bill by members of the committee but was not sought by Casa Presidencial which concentrated on violent crimes.

The proposal has three sections. The first is designed to protect witnesses and victims who are awaiting a trial. The security minister Janina del Vecchio had appeared before the committee and said that efforts to protect witnesses, victims and members of their family would be very costly.  The committee was supposed to figure out how to pay for such protection.

Witness protection is a crucial element in many cases because gang members are not shy about threatening or killing witnesses and their family members.

A second section provides a legal basis for speedy trials when the suspect has been caught red handed. The Poder Judicial will start such a program in San José Wednesday, and the legislation would seem to extend that idea throughout the country.

Suspects when caught in a situation where the evidence of their guilt is overwhelming would have hearings and a trial within 15 days, and police would testify orally, according to the proposed bill.

The third section of the bill would increase penalties for thefts, for receiving stolen property. Prison terms could range up to 10 years for the theft of valuable items, according to the proposal.

Sala IV orders inspection
of Nosara service station

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has called upon the Municipalidad de Nicoya to closely inspect a commercial operation in Nosara to verify that there has been no environmental damage.

The decision stems from the construction of a service station there that has been controversial.

The Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental also was given 15 days to carry out an inspection.

Two Nosara residents had argued that the construction project put the environment at risk.

The court told the municipality and the environmental panel that they should check the correctness of the construction and plans as well as business licenses and sanitation, according to a Poder Judicial summary.

The property is on the edge of a waterway and the Río Nosara is vulnerable, the residents argued, said the Poder Judicial.

The residents had argued that the construction was of a service center, a store for the sale of auto parts, a café and that no required sanitation inspections had been made and that there was no municipal license. The site was in a mangrove, they said.

Municipal and environmental officials were given 30 days to report back to the court on their findings. This is the second time that the project has been to the Sala IV. The court voted against the project in 2005 but what happened next is not clear.

Blackberry now official

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the Canadian firm Research in Motion Ltd., the company that produces the Blackberry.

The telecommunications institution is setting up personal and business accounts to handle Blackberry traffic, it said.

Customers in Costa Rica will be able to use Blackberry devices, the institute said. including telephone, camera and web surfing. Some of the devices are believed to already be in service here but without official recognition.

Armed men escape from police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite searches all day Thursday, police were unable to locate at least four heavily armed men who were seen in the vicinity of Tilarán. The search was resumed Thursday without success.

The men were seen by residents in a field near Solania del Líbano, Tilarán, and police suspect they may have had plans to kidnap someone from the area.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 192

Lawmakers asked to make Mora's hero status official
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although it might be about 150 years late, the Asamblea Legislativa has been asked to name former president Juan Rafael Mora Porras as a national hero.

If anyone deserves the honor, it is Mora, who led Costa Rican troops into battle at Santa Rosa and Rivas, Nicaragua, to defeat the forces of U.S. adventurer William Walker.

But then there was the little matter of the firing squad that seems to have kept Mora from getting all the honors he deserved.

Mora took office in 1849 during a financial depression caused by the collapse of world coffee prices.

He promoted coffee exportation which eventually proved to be an astute maneuver for Costa Rica.

It was Mora who recognized the ambitions of Walker as the American took over adjacent Nicaragua. And Mora convinced others in Central America to oppose Walker. He also obtained help from the British.

Mora was at the head of the Costa Rican column that became the Campaña Nacional, an effort to drive Walker out of Nicaragua before he could enter Costa Rica. Mora's troops were successful at Santa Rosa in 1856 and later at Rivas. That is the battle in which Juan Santamaría distinguished himself and died setting fire to an enemy position. This also is why school children have a song about the 11th of April. 
Mora also presided over the epidemic of cholera that was spread by the return of soldiers. Historians think that perhaps a tenth of the country's population of about 100,000 died in the outbreak.

He may be a hero but he was not an angel, according to contemporary sources. Farmers accused Mora, his family and friends of stealing their land. The coffee boom had made the land more valuable.

Mora served to 1859 when he was deposed in a coup by José María Montealegre Fernández, who pronounced himself president. Mora fled to El Salvador but attempted a comeback by invading Puntarenas the next year.

He was captured and executed by firing squad on Oct. 2. A significant percentage of mid-19th century Costa Rican politicians and generals suffered the same fate due to the excesses of the politics of the day.

Mora's brother-in-law and companion, Gen. José María Cañas Escamilla, who has an autopista in his name today, also died before the same firing squad.

In 1842 residents of San José executed their leader and Central American hero José Francisco Morazán Quezada, who made the error of insisting that young men complete compulsory military service. The execution is believed to be at the site where a park now bears his name.

The designation of Mora will be considered by lawmakers.

The musical weekend gives us strength to handle life
Oh what a night.  Or to be more accurately, what a weekend — an extended weekend of wonderful music.  It began Thursday night at the Teatro Nacional with a concert by “Swing en Cuatro,” a Costa Rican jazz quartet. Their pieces were based upon familiar Costa Rican songs.  Their improvisations on the themes were easy listening at its best.

Sunday morning was a concert, also at the Teatro Nacional, of Spanish music.  Thanks to Helen, a fellow music lover, who had extra tickets I was able to enjoy that, too.

Then on Monday night the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano had its Met Gala featuring Renée Fleming. Ms Fleming sang the leads in scenes from three operas.  Even if she did not have that remarkable voice which she uses so effortlessly, she could be nominated for an Oscar for her acting.

And that was just the beginning at the Centro Cultural. They will be showing the whole season of operas from the Met live on a large screen via high definition TV (which is why the show times are around midday — which is great for those who don’t like to drive at night).  The cost will be only $25 per person and $20 for students and ciudadano de oro holders.

Costa Rica is indeed, a land of music.  Not just indigenous music, but music from everywhere.

Costa Rica, however, does not seem to be a land of listening plumbers.  I have been trying to get my landlord to send the apartment handyman/ plumber to my apartment ever since that same plumber installed a new hot water tank.  I am back to a shower that falls or “droppeth as the gentle rain” thanks to a much reduced hot water pressure.  Seňor Plumber (who shall remain nameless because I do like him) insists upon putting in a new showerhead every time he responds to my complaints.  I, in turn, keep insisting that the problem is in the pipes. 

My neighbor, who has had much experience with plumbing, checked out the tubes from the tank in his apartment and agreed.  Mr. P. replaced the showerhead yet again.                 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Finally, after watching the water come out in a gentle arc from all three showerheads he had tried, he said “I will talk to the landlord about changing the tubes.”

This experience reminds me of how so many doctors treat patients — in any country, not just Costa Rica.  You, the patient, can dutifully tell the doctor all of your symptoms and from past experience of living in your body, what you think the problem is.  He (sometimes she) responds too often with a patronizing smile and words to the effect of “We’ll let me be the judge of that, shall we?”  He means “me and a bunch of tests.”

Then the tests come back and lo and behold, his diagnosis is exactly what you suggested.  Like with the plumber, it just took more time to get to it. But then, I (or we) do not have a medical degree nor are we plumbers. 

The same thing happens when I express my opinions about politics or the world situation. A reader or two will tell me to stay away from subjects I know nothing about.

Fortunately, I have been well prepared to weather these experiences by all of the music I have been listening to. For as the poet says “music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” 

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, but multi connected to Costa Rica et al, the experienced financial and political leaders are gathering to deal with the monetary mushroom cloud that is hovering over Wall Street. A cloud that seems to have taken them all by surprise. And illusionist David Blaine is doing things no human is supposed to be able to do.  It is indeed interesting times we live in.   Do we bring on the clowns or more music?

Laptop theft thwarted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said that three bold thieves, one of them apparently pregnant, grabbed the laptop of a U.S. citizen-pedestrian in the center of the downtown Thursday.

Fuerza Pública officers nearby managed to detain the three suspects, they said.

The street theft took place to a man identified only as Smith near the Hotel Balmoral, officers said. Three Colombians were detained. They were identified by the names of Lara, Piñeros and Ms. Pineda.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 192

Latin leaders at the U.N. recite a litany of woes and solutions
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says his country is taking measures to counter drug trafficking but that the international community must work together to confront the problem.

Uribe told the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday that Colombia suffers from violence due to illegal drugs. However, he said responsibility for the drug trade cannot be assigned exclusively to consumer countries. 

Uribe noted that his government has extradited more than 800 people on drug charges and has been taking steps to eradicate coca crops. Coca is the main ingredient in cocaine. Colombia is the world's largest producer of the drug.

Other Latin American leaders addressed the assembly Wednesday, expressing concern about the global financial crisis, hunger, poverty, and climate change.

Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya addressed the problems surrounding the global financial crisis in his speech. Zelaya told the gathering that one third of the funds being used to bail out the financial markets could be used to end poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He also said wealth could be more better distributed in society to help the poor.

Earlier, José Ramón Machado Ventura, Cuba's first vice president, criticized the disparities between the world's rich and poor countries, saying U.N. goals of reducing poverty are unreachable for the vast majority of the world's people. In his remarks at the U.N., the Cuban official also blamed the United States and other industrialized countries for soaring oil prices and accusing them of siphoning natural resources from the developing world.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón said reversing the effects of climate change is one of the key challenges facing the world community.
In his speech before the General Assembly, Calderón said climate change indiscriminately affects rich and poor countries. He said those that have contributed the least to it are often the most vulnerable.

Calderón said Mexico has proposed creating a U.N.-monitored environmental protection program, the Green Fund, that would give countries incentives to contribute financially to the initiative.

He also said nations must act fast to prevent the global rise in food prices from hurting efforts to overcome poverty.

Earlier Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said world hunger could easily be eradicated with the resources and efforts used in the bailout of the international banking system.

Ms. Bachelet said the economic crisis has shown that the international community has lost its determination to help the world's poorest. She blamed the economic uncertainty on greed and political negligence.

Another Latin American leader, President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, urged the world community to contribute more financially to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at sharply reducing global poverty by 2015.  He said close to $50 billion a year in aid would be needed to meet the goals, which include halving by 2015 the number of people living in abject poverty.

And Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo praised his country's election earlier this year that brought him to power, ending six decades of one-party rule. Lugo said the election has led to state and economic reform and allowed citizens to take part in the country's decision making.

Lugo, a former priest, was elected president in April, ending the 61-year rule of one political party, the Colorado Party. He was inaugurated last month.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 192

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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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Massive war chest set up
to battle world malaria

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World and business leaders have pledged $3 billion to help eradicate malaria. The funding will support a new Global Malaria Action Plan that aims to wipe out the disease in Africa by 2015.

The statistics are daunting — a child dies every 30 seconds from this preventable disease. But the new action plan supported by public and private funds, ambitiously aims to virtually stop this killer by the year 2015.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who announced his country's pledge of $74 million toward malaria research at Thursday's summit on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly debate, said the action plan will take on the disease from several angles.

"This is a comprehensive plan," said Brown. "We will not only support bed nets, we will support research, we will support cutting the cost of drugs, and we will support building the capacity of healthcare systems."

Malaria can be found in many regions of the world, including Costa Rica, but 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

This mosquito-borne illness also has devastating economic effects in Africa, costing $12 billion each year.

The World Bank announced it would contribute more than $1 billion to fight the disease on that continent, to help governments expand malaria prevention, care and treatment programs over the next three years.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates announced that his foundation will provide millions of dollars towards the development of a new generation of malaria vaccines.

"We want to have a vaccine that has an even better effect — 100 percent coverage — and to promote that we are announcing today that the Gates Foundation is giving an additional $168 million to the malaria vaccine initiative," said Gates.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the $3 billion in new commitments, saying the approach being used to combat malaria can serve as a model for the fight against other social issues such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy and gender inequality. 

Jo Stuart
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