A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 191
Jo Stuart
About us

What's left
of bridge

This jumble of trees outlines where a bridge existed at the community of Portalón on the Pacific coast. All but a small portion of the bridge is gone and those crossing the river must do so with a security line.

Photo by Bob Klenz

A plea for the little town that no longer exists
By Bob Klenz
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Hail to ICE — To Hell with Portalón

This is how I felt when I read about the ICE strike in today's newspapers.  Here we have hundreds if not thousands of publicly paid ICE employees taking a stroll down the paved streets of San José when AT THE SAME MOMENT, there are hundreds of people suffering in the pueblos of Portalón and Silencio on the south Pacific coast.

Some of them are cut off from all contact. All of them have no electricity, no clothing, no food, no water and to make things worse, NO MORE HOMES.  I hope you understand what I just said, all of you from ICE who enjoyed your little holiday stroll.  What most people in the country don't realize is that an entire community just south of Quepos and north of Matapalo was virtually wiped out in the last 48 hours, destroyed when the Portalón River changed its direction and covered the town of Portalón and its 100 or so homes. 

The amount of gigantic trees that flowed through the village and right through many of the homes is incredible and would make you think of Gulfport, Mississippi, or New Orleans.  People walking through the mud with all they could carry and all they had left. The Tico government may have been critical of the response from Katrina but they didn't pass the test here either.

The coastal highway Portalón bridge is completely down and blocked with large tree trunks.  The bridge into Portalón centro is
More on the flooding
ICE workers march

also completely out. After three days there is still a river flowing right through town when it should be 500 meters away. The electric and phone lines are down. 

Other than the emergency workers of the Red Cross, the mayor of Aguirre, Alex Contreras, was the only official I happened to see in the first few days of rescue.  How many ICE trucks were there to restore power and telephone? NONE!  I guess the strike and the personal vendetta was more important than helping their fellow citizens.  MOPT  has also been non existant and should already have heavy equipment in the area to open waterways and clogged bridges.

Let this be a call for help to the people of Portalón and give them the assistance they need to rebuild and restore their lives.  They didn't have much when the river came through, but now they have nothing.  For donations, please contact the Portalón School, Maestra Jenny at 787-5198 or 787-5233.  If no answer, you can also contact Scott or Joyce Dinsmore at 844-1600 to help co-ordinate donations. Items that are needed are all types of clothing, bedding, furniture, food, water and diapers.

* Mr. Klenz lives in Dominical and owns property near Portalón.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 191

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Our readers' opinions

We're  'inexcusably biased'
on free trade agreement

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your "staff" article "Report on free trade pact was a real crowd pleaser" in the Sept. 22, 2005, edition of A.M. Costa Rica was inexcusably biased in favor of the CAFTA treaty and against those who oppose it.  It was not in any way an “analysis on the news” and, frankly, was unworthy of your organization – or even a tabloid, for that matter.
Instead of yielding to the gringo temptation of bashing Costa Rica and its citizens at every turn, why not try reporting on the news objectively, and then letting the reader make up his mind?  Or could it be that you personally stand to gain from passage of the so-called Central American Free Trade Agreement?
First and foremost, call a spade a spade.  It is not an analysis of the news, but an opinion piece conceived by one or two persons at A.M. Costa Rica’s small (but attractive) offices.
Next, try to maintain at least some semblance of journalistic integrity and objectivity.  If you want to slather up the readership with sophistic claims about a pollyannish land of plenty that will magically descend upon us all should CAFTA be approved, then at least publish a column by a qualified writer that is opposed to the treaty’s passage.
It is true that your organization seems to freely print letters to the editor that espouse all positions, and you deserve praise for that.  Why not take it a step further, and give the opposing viewpoint the same status in your paper?  Remember, for every article or column A.M. Costa Rica publishes supporting CAFTA, there should be one that opposes it as well.
Next, please stop calling CAFTA the "free trade" treaty in headlines. You're intentionally misleading people.  I know, in your editorial comments, you’ll fall back upon the excuse, “Well, it’s called the Central American Free Trade Agreement.”  That may be its name, but if I start calling myself Brad Pitt, it doesn’t mean I’m really Brad Pitt.  There’s more to a treaty than just its political name.
Do some investigative journalistic work.  On Dec. 30, 2003, I sent you – and you published — an article about the woes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has wrought upon Mexico since 1993.  Try writing a story from that angle; inform the readership of the bad things that have happened as a result of NAFTA, and show how the two treaties are similar. Let people see the whole story, and then let them make up their own minds.
U.S. persons can get a feel for NAFTA's deleterious effects on their country by tuning in to Lou Dobbs on CNN.  You see, contrary to what you seem to believe, CAFTA does not represent a panacea of blessings, unless you’re a major stockholder of a multinational corporation.
Stocker Brown
Anti-American sentiment
growing, thanks to Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"A bunch of right wing nuts."
That is how General Brent Scowcroft, the former national security advisor to President George Herbert Walker Bush, described the radical neo-conservatives who today dominate the adminstration of George Walker Bush. He made that comment in late 2002, as the neo-cons were beating the drums and telling the lies that would result in our embarking on this march of folly in Iraq.
In 1998, General Scowcroft and G.H.W. Bush co-authored a book in which they clearly spelled out why they did not invade Iraq after successfully driving Saddam from Kuwait.
To read that book today, as I've just finished doing, is to realize just how wise and prophetic these two elder statesmen really are. Virtually every negative consequence they predicted would have occurred had they opted to invade and occupy Iraq, is unfolding before our eyes today.
But don't expect Junior and his neo-con advisors to tell you so.
For a lifelong Republican and Bush family loyalist like General Scowcroft to refer to this Bush administration as being dominated by a “bunch of right wing nuts”, is a powerful indictment of the men and women currently wielding great power inside the Executive Branch.
One of those "right wing nuts", chief presidential political strategist Karl Rove, recently had yet another dubious distinction bestowed upon him, although he may not be aware of it. We now know it was Rove who, in an act of political retribution that would have made even Richard Milhouse Nixon blush, revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative to the press.
What new dubious distinction does "Bush's Brain" now possess?
Well, in 1999, G.H.W. Bush gave a speech at CIA headquarters in which he described anyone who would do what Rove did as ranking among “... the most insidious of traitors”. But in the parallel universe of Junior Bush's administration, "right wing nuts"
and “the most insidious of traitors” enjoy the trust and confidence of this most incompetent of chief executives.
What does all this have to do with Costa Rica?
Well, as an American who has spent extended periods of time here over the last six years, I am becominig acutely aware of the anti-American sentiment the arrogance of this administration is generating.
This sentiment is not limited to Costa Ricans. It is shared by many of the wonderful friends from all over the world I’ve met here through the years. As one friend asked me after election day last year, "Michael, how could the American people be so stupid as to elect this liar a second time?” More than a little embarrassed, I could only shrug my shoulders and say, "Your guess is as good as mine.”
Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo de Limón
Police seeking candidates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública is looking for high school graduates who like action. Speaking English is a plus.

The police unit's ministry, Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said Monday that its human resources department was accepting applications via the regional offices for those who would like to be chosen for the  Escuela Nacional de Policía next year.

In addition to English, knowledge of any other language besides Spanish is a plus, the agency said, as is a driver's license and experience in security.

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All that remains of the bridge into the community of Portalón is this small section of bridge. The rest was swept away by an assault of tree trunks and rocks.

Photo by Bob Klenz

Officials still assessing damage from weekend rains
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When more than 20 inches of rain had finished falling Monday, rescue workers were able to begin to understand the full brunt of the damage the heavy flooding had done over the weekend and begin to clean up.

Monday, the entire Pacific slope was still on red alert, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias. Four persons had died, and 1,518 more had been forced out of their homes.  1,153 of those had ended up in 34 shelters, the emergency commission said.  357 homes had been destroyed. 83 routes had been affected. 36 bridges, three dikes, 17 drainage systems and four aqueducts had also sustained damage, said the commission. 

It was also apparent Monday which areas had been the hardest hit.  According to the emergency commission, the towns of Bambú, Corralillos and La Guinea de Filadelfia in Guanacaste, La Palma de Pérez Zeledón, Cañablancal de Palmar Norte and Volcán de Buenos Aires in the Brunca region and the communities of Silencio and Portalón in Aguirre had all sustained serious damage.

In Portalón three children with severe disabilities are missing, said Robbie Felix of the Fundación Roberta Felix.  A fourth girl had her wheelchair washed away and is in a shelter in Matapalo, Ms. Felix said.  Several other children with autism and little money also had their homes flooded in Barrio Los Angeles, Ms. Felix added. She is a Quepos hotel owner, and the foundation helps handicapped children in the area.

Ms. Felix said that donations are desperately needed, but the emergency commission has decided that sufficient help exists and has turned down international aid.    
“The pertinence of the need to receive international help has been analyzed, however, for the moment, such actions have been rejected because the resources exist to give sufficient attention to the heavy rains of last week,” the commission said in a report.

However, the government of Taiwan said it would donate $150,000. The president of that country,  Chen Shui-bian, said in a visit to Managua, Nicaragua, that the money would go to the commission.

Ms. Felix writes: “The saddest part of all this is the complete breakdown of the emergency plan in the beginning of this tragedy.  The gas station where the police have their contract for gas was destroyed, leaving the police without gas in their cars.  When I first showed up there on Saturday they had over half the cars parked in the garage, responding to calls they could not attend.”  Ms. Felix added that she used her credit card and filled the empty tanks.

The emergency commission did note that once it receives better information about the extent of the damage, officials will decide whether or not international aid is necessary.

Portalón still has about eight inches of water in what was once the main street. Houses that remain are heavily damaged and full of mud.

However, other towns still are cut off. The commission said that Ostinol de Santa Cruz and Cantanrrana de Carrillo in the Provincia de Guanacaste, San Joaquín de Dota in San José, Hebrón de Cutris de San Carlos in Alajuela were still isolated.  In the Provincia of Puntarenas, rescue workers were still cut off by flooding rivers and waterways from the towns of Piedades, San Luis, La Esperanza, San Ramón, Pavón de Cobano, Laguna de Palma in Golfito, Pilas de Buenos Aires and Brujo de Quepos.

Flood waters swept right through these homes, the few left standing in Portalón, and brought in layers of mud, branches, trash and tree trunks.

Photos by Bob Klenz


Line of marches stretches downhill from the Asamblea Legislativa at least four blocks, some 2,500 persons.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Teresa Aguero Picado calls on Ticos to defend their national heritage. Although not an employee of the telecommunications monopoly, she is a frequent participant at their protests.

ICE workers want law to help company revived
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers from the telecommunications monopoly, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, were on the march again Monday. But this time the target was not so much the proposed free trade treaty with the United States.

Instead, the workers were protesting the elimination of a legislative commission that was supposed to generate laws to strengthen the company, known as ICE.

The work stoppage and strike were not complete, and some agencies and telephone services functioned. However, subscribers to the ICE high-speed Internet service reported that, as during previous strikes, the velocity slowed to a trickle.

The workers marched from the ICE headquarters in Sabana Norte to the Asamblea Legislativa in downtown San José. They carried a letter addressed to Gerardo González, the president of the assembly.

In it the workers blamed a conspiracy involving "Aristas," supporters of Óscar Arias Sánchez, the former president and current presidential candidate. They also blamed the Movimiento Libertario for trying to impede the institution.

The letter was signed by five leaders of unions associated with ICE. The amalgamation is called the Frente Inteno de Trabajadores del ICE.

The letter claimed that the assembly deputies planned to pass a law in record time to write the epitaph of ICE and deliver the telecommunications market and the energy market to the United States by means of the proposed free trade treaty. In addition to telephone and its Internet service and its subsidiary, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., ICE is a bulk generator of electricity via hydro and wind power.

Arias is a prime target because he is in private business with firms generating electricity.

The letter called ICE a national heritage and urged the assembly president to set up a new commission with the participation of various sectors of society, meaning the unions.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Juan Luis Castillo, an ICE employee, was  one of the marchers with placards in English.

The unions noted that the type of law proposed had been part of a compact made between the government and the workers. That pact was reached to end a national strike and road blockade.

The free trade treaty with the United States does not propose to hand over telecommunications to foreign firms.

However, an opening allowing multi-national operations in the wireless market provides the possibility that ICE will lose market share as technology moves in the direction of wireless.

Marchers. however, remained firmly against the free trade treaty regardless of the emphasis on the assembly letter. Some carried signs that made vulgar statements about George Bush, the U.S. president.

Legislature wants $196,000 to counter biased and incorrect information
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The leadership of the Asamblea Legislativa wants the world to know they are doing a good job, so they are earmarking 95 million colons, some $196,000 for publicity.

Gerardo González Esquivel, the president of the assembly, has proposed a modification of the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Saturday. He said
he wanted to make known the positive aspects of work in the assembly. And the lawmakers would use the money to counter incorrect and biased information, presumably in the news media.

The total reallocation from the budget presented  by the executive branch is about 400 million colons, some $825,000. Some of this money will go to the creation of 10 new jobs at the legislature, including five of security and five ushers.

Focus is on national efforts to achieve political, social freedoms
Shift in development goals cited by World Bank aide

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The world now has a clearer, multi-dimensional view of development than during the post-World War II period when concentrated international development efforts were established, says the head of the United Nations Development Programme.

The world sees that deployment of resources itself will not solve the problem of poverty, Kemal Dervis, the program administrator, told a World Bank conference on the effectiveness of aid for human and social development.

The Monday conference at the World Bank's Washington headquarters followed the annual meetings of the bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Dervis said the Millennium Development Goals -- which followed from the Millennium Declaration endorsed at the United Nations in 2000 -- have provided a framework for measuring success of current development efforts.

The goals have been a tremendous outreach effort and
have energized the world on giving attention to development issues, he said. 

Dervis summarized global development efforts since the late 1940s.

Initially, he said, the focus was on helping countries accumulate capital and on investing in rebuilding infrastructure. That emphasis led to an excessive focus on increasing national economies' income goals and less on peoples' well-being.

He said that a new emphasis focuses on national efforts to achieve political and social freedoms.

In coming years, the international community will need to invest more in developing effective institutions and in helping generate a concept of private sector ownership of development, Dervis added.

Donors' understanding of local cultures and traditions is also important in development efforts, he said.

Finally, Dervis said, the donor community should work to harmonize the procedures aid recipients must follow in order to receive assistance.

Customs agents discover stash of ancient Peruvian artifacts in Florida
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. authorities have recovered more than 300 ancient Peruvian artifacts hidden in South Florida after a two-month smuggling investigation.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement said 322 pre-Columbian artifacts were recovered in one of the largest seizures of its kind.

The stolen antiquities were discovered by agents during the execution of three federal search warrants
at various South Florida locations.  Among the items recovered were a clay vessel estimated to be 3,500 years old, a clay statue estimated to be 1,800 years old, a burial shroud linked to ancient Peruvian royalty and gold jewelry.

Authorities believe the artifacts were smuggled from Peru. Immigration agents arrested one person in Miami in connection to the case.

The consul general of Peru in Miami, Jorge Roman, thanked federal and local law enforcement officials.

Hearing in Texas for ex-CIA operative wanted in airline bombing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

EL PASO, Texas — An immigration hearing is under way for a Cuban exile and former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative wanted for murder by Venezuela.

The case of Luis Posada Carriles began Monday here where his lawyers are expected to argue against his deportation to Venezuela. Posada Carriles is accused
of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner in which 73 people were killed. He denies involvement.
Lawyers for the 77-year-old man, who was trained by the CIA in the 1960s, argue he could face torture if sent to Venezuela.

Venezuelan authorities say there is no evidence that their government would torture Posada Carriles, and say that the United States is wrongfully protecting an aggravated felon.

Jo Stuart
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