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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 193       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Our No. 1
birding pick

The oxbow lake at Parque Nacional Carara is a temporary home for these egrets. The location along the Río Tarcoles is our pick for the best spot for birding in Costa Rica.  See our story

Police poised to take over docks at Caribbean ports
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police carrying gas masks were in position early today to take over the docks at Limón and Moín on the Caribbean.

Workers there have been engaged in a slowdown and demand that the government promise not to privatize the operations.

Early in the day President Óscar Arias Sánchez said the dock workers were doing great harm to Costa Rica. Shippers of perishable products estimate their loss at $5 million or more. Meanwhile police riot units were being transported to the area. Some 200 are believed to be there.

Arias noted that the dock workers are only loading two containers an hour when they should be loading 60. Trucks carrying containers are backed up for miles. Many hold pineapple or bananas.

Police have taken control of the docks in the past, usually without much resistance. The police units usually moved in before dawn.
Dock workers won one round late Sunday when it appeared they will get about 470 million colons promised by the Abel Pacheco administration.

But workers quickly changed their demands to a promise from Arias not to convert the dock into a concession as has happened in Caldera on the Pacific.

Arias was not at all diplomatic. He said in San José Wednesday afternoon that he promised to improve the docks while he was campaigning in Limón before the Feb. 5 election.

To do that a company has to be brought in that has money, he said. And he said he was not going back on his campaign promise of privatizing.

The docks are now run by Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica, a government agency.

Over the weekend officials learned that the dock administration has about $19 million in a slush fund, and dock workers want this money used for modernization.

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Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 193

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Rodrigo Arias decries
treaty anarchy and chaos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The session was supposed to be for signing an agreement between law enforcement and private security companies.

But Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia, had the free trade treaty with the United States on his mind.

"Democracy cannot be the object of blackmail by those who would abandon the road of legality every time this road does not coincide with their desires," he said.

He called for respect for national institutions at the time major decisions are made and said that the state guarantees that everyone can express an opinion.

President Óscar Arias Sanchez, the brother of Rodrigo, has been plagued by protesters wherever he goes. Tuesday more than 150 policemen showed up in Ciudad Quesada for a religious ceremony attended by Arias. Some protesters appeared, but they were kept some distance away.

Opponents of the free trade treaty have promised to take their challenge to the streets. They promise work stoppages, road blockades and marches.

Rodrigo Arias said that Costa Rica is about to make decisions designed to reduce poverty and increase the indexes of human and economic development. And he admitted that these decisions will not be unanimous.

It will be in the Asamblea Legislativa where the decision on the free trade treaty will be made, he noted. There was no right to create chaos, he said, and he decried anarchy.

"Whoever tries to throw the people of Costa Rica into this abyss are people of little faith in the capacity of our democracy to resolve differences in a peaceful and orderly manner, as Costa Ricans have been known to do for decades.." he said.

The alliance with the security firms is not about the free trade treaty, but security ministry officials believe they have added 16,000 helpers to the 9,300 members of the Fuerza Pública.

The signatories to the agreement are mainly those involved in guarding banks, delivery trucks and other choice targets for robbers and thieves. Some 27 companies and representatives from 24 financial enterprises and 10 other commercial enterprises signed the agreement.

The responsibility of the private guards will be to keep regular law enforcement aware of any problems or suspicions. Some 7,066 private security radios will be available every eight-hour shift of work, officials said.

Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that the alliance was needed to insure the kind of security citizens need.

New highways to start
in November, officials say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport minister said Wednesday that construction of the San José-Caldera highway would begin in November at the same time that work begins on reconstructing the San José-San Ramón highway.

The minister is Karla González, and the San José-Caldera route will reduce the travel time from the Central Valley to the Pacific coast.

The bridges for the Caldera highway have been in for years, but the Pacheco government was unable to get the roadway built due to challenges to the concession law.

Minister González said that land is being expropriated and rights of way acquired for both projects, and the work is advancing. In addition, the utilities companies, such as the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados have signed on to the project and will relocate their services.

The projects are concessions, and the company doing the work is Autopistas del Valle. The concessions are for 25 years. The Caldera route is an extension of the Autopista Próspero Fernández which runs along the south side of Parque La Sabana. The highway is complete through Ciudad Colon. The new stretch will be 78 kilometers and will cost $140 million. The San Ramón project is 65.8 kilometers and costs $170 million.

Both projects have been anticipated by real estate investors who expect appreciation of properties as a result of the new highways. The November starting date was first proposed by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes in May, but obtain rights-of-way proved to be more work than anticipated.

Don Pepe to return in photos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional will inaugurate a temporary exhibition of photos of José Figueres Ferrer Thursday at 10 a.m. at the museum just east of the Plaza Democracia in downtown San José. Monday was the late president Figueres' 100th birthday. The exhibition is titled "Retrospectiva Fotográfica de Don Pepe"
Our reader's opinion

Democrats Abroad chair
says vote was unanimous

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the so-called Latin American-style golpe de estado in Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica (A.M. Costa Rica Sept. 27), rest assured that Luisa Kaufman was removed as president by a vote of 46-0; that no shots were fired; and that none of us wears military uniforms or dark glasses indoors. 

The Pledge of Allegiance was only partially the issue. It was Ms. Kaufman’s reaction to the “dissenters” that caused the problem, including her abrupt cancellation of two of our monthly meetings.  Calling those who wished to express their personal protest against the reckless policies of the Bush administration “anti-American,” as she did in your article, says it all.  Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica is alive and well and mobilizing people to VOTE ABSENTEE in the November Congressional elections.

Applications for absentee ballots and federal write-in ballots can be downloaded from www.VoteFromAbroad.org.  Check www.vote-smart.org to find out who the candidates are in your Congressional district.  Join Democrats Abroad at
www.democratsabroad.org; we meet on the last Saturday of every month at the Aurola Holiday Inn in downtown San José.  Check the calendar section of A.M. Costa Rica for more information.
Ruth Dixon
temporary Chair,
Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 193

La Selva is near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and provides a good site for these birders.

There are even concrete walks.

The five top locations for bird watching in Costa Rica
By Denis W. Rogers*
Special to A.M. Costas Rica

Costa Rica is one of the premier birding destinations in the Americas with a bird list in excess of 860 species. This diversity in such a small area is exceeded globally only by some sites on the east slope of the Andes, but the good field guide and relatively good infrastructure in Costa Rica make for much easier birding. A short trip can take in a variety of habitats each with special birds.

Only a few species such as the coppery-headed emerald and the black-cheeked ant-tanager are entirely restricted to Costa Rica, but many others occur only in the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. The five sites below sample those areas of high endemism or restricted range, and give a good overview of the country’s diversity. That's why they have been chosen as Costa Rica’s top five birding spots

It takes about 10 days to do justice to these spots, even though the short distances between them means little lost time in the field. A shorter trip would give less opportunity to get the feel of each place. Overall, the best time to visit is March or early April, when migrants from North America are moving through and the approach of the rainy season stimulates activity among the resident birds.

Additional areas to visit on a longer trip include Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Monteverde, Las Cruces Botanical Gardens, Parque Nacional Corcovado, Parque Nacional Tortuguero, Virgen del Socorro, and Parque Nacional Tapantí.

One: Parque Nacional Carara

The river trail at Carara is the best mile of birding in Costa Rica. The mountain on the south side of the Tárcoles river makes for an abrupt change of rainfall patterns, and on this trail (a road actually) is right where the tropical dry forest gives way to a much wetter forest typical of the Pacific lowlands of Costa Rica and Chiriquí, Panama. Black-headed trogons mix with Baird’s trogons, long-tailed manakins with orange-collared manakins, and black-bellied wrens with plain wrens. Other special birds include fiery-billed aracari, golden-naped woodpecker, and black-hooded antshrike. An oxbow lake formed from an old river channel is about two kilometers along the trail. Here, there are often waterbirds including boat-billed heron and kingfishers.

The star of Carara is the scarlet macaw, most easily seen in the early morning as they commute from roosts in the mangroves at the mouth of the Tárcoles. The south end of the bridge has the best view. Don’t miss the crocodiles in the river. Macaws might be seen in the park during the day.

Parking for the river trail is on the left (coming from Orotina) about a kilometer past the bridge. It is a steep drop off the pavement. Visitors should not leave anything of value in a car. Any San José-Quepos or San José-Jacó bus can drop birders off there. There’s lodging in Jacó or Tárcoles. The park station where entrance fees are paid is another couple of kilometers towards Jacó, though the trails there are in poor habitat.

Two: Cerro de la Muerte and San Gerardo

Most birdwatchers who come to Costa Rica want to see the resplendent quetzal, and the forests of the Talamanca range are the best place to do it. Monteverde is better known, but the lighter forests of the Cerro make for easier viewing.

Two roads drop off the highway on the Pacific side into the Río Savegre drainage. The Providencia road is about 72 kilometers from San José towards San Isidro de El General, across from the Chesperitos Dos truck stop. It drops down for about four kilometers through magnificent oak forest before reaching the deforested part of the valley. Where the road breaks out into the open is good for quetzals, though they can be anywhere. Other birds characteristic of the oak forest are Costa Rican pygmy-owl, acorn woodpecker, ruddy treerunner, collared whitestart, and yellow-thighed finch.

San Gerardo de Dota is more developed for tourism, with upscale lodges. Here, the quetzals are often staked out, with nests or fruiting trees known. The turn is about 80 kilometers from San José, and goes steeply down through deforested areas (watch for the sooty thrush, a large robin) to a valley. Just after a bridge there is a flat area often frequented by quetzals. Another public trail is just past the biggest lodge on the left, though some find the log bridge disconcerting.

Three: La Selva Biological Station

La Selva is near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí in the Caribbean lowlands. It is a functioning research facility and tourism is secondary. Still, one needs to stay there to have full access to the forest. See www.esintro.co.cr for details.

The facilities at La Selva are exceptional with several kilometers of concrete sidewalks through the forest, making birding much easier than walking slippery trails while watching for snakes.

The area around the station itself has plantings with many birds, and with luck a visitor might see a sungrebe from the bridge between the two.

Birding inside a tropical rain forest is very difficult but rewarding. The property has a bird list of more than 500 

A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Top sites are shown on map

Oak forest at San Gerardo de Dota

species, but you won’t see many on a given morning. Large birds like rufous motmot, slaty-backed forest-falcon, and great tinamou are much more often heard than seen. On rare occasions the great green macaw is overhead, while other parrots like mealy, red-lored, and white-crowned are more common. Keel-billed toucans share space with chestnut-mandibled toucans. Any number of similar flycatchers and other species like hummingbirds and dacnis are around the station.

Four: Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

Most of Braulio Carrillo is inaccessible, but the Quebrada Gonzalez trail is right off the main San José-Guapiles highway and provides exceptional birding in very wet foothill forest. The park station is about 45 minutes from San José just past the Río Sucio bridge, where the “clean” and “dirty” rivers come together. On a good gravel trail, one can hike a 1.6 kilometer loop. The last part is a steep set of stairs, so when visitors are on the top of the ridge and can hear the trucks again, they should return the way they came.

The exceptional feature of this habitat is the mixed flock, where different species with different foraging strategies band together to provide protection from predators. There is even a “sentinel” species that catches insects disturbed by other flock members while keeping an eye out for trouble. Here that is the white-throated shrike-tanager; other regular flock members include emerald, speckled, bay-headed, black & yellow, and silver-throated Tanagers, spotted woodcreeper, and russet antshrike. Regularly seen here but difficult elsewhere are the yellow-eared toucanet, lattice-tailed trogon, and streak-crowned antvireo.

Five: Parque Nacional Santa Rosa

Guanacaste province is the southern end of the tropical dry forest typical of most of the Pacific slope of Central America. The birds are therefore more widespread, but Santa Rosa makes for more variety on a trip. The dry season here is hot and windy making birding difficult, unfortunately, at the time of year when birding is best elsewhere in the country.

Santa Rosa was originally designated a park for its history, but has good forest. Typical species include roadside hawk, white-fronted parrot, cinnamon and steely-vented hummingbirds, rufous-naped wren, white-throated magpie-jay, and stripe-headed sparrow. With a four-wheeled vehicle, a visitor can reach some nice bottomland forest at Playa Naranjo which has other birds like crane hawk.

*Mr. Rogers is the author of  "Site Guides Costa Rica," a guide for birders. The third edition has just been published. More information is available on his Web site.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 193

Despite run-in with security at JFK Venezuelan minister says he's returning
By the A.M. Costas Rica wire services

Venezuela's foreign affairs minister says he plans to return to the United States at the end of the week, despite being detained at a New York airport for 90 minutes Saturday.

The miniister, Nicolas Maduro, told reporters Wednesday he must return to New York for meetings at the United Nations Thursday and Friday. He said he met Tuesday with U.S. ambassador William Brownfield to discuss the details of the Saturday incident. Maduro says police threatened to beat him while he was being held, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there was no evidence that Maduro was mistreated.
Officials said the incident started when Maduro began to complain after he was asked to go through a routine, secondary security screening.

The U.S. State Department has apologized for the incident.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has said Venezuela would respond with what he called "equal treatment" if the incident were repeated.

Ties between the United States and Venezuela have been strained in recent years. Last week, Chávez called President Bush "the devil" during a speech to the United Nations.
Chávez has accused the U.S. of plotting against him and his government, a charge the U.S. denies.

Rights report on Cuba by U.N. expert cites censorship, detention of dissidents
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations human rights expert says Cuba has failed to improve its human rights record, criticizing government censorship and the detention of political dissidents.

French lawyer Christine Chanet told the U.N. Human Rights Council Tuesday that Cuba had not cooperated with her on the investigation of its human rights situation. She said she based her assessment on reports from academics, human rights groups, and non-governmental organizations.
Chanet criticized the crackdown on dissidents that Havana carried out in 2003, when nearly 80 people were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.

She also criticized the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba that has been in place sine 1964, saying it has had disastrous economic and social effects.

Cuba's representative on the Human Rights Council called Chanet's report libelous and said he would throw it away, as he had done with earlier reports.

Peruvians find cache of ammunition and anti-air rockets bound for Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peruvian authorities say they have seized five anti-aircraft rockets and thousands of rounds of ammunition for assault rifles that were headed to Colombia's largest rebel group.

Interior Minister Pilar Mazzetti said Tuesday the leader of the arms trafficking operation, a Peruvian woman named Luz Sonia Gonzales, was arrested in the raid Friday in the
capital, Lima. Several others, including a policeman, also were detained. Over the past year, police have seized some 47,000 bullets from the same group.

Mazzetti said the arms were all going to be sold to guerrillas loyal to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. The rebel group has been at war with neighboring Colombia's government for more than four decades in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Four suspects grabbed by investigators in the case of kidnapped businessman
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested four suspects in the kidnapping of a 33-year-old San José real estate broker early Friday.

The man was held for 14 hours before his family paid a $650,000 ransom, agents said.

Investigators conducted a raid in Moravia about 10 a.m. Wednesday and detained three Colombians and a man from
Honduras. All are illegal residents of the country, agents said.
Investigators are not giving details about the case, but did say that the man was confronted by armed men in a car as we walked in San José Barrio Francisco Peralta near his home Friday about 1 a.m. He was with two friends who were unable to interfere because of the guns.

The man was freed the afternoon of the same day after the payment was made, agents said. Originally the kidnappers wanted $1 million.

Agents said they were able to block the financial transaction even thought the man was freed.

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