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(506) 223-1327              Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 197           E-mail us   
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Surprise flooding slams part of Cartago province
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rain in the eastern mountains sent a crest of water down the Río Reventado Wednesday afternoon and flooded out more than 200 families and heavily damaged at least 30 homes.

Meanwhile, emergency commission engineers were inspecting the 40-year-old dike that protects part of the city of Cartago where many families have built homes. A break in the dike could cause catastrophic flooding.

More rain was predicted for today.
The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that 30 families from La Guarco were in shelters at the Liceo de El Guarco and a church in Quircot. The commission said its estimates were preliminary and that more damage might be revealed at dawn.

Much of the flooding took place in an area known as Llano Grande de Cartago. The commission said that storm damage reports started coming at about 3 p.m. from the communities of Llano Grande, Quircot, San Nicolás, El Tejar and La Lima. Four bridges were being inspected to reveal any possible damage.

Investigators say they busted up property fraud ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested three women Wednesday morning and said they were part of a criminal organization that was stealing property by using false plans. At least one of the women is a lawyer.

The women were detained in raids that took place in Barrio Lujan in San José, San Francisco de Dos Rios and in Mercedes Norte in Heredia, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. The women were identified by the last names of Arias, Amador and Pradilla.

Agents called this Operation Quetzal because that was the name of a property that was part of the complex scam. The crime was characterized as
registry fraud because the false documents were inserted into the Registro Nacional.

The way the fraud worked is not clear but agents said criminals took the plans for a piece of property in Milla Marítima del Caribe and superimposed the document atop plans for property near the Turrialba volcano. In that way the subdivided property could be sold off in tracts. Agents said some 2,200 hectares or about 5,436 acres were involved.

The Registro has come in for criticism for its slow repsonse to fraudulent activities, but in this case it was not known if there was any fault on the part of the public employeees who work there. At least five more persons are being sought.

Researchers say they have found where young green sea turtles go
By the University of Florida news service

Biologists have found a major clue in a 50-year-old mystery about what happens to green sea turtles after they crawl out of their sandy nests and vanish into the surf, only to reappear several years later relatively close to shore.

In a paper scheduled for publication in the journal Biology Letters, three University of Florida sea turtle scientists say they found the clue by analyzing chemical elements ingrained in the turtles’ shells. Their conclusion: The turtles spend their first three to five lost years in the open ocean, feeding on jellyfish and other creatures as carnivores. Only after this period do they move closer to shore and switch to a vegetarian diet of sea grass — the period in their lives when they have long been observed and studied.

The turtles ply the Carribean and nest along Costa Rica's eastern coast.

“This has been a really intriguing and embarrassing problem for sea turtle biologists, because so many green turtle hatchlings enter the ocean, and we haven’t known where they go,” said Karen Bjorndal, a professor of zoology.

“Now, while I can’t go to a map and point at the spot, at least we know their habitats and diets, and that will guide us where to look.”

The discovery is important not only because it’s a first, but also because it may aid in conservation of the turtles — which, like all sea turtles, are classified as endangered. “You can’t protect something,” said Professor Bjorndal, “if you don’t know where it is.”
Famed sea turtle biologist Archie Carr first discussed the mystery of the green sea turtles’ “lost years” in his 1952 book, “The Handbook of Turtles.” Half-dollar sized hatchlings trundle off subtropical and tropical beaches worldwide, then vanish, only to reappear, dinner-plate-sized, over continental shelves in depths of less than 650 feet. Only a tiny number of green turtles between the half-dollar and plate-sizes have ever been spotted.

The researchers captured 44 turtles off a long-term study site near Great Inagua in the Bahamas. The sample included 28 that had been tagged in previous years, indicating they were residents of the site, and 16 assumed to have recently arrived.

They cut off tiny pieces near the center of the turtles’ shells in a harmless process that Professor Bjorndal likened to trimming one’s fingernails. The biologists used a mass spectrometer, a machine that separates isotopes according to charge and mass, to analyze the oldest, or earliest-grown, portions of the shell sample versus the newest portions.

The analysis revealed that with the new arrivals to the site, the ratio of light to heavy nitrogen isotopes in the older versus new shell samples was significantly different, as the paper said. The ratios were very similar to ratios observed in oceanic-stage loggerhead turtles known to be carnivorous. For these reasons, among others, the researchers concluded the turtles spend their first three to five years in the open ocean.

Green turtles are the ocean’s largest hard-shelled turtle, with only soft-shelled leatherbacks eclipsing their size. Although they were among the first animals listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, they and their eggs continue to be hunted.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 197

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Liberator of Argentina
will be honored today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José will honor José de San Martín, the liberator of Argentina, Chile and Perú by unveiling a bust of him today at 9 a.m. on the Bulevar República de Argentina, the small street that runs from Avenida 7 toward Parque Simón Bolivar between the towering building of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros and Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry.

The association with Bolivar is appropriate because the two men were responsible for liberating all of South America from the Spanish in the early years of the 19th century.

A meeting between the two July 22, 1822, in Ecuador is historic. San Martín also is known for leading a contingent of 4,000 troops across the Andes in 1817 to attack and defeat Spanish forces in Chile. San Martín had an advantage because he participated in the European wars against Napoleon.

Turrialba plans festival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Turrialba has a three-day festival planned starting Oct. 12 to celebrate the culture of the region. The event is being called Locomotora 2007 to stress the importance of the railroad in connecting the area with the rest of Costa Rica in past years.

The event begins Oct. 12 with a parade through the streets and other festival activities.  The town's Parque Central will be the principal site for events, which will include displays of the local art work and even poetry.

Women's group forms in Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new bilingual women's group that will focus on social cultural and education activities has formed in Jacó. The organization is called the Central Pacific Women's Group. The next meeting is Oct. 18 at 9 a.m. in the Balcon del Mar in Jacó.  The group also hopes to host speakers. More information is available at 643-2853 or by e mail to

Jacó chamber meets Tueday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The next meeting of the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the third floor of the municipal building in Jacó. The session is open to the public.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 197

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Readers continue to express views on free trade treaty
They were skeptical at first,
but now they back treaty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We were among the sceptics when the TLC was first discussed because we distrusted any agreement that George Bush was promoting.  However, as we have read daily and listened to experts (those without a hidden agenda), we have seen that most of what the NO side has used as their propaganda base are lies.  

We have gone from some really preposterous claims of theirs, put forth mainly by Ottón Solís and Partido Acción Ciudadana members and diputados, union leaders who have lacked credibility for years, Eugenio Trejos, who heads the technical university and who is using his "leadership" as a springboard for election in a future race, university students, and anyone they could dupe into following them.  

These are some of their claims: 

Public schools would be eliminated; water rights would be controlled by the U.S.; munition factories would start making guns and munitions; medicines could no longer be supplied by the Caja and therefore the health care system in Costa Rica would disappear; mineral rights offshore would be controlled by the U.S.; body parts would be bought and sold in Costa Rica; Taxi drivers from Costa Rica would all go to New York; only the rich would benefit from the TLC; unemployment would result; farmers would go out of business and Ticos would have to import their food.

We could go on with many more, not just false, but totally ridiculous claims made by those whose political agenda has led them to believe they, not Oscar Arias, should be in power and that their goal is to oppose ANYTHING he proposes.  

Although they have gone after those who are not well read and informed, the leaders of the NO campaign are not innocent people. They are deliberately spreading the above claims to anyone they can sell them to.  

We have lost all respect for Ottón Solís, who is clearly nothing but an egotistical politician, who thinks if he can scrap the TLC he will have a chance at another presidential run for office.  So-called "professors" such as Trejos, who made the ridiculous statement that the treaty would only pass "over his dead body" is also on a head trip because he clearly thinks himself above the consensus of the people.  

The PAC party doesn't even understand what it means to live in a democratic society, as they have incredibly vowed to continue to block votes that have to do with the treaty EVEN IF THE TREATY IS VOTED IN BY THE MAJORITY OF COSTA RICANS.  

Encouraging thugs to vandalize the cathedral ruins in Cartago by writing NO slogans all over them and resorting to violence against those in favor of the treaty are really low tactics that should tell their followers, if nothing else does, that this is not the kind of Costa Rica most people want.  In addition, anyone who thinks that this small country doesn't need trade and more and better employment opportunities is living in some kind of dream world, certainly not reality.

As voters in the coming referendum, we made sure we are well informed, and it disgusts us to see so many gullible and easily led people who are basically following those who have only their own self-interest in mind.

Rich and Jean Redmond

Whether treaty passes or fails,
Ticos won't take responsbility

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Costa Rican's and their lack of "culpa"

I have heard much debate about the TLC or CAFTA issues. One thing that has been missing is an analysis of what is the reality of Costa Rica’s current economic situation. To be clear, I am against the CAFTA agreement because, it really has nothing to do with fair trade. It is more about big business, setting up guidelines that work for them and mitigates their risk in investing in a foreign country.

Having said this, my prediction is that CAFTA will pass and all of the Ticos who love to blame their problems on anything other than themselves will have a new target. Let me give some examples: Ticos claim violent crimes in this country are a result of “Nicas” or Columbians. Ticos claim the TLC is just for the rich, and not for the poor.

Can someone educate these people or enlighten them? A recently published U.N. study concluded, approximately 80 percent of crimes here in Costa Rica are initiated by Ticos. “Dios mio!” Quoting this statistic to those people who are constantly pointing their fingers is really entertaining. The reactions range from speechless to discombobulated.

Furthermore, if you take a look at the current business climate here, one might observe a few nuances. Large corporate entities currently enjoy a virtual monopoly in this country which breeds indifference to quality and service. Thus, there is a constant vacuum of cellular lines needed, multiple monthly waits for landline phone service, outrageously priced building construction materials including cement and asphalt, consumer electronics that are so expensive because of Costa Rican government taxes that companies such as Importadora Monge or Mas Gallo grow rich from interest payments made by “poor Ticos,” hourly wait times to make a bank deposit. I can go on and on about existing problems without TLC or CAFTA even coming into the equation.

My point is, we do not hear Ticos complaining because the existing problems (without TLC) are born here and Ticos do not want to admit that their own complacency is directly correlated to the very reason why Costa Rica needs CAFTA. Time to wake up and smell the “famous” coffee. Right now, the rich are getting richer and 8 out of 10 crimes are perpetrated by your “Pura Vida” neighbors

Ticos want their cake and eat it to. Ticos do not seem to have the ability to analyze themselves and draw conclusions or consequences from their decisions or indecisions. They tell “Gringos” if you do not like it, go home. This is a typical ignorant response from uneducated people and, frankly, does not offend me. It only illuminates that particular person’s inability to face reality or make individual observations and conclude that there might be some truth in “Gringo rhetoric.”

My final prediction is when CAFTA passes or does not pass, Ticos will have a new target to point their finger at and say “We currently are suffering XX or XY because of this unfair and unjust trade agreement which was adopted by our government who was forced by the U.S.A”. or the opposite, “We are currently suffering from XX or XY because of this unfair and unjust trade agreement which was NOT adopted by our government but was accepted by other Central American governments who were forced into it by the U.S.A.”

I always thought the lack of being educated resulted in the inability to read. After living here in Costa Rica for 3 years, I stand corrected.
Gregory Pfammatter

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Friday's edition is the last to carry letters reflecting opinions on the free trade treaty with the United States. The vote is Sunday. Send letters to

no flyer
'Never before were so many hearts united,' says the no campaign Internet flyer. 'No to fear. No to the lie. No to blackmail,' reads the text. Then the flyer says 'We will defeat the TLC Oct. 7. Let's vote no.'

Costa Rica put itself in box
with Caribbean Initiative

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Your story this week on the reasons the free trade treaty with the U.S. will or will not be approved got a lot of flak from U.S. citizens, most of whom I assume are expats,  accusing the writer(s) of being bias, news slanters, being anti-Costa Rica and pro-big U.S. business. Many of the comments reflect an ignorance of what really went on to hammer out this agreement and what it includes and doesn't.
Putting this agreement together was conducted in the full light of day with the official government negotiating teams meeting for months, both here and in Washington. The different sectors of the Costa Rican economy were invited to provide their input — and they did. The most vehement opponents to the agreement, the government unions, had their say, as well. The news coverage was almost as extensive as one on a Britney Spears episode. So let's not go down the road of saying that the agreement was slipped over on Costa Rica.
This was not a process with Costa Rica alone. The other Central American countries and the Dominican Republic were involved as one more phase of trade globalization. While these trade agreements are primarily initiated by the U.S. government, there was tremendous opposition in the U.S. Congress to its ratification, taking arm twisting to get it passed by the narrowest of margin in a midnight session. The NAFTAs and CAFTAs are bad for the U.S. workers was the argument, but it was passed. Globalization went a step forward.
In preparation for next Sunday's referendum, there have been a series of public debates and numerous serious non-slanted articles published with the purpose of separating the huge amount of chaff being thrown out by both sides from the grain, what is the reality.
One of the realities is that the treaty cannot be renegotiated at this stage. That possibility was lost months ago. Experts disagree if modifications can be introduced after ratification, but one thing is clear — Costa Rica can pull out of the agreement if it turns out to be such a nefarious one as opponents contend it will be.
Another reality is that ICE, the telecommunications monopoly, and INS, the state owned insurance company, are not being privatized, nor will they loss their infrastructure, or their customers will be automatically taken away, only having their monopoly statuses removed, thus being forced to be competitive with other private companies that might consider this teeny weeny market worth penetrating. It should be noted that the banking system went through the same de-monopolizing process a few years back, and, much to the chagrin of the opposition and the satisfaction of the customers, resulted in the government banks becoming "user friendly" and even more profitable, all with fewer employees, and with mindset changes.
The Caja, the government's social security entity, will be able to continue to buy generic medicine, if such is available. If not, like everyone else, pay for whatever the pharmaceutical companies charge for their advanced patented medicines.
Another reality is that the Costa Rican judicial system sucks. Prompt and fair justice is in name only, and everyone knows it, including the international community. That is why the outside arbitration clause was included; obliging necessary law changes. If that is sovereignty violation, then maybe the country needs more.
If Costa Rica feels it is being taken advantage of by the  U.S., then it should have not allowed itself to become so dependant on the U.S. market by using almost exclusively the benefits the Caribbean Basin Initiative offered, and sought other markets. The Caribbean Basin Initiative was a geo-political move by the  U.S. to offset the economic ravages of Russian penetration in hemisphere by allowing certain products to be imported duty-free into the States. Since the reason-to-be of the Caribbean Basin Initiative no longer exists, there is no assured permanence of the benefits. It makes all the sense in the world that Costa Rica should agree to something that does, like a trade agreement.
The fundamental question is, Is this agreement with the U.S. a good one for Costa Rica? It may fall way short of perfection, but it is better than anything else on the horizon. The "No" voices have come up with no alternate plan. Their position is purely "anti-treaty.  
Costa Rica, having painted itself into a corner with the Caribbean Basin Initiative, has little choice other than to ratify this treaty, give it a try, while seeking other markets. That takes considerable time. If the treaty is rejected, Costa Rica will find itself with one foot on a rickety dock and one in a very unstable boat. Not a good place to be.
Robert Nahrgang S.

Panamá residents wishes
for a negative vote here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In 1979 when I came to live in Costa Rica, it was the "Switzerland of the Americas."  As a clean and unburdened democracy, Costa Rica flourished and attracted investment from around the world.

Today, Costa Rica is a socialist democracy that is very LEFT wing.  Now, practically no investor puts his factory or productivity at risk with the Ticos  The whim of myriads of permits and confusing bureacracies have made it unsafe. And if that is not enough, there is no functioning police or justice system.

If Costa Rica, does not approve the free trade pact, they will only further isolate themselves from economic growth.  That puts them in the catagory of Cuba, an economic island with whom we cannot do business.

There seems to be a move toward communism-socialism in the Americas. One country's leader is 'buying' socialism with his citizen's oil wealth. Perhaps it will be best for the Ticos to vote no.  Then their culture will not poison us in nearby democratic countries.

John Embrey Koonce 

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Gates in Colombia endorses Uribe's hostage negotiations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has endorsed the efforts by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Velez to negotiate the release of hundreds of hostages held by militant groups in his country, including three Americans who have been held for more than four years.

Gates visited a Colombian Army training base Wednesday afternoon, where he was treated to a display of the prowess of Colombian special forces. In this exercise, they demonstrated how they would attack and clear a guerrilla camp.

But later, Gates cautioned against any such move, to free the hundreds of hostages held by Colombia's Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia guerrillas and other groups. He said hostage rescues always require careful planning and high quality intelligence, and even then are always iffy.

He cited his own experience trying to get American hostages in Lebanon released in the 1980s. Gates said the safe return of the hostages is the top priority, and that will require more patience.
He endorsed a controversial effort by President Uribe to try to reach what has become known as a 'humanitarian agreement' for the release of the hostages.

The plan would reportedly involve some exchange of government prisoners for the hostages, and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has become involved in the effort in recent weeks.

Gates indicated he is not bothered by the Venezuelan leader's involvement in the process.

"I think any opportunity that comes along, that creates an environment in which the FARC will make that decision, is to be examined very closely," said Gates.

But at the same time, Secretary Gates indicated there are limits to any such deal, and that President Uribe agrees.

On Wednesday, President Uribe issued a statement indicating he does not want two guerrillas imprisoned in the United States released as part of any deal.  And later, on his aircraft, Gates told reporters he and Uribe had discussed, in his words, how counterproductive it is to release convicted criminals in exchange for hostages.

Venezuela's legislature approves new joint ventures with international oil firms
 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's national assembly has approved new joint venture deals with foreign oil companies, months after the companies were forced to give up their majority stakes to government control.

The agreements approved Tuesday create mixed companies consisting of Venezuela's state oil company and foreign minority partners (France's Total, Norway's Statoil, Britain's BP, and U.S.-based Chevron).
As part of the deals, the foreign companies will make multi-million dollar payments. This money will be subtracted from the amount Venezuela owes the companies for taking over their majority stakes in oil fields and refining plants.

Chevron's agreement does not have a contribution clause.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez seized majority control of the oil operations in the Orinoco Basin in May, offering foreign companies minority stakes.

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