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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Oct. 4, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 195             E-mail us
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A bailey bridge opened up the Interamericana Norte at  Cambronero, when workers covered a spot where the road collapsed. However, more rains Sunday caused officials to close the stretch at 2 p.m. And that was not the only problem.

See our story

bailey bridge
Photo by Loren B. Ford


World tourism fears likely to reverberate here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican hopes for a banner tourism season are being hurt by terrorism threats in Europe, cartels in México, the weather and the dollar-colon exchange rate.

The United States and Britain issued warnings Sunday of potential terrorist attacks in Europe.  Washington urged American tourists in Europe to be extra vigilant, while London raised its threat assessment to high for citizens traveling to France and Germany. 

Although the message concerns just Europe, the warning is likely to cause U.S. and Canadian tourists to think twice before leaving home.

In Acapulco, México, police still are searching for 210 Mexican tourists kidnapped last week. The kidnappers are believed to be drug cartel members, the same breed that has reduced the country to murder and chaos. Acapulco is a highly regarded beach resort, and news of the crime and news of the continuing bloodshed is bound to effect tourism to México and, by extension, to other Latin countries.

Also damaging have been reports of heavy rain damage, both in Costa Rica and in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Costa Rican roads are a mess, and the topic gets frequent  mention on expat bulletin board discussion lists.

October is a time when many would-be tourists are making decisions for high season junkets. The news is not encouraging.

Then there is the dollar-colon exchange rate. The rate to buy colons was 507 to $1 this morning. That is a big decline from the 582 to $1 that was the rate a year ago. In addition, Costa Rica has enacted additional taxes that arriving tourists must pay even if they are going to be staying with friends
or in their own condos or vacation homes.

Wire service reports said that the new warnings by the United States and Britain add to concerns of potential terrorist strikes in Europe that have been simmering for weeks.  The U.S. State Department warned Americans in Europe to be extra cautious in public places, particularly tourist spots and transportation hubs. But Washington did not issue a formal travel warning advising Americans not to visit Europe.

Britain raised its terrorism threat assessment for Germany and France to high.  Britain's own assessed terrorism threat level is rated "severe." The warnings follow reports of an al-Qaida terrorist plot against Europe that some believe aims to imitate the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India, when suicide gunmen killed more than 100 persons, mostly in an upscale hotel.

France's national terror warning plan, dubbed Vigipirate, is on a reinforced red alert level — one step below the highest threat level.   Last month, the famous Parisian landmark, the Eiffel Tower, was briefly evacuated following a bomb threat that proved to be a hoax.

The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel warning for México Sept. 10. Some 28,000 persons have been killed in drug wars since President Felipe Calderón took office. The carnage is big news in U.S. newspapers, as is the continual political infighting over illegal immigration. All of this is sure to have a continuing influence on public opinion.

In Costa Rica, President Laura Chinchilla is being criticized in some quarters for her outspoken independence day and United Nation speeches in which she said that criminal elements were threatening the sovereignty of the nation. Those statements also got good play in Stateside news reports.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 195

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Belén fugitive tries to duck
ABC television news crew


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 20/20 news crew was in Asunción de Belén Friday and took videotape of Andreas Roman Leimer Seiring, who is identified by the U.S. Department of Justice as a fugitive.

Leimer is one of the last unconvicted associates in what the U.S. government says is a lottery scam that defrauded hundreds of U.S. citizens. The scam is one of a handful that have been operated out of Costa Rica over the past five years. There have been a number of arrests here and extraditions to the United States. Leimer is believed to be a Costa Rican citizen and immune to extradition.

By coincidence one of those who has been convicted in the case will be resentenced today in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is Giuseppe Pileggi. He was convicted after a jury trial in January 2008 on one count of conspiracy and 22 counts of wire fraud, the Department of Justice said. The jury also returned a special forfeiture verdict of $8.3 million. Pileggi was sentenced on Sept. 24, 2008, to 50 years in prison incarceration, three years’ supervised release, and ordered to pay $8.3 million in forfeiture and $3.9 million in restitution.     
However, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered that he be resentenced.

A resident of Residencial La Jolla, Asunción de Belén, said that the camera crew was accompanied by Brian Ross, of the ABC show "Brian Ross Investigates."

The resident said that the television crew was able to get tape of Leimer about 8:30 a.m., but that the man was involved in a car wreck trying to evade the cameras. A number of police showed up, and there were employees from the U.S. Embassy present.

Leimer is well known in the area for having a tall antenna on his roof. A total of 11 other persons have been tried and convicted in this lottery fraud.

Taxi fares are going up,
based on inflation, fuel


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The red fleet is getting a raise. The price regulating agency announced Friday that taxi fares would go up 4.21 percent. That means a 20-colon increase for the first and subsequent kilometers.

The current rate is 510 colons for the first and subsequent kilometer. The new rate will be 530 colons or about $1.05.

Rural taxis can charge 690 colons for the second and subsequent kilometers, according to the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. Taxis at Juan Santamaría airport got a 2.41 percent raise.

The adjustment is done every six months to keep taxi fares in line with petroleum prices and inflation.

The price regulating agency noted that tolls at certain highways are in addition to the taxi fare that shows on the meter.

New $100 bank note delayed
due to problems with paper


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has announced a delay in the issue date of the redesigned $100 note. 

This new design incorporates cutting edge, anti-counterfeiting technologies and the Federal Reserve imposes strict quality controls to ensure that users of U.S. currency around the world receive the highest quality notes, the Federal Reserve said. 

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing manufactures Federal Reserve notes and has identified a problem with sporadic creasing of the paper during printing of the new $100 note, which was not apparent during extensive pre-production testing, an announcement said.  As a consequence, the Federal Reserve will not have sufficient inventories to begin distributing the new $100 notes as planned, it said.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is working to resolve this problem, and the Federal Reserve Board will announce a new issue date for the redesigned $100 note as soon as possible, the announcement said. The originally scheduled issue date was Feb. 10.

Communist here note
Mao's Chinese revolution


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Vanguardia Popular-Partido Comunista de Costa Rica is celebrating the 61st anniversary of the Communist victory in the Chinese revolution and its author, Mao Tse Tung. A statement from the party said that China showed Costa Rica how to establish and develop marxism as a method and guide for action.

The small political party accompanied the commemoration of the Chinese Communist revolution with a self defense against external criticisms and an essay by Chairman Mao. Mao brought about the cultural revolution in China that resulted in the deaths of many Chinese and set the country back economically for years.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 195

Laura Chinchilla at bad raod
Casa Presidencial photo
President Laura Chinchilla and some of her ministers inspect an area that subsided on the Autopista del Sol. The president made the tour Friday.
trucks lined up
Photo by Loren B. Ford
  Trucks are backed up as they await their
  turn to cross the temporary bridge installed
  on the Interamericana.

culvert
Photo by Loren B. Ford
 This is the culvert that a resident believes will
 soon wash out again because the pipe is too
 short.



Rain damage continues but forecast contains some hope
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cerro Chitaría above Salitral, Santa Ana, produced another large landslide Saturday night, and the continuing rain raises the possibility that more will follow.

There are late reports of a similar slide near Ciudad Colón, and the major highways are again closed, mainly as precautionary measures.

The Quebrada Canoa took the brunt of the rocks, mud and trees from the slide upstream Thursday, and Santa Ana municipal workers were using heavy machinery to keep the stream flowing. Until Saturday nearly 60 persons had been in shelters because their homes were jeopardized by the backed up stream.

The debris periodically creates a dam upstream until there is sufficient water to break through. When that happens a wall of water rushes downstream sweeping away all in its path. One bridge was destroyed and another was jammed with debris.

Escazú officials said they had to destroy a bridge over the Río Chiquero in San Antonio de Escazú because it became blocked with debris. The alternative would have been flooding of adjacent properties, they said.

Marco Antonio Segura, Escazú mayor, reported Saturday night through the canton's communication department that dozens of localities had been affected by rising rivers.

These areas included Barrios Hollywood, Carmen, Calle Lajas, the Bigusa sector, Calle Adoquines, Bajo Anonos and Escazú Centro.

Some areas of the Central Valley got a break Sunday when morning skies were sunny. But rain moved in after noon and a drizzle persisted most of the evening. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the Pacific coast, the Central Valley, the mountains of the northern zone and the Caribbean would get the most rain.

Still, a motorist reported no trouble driving from San José to Puerto Viejo Sunday morning. He said that Route 32 through the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo was not affected over Saturday night. It had been the scene of a massive landslide earlier this year.

The weather institute predicted an increase in winds this week and a reduction in the evening rains in the Central Valley and Guanacaste. The report also said that there might be an increase in precipitation in the Caribbean.

President Laura Chinchilla visited trouble spots Friday.
Highway officials tested the bailey bridge at the Interamericana between San Ramón and Esparza, the section that had been closed to heavy traffic. President Chinchilla's first visit on the Interamerican Norte was to the highway collapse at Kilometer 84, located on a geologic fault and long a problem due to the highway surface sinking into the unconsolidated and drainage-deficient subgrade, a resident said.  From there, the president's caravan continued to the temporary bailey bridge erected over the new overflow culvert installed to replace the old culvert washed out, along with the overlying highway, the night of Sept. 9, according to the resident, Loren B. Ford.

Ford said he witnessed five large trucks following an escort of two transit police vehicles and followed by a third approaching the temporary bridge.  These trucks turned out to be empty according to an officer at Kilometer 84, and  the first of a number of trucks allowed to pass over the sunken area to test whether contractors' maintenance efforts had improved the highway sufficiently to restore truck traffic, he said.

Highway officials decided to open up the route at 6 p.m. Friday, but as that time approached a trucker in a tractor-trailer headed west died of an apparent heart attack, and traffic was halted for hours, Ford said.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the route only would be open during daylight hours. When the highway reopens Monday, the daylight rule probably will continue.

Ford said that his career working closely with road engineers in the U.S. Forest Service told him that the a new culvert at Kilometer 87 was not long enough and that water flowing through it was likely to erode underneath the roadway quickly.

"If this rain continues at its present intensity for any period of time it's entirely possible that the creek flow will exceed the capacity of the new culvert, which will cause the water to rise over the current fill, possibly washing out the new culvert and maybe even undermining the bailey bridge, which rests at either end on the old highway surface, with no newly established bases that would withstand high water," Ford said.

The Autopista del Sol also was closed at Atenas Sunday as a precautionary measure. There were no reports of large slides there yet.

The national emergency commission blamed the slide above Salitral on saturated ground, steep slopes and deforestation. There also were homes there and elsewhere constructed without regard to the potential for flooding.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 195

lineup iof bar patrons
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo/Paul Gamboa
Young patrons are given the once over by police at Iron's bar

Massive police sweep covers most of San José province

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police were out in force Saturday night and conducted searches of bars and nightspots in Tibás, Desamparados, Alajuelita, San Sebastián, La Uruca, Escazú, Moravia, Zapote, Coronado, Guadalupe, San Pedro and San José Centro.

They said they sought identification form 3,363 persons, checked out 366 four-wheeled vehicles and 55 motorcycles.

Police also confiscated two firearms from individuals who
did not have a permit to carry one, they said.

The also found four persons were fugitives and eight more for whom warrants were outstanding. They also confiscated quantities of crack, cocaine and marijuana.

All this was done in two hours, said police.

Fuerza Pública officers were able to find stashes of drugs hidden in two bars, one in Concepción de Alajuelita and another in Desamparados, they said. At one place the drugs were hidden in the ceiling.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 195

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Pineapple firms get heat
from British news reports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The British newspaper The Guardian has taken a shot at Costa Rica's pineapple growers.

The articles Friday and Saturday were sponsored by consumers International, which says it is fighting for a fair, safe and sustainable future for all consumers in a global marketplace increasingly dominated by international corporations.

The articles were developed starting in a June visit by writer Felicity Lawrence and a film crew. They were making a documentary, too.

Ms. Lawrence has also taken on Peruvian asparagus in a Sept. 15 piece entitled "How Peru's wells are being sucked dry by British love of asparagus."

The Guardian ran a story promoting the articles Friday, and a pair of articles ran Saturday. They were "The truth about supermarket pineapple" and "Pineapples: Luxury fruit at what price?"


The thrust of the articles was summarized Friday by this excerpt:

"UK supermarket price wars are wrecking lives in the developing world, according to a new campaign launched tomorrow by Consumers International (CI). Recent deep cuts in the price of pineapples on the British high street have inflicted unacceptable damage on those living and working on plantations in Costa Rica, the consumer group says. An investigation by Guardian Films with funding from CI, has found a catalogue of environmental and social damage caused by intensive tropical fruit production in Costa Rica, from where three-quarters of pineapples sold in the UK come."


Ms. Lawrence was accompanied on her travels here by an officer of the pineapple worker's union and a Universidad Nacional professor who studies toxic chemicals.

She failed to find a smoking gun. Although residents of El Cairo complained of water polluted by chemicals, there was little note of the actions of government agencies. And the statements from Pineapple companies said they were continuing to take steps to solve problems. The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, the environmental watchdog, ordered Del Monte to close its pineapple production facilities in Siquirres in May 2009 because of what it said were high levels of chemicals in the local water sources.

Del Monte had just purchased the facility and said at the time that the concentrations of herbicides and insecticides found in the drinking water was less than the limits published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Periodically, residents of El Cairo and nearby communities blockade Ruta 32 to make their point.
 
Brazil's election goes
to an Oct. 31 runoff


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ruling-party candidate fell short of an outright victory in Brazil's presidential election Sunday, setting up a second-round of voting later this month.

National election officials said with more than 90 percent of the votes counted, Workers Party candidate Dilma Rousseff had 46.9 percent of the vote compared to 32.6 percent for Jose Serra of the Brazilian Socialist Party.  The strong third place finish of another female candidate, Marina Silva of the Green Party, who won 19.4 percent of the vote, could give her a strong influence over the eventual outcome of the race.

The runoff vote will be Oct. 31.

Ms. Rousseff is a former chief of staff of outgoing President Luiz Inacio da Silva and also his preferred successor.

If elected, she will be Brazil's first female president.

Brazil's economy has remained strong under da Silva, despite the world-wide recession.  Da Silva was barred from running for president again because he has served the maximum two consecutive terms.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 195


Latin American news
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Direct flight from Britain
will begin to Liberia Nov. 2


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The British travel wholesaler via its Thomson Airlines will begin operations between London's Gatewick Airport and Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia Nov. 2.

The flights on Tuesday will be with a Boeing 767. The direct flight takes 11 hours, and the plane has a capacity of 258 passengers.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said that the flights will generate an increase in British tourists.

First Choice had flights to Liberia in 2007.


Gasoline prices dropped,
regulating agency reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both plus and super gasoline is going down 14 colons a liter this month, and diesel is going down 11 colons to 487 colons (96 U.S. cents).

A liter of plus will cost 548 colons ($1.08), and a liter of super will cost 573 colons per liter or $1.13. The dollar prices are based on today's exchange rate of 507 colons.

The price regulating agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicos Públicos, said that the price change was due to the changes in the international price of petroleum and the exchange rate of 510 colons to the U.S. dollar. This is a monthly announcement by the agency. Prices will go into effect when the action is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

More countries change
telephone number system

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
 
Two other Latin American countries are adjusting their telephone numbers to accommodate growth.

They are Perú and Honduras. Costa Rican numbers went to eight digits March 20, 2008, to accommodate growth as well as the increase in the number of cell telephones.

Now Honduras reports that it will also use eight digits with 2 being inserted in front of existing land line numbers. That will happen Nov. 14.
 
Last Sept. 4 Perú instituted a system where cell numbers would be prefaced with a 9.



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