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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Oct. 5, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 196           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Calderdón, others are convicted
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted 2:55 p.m. Monday

A trial panel convicted Rafael Ángel Calderón  Fournier, Eliseo Vargas Garcia and  Wálter Reiche Fischel of embezzlement of public funds this afternoon in the climax of the 10-month-long so called Caso Fischel.

Calderón, a former president and a would-be presidential candidate, received a five-year sentence, and Vargas, the former head of the Caja Costarricense de Segurido Social, also got five years. The term is long enough to require both to do jail time if the sentence is upheld on appeal.

Olman Valverde, the former general manager of the  Fischel pharmaceutical company, was acquitted. Four others received lesser sentences.
The verdict came from Alejandro López Macaya, one of the three judges, in a 2:30 p.m. session in
the  Goicoechea criminal courts.

The decision also ordered the confiscation to the state of more than $500,000 that Calderón had in Banco de Costa Rica and the money in another account in the United States. Vargas, too, was ordered to surrender money in his accounts.

The three-judge panel rejected appeals from defense lawyers that the information on the bank accounts were obtained incorrectly. That was a key element of the convictions.

Most of the allegations against Calderón come from  Wálter Reiche Fischel, the former pharmaceutical executive who said he paid Calderón a bribe to advance a $39.5 million contract for equipment being supplied by a firm from Finland.

Earlier story is HERE!

María de la Trinidad Calderón has watched the development of La Caprio for about the last 15 years. She, like many of her neighbors, came from Nicaragua.
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers

She guards history of San Jose's best-known slum
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Visitors seeking the history of La Carpio are advised to look for Abuela selling onions and tomatoes half a block south of the hardware store. María de la Trinidad Calderón is her real name. Most of La Carpio’s residents seem to know her.

Most Costa Ricans know about La Carpio, a gritty slum en route to a dump with the same name.

Doña Maria is 87 and has lived in Costa Rica about 20 years with the last 15 at La Carpio. Originally from Granada, Nicaragua, she had 16 children but lost 10 of those in the Nicaraguan civil wars of the late 1970s and 1980s. Several of the surviving children live in Costa Rica, but her 12 grandchildren are all in Nicaragua.

When she appeared in La Carpio about 15 years ago, she had no nearby neighbors. Accounts of the history of the settlement describe an organized squatter invasion, but Abuela said she didn’t participate.
The vegetables Abuela sells come from the larger stand across the street, whose owners take  advantage of her fame for some extra sales. She had her 15 minutes of fame when she was profiled in La Teja, a popular tabloid produced by Grupo Nación so named because it costs 100 colons. The old white 100-colon bill was referred to as a “teja” or roof tile until it was replaced by a coin.

Abuela is illiterate, as was her father before her. “They didn’t teach him how to read, they taught him how to work,” she said with a stinging slap on the back.

La Caprio is the dark side of Costa Rican society. Located physically not far from the upscale Cariari subdivision,  the two communities are light years in spirit.  Correspondent Dennis Rogers spent time there to bring readers a report that begins on Page 3 today.

He profiles a community of from 30,000 to 50,000 that strains the country's social net.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 196

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Father and son from U.S.
reported victims in surf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two U.S. citizens, father and son, became trapped in the surf at  Parrita Sunday morning. The son died and the father was missing.
The Fuerza Pública said it joined a search with the Cruz Roja for the father, whose age was given as 85. The police said they received the alert at 10:15 a.m.

Both men are believed to be named Campbell, but the Fuerza Pública has no additional identification.

Police said the two men were swimming near the Super Sol in Parrita Centro when the mishap took place.

The U.S. State Department reports that from 12 to 14 U.S. citizens died in water accidents in Costa Rica every year.

Talks may begin this week
between Honduran foes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Honduras's de facto leader and the country's ousted president will begin negotiations this week aimed at resolving the political crisis triggered by a coup June 28

A representative from the Organization of American States says the two are ready to open talks, although they will not necessarily meet with each other.

De facto president Robert Micheletti said Friday he had already spoken secretly with Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza of the Organization of American States as part of the process leading to negotiations.

An Organization of American States advance mission is in Honduras preparing for the planned arrival Wednesday of Insulza and several foreign ministers who are to help mediate between the two camps.

Four U.S. Republican lawmakers oppose the Obama administration's efforts to isolate Honduras's de facto government and pressure it to return president Manuel Zelaya to power for the remainder of his term. They met Friday with Micheletti.

Led by South Carolina's senator, Jim DeMint, the conservative lawmakers have criticized Obama's support of  Zelaya.

The U.S. and other nations have condemned Zelaya's overthrow in a June 28 coup.  Washington also has revoked the visas of Honduran officials and cut aid to the Central American country.

The ousted president secretly returned to Honduras Sept. 21.  He is currently holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.

The de facto leaders say he was forced out of office because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office. 

Mass. judge orders father
to produce his son here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 5-year-old Massachusetts child remains in Costa Rica even though the runaway dad was extradited to the United States earlier this year.

A Probably Court judge in the town of Fall River ordered the man, David Albanese, to either produce the child or give the child's mother $40,000 so she can go to Costa Rica and retrieve him, said the South Coast Today Web site of the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Albanese was detained in Guadalupe in July 2008.  The boy was about 3 years old at the time, said the police spokeswoman. According to police at the time, Albanese asked the child's mother for permission to take the boy to Costa Rica for a month in August of 2006. The agreement was that Albanese would return by September of 2006, but he did not, said the police spokesman.

Albanese had a brother and a cousin in Costa Rica, said a spokeswoman from the International Police Agency. He spoke a little Spanish and worked at a sportsbook in Sabana Sur, the spokeswoman said.

Albanese is free on $400,000 bail from his April arraignment on criminal kidnapping charges in New Bedford District Court, the Web site said. The man was convicted of failing to comply with two previous court orders that issued sole custody of the child to the mother, said the Web site.

At the time of his arrest, the boy was place in the custody of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the while welfare agency. It is unclear why the Patronato relinquished custody.

Our reader's opinions
Jo Stewart's M incorrect
when he talks about Gringos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I would like to comment on Jo Stewart’s Friday column.  I’m a Costa Rican expat living in U.S.A. for over 30 years, and I enjoy reading the news in A.M. Costa Rica and checking out the latest buzz from the American community living in my country.  I left Costa Rica when I was 11 years old, and I visit when I can, usually every three to four years.

Note:  Leftists, progress-hating environmentalists (i.e. Earth lovers but human loathers), and American bashers (i.e. international jealousy) as a whole, will squirm when they hear what I’m about to say.

Let me first say that I love this country, the United States of America.  Its rich history is unmatched, its Constitution is one of the greatest documents in existence, and its unparalleled stance for freedom and economic success has made it the greatest country on the face of the earth.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything that politicians do in this country, Republicans or Democrats, I am more on the conservative side of the political equation.  Nevertheless, even though I disagree with Mr. Obama, philosophically speaking, he’s still my president.

Now you know where I’m coming from.

Thus, I would like to chime in on the subject of a Costa Rican’s perspective of Americans.  I have deep roots in both countries and therefore feel qualified to also give an opinion.  As you may have already guessed, my opinion is vastly different from “M’s.”

 As a reader of your daily digest for the last three years or so, I have been able to detect, without much effort, how Jo’s weekly column is colored with liberal views from time to time.  Hence, it’s not hard to see that people within her circle of acquaintances would have similar views.  There’s a maxim sometimes attributed to Cervantes:  Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres (Tell me who you associate with, and I’ll tell you who you are).  In this case I’m afraid that this Mr. M espouses some of the same, or similar, opinions as Jo Stewart’s.  Otherwise, I’m almost positive that she would not have used his distorted views for her column.  I can’t help but think that she had a gleam of joy in her eye when she was writing these “findings,” particularly the ones about Christians and Republicans.

Therefore, I could not remain quiet.  This will not be my opinion only, but also the opinion of much of my family and friends in Costa Rica:   We do not hate estadounidenses.   Just the opposite is true, especially those that come visiting from Costa Rica. They are usually impressed by the country and the people.  These are the people I associate with.

Thank you, A.M. Costa Rica, I just wanted to balance the opinions expressed in Jo’s column with a little bit of the other side.  As far as the rich Republicans living in gated communities vs. the do-gooders (the Democrats) go — Talk about ill conceived stereotyping!  Then there are the “beyond silly” missionaries that have sacrificed lofty careers to go to strange lands and give a lifetime to build schools, help the poor, or to simply teach a desperate world about a loving God.  Is this “M” speaking or is this Jo Stuart just being the messenger?
Randall Aguilar
Flower Mound, Texas

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Technicians from the telephone company finally managed to locate the correct switches, and the new A.M. Costa Rica offices have telephone service since about 6 p.m. Saturday.

The main number remains
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The offices have been without
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And we appreciate the understanding of those who have tried to contact us and failed.

-A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 196

la carpio panel one
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Dwellers of substandard homes also must endure the passage of hundreds of dump trucks a day.
La Carpio: A settlement that gave its name to a garbage dump
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

For most Costa Ricans, La Carpio is associated with the worst of squatter settlements and poverty. Coverage by media is consistently negative and reinforces stereotypes about Nicaraguan immigrants and associated violent crime.

In many cases this is not untrue, as in 2004 when a blockade of the main route through town degenerated into a confrontation with tear gas and gunshot wounds to police. Protestors demanding improvements promised by the government were joined by criminal gangs.

La Carpio is often referred to as a cuidadela which can be translated as citadel or fortress. This refers to how squatter settlements are sometimes on steep slopes like the north side of La Carpio. The land is in western San José not far from Hospital México and separated by a river from upscale Cariari Country Club.

The area was first invaded and settled by Nicaraguan immigrants in the early 1990s, with the first organized invasion in 1994. At times it is labeled a refugee camp, but it was formed after the civil wars ended. La Carpio refers to the last name of one of the original leaders of the movement. At that time the land belonged to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, the government health care and pension provider. Once the settlement was established beyond any hope of removal, ownership was transferred to the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, a central government agency largely dedicated to housing for the poor.

La Carpio is variously estimated at 33,000 to 50,000 people. Demographic trends have been away from a Nicaraguan majority, and, indeed, it was almost half Costa Rican by the time of the 2000 census. However, all children born in Costa Rica are citizens regardless of parentage, so the high birth rates of the immigrant population will change that percentage without any help. Anecdotal reports do suggest more Costa Rican citizens from rural areas have changed the settlement’s adult makeup.

The primary school has about 2,250 children, according to security head Berny Vargas. There are another 280 or so in kindergarten. Class size is typically 35, with the facility used for three shifts. Each group is given a meal and uniforms. School supplies are heavily subsidized. Teacher Eilean Chaves said most children under the age of 8 are Carpio-born. Those who continue to high school have to take the bus to La Uruca.

There is only one small clinic, but emergency services are close by at the Caja’s Hospital Mexico.

The many lots now occupied (probably in excess of 4,000) do not have any title whatsoever. Such rights as the occupiers do have are traded and rented with dubious legal status. Shacks made of salvaged sheet metal are the predominate architecture, though the better, flatter areas for building have cement block houses, some with garages and cars in them. Cable TV has not arrived yet, but some roofs do sport satellite dishes.

Electric and water services are spotty with many houses away from the main roads connected illegally. The San José municipality does provide garbage pickup and street sweeping. Bus service is frequent.

Churches representing a wide range of evangelical denominations are scattered throughout the settlement with a new Catholic church under construction.

Businesses include a multitude of small pulperia stores and several larger groceries, a hardware store, two pool halls, several small restaurants, including one with indoor seating, but no official liquor stores. There are several small vegetable stands but most residents who eat anything other than rice and beans probably can shop at San Jose’s central market where the bus route stops.

kid with water pipe
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Youngster  poses for camera but note the homemade waterpipe in the background.

Recycling is a traditional activity of the lowest socio-economic strata, but recent price crashes for materials
mean that even the relatively valuable aluminum beer cans remain in the gutter for a while. The street price of aluminum scrap went from 500 to 100 colons per kilo in just a month during the 2008 financial crisis, but has rebounded to 350 colons now. It takes about 35 cans to make a kilo, although stolen water meter casings and street signs add up faster.

Other infrastructure improvements have taken place through time with the main road through town paved to accommodate a steady stream of garbage trucks and buses. The road was also improved by the construction of what the locals call the bridge, a long causeway entering from the east. By building up what was the division between two quarries, a road that does not involve any decent and climb was created.

When San José needed a new dump to replace the old one at Río Azul, the illegal immigrants of the cuidadela couldn’t put up much of a fight to keep the quarry on its west side from becoming a large landfill. At the beginning the garbage trucks had to come via a roundabout route from the west, but with the construction of the bridge all could come directly down La Carpio’s main street. At one point in 2007 when the Rio Azul dump was closed and a new one in Aserrí not yet open, 242 trucks entered the dump daily, an average of one every three minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The operator of the landfill, EBI, does pay 75 colons per ton of solid waste received towards a community fund, roughly $100 per day. This is used for such things as sidewalks into the marginal areas. Steep steps go down to the river where some residents take their garbage for disposal, apparently not wanting to carry it to the street where there is pickup.

The river doesn’t only threaten the lowest houses on the slope, but is a danger even when low. During the course of research for this article, a child drowned in the fetid Río Virilla.

At its closest the street along the north side of the bluff is about 180 meters from the green of the 13th hole at the Cariari Country Club golf course, across the river. For Tiger Woods this would be about a 4-iron, depending on where he could find a roof solid enough from which to shoot. Some trees would also have to be removed.

Cariari non-members can play 18 holes by invitation on weekends for $100, $60 for tee times after 11, according to the club’s Web site. The Costa Rican minimum wage, for those La Carpio residents fortunate enough to have a full-time job, is about 190,000 colons per month or $330.

Overview of the La Carpio landfill operation with upscale homes in the distance.

overview of la carpio dump
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers

Extra use probably will shorten life of controversial landfill
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Although technically called Parque de Technología Ambiental Uruka, San Jose’s dump is universally referred to as La Carpio. This is in honor of the squatter settlement that was formed on government land next door a few years before. Despite the ample labor force nearby, there is no effort at recycling at this landfill and scavengers are not allowed.

The landfill is owned by Empresas Berthier EBI de Costa Rica S.A, originally of Canadian capital. It was contracted with a no-bid arrangement based on owning the only suitable site within the municipality of San José, a large quarry. Negotiations with an intermediary started in 1998, and the contract was signed in July 2001. Following some adjustments to the contract forced by the central government comptroller, dumping started soon thereafter.

San José Mayor Johnny Araya was implicated in irregularities surrounding the contracting process when he and several municipal council members were found on a payroll statement from EBI. The judicial police eventually confirmed that the manager’s signature on the payroll was authentic, but Araya dismissed the document as a forgery by his political enemies and no formal charges were ever brought. La Nación reporters literally chased Berthier owners around Quebec City with no answers to their questions.

EBI was involved in another scandal related to the placement of its facility in Aserrí when it was found that the general manager of the company gave a personal loan to the mayor when the latter was about to lose his house to foreclosure. That case is still in the courts.

Originally only solid waste from the municipality of San José was to go to La Carpio, at that time about 550 tons per work day. As the central Río Azul dump was closed after years of court orders, suburban municipalities were forced to other options. Presently each municipality chooses between the lowest bidder of EBI and the competing WPP
Continental, which maintains dumps in Alajuela and Cartago. EBI also has a new landfill near Aserrí which is used mostly by Desamparados, Alajuelita, and Coronado.

At the moment San Jose (600 tons/day), Alajuela (200), Tibás (70) and several other smaller municipalities tip at La Carpio for a total of about 1,000 tons per day. The newly signed contract with Tibás charges a tipping fee of 8,000 colons per ton, about $13.50.

The original working life of the landfill was estimated at 15
to 20 years, but the addition of other sources has almost doubled the amount dumped with corresponding reductions to the site’s life span. Given the experience of Río Azul, lack of planning for new landfills, and growing production, more and more garbage will be crammed into the space as the Central Valley experiences a solid waste crisis of major proportions five to eight years from now.

The operators are taking advantage of gases produced by decaying organics to produce electricity, by piping methane resulting from anaerobic decay to a central generator. EBI plans to produce electricity for sale with gas that has been flared off until recently.  As Costa Rican residential garbage is 65 to 70 percent organic, it produces substantial methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Residents of the wealthy Cariari neighborhood just across the Río Virilla from the dump recently filed a lawsuit demanding that the operation be closed because of the smell. Even though trucks get a superficial wash on the way out of the dump, inbound traffic mostly goes by the government Hospital México and through La Carpio itself, dripping fluids as it goes. This has provoked major problems for the hospital, as visitors and patients cross the street from the bus stop and track in possible pathogens.

It is possible for private operators to dump at La Carpio, but a sales staffer at EBI declined to give specifics.  About $60 a ton for construction debris has been suggested by others.

-Dennis Rogers

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 196

Decision in Calderón trial is scheduled for this afternoon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This afternoon is when the country learns if former president Rafael Ángel Calderón  Fournier is guilty. The three judges in the long-running trial have promised to issue a verdict although the detailed reasoning behind the verdict will not be distributed until next month.

The decision has major implications for Costa Rica. If Calderón is absolved of taking a bribe, he may become the nation's next president. There are others on trial, but Calderón is the principal suspect.

The betting is about 50-50 on the outcome. Most of the allegations against Calderón come from  Wálter Reiche Fischel, the former pharmaceutical executive who said he paid Calderón a bribe to advance a $39.5 million contract for equipment being supplied by a firm from Finland.

The equipment was destine for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, and the person who was the head of that agency at the time, former legislator  Eliseo Vargas, also is on trial. The contract did sail through the legislature in December 2002 in record time.

Reiche testified that he contacted Vargas when the legislation authorizing the contract was bogged down and that Vargas suggested that a commission paid to Calderón might expedite the matter.

The payment was from funds supplied by the government of Finland as a loan to Costa Rica. Like many governments, Finland provides special financing for overseas purchasers from their country's products.

Calderón has denied any improprieties and said that sums of money found in his bank accounts in Panamá and the United States were from legitimate payments for his legal work. However, he has declined to specify the type of work and who paid him the money.

The prosecutors in the case also allege that the accused deliberately restricted their purchases to equipment supplied by the firm in Finland, Instrumentarium Medko Medical, even though medical personnel at the various Caja hospitals had requested other products for their patients.

Calderón is the presidential candidate of Unidad Social Cristiana. He served as president from 1990 to 1994, and he is the son of one of the two major figures in 20th century Costa Rican history. Both Calderón and his political party have been issuing press releases and
Rafael Calderon
Partido Unidad Social Cristiana photo
Calderón speaks in his defense on the last day of testimony in his bribery and corruption trial.

advertisements that promote his innocence.

One weakness in the prosecutor's case in that the verbal accusations come from just  Reiche, who has basically turned into the principal witness in the case. 

In addition to the criminal case in the Tribunal de Juicio de Goicoechea Costa Rica is seeking millions in damages from the accused. Civil and criminal cases can be heard at the same time here.

In addition to attackingg the credibility of Reich, defense lawyers have attacked the validity of documents from Panamá and the United States that show Calderon's banking activities.

Late in the trial one of the three judges dropped out because he said he was ill. A fourth judge, who had be present for the entire session as a substitute took over the third seat.

The session at 2:30 p.m. today in  Goicoechea is under heavy security. The number of reporters and photographers have been restricted.

Regardless of what happens today, appeals are likely from the defense if there are convictions. If not, the prosecutors are sure to appeal. So there will be more court hearings.

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 196

Casa Alfi Hotel

Insurance providers seeks
OK to sell policies here

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Pan-American Life Insurance Group, a provider of insurance and financial services, announced tthat the company has filed a request for authorization to enter the Costa Rican Market. 

 “Pan-American Life’s 98-year history and the group’s experience throughout Latin America have played a fundamental role in this business development decision. Expansion into Costa Rica is a natural step that supports the company’s geographic expansion and regional strategic plan,”  said José S. Suquet, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Pan-American Life.  “As an insurance industry leader in the region, ranked number 1 by collective market share in life and health insurance, entry into Costa Rica will complete our total coverage in the region while underscoring our commitment to Central America.”
Costa Rica’s insurance market recently approved a new law authorizing private competition. It is currently Central America’s second largest insurance market behind Panama, where Pan-American Life has had operations since 1912. Pan-American Life also has offices and affiliates in Honduras (1944), Guatemala (1914) and El Salvador (1911); and a strategic alliance with a leading insurance provider in Nicaragua to accommodate multinational clients.
“The Costa Rican insurance market is ready for substantial expansion,” said Eugenio Magdalena, the company's executive vice president of international markets. “The growth potential is overwhelmingly evident when considering that Costa Rica’s close neighboring personal insurance market, Panama, is almost four times greater in terms of premiums, even though both countries per capita GNP are similar, with Costa Rica roughly having one million people more than Panama.”
Upon receipt of authorization from the Superintendencia General de Seguros, Costa Rica’s equivalent of the Insurance commissioner’s office, Pan-American Life has plans for preparation and filing of a customized portfolio of products, including individual life and health insurance, as well as group life, accident and health insurance.

New Orleans-based Pan-American Life Insurance Company, the Group’s flagship insurance company member, has been in business since 1911, employing more than 700 persons worldwide, providing top-rated life and health insurance, worksite benefits and financial services in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Rio to host 2016 summer games

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

For the first time ever, a South American city will be hosting the Olympics summer games.

The  International Olympic Committee meeting in  Copenhagen said that Rio de Janeiro will be the host for the  2016 games, the 31st Olympiad.

Nearly 50,000 jumped and shouted in the carnival-like atmosphere on Rio's Copacabana beach where two huge TV screens were erected to hear the announcement.

It is the fourth time Rio de Janeiro has gone for the games. It came up short in 1936, 2004 and 2012.

Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo were the other candidates.
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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 196

Latin American news
Coffee firm offers trip here
to one lucky customer

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Dunn Bros Coffee is offering two coffee consumers the chance for an all-expense paid trip with Dunn Bros staff and franchisees to coffee farms and production facilities in Costa Rica.

The tour is what Dunn Bros Coffee calls a "trip to origin." A handful of local shop owners make the journey each year, to see for themselves the process of growing, harvesting and processing the coffees they serve every day. These trips are an important part of the deep coffee knowledge that is foundational to the Dunn Bros Coffee brand, the company said.

"Because we roast our coffees right in our stores every day, our shop owners and their baristas and roasters are expected to have a depth of coffee knowledge that you won't find at most other coffee houses." said Mark Christenson, the vice president of marketing for Dunn Bros Coffee. "Engaging our customers to also want to learn more about the coffees they love is important to us."

Each time a Dunn Bros Coffee RoastmasterRewards loyalty card member swipes a card at a Dunn Bros Coffee shop between Oct. 1 and 31, he or she will be automatically entered into the sweepstakes. The more a customer uses their rewards card, the more chances they will have to win. Paper entry forms will also be provided for those not wishing to make a purchase. The Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas who are 18 years or older, said the company.

The grand prize winner will be announced in late November and will receive a trip for two to Costa Rica with Dunn Bros Coffee Franchise office staff and local franchise owners in early 2010, the firm said.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Panamá

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