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(506) 223-1327           Published Friday, Oct. 6, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 199           E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Mother Nature plans a little high water for Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast can expect to get a dose of high water starting Saturday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said the situation might continue through Wednesday. The high water is the result of the moon and the sun lining up to exert gravitational forces on the sea. The institute said that the moon gets this close to earth every four years and eight months. And the earth also is closer to the sun at this time of year.

Another reason for the high water is the effects of El Niño in the central Pacific that produces a cyclical increase in the temperature of the water and thermal expansion, said the institute.
Puntarenas will get the highest dose Monday at 3:55 a.m. with seas 3.5 meters (10.7 feet) higher than usual. Other Pacific locations will experience the highest water within minutes of that time. In Playas del Coco to the north the sea will be 9 feet higher than normal at 3:42. That's about 2.9 meters. In Golfo Dulce to the far south, the high tide will be at 3:46 a.m. with estimates of 10.2 feet over normal or 3.3. meters.

Even though tides will be high, moderate waves are predicted.

The nation's emergency center issued a cautionary alert. Many areas have problems when such tides develop. Visitors and new residents can find out a lot by talking to locals.

Nation prepares for a change in the cambio system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's central bank is on the verge of changing the way foreign currencies are exchanged, and those with large cash holdings in colons are wondering how they will be affected by the new system of cambio.

The Banco Central de Costa Rica says it will institute a new policy of exchange bands without prior notice and at any time between now and the end of the year. The system in use now, called mini-devaluations, results in a slightly cheaper colon every work day.

The rates for purchase and sale of foreign currencies are established by the central bank for transactions with other banks and financial entities. The gap between buying and selling dollars is small now, about 2.5 colons or about a half U.S. cent. This is the rate that the central bank buys or sells dollars from or to authorized entities, like banks. Most banks maintain about a four colon difference in the buy and sell rates they offer to the public.

Under the new system, the gap for authorized sales or purchases will be larger and the Banco Central will not intervene to maintain an exchange rate until either the top or the bottom of the so-called band is reached. Bank officials are looking at a band that is at least 2 percent of the exchange rate. That would be a range of about 10.5 colons today or about two U.S. cents. But the band or range could be greater.

Business people can always set their own rates. Casinos, restaurants and hotels that deal with tourists always have done so. Under the new system, banks and other authorized entities can set their own rates as long as the buy and sell rate is within the bands established by the Banco Central. This is being called the ventanilla or window rate.
This means that individuals with significant amounts of money to exchange need to shop around. For merchants, the Banco Central is publishing an average of daily rates based on information from authorized traders, mostly banks and a few exchange houses.

This average is called the referencia or reference rate, and the rate will continue to be available on the central bank Web site. A.M. Costa Rica will continue to link to the reference rate.

Bank officials said that agreements involving foreign currency, according to the commercial code, must adhere to the published reference rate.

The central bank is doing this mainly to curb inflation, now about 11 percent. That has been the result in other countries that have let the currency float. The central bank has accumulated a $2.8 billion debt over the years protecting the colon.  Between January and July the bank lost 76 million colons or about $148,000 doing that.

Many of the prices now are quoted in dollars, as are rents and costs of imported goods. Even Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. quotes its Internet access charges in dollars.

A citizen just tried to challenge that practice before the Sala IV constitutional court, but the magistrates threw out the case.

About 55 percent of the debt in the country is in dollars or other foreign currency, according to August figures from the Banco Central.

The best guess of North American observers is that the colon will hold its own against the dollar, and that the bands provide short-term security for those who accept colons in day-to-day business

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 199

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Officials here keep eye
on Panamá medical mystery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Costa Rican health officials have their eyes turned south to Panamá where a mystery disease has killed 17 person.

Panama's health ministry officials said Wednesday that two more people suffering from the condition died. They say the unidentified disease attacks the kidneys and causes neurological damage. Most of the dead were over 60 years old, and were already suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney problems, they said.

Panama has declared a national epidemic alert, but the health ministry says the illness does not appear to be contagious. Ten other Panamanians are recovering from the disease, after suffering fever, diarrhea and partial paralysis.

The cases seem to be related to two public hospitals in the capital.

Health specialists at the Ministerio de Salud in San José said Thursday that they were in constant contact with authorities in Panamá. Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control arrived in Panamá Wednesday to help. The Pan-American Health Organization is involved, too.

Police break up heist
of pinball machines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons, two of them later identified as teens, stuck up a store in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados Thursday, threatened the three persons there with guns and tied them up. Then they began loading pinball machines on a truck.

The teens and the adult driver were surprised when police arrived. They had eight of the machines on their truck.  The adult suspect was identified by the Fuerza Pública by the last names of Obando Núñez. The young gunmen were 13 and 16, police said.

Our readers' opinions

Journalists' responsibility
appears to be lacking

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A statement I often use when discussing politics and current events with people is “With freedoms, comes much responsibility.”  It is almost amusing to hear journalist cry and whine and moan about their freedoms being limited.

This is not to say that the journalists who have been beaten and even murdered are not victims of tragic and senseless acts, and ones deserving of investigation and prosecution to the full extent of the law.

Where I disagree with many journalist is the attitude that seems to persist that somehow a journalist and their opinion or what they have to say is above any other consideration.  The article (Thursday) mentions the complaints of journalist in Iraq that information is kept from them because it is deemed a security risk. Well good for the officials that have the guts to stand up and say “No.”

I have had discussions with journalist that have actually said if they had a news story of where the coalition forces were going to attack insurgents in Iraq, that they felt that was a legitimate news story that they had the right to publish, and that it wasn’t their responsibility that publishing that  information might cause the deaths of our soldiers because it tipped off where or how an attack was going to take place.

When did journalist become free of any responsibility?  I have always disagreed with the claim by journalists that their sources are to be protected above any other consideration.  The attitude by many journalist that they should never be  questioned.  A journalist and the media in general should not have the right to make accusations against someone that has no basis of fact other than “an unnamed source.”

Nor should a journalist be allowed to withhold information regarding a crime that was committed, simply because they feel their source should be protected. As with any profession there are good and bad and there are the ones that use the media to their own benefit and to advance their own agenda.  There has to be a balance between freedom and   responsibility.  Journalist should have no less freedoms than anyone else, however they place themselves in a position where they may very well need to be more responsible.

David K. Treadway
Esterillos Oeste

Fight against corruption
is called an uphill battle

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It appears that corruption is simply accepted as a way of life in Costa Rica.  So, it’s OK with the majority. That's "sowing the wind..."  Methinks such indifference is fostered by the climate.  I know all I want to do is lay around on the beach when I’m there. Those who want to make a difference and rid the country of this attitude have an uphill battle.

However I met many who were hoping for a change.  Just not the majority. A very fine place to start is implementing the laws on the books.  Oh, sorry, the money for that has been pocketed.

I did witness some stings that interrupted traffic bribery.  That was a good thing, but chicken feed to the real corruption.

The Taiwan deal, now there's a gold mine for politicos.  The upgrading of the airport that was world class corruption.

One of the superintendents, told me he had been all over the world on similar projects, and he thought CR was in a league of its own when it came to bribery.

This does not bode well for such a beautiful country.  If you want to be rich and lazy, drill for oil, and stop trying to sell that ecobaloney.
Roger Estler

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 199

Rainy season leaving on schedule except for the Quepos area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All but two of Costa Rica's 13 regions will welcome the dry season this year no more than five days earlier or later than average, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The exceptions are Quepos, where the rainy season will stick around for 15 more days until Dec. 27 to 31, and Palmar Sur, where the dry season will arrive about 15 days early around Dec. 7 to 11, the weather experts said.
The change of season is expected in San José between Dec. 12 and 16.

The early bird is Liberia where the rainy season is expected to exit around Nov. 7. Coto 47 will be the last region to bid good-bye to the rain. And that is predicted for Jan. 27 to 30.

Typically there is no sudden stop in the daily rains, but they become fewer and fewer and lighter and lighter.

Germany signs to environmental plan on with 4 million euros
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Germany has agreed to donate 4 million euros to Costa Rica and the Arias administration is considering it the kickoff of the Consensus of Costa Rica.

The amount is about 2.6 billion colons.

The donation is for an environmental program called competitiveness and the environment. Representing their
countries Thursday for a signing ceremony were Volker 
 Fink. the German ambassador, and Bruno Stagno, the Costa Rican foreign minister. The program is in the planning stages and includes an emphasis on management of municipal solid waste.

The Consensus of Costa Rica is a proposal by President Óscar Arias Sánchez that First World nations forgive the debts and support developing countries that invest in health, education and housing at the expense of the military. Arias presented the plan formally before the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 19.

Do Ticos really hate Gringos? We have two opinions
I was surprised to learn that my comments about the attitudes and feelings towards the United States and its people would bring so much comment.  Deciding to follow up on this topic, I had quite a long talk with a Tico who has family in both the U.S. and Costa Rica.  He is also a keen observer of people, owning a popular business in downtown San José that is frequented by people from all over the world.  He seemed like a good informant.  (My anthropology background was emerging.)  So I asked M (I will call him “M”) what he thought of the statement that people “hated” those of us from or in the United States. 

Much to my surprise, he agreed with this statement.  He went on to deny my contention that it was just the policies of the administration.  “No,” he said.  “They hate everything about the U.S. and often like anything or anyone who is not from the U.S.  I call it ‘the Oliver Stone syndrome.”  (Film director Stone has made a number of movies highly critical of the U.S. government.) “Mostly the Gringo bashers are Americans who have left the U.S,” he explained.  He went on to say that Germans came in a close second for their antagonism towards the U.S.  And he reminds them that there is probably more German blood in the veins of U.S. citizens than any other kind.

But we were not off the hook yet.  M went on to say that there are generally three types of Americans living in Costa Rica.  They make up the continuing comedy/drama that takes place in his store.

First are the Republican types who are easy to deal with because they generally stick to themselves, live in their gated communities, invest their money in offshore businesses or real estate and enjoy life.  Then there are the Democrats who are "silly" because they want to do good — help out the local population, become friends and generally get involved with the community.  He could not come up with what he meant by "silly" except his description of their activities.  And finally, he said, there are the religious types, the missionaries who usually are ardent supporters of George Bush, who have learned Spanish and want to convert the locals.  They are beyond silly. 

Well, I thought, I would have to find another informant to see if he or she would validate M’s stereotypes.  I called 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

A. She, too, is bilingual, practically bi-cultural.  She comes in contact with perhaps a different type of Gringo (she pointed out that just as Tico is not pejorative, neither is Gringo when Ticos use the term.)  She works for a Spanish language school.  A wide variety of foreigners come to learn the language and experience the culture: professionals, academics, students, and families.  She totally disagrees with M’s description of Gringos, saying he must be very bitter.  I said no, not bitter, but cynical, perhaps.  She allowed that some students arrive loudly expecting more attention and pointing out that the U.S. is the world’s police.  But most of them change during the course of their stay. The more educated students are low key, very polite and very appreciative.

When I brought up American expats’ feelings about other Americans (actually citizens of the U. S. are called estadounidenses in Costa Rica, a mouthful for most of us.), A discounted that by saying that she is very critical of Ticos, especially when she is abroad.  In her opinion, Ticos in general like Gringos because of their unparalleled generosity.  They have always been the first to offer help, get organized and get involved when there has been a crisis in this country.  She does not mean the government, but rather the people themselves. 

The one president who personifies the American people, she feels, was John Kennedy, with the Peace Corps, his attention to Central America, the things he did for the “little people.”  The one criticism she agreed with is that so many Americans who come here are ignorant.  They know nothing of the culture, the geography, the people, or of Central America in general. 

I decided not to get a third opinion.  I just hope readers remember that it is not nice to shoot the messenger. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 199

Concern is expressed over arms buildup in Latin America
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Organization of American States have expressed concern about a military buildup in the region that could trigger an arms race.

This took place as defense ministers and policy experts from the Western Hemisphere wrapped up their conference in Nicaragua.

Venezuela was one of the 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries attending the security conference, Cuba was not. Despite the focus on stronger ties and cooperation, the meeting came at a time of tense relations between the United States and Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has recently used booming oil profits to purchase $3 billion worth of weapons from Russia, including 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 53 military helicopters. The fiery populist has also announced that, with Russia's help, he will open a factory to build the AK-style rifles.

"I think Venezuela's arms buildup is massive, compared to anything that went before. And it's explained by several factors. One is, of course, that Venezuela is rich in petro-dollars, and so has the money to spend. The other is that relations are very bad between the United States and Venezuela. And, President Chávez is very hostile toward the United States. Basically, he is bent on making his mark globally as an anti-imperialist, anti-United States," said Susan Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
Venezuela denies that its arms purchases are a threat to the region, saying they are purely for defensive purposes.

A senior policy official for Latin America at the U.S. Defense Department, James Alverson, declined to comment

directly on Venezuela. But, he said the United States is concerned about increasing stockpiles of weapons in the region.

"One of the areas that this conference focused on was the danger posed by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to terrorists and insurgent groups. That is an issue for all of our countries to think about. And this conference has tried to focus on ways in which we can lessen that threat, through transparency, for example, and through the careful keeping control of which arms are out there, and who has their hands on those arms," he said.

Alverson said officials are particularly concerned about manpads or shoulder-fired missiles, which could be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian airliners. There is a stockpile in Nicaragua.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in his remarks to the conference, said the nations of the Americas must work together to confront common threats.

The 32 defense ministers agreed to create an international land-mine removal center in Nicaragua. Central American countries have removed thousands of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines since their civil wars ended in the 1990s. Costa Rica already has removed all the mines along its northern border with Nicaragua.

U.S. sets deadline for adoption services to get accreditation
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Taking another step toward ratifying the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, the United States announced that Nov. 17 is the deadline for potential adoption service providers to submit their accreditation applications to designated agencies.

The 1993 Hague Convention sets minimum international standards and procedures for adoptions that occur between implementing countries. It seeks to ensure that such intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and aims to prevent abuses such as abductions, sale or trafficking in children, as well as the exploitation of birth parents and adoptive parents.

To date 68 countries have ratified the convention or acceded to it. The United States signed the pact in 1994 and hopes to ratify it by 2007.

In 2005 Americans adopted nearly 23,000 children from countries around the world, with more than half coming from countries that are parties to the Hague Convention, according to the State Department.

A State Department notice published in the Federal Register Thursday said that in order to be accredited or
approved to handle Hague Convention adoptions at the time the convention enters into force for the United States, an agency or a person must submit an application and required fees on or before Nov. 17.

In July the State Department designated two accrediting entities — the Council on Accreditation and the Colorado Department of Human Services.

This action followed the publication in February of the final outline of standards and procedures these entities must follow in accrediting nonprofit agencies or other providers to handle Hague adoptions.

The State Department announced Wednesday the approval of fees that the two accrediting entities will charge adoption service providers.

The establishment of the transitional application deadline is “a significant achievement and brings the United States closer to its goal of ratifying the Hague Adoption Convention in 2007,” according to a State Department media note. “Once the Convention enters into force for the United States, prospective adoptive parents adopting a child from a convention country will have assurances that they and the children they are adopting have the protections and safeguards provided by the Hague Convention.”

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Jo Stuart
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