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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 198            E-mail us
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A Pacific canton issues a plea for economic help
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In Costa Rica 150,000 persons work in growing and exporting agricultural products. Some 5,000 more are engaged in exporting fish and other seafoods. These are the sectors most vulnerable to the economic winds.

A plea from the canton of Carrillo Wednesday said that the closing of a melon-growing operation there and the slowdown in the tourism and construction industries have left more than 1,500 residents without jobs. The canton is known for its cantaloupes.

The Guardian newspaper reported last weekend that pineapple wars in the supermarkets of Europe have led to reductions in the workforce in that type of agricultural enterprise here because of reduced income for the crop. Much of these layoffs are in the northern zone.  Carrillo is on the Pacific coast. A popular tourist town there is Playas del Coco.

Carlos Alberto Chanto Canales, president of the Consejo Civil de Carrillo, raised the issue Wednesday in an e-mail plea to the news media and to President laura Chinchilla. The problems in his canton are a small-scale version of national employment problems.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior produced the study this week that said some 200,000 jobs in industry are linked to exports. And it also gave the agricultural and fishery numbers.
Chanto said that Del Monte closed the melon-growing operation in Filadelfia and said the action represented the death of hopes and a source of work for 1,500 persons. Carrillo also is the location of a number of tourist destinations. These, too, are having their troubles this year with an unfavorable dollar-colon exchange rate, crime, terrorist threats elsewhere and traditional tourists in North America hunkering down in their own homes. Agriculture just suffered a serious impact from heavy rains, and El Niña in the Pacific promises more unwelcome weather. The whole of Guanacaste is just recovering from a drought.

In addition, political infighting over the construction of a water supply line from Sardinal has brought Coco developers to the brink of bankruptcy even though they paid for the project.

Chanto asked President Chinchilla to take unspecified measures quickly to ease the situation which has left the canton at the mercy of the economic crisis.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior, the country's quasi-public promotional arm, said that its figures were based on surveys done of companies in the coffee, banana and sugar production industries.

The exportation aspects of agriculture, fisheries and industry represent 76 percent of the nation's workforce, it said. The study was supported by Banco Nacional.



Embassy workers
have reason
to love Chris

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Embassy employees have reason to thank Christopher Columbus. Employees will get two three-day weekends in a row.

The embassy will be closed Oct. 11, next Monday, for U.S. Columbus Day, a spokesperson said. Then the doors of the embassy will be shut again Monday, Oct. 18, which is the day Costa Rica will be celebrating El Día de las Culturas.

The traditional day is Oct. 12, which is a Tuesday this year.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 198

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Mountain above Santa Ana
probably will slip again


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There still is danger above Santa Ana. The Chitaría summit above Salitral in the hills above Santa Ana is likely to produce more landslides when more rain hits.

But there is good news, too. What is now Subtropical Storm Otto is headed due north and already is north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Another low pressure area in the Atlantic seems to have dissipated.

Otto was a dangerous low pressure area that was headed directly towards Central America two days ago. It is now likely to parallel the U.S. coastline and break up over the North Atlantic.

The center did note that there is a small low pressure system in the Pacific far off the coast of Nicaragua. It probably will head north without having much of an effect on Central America.

The country could use the break. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Wednesday that work on fixing a temporary bridge over damage to the roadway of the Autopista del Sol is talking longer than normal due to wet weather. Workers are using two bailey bridges that will carry traffic at the location between Atenas and Orotina.

However, some 30 piling must be driven into the ground to support the ends of the bridges. The 15 pilings on the Orotina end have been installed, the ministry said Wednesday. But officials said they did not expect the route to be open to traffic until Sunday at the earliest.

In Santa Ana Wednesday there was rain. The Quebrada Canoa, which carried away the bulk of the material that fell from the peak in two events, was running normally but muddy. Geologists continue to study the mountain. Last week the first landslide sent rocks, mud and trees down the stream and clogged it, leading to flooding of some of the homes along the banks. Municipal workers have been deepening the waterway with heavy machinery and removing some of the large trees and rocks.

The Canoa empties into the Río Uruca.


Contraloría orders changes
in mobile phone bidding


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General de la República has found fault with the proposed bidding documents for private telecom services.

The agency accepted the complaints of three firms, Cable & Wireless Costa Rica S.A., Claro CR Telecomunicaciones S.A. and Centennial Towers SR S.A.

The findings are against the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, which is handling the auction of the radio spectrum.

The complaints were technical and involved the awarding of microwave bandwidth and interconnections.

The Superintendencia said that such disputes were common with such procedures and said its experts would study the Contraloría decision and perhaps modify the timetable for the auction. The agency will award three sets of bandwidths to three firms. They will compete with the existing Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

For the consumers, the dispute might lengthen the bidding process and put off access to private cell phone service longer. The Sala IV has ordered the Superintendencia to speed up the process.

Caja union worried over aguinaldos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union that represents the workers at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social says that the government does not have enough money to make the annual Christmas bonus payment to retired workers.

The union is the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social. It said the government is supposed to pay 28.2 billion colons, about $55.7 million.

The statement comes at a time when lawmakers are considering the annual budget.

The Christmas bonus or aguinaldo is usually equal to a month's pay.


Pole fitness demo planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A benefit in Manuel Antonio Friday will highlight aerial pole fitness. The event is called the Cirque de Soiree Charity Cocktail party and show. It is at the Karolas Restaurant and Lounge from 8 to 11 p.m. The 3,000-colon entry helps the community, organizers said.  Spa No is participating.


 
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, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 198

Latigo K-9

Security reinforced for popular carnival in Limón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers plan heavy security in Limón for the 2010 carnival, which officially starts today after a typical last-minute Costa Rican decision.

The carnival is a big tourism draw, but the minster of health waited until late Tuesday to give the go ahead.

The carnival had been canceled before for health reasons, ranging from swine flu fears to excessive garbage.

The security ministry said that 164 officers, 16 of them on horses, are assigned to the carnival area. That does not count others on routine patrol elsewhere in the city and province.

Juan Carlos Arias, head of the police in the region, said that the bulk of the officers will be at the carnival but that there are other activities, such as concerts that will require additional reinforcements.

The description of the police assigned to the carnival range from the Unidad de Intervención Policial, basically tactical
 squad members, to anti-drug officers. There also are undercover operatives.

The Municipalidad de Limón also has private security officers assigned to the week-long carnival. There also are Tránsito police officers and the Cruz Roja in attendance.

The full name for the event is the Festejos Populares Carnavales de Caribe — Limón 2010. The organizer is the Comisión de Carnavales Limón. The bulk of the activity is on the grounds of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y  Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica. There is a horse parade and other activities that run until Oct. 17.

The carnival hung by a thread because Tuesday was the last day for organizers to submit paperwork. Among these was a security plan and proof of insurance. The decision came down to the wire with the Ministerio de Salud approving the plans by late afternoon after day-long meetings.

The uncertainty of the carnival had an effect on tourism, although there are many visitors who will attend from the Central Valley.


Famous works adapted
to address modern causes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Artist Francisco Munguía appears to have a lot of fun when he adapts famous works or art to deliver messages mostly about animals.

The artist has a show at the Museo Calderón Guardia in Barrio Escalante on San José's northeast side.

Munguía produces works that have as their main characters various types of animals replacing the humans in the more famous works.

He is doing so to promote castration of animals, something many Costa Ricans do not support. He also has works protesting violence toward animals, chicken fights and other forms of mistreatment.

The works are cartoon-like but they clearly call up the images of the famous works.

An archive of his works and explanations in Spanish is HERE.
scream with monkey
The monkey mimics a 1893 work "Scream" by Edvard Munch.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 198


Villalobos group goes to court and fears e-mail sabotage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The small group of Villalobos Brother investors who still believe in the validity of the high-interest scheme have gone to court again.

This was revealed Wednesday by member Fred Pitts, who also reported that the mailing list of the organization had been hacked.

Pitts called the hacking attack sabotage and speculated it could be linked to the group filing the lawsuit Friday.

The nature of the suit was not disclosed, but the group, known as United Concerned Citizens & Residents has continually claimed that the investigative raid on the Villalobos money exchange house and other locations July 4, 2002, was illegal. Their claims were supported by an analysis by the lawyer they hired, David E. Romero Mora.

Romero has said that he thinks the case against the government has a high probability of success.

The group argues that the raid disrupted the Villalobos  business and caused the brothers to go out of business.
Their suit will be hampered by the fact that one brother, Oswaldo, has been convicted of aggravated fraud and illegal banking by a trial court that characterized the operation as a ponzi scheme.

The United Concerned Citizens opposed the criminal action against Oswaldo Villalobos and urged other investors to withdraw their claims. Many did and did not participate in the money awards that were part of the sentence. Many of the members of the group expect the fugitive Luis Enrique Villalobos to return and pay them off when the statute of limitations on the criminal allegations takes effect in 2012. Perhaps as much as $1 billion was lost by investors when the high-interest scheme collapsed. Not only that, the crash reverberated through other similar schemes run by others during the early part of 2002. For example, The Vault high interest scheme run by Roy Taylor, had substantial investments with the Villalobos Brothers. Taylor shot himself when police came to arrest him.

Romero has said that "The action of Costa Rican authorities, through a series of deeds completely corrupt and invalid, damaged all of these people who believed in good faith that Costa Rica had a rule of law protecting them."


The electrical generating company will continue biological monitoring projects like this one during the cleaning of the dam area, which will put a lot of sediment into the river.

ice monitring study
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo


Peñas Blancas dam cleanup will cause flucuations in river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The electrical generating company will be cleaning the dam at the Peñas Blancas hydroelectrical plant in San Ramón and has issued a warning that the flow of the river will be affected.

The work is scheduled to start today and continue through Sunday.

The river level is expected to rise at times to the same level that a strong rain might produce, said the company, the
 Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. It urged residents not to take chances with the river.

The plan is to eliminate sediment due to human activity, landslides and rains.

The company has been making contact with residents in the nearby communities of Boca Arenal de Cutris and San Isidro de Peñas Blancas, it said. It also said that it would be making an effort not to damage the fish downstream.
The company maintains a continual biological program in the river as well as at other hydro sites.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 198

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Brazil faces some potholes
en route to economic goals


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama once called Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva the most popular politician on earth. In Brazil, his approval rating has reached 80 percent, and many people give him the credit for turning the country into an emerging economic powerhouse. But critics say da Silva will leave his successor with some serious problems when he steps down after two terms in office.

It is a weekday and business is brisk in Uruguayana commercial district of Rio de Janeiro. Merchants hawk sunglasses and pirated DVDs. Appliance stores open out onto a plaza with displays of large flat panel televisions.

A man in blue collar workclothes eyes one of them. Ronaldo Ormond Silva says he recently finished paying off the installments on a new refrigerator and is now in the market for a TV.

"With Lula as president, things have gotten a lot better. It's easier to buy things," he says, "I'm someone with a humble background and it was always a struggle to make ends meet."

It is estimated that 30 million people have joined the middle class during the eight year presidency of President Luiz Inacio da Silva or Lula.

Brazil is now considered one of the world's major emerging economies, along with Russia, India and China. And da Silva has been flexing Brazil's muscle abroad with overtures to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran.

Da Silva is unlike his predecessors in many ways. He was born to a poor family in the north and shined shoes as a boy.  History Professor Francisco Carlos Teixeira says many working class Brazilians feel they can identify with him.

"Instead of presenting graphs, tables and indexes, he goes and talks in the same way people would if they were having a conversation at home or in a bar," he said.

Critics say da Silva's popular image is the product of a sophisticated marketing campaign. They say Brazil's economic strength is also the result of monetary stabilization policies instituted by his predecessors.

But Teixeira says previous administrations actively limited economic expansion because they feared the country could not handle too much of it.

"It was a very strange kind of capitalism — a kind of capitalism that was not allowed to grow. Because if it grew it would explode," Teixeira said.

But the jury is still out on whether they were right. Brazil's infrastructure is now under severe strain.

Only 62 percent of households in urban areas have running water and sewer connections. Roads and airports are unable to handle growing traffic. Illiteracy is high, and there is a nationwide shortage of engineers and other skilled workers.

Political scientist and business consultant Amoury Souza says the federal treasury is running out of funds.

"For the past eight years, we have spent on the civil service, social security and social welfare, more than the national wealth has increased," Souza said. "We are living beyond our means."

These are all problems for Brazil's next leader. And that's likely to be Dilma Roussef, whom da Silva's chose to be his successor. She won the first round of elections last Sunday. The second and final round will be held at the end of this month.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 198


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10-year study documents
abundant life in oceans


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An ambitious 10-year project to explore the world's oceans finds that marine life is richer, more connected and changing faster than expected.

The first Census of Marine Life, one of the largest scientific collaborations ever, discovered 6,000 new underwater species.

Since the census began 10 years ago, 2,700 scientists from 80 countries logged 540 expeditions to document the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life.

Oceanographer Paul Snelgrove, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, sums up the 10-year effort in his new book "Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life: Making Ocean Life Count," released with the census.

"With a fair degree of confidence we now know about 250,000 described species for the ocean," said Snelgrove. "And that this is about 25 percent of what actually lives there. So there are still three to four species yet to be discovered for every one that we know about."  

Scientists have deployed robots to explore the ocean depths and established an underwater network of microphones to track salmon and other migrants from Alaska to Mexico. More than 4,000 marine creatures of 23 species have been tagged with electronic sensors.

Researchers are also building a database of DNA records. Snelgrove says a publicly accessible digital archive is one of the single greatest legacies of the census.

"This dataset is available to managers, to conservation groups or even to individuals who want to know what sorts of animals live near them in the ocean."  

Among the newly discovered species are a hairy crab, a carnivorous sponge and an ancient shrimp thought to have gone extinct 50 million years ago. The census also determined that — by weight — up to 90 percent of all marine life is tiny microbes. Over the decade, census scientists published 2,600 academic papers.

Snelgrove says he is already seeing the research put to practical use. "There are areas in the Arctic and in the Antarctic and also along the mid-Atlantic Ridge which have received elevated protection as a result of information of data that the census has provided. And I think in the future there will be many more protected areas in the ocean and with this data we have much more useful knowledge on where to best locate them." 

The knowledge the census has provided about sea life is just a beginning, Snelgrove said.

Much of the ocean remains unexplored, leaving many unanswered questions in its depths. "We see this tremendous array of species, but broadly speaking most of the species in the ocean we don't know what they do for us and what they do for the ecosystem. And so that raises the question of course, if you lose those species, does that change the ecosystem does it compromise the health of the oceans and so that's something that needs to be a priority in the coming years."  

Snelgrove hopes the Census of Marine Life ignites a sense of urgency to protect the ocean, which he says is key to our own survival.  "I think that we need to accept the fact that we need the fish that we extract from the oceans and the other sorts of fisheries that we have, but we do need to find a way to make them sustainable and to find a way to preserve the biodiversity in the oceans as well as those fisheries because the two of those are very strongly interlinked."   

The 10-year $650 million Census of Marine Life received initial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and later from governments, institutions and laboratories around the world.






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