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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 201       E-mail us
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Jordan's king plans a working visit to Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jordanian King Abdullah II begins Oct. 19 a Latin American visit that will include Costa Rica.

There has been no official announcement here, but Petra, the Jordanian news agency, reported the agenda Wednesday. With the king will be his wife, Queen Rania Al Abdullah, and probably one or more of their four children.

The tour begins in Madrid, Spain, and will be followed by a state visit to Chile and working visits to Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras and Cuba, where the tour will conclude, said Petra.

This is the king's first visit to Latin America, and the goal is to forge relations, mainly economic and trade, between his country and this continent.

The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration has established diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern countries after closing the Costa Rican embassy in Jerusalem and moving it to Tel Aviv. The embassy's location was irritating to the Muslim world.

The 46-year-old king attended Deerfield Academy in the United States and the Royal 
Jordanian queen
Queen Rania Al Abdullah
Jordanian king
King Abdullah II

Military Academy at Sandhurst in England. He served as an officer in the British army.

Under King Abdullah's reign, Jordan was admitted to the World Trade Organization and ratified agreements for the establishment of a Free Trade Area with the United States of America, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association countries, and 16 Arab countries, according to his official biography at the Royal  Hashemite Court Web site.

He is in the 43rd generation directly descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, according to the biography. He became king in February 1999 when his father,  King Hussein, died.

Latin economies struggle as Monetary Fund predicts stalled growth
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Several Latin American stocks and currencies fell during another day of volatile trading Wednesday on fears of a global slowdown.

Brazil's stock market fell 5 percent at its open, started to climb and then dropped to 39,391 points at midday. Brazil's currency, the real, dropped as much as 10 percent against the U.S. dollar.

In Mexico, the stock exchange was up nearly two-thirds of a percent to 21,017, but the peso fell as much as 14 percent.

Mexican finance officials also announced that they would auction $2.5 billion in reserves to prop up the struggling currency.

Elsewhere, Argentina's Merval index, along with Chile's stock market and peso and the Colombian currency of the same name, fell in value.

Analysts say the market volatility could devastate Latin America's commodities-based economies.
Chile's Codelco is the world's largest copper producer. Peru is the world's largest silver producer and a major supplier of copper, zinc and gold.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said it anticipates sharply lower world growth because of the financial crisis rippling across the globe. The fund, however, said it does not anticipate a repeat of the global depression of the 1930s.

Olivier Blanchard, the fund's chief economist, said the financial crisis will significantly slow global growth during the next year. Speaking at the start of the Washington annual meeting of the fund and the World Bank, Blanchard said the crisis is having its severest impact in advanced economies.

"We predict that growth in advanced countries will be close to zero, or even negative, until at least the middle of 2009, with a slow recovery until the rest of the year," he said.
Blanchard, a French economist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says world  growth has been sustained by robust growth in China and India. But, he says emerging markets will soon feel the effects of the financial crisis, as well.

"All or nearly all will suffer from lower exports to advanced economies, and this will slow down their growth," he said of emerging economies. "Most will suffer from more expensive foreign credit. We are already seeing this happen."

In preparing its forecast, the International Monetary Fund assumed coordinated action by the Americans, Europeans and Japanese to stimulate growth and avoid a global downturn. The fund said after safeguarding financial institutions, governments should use fiscal policy to put more money into the hands of consumers.

The fund's economists applauded Wednesday's action by major central banks acting in concert to cut interest rates, a move intended to boost consumer demand by making the cost of credit cheaper. This followed a series of measures taken in recent days to ease the credit crunch, but stock markets have continued to fall. Blanchard says the financial shock that first shook banking institutions has spread to businesses and consumers.

"Now, consumers and firms have weathered the recent oil and commodity price increases surprisingly well," said Blanchard. "Consumption and investment demand remain quite strong. But, what we see now is that demand is falling very sharply."

Blanchard and his International Monetary Fund colleagues said there is no chance of a repeat of the global depression of the 1930s, because the lessons of that painful decade have been learned. Foremost among them is that consumer demand must be maintained, so that economic activity does not spiral downward amid corporate failures and steeply rising unemployment, he said. 

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Turrialba weekend fiesta
designed to change image

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

If Turrialba doesn't exactly come to mind as a cultural mecca, locals hope that might change after this weekend's  Festival Cultural La Campiña, a three-day highlight of food, music, theater and native traditions.

Carlos Solis, one of the event's organizers, said the festival was planned with the intention of motivating more local musicians, cooks and artists to promote Turrialba as the next happening place.

“There's a lot of potential in that sense, although we lack a more concrete organization that would include the many different parties involved, so that they can strive for cultural development in the area,”  he said.

Besides hosting art exhibits, mascaradas and ballet dancers, a Brazilian martial arts performance and poetry readings, the festival will also feature a wide range of musical performances, including hip-hop, garage rock, folk, Celtic and native songs. A big band concert will officially close the festivities Sunday at 7 p.m.

Aspiring chefs will also have a chance to show off their favorite recipes, during a food festival Sunday. Participants can submit a dish in one or more categories, including main courses, traditional, appetizers and desserts. The deadline to enter is Friday. Participants can present a fee of 2,500 colons (about $4.50) at the municipal building in Turrialba, which is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or the Restaurante La Feria, organizers said.

Another recycling effort
planned in Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

“Would you want to spend the next 1,000 years in a landfill?” challenges a plastic bottle on a flier, advertising for a monthly recycling drop-off organized by the ecological activist group Tamarindo Recycles. As part of the town's efforts to create a greener community residents hope monthly recycling drop-offs will clean up Tamarindo's image as well as its streets.  

Coordinated by Tamarindo Recycles, the recycling crusade has been supported by tourists and locals, schools, businesses, restaurants and hotels. One Recycling Day, July 12, saw more than 120 people drop off recyclable materials. The result: 5,338 pounds of plastic, paper and more. June 14 some 80 people dropped off 2,745.2 pounds of material. As a result, the grassroots initiative has already recycled 16,540 pounds of material in the past year, the organization said.

Locals will be looking to add to that number Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., when residents will once again have the opportunity to drop off plastic bottles, printer paper, newspapers, magazines, and even car batteries at the Tamarindo Beach parking lot.

As popular as the monthly drop-offs have proved to be, Tamarindo Recycles maintains this is only a temporary solution until the town creates the infrastructure that would allow for a government-based recycling program.

Jacó residents planning
to plant trees Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As part of an ongoing effort to promote green development in Jacó, an area involved in rapid growth, the town will host a community event promoting reforestation.

Sponsored by the Municipalidad de Garabito, the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce and governmental organization the Bandera Azul Ecológica, the event kicks off at 8 a.m. Friday in front of the supermarket Maxi Bodega. Attendees, who must bring their own water, will replant small trees and plants in three different sections of the city.

Local businesses and condominium developers are also encouraged to send employees to the event. The recent influx of businesses and hotels in the area is widely attributed to having played some role in polluting the ocean in front of Jaco's beaches.

Alongside Friday's effort to promote a greener Jacó, the Municipalidad of Garabito will continue to monitor 35 water treatment plants that the Ministerio del Salud has identified as inadequate. The results of the laboratory tests of the treatment plants will be made available by Oct. 20.

Sex crime standard
maintained by high court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court ruled Wednesday that individuals can be convicted of a sexual assault simply on the testimony of the alleged victim. The court agreed to study an appeal earlier in the week, and froze all sex abuse and rape trials, causing panic in the law enforcement field.

The person who appealed was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, and he argued that the threshold of proof was unconstitutional.

The person who appealed was identified as Luis Carlos Castro Murillo. The appeal was directed at a section of the penal code that allowed conviction with just the word of the victim.

Costa Rica does not have sufficient laboratories to provide rapid DNA testing, so a trial would be the suspect's word against the word of the defendant.

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Ms. Chinchilla's resignation is official election kickoff 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The presidential elections are not until Feb. 7, 2010, but the shuffling has begun.

As predicted here Sept. 23, Laura Chinchilla, the country's vice president, has resigned so she can seek the nomination of her Partido Liberación Nacional. Costa Rica's unusual election laws prohibit top officials, ministers and heads of autonomous institutions from running for office while they still are serving. It even prohibits a sitting president from expressing a preference.

Meanwhile, a coalition has formed around opponents of the free trade treaty. It is Movimiento Vamos Unidos 2010, headed by Eugene Trejos, rector of the Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica in Cartago. The organization said its goal was to create a solid alliance against neoliberal candidates in the election. The group plans to enroll itself as the Partido Alianza Patriótica and welcomed other parties to join under its banner. Neoliberal means capitalistic.

Much of the opposition against the free trade treaty was done by those seeking to position themselves for the 2010 elections. The Alianza Patriótica emerged as informal groups with members in most communities. This new group includes many who worked unsuccessfully to defeat the treaty in the Oct. 7 national referendum. They see those who favored the trade treaty as traitors to the nation.

Ms. Chinchilla and her party, of course, were instrumental in passage of the treaty. The Partido Acción Ciudadana used to be the most vocal opponent, but it has distanced itself from some of the more outspoken opponents who now make up the new alliance.

Acción Ciudadana's Ottón Solís is expected to be the candidate for his party in the presidential elections. He is likely to get the nomination.

Ms. Chinchilla has a fight on her hands. Johnny Araya, the Liberación mayor of San José, wants to be president, too. His brother, Rolando, the Liberación presidential candidate in 2002, has thrown in his lot with Vamos Unidos.

Fernando Berrocal, the security minister who was fired by President Óscar Arias Sánchez for being too outspoken about infiltration here by Colombian terrorists, also is expected to run.
Whoever wins the Liberación nod has an uphill fight. Many consider Arias, also a Liberación member, to be the head of a failed administration and his approval ratings have dipped.

Ms. Chinchilla served as minister of Justicia y Gracia as well as in the vice presidential post. As such she was the main author of the administration's citizen security plan  that was less than many expected.

Both Ms Chinchilla and Arias are bound by their ideology which sees crime as the result of poverty and a flawed social system. They seek to change the social system instead of enacting drastic measures against criminals. The security plan advanced by Ms. Chinchilla discussed at length the proliferation of firearms in society and sought measures to take weapons from the hands of citizens.

One measure would have restricted individuals to only one weapon for home defense.

The plan also discussed at length the need to provide protection for victims and court witnesses, although it never said how to pay for such protection. Later Janina del Vecchio, the security minister and a member of the same political party, appeared at the Asamblea Legislativa to testify that providing such protection would be very expensive. She urged lawmakers to give the job to some entity other than her Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Every week killers murder some witnesses to a crime or a crime victim to frustrate court action.

Meanwhile, Arias ran into trouble himself when he announced that the country was ready for a woman president. That was seen as an endorsement of Ms. Chinchilla, and she began a more active role in state business. Arias was chastised by the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones and now said he was talking about women in general. 

The Movimiento Libertario and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana are other strong parties that will be on the ballot. Luis Fishman, defrocked by President Abel Pacheco as a vice president for reasons that still are unclear, is a possible Unidad candidate.

Because Costa Rica provides public financing for political parties there usually is a proliferation of such entities as elections draw near. Even losing can be profitable.

Phone company informants compromise wiretaps, Dall'Anese tells lawmakers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organized crime has informants in the telephone company who report when investigators have sought to tap lines, the nation's chief prosecutor told lawmakers Wednesday.

The chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese, was speaking to the Comisión Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana of the need for investigators to have full control of wiretaps.

He also wanted lawmakers to broaden the definitions in a wiretap bill to include crimes that may appear in the future but are not recognized as such now.

The current bill has a list of specific crimes.

"Although we believe that we are in a fictional movie, we have to make clear that these organizations have their advisory teams, lawyers, collaborators, and they will analyze this law to see what loophole would be left open
and dedicate themselves to this activity knowing that they have more of an advantage," said Dall'Anese.

The fiscal general said that the power to tap phone lines should be within the Centro de Comunicación Judicial which is being created for this reason in San Joaquín de Flores so telephones can be tapped without contact with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, or other service providers.

". . . every time we ask ICE for intervention, the telephone of the suspect goes dead," said Dall'Anese.

Dall'Anese also warned that the length of the wiretap should be a fixed period. Now the legislation calls for a three-month term with indefinite extensions. Dall'Anese said this might be unconstitutional.

He suggested a nine-month term of wiretapping with a nine-month extension.

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'Latin American Idol' finale will be tonight on television
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight is the finale of "Latin American Idol," and one of two young women will walk away with the title. Costa Ricans are hoping it will be the woman from Heredia.

The woman, María José Castillo, performed three songs Wednesday night at the show's studio in Argentina. Ticos were glued to their sets.  The 7 p.m. nightly news on two channels provided the performances by Ms. Castillo, and those who had cable could see the show live on Sony Television. Commercials were frequent.

The three judges loved Ms. Castillo's performances. "Well sung," "You have soul," and similar praises came from the panel of three professional performers. But they also praised the other finalist Margarita Henríquez of Panamá. And what the judges think doesn't count anyway. Voting is done by viewers via text messages on their cell phones.

At Ms. Castillo's home in Barva de Heredia tents were set up and some fans showed up, despite a continual rain.
Earlier in the day, caravans of vehicles promoted the woman's performance throughout the Central Valley.

At Parque Central in San José the municipality set up a concert stage, and money was collected purportedly to pay for voting. The charge is 400 colons (73 U.S. cents) plus tax for each call.

The results will be announced in a half-hour show tonight.

Ms Castillo wore miniskirts of various colors, red heels and knee-high boots during her three times on stage during the hour-long show. Ms. Henríquez appeared to have a slightly better voice, but Ms. Castillo was more athletic in her presentation and cried at the end of one song.

The show ended with both women on stage holding hands.

The central government has declared Ms. Castillo an individual of cultural interest, and she will be met with a huge crowd Friday at Juan Santamaría airport regardless of the outcome.

Major research project seeks to assess climate and hurricanes
By the National Science Foundation

Researchers are homing in on the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to assess the likely changes, between now and the middle of the century, in the frequency, intensity, and tracks of these powerful storms. Initial results are expected early next year.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., working with federal agencies as well as the insurance and energy industries, has launched an intensive study to examine how global warming will influence hurricanes in the next few decades.

Costa Rica is vulnerable to the indirect effects of some hurricanes, and major flooding has been caused by such storms in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The goal of the National Center for Atmospheric Research project is to provide information to coastal communities, offshore drilling operations, and other interests that could be affected by changes in hurricanes.

"This science builds on years of previous investment," said Cliff Jacobs, program director in the National Science Foundation Division of Atmospheric Sciences, which is funding the project. "The outcome of this research will shed light on the relationship between global warming and hurricanes, and will better inform decisions by government and industry."

The project relies on an innovative combination of global climate and regional weather models, run on one of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

"It's clear from the impacts of recent hurricane activity that we urgently need to learn more about how hurricane intensity and behavior may respond to a warming climate," said Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who is leading the project. "The increasingly
dense development along our coastlines and our dependence on oil from the Gulf of Mexico leaves our society dangerously vulnerable to hurricanes."

The new study follows two major reports, by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that found evidence for a link between global warming and increased hurricane activity.

But many questions remain about future hurricane activity. For example, the Climate Change Science Program report concluded that future changes in frequency were uncertain and that rainfall and intensity were likely to increase, but with unknown consequences.

Improved understanding of climate change and hurricanes is an especially high priority for the energy industry, which has a concentration of drilling platforms, refineries, pipelines and other infrastructure in the region that are vulnerable to severe weather.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike damaged offshore oil production and several refineries, disrupting gasoline supplies.

The project is part of a larger effort examining regional climate change between 1995 and 2055.

Simulations are being run on the Bluefire supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

For the project, the model will examine three decades in detail: 1995-2005, 2020-2030, and 2045-2055. Scientists will use statistical techniques to fill in the gaps between these decades.

A major goal is to examine how several decades of greenhouse-gas buildup could affect regional climate and, in turn, influence hurricanes and other critical weather features. Scientists will also investigate the impact of the powerful storms on global climate.

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Human rights group blames
Morales for racial rhetoric

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The New York-based Human Rights Foundation said that Bolivian President Evo Morales repeatedly makes statements defending racial hatred, threatening the freedom of the press and inciting conflict.

The organization released a 14-page report detailing the crisis that claimed 21 lives in September of 2008, and left hundreds of people injured throughout Bolivia. The report went to Morales with a letter outlining the foundation's concerns regarding the political violence.

“It is appalling that the president of a country that is a signatory to the majority of the world’s human rights treaties is literally calling on the people of his nation to choose between his political agenda and death,” said Thor Halvorssen, foundation president. “Unfortunately, as long as the government’s official discourse continues to promote conflict and racial hatred between Bolivians, the human rights situation in Bolivia is going to continue to deteriorate,” he added.

The report criticizes Morales for repeatedly using terms such as “racists,” “fascists,” “separatists,” and “traitors” to describe the leaders of the opposition. The report states that Morales’ calls for supporters to “die” in “defense of the revolution” are in direct violation of Article 13 of the American Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits any propaganda for war or racial hatred.

Similarly, the report links a growingly belligerent discourse by the government as responsible for physical assaults against members of the press by supporters of the government.

According to the report, since the beginning of Morales’ presidential term in 2006, Bolivia has become the Latin American country with the second highest number of deaths due to political conflict — second only to Colombia, which has been engaged in an ongoing internal struggle with terrorist organizations. The deaths and injuries Sept. 11, 12 and 13 add up to the more than 40 deaths and thousands of injured as a consequence of the political violence which has spread since Morales took office, said the foundation.

The government blamed most of the deaths on opponents who were seeking more autonomy for the eastern area of Bolivia. Oppnents say the peasants who died were armed. The violence subsided after talks resumed Sept. 14.

The foundation said it believes that political tensions will only be resolved through dialogue and by the categorical commitment, both by the Bolivian constitution as well as the recently approved local government statutes, to respect and improve the individual rights of all Bolivians regardless of their race, color, gender, language, religion, national or social origin, economic position, place of birth or any other social condition.

Jo Stuart
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