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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 205      E-mail us    
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Sala IV will take another look at massive power grid
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Twenty-four hours a day people are exposed to an array of electromagnetic fields. Inside the home TVs, stereos, VCRs, computers, almost everything electric, most machines and lights bathe everyone with waves, and the list goes on and on.

Outside radar, communication dishes, TV transmitters, cellular phones, high-tension power lines and even the electromagnetic fields generated by vehicles generate additional waves.

Unless one lives in some remote corner of the planet, there is no escape. Simply put, growing exposure to electromagnetic energy fields is a concern, and some see it as a serious threat to health.

No one really knows for sure the long-term effects of this exposure. There are two basic kinds of harmful fields: the electromagnetic and voltaic. 

The electromagnetic spectrum covers a wide range of wave lengths.  The motion of electrically charged particles produces the electromagnetic waves. These waves are also called "electromagnetic radiation" because they radiate from the electrically charged particles.   The voltaic is the process reaction that produces electricity.

The two most obvious sources of these waves and the ones most people are familiar with are high-tension power lines and cellular phone towers.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known in Costa Rica as ICE, is expropriating property from Panamá to Nicaragua to put in an incredible power grid called SIEPAC.

SIEPAC is the Spanish acronym for the Electricity Interconnection System for the Central American Countries that involve the construction of a 1,830-kilometer (1,135-mile), 230 kV energy distribution line between southern Mexico and Panamá.

Many groups have tried to fight ICE to stop the lines going through towns, strung above and around schools, churches, hospitals and community centers. 

The people of Liberia, Costa Rica, filed a case against the electric company and the municipality of Liberia in the Sala IV in 1997 requesting ICE to move the lines around population centers.  The people lost in a split vote by the magistrates of the constitutional court.

The decision stated there is no definitive proof electromagnetic fields cause health problems even though there are tons of studies linking these fields to cancer and other problems.   The constitutional court said they could not stop progress without proof electric lines cause health problems.

A cattle rancher disagrees.  He does not want the electric lines going through his property because he feels they will adversely affect his cattle production.  It is interesting to note that when he received the expropriation documents for the 

A.M. Costa Rica/SIEPAC graphic
Route of transmission is shown in red

stretch of land the electric company needed, ICE specifically stated nothing flammable should be placed close to the lines because it would be likely to explode.

Three weeks ago, the rancher filed another case against the electric company and the stringing of lines through his property.  However, his case has a new twist. 

The Costa Rica constitution guarantees basic rights to all individuals.  Article 46 guarantees everyone a safe environment.  Most importantly, it guarantees this right to generations of the future.  Since the electric company and court cannot guarantee that electromagnetic fields do not cause health problems, it is the courts responsibility to direct ICE to explain to the people of Costa Rica this fact and what potential problems could be in the future and give the people the option to find ways to protect themselves.  In other words, the burden is not on ICE.

The case was accepted by the court based on this premise called the precautionary principle.  This principle recommends that action should be taken to prevent serious potential harm, regardless of scientific uncertainty as the likelihood or cause of that harm.

It is unclear whether the people of Costa Rica really care or not.  Phone calls to the local media regarding the case being accepted were ignored. 

Is progress more important than the health of people?  It seems as if the Sala IV thinks so based on the 1997 vote.  Accepting this new case means the magistrates may have changed their opinion, and believe people should be aware of potential health risks in the future so they can take adequate steps to protect themselves against the unknown.

Under Costa Rican law anyone can attach him or herself to the case at any time before a final decison.  This is case 06-011840-0007CO.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Coincidentally, Both men are involved as professionals in the current power line case. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 205

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New exchange rate idea
goes into effect Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco Central waited for a three-day weekend to begin its plan to allow the colon to float inside a specified range against the dollar.

The bank board of directors met Friday and formally agreed to change the system in mini-devaluations that had existed for more than 20 years. The plan had been announced earlier.

The new system will begin Tuesday.  Agencies and banks that exchange money will be allowed to set their own rate provided the numbers are within the range established by the central bankers.

For Tuesday that range of rates will have a floor of  514.78 colons to the dollar. The ceiling or the point where the Central Bank would intervene to sell dollars will be  530.22 colons to the dollar.

The buy and sell rates for Friday and through the weekend were 521.22 colons and 523.39 colons. They were the last rates established by mini-devaluation.

The bank said that it would raise the buy rate each business day by 6 centimos or hundreds of a colon. The rate at which dollars would be sold will be raised by 14 centimos every business day, the bank said.

For business purposes, the Central Bank will compile each day the rates at which authorized institutions are buying and selling dollars. This will be the reference rate at which most business outside the banks will be conducted.

The bank's stated goal in instituting this new method is to reduce inflation in the country. The Central Bank has been printing colon notes to offset its losses in protecting the colon against the dollar. The bank has a $2.8 billion deficit from years of money exchanging.

The bank said that to exchange dollars or colons now, an individual should shop around or at least check the list of rates of various institutions. And banks and similar must display their rates in an obvious location, the central bank said.

President's office pushes
for Japanese sewer loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial pushed for approval of a loan from Japan that will go to improving the metropolitan area's sewer system.

The president's office released a summary of the project Friday and said that the new system, when built, would cover 65 percent of the area and include more than a million people.

But to get the money, lawmakers must act to accept the loan by Oct. 31, the statement said. The deadline imposed by the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation already has been extended once.

Casa Presidencial noted that much of the sewage from the metropolitan area now flows into the Río Grande de Tárcoles. Then it goes into the Gulf of Nicoya.
The degradation of this watershed had become a menace not only to the sustainability of natural resources but also for the quality of life for inhabitants, said Casa Presidencial.

There doesn't seem to be any outspoken opponents to the loan from the Japanese nor to the idea of the sewer project. But the approval is tied up in legislative scheduling.

Casa Presidencial also said that the sewage treatment plant proposed for the project will process the sludge and officials said they may use it for its agricultural value or simply put it in a landfill.

The whole project is estimated at $557 million. The first stage is $230 million. The Japanese loan will reduce the amount Costa Rica has to raise to $100 million. That is expected to be accomplished in part by raising sewer and water rates.

The current sewer network of some 160,000 hookups services about 574,000 persons but some of the pipes are more than 50 years old. In some areas sewage can be seen leaking into the street.

The project is expected to greatly improve the quality of water in the rios Rivera, Torres, María Aguilar and Tiribí, which now are basically open sewers.  The system is under the control of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, whose officials have lobbied for approval of the Japanese loan.

Robbers shoot paymaster
in Playa Herradura heist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men stuck up the paymaster at a hotel construction site Friday in Playa Herradura near Jacó.

The paymaster and a construction worker suffered bullet wounds. One of the three robbers suffered an injury, too, when workers threw rocks at the robbers, said individuals at the scene.

The victims are Wilberth Zuñiga Andrade and Juan Carlos Gómez Obando.  Zuñiga, the paymaster, was the most seriously hurt, He suffered a bullet wound in the chest. Gómez was hit in the hand, said the Fuerza Pública.

Officers said some 5 million colons, about $9,600, was taken.

Parrita woman killed
in afternoon stabbing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man stabbed a Parrita woman to death Saturday afternoon in the middle of the street of that Pacific coast town.

Fuerza Pública officers quickly arrested a former boyfriend.

Dead is Rosa Mora Badilla, 29, who suffered five wounds, two in the chest, two in the back and one in the neck. The man who was arrested has the last names of  Flores Cajina. He is 34.

The Mora woman was chased down by a man on a bicycle some 50 meters or a half block from her home. She lived in the Pueblo Nuevo section of Parrita.

The woman broke off her eight-month relationship with the man just two weeks ago, police said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 205

Central, south Pacific hit with heavy rains and flooding
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heavy rains hit the Central Pacific coast Sunday in the afternoon and caused serious flooding all along the coast.

Hard hit was Quepos, where water was three feet deep in some areas.

Other flooding was reported further south in Golfito.

The Río Portalón south of Quepos was running over its banks, and there was some damage to the highway route and perhaps a bridge, according to informal reports. The Río
Portalón was a the culprit that destroyed the community of  the same name a year ago. Until recently, vehicles had 
to ford the Río Portalón to travel the Costanera Sur because the bridge there and much of the road was wiped out at the same time in September 2005.

The Cruz Roja said that it was sending crews from San José to the Central Pacific.

The Central Valley got some rain between 7 and 10 p.m., but the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional reported just 8.8 mms. (about a third of an inch) fell at its Barrio Aranjuez headquarters in San José.

The weather institute predicted an increase in rain over the next few days due to increased humidity. The weekend was relatively dry.

When it's time for gossip, here are some handy names
Fulano, Mengano y Sutano

No, these are not the names of the Three Stooges. They are monikers that are used to refer to people without using their given names. Many Costa Ricans use one of these, for example, when they can’t think of a person’s real name. It’s sort of like “what’s-his-name” in English, or, as the Germans say, “dinksbumps.”

A story in which these three “characters” appear might go something like this:

“You know that Fulano, son of old Don Mengano — the guy who owns the general store — anyhow, this Fulano bought a used piece-of-junk motorcycle off some Sutano who lives in the first house after you cross the old bridge . . . .”

The interesting thing is that these three characters also have the same apellido, or last name, which is De Tal meaning “so-and-so.”

My grandmother always referred to nearly all the vendors in the San José city market as Fulano or Mengano. She rarely bothered to learn their real names, or if she did she soon forgot them.

When you refer to a person as Fulano De Tal it means he is someone you don’t really care much about one way or the other. A Mengano De Tal, or Menganito, is someone you might feel sorry for. And Sutano de Tal is someone you don’t know at all, a perfect stranger.

So you can be talking with this Fulano, about Mengano who was working for some Sutano who’s a real mean and stingy hijo de puta because he doesn’t want to pay poor Menganito his fair salary. This is a reasonably typical Costa Rican colloquial conversation.

You can see how these little designators can be very useful. They are great gossip facilitators for one thing, and you never need reveal the real identities of Mengano or

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

Sutano to Fulano, provided, of course, that you even know their actual given names to begin with.

Fulano, Mengano and Sutano also have wives. They are Fulanita, Menganita and Sutanita. So, when you are annoyed with the woman who does your shirts you can tell your friend about that little Fulanita down at the laundry who parades around like some kind of movie queen, but all she’s really after is poor Menganita’s husband!

Another way to use these pseudonyms is to make reference to somebody who is just too amazingly stupid. For example you might say to a friend whom you wish to dissuade from making a tremendous blunder: ¡No seas tan Fulano! Meaning: “Don’t be such an idiot!” Or you could comment on a person who is acting foolishly by saying: Ese Fulano si es menso or “That imbecile is really stupid.” But the general principle is always the same, to camouflage, albeit at times rather thinly, someone’s real name.

A word of caution: It would be unwise to actually refer to a person directly as Fulano, Mengano, or Sutano unless you know them very well and they, in turn, know that you’re joking. Otherwise, a rather awkward outcome could result.

Vargas ducks out on meeting with Arias to discuss trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed meeting between President Óscar Arias Sánchez and the head of the public employees union is off again.

Casa Presidencial announced Friday that Arias would meet Tuesday with Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, who is a principal opponent to ratification of the free trade treaty with the United States.

Arias was trying to blunt the force of a proposed general strike Oct. 23 and 24. Vargas also ducked a meeting with Arias that was planned for soon after the May 8 inauguration.

But Vargas and the union board of directors decided to ask Arias instead for a national dialog with all groups opposed to the treaty.

The union board sent a letter to Arias over the weekend in which it proposed a dialog of diverse sectors of which the union is only a small part. Included were farmers, cooperatives, ecologists, women, those involved in human rights, students, business people, Indians, teachers, intellectuals, political leaders, high school teachers and union members.
The goal would be to plot a national development agenda, said the union letter.

A committee of the Asamblea Legislative just concluded a lengthy series of  hearings at which those opposed to the treaty and those in favor testified. It is hard to see what new might come from an additional round of discussions.

In addition, the presidential elections Feb. 5 were a national referendum on the free trade treaty because Arias was a supporter of the document and his principal opponent, Ottón Solís, was opposed. Arias won by a bit more than 1 percent.

With the Asamblea Legislativa likely to approve the treaty with the United States and other Central American countries, opponents have been casting around for a way to block ratification.

The general strike, which is sure to close down the country for at least two days, also is likely to result in bloodshed because the union has characterized their efforts as revolution.

Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, would prefer to engage in discussion rather than street riots, although he has said the government would take a firm hand with lawlessness.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 205

International team will observe Oct. 22 vote on canal
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An inter-American mission will observe the Oct. 22 referendum in which voters in Panamá will decide whether a proposed expansion of the Panama Canal moves forward, said the Organization of American States.

The Organization of American States says it will send a team of 16 international observers for the referendum in Panama.  The observers will be from the United States, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.  In addition, more than 50 volunteers from the diplomatic corps based in Panamá will be part of the electoral observation mission, the organization said.  Heading the mission is the organization's  assistant secretary general, Albert Ramdin.

In addition to a U.S. contribution of $30,000, China and South Korea each are providing the observation mission $20,000.

The referendum represents "a far-reaching decision for the future development" of Panamá and its people, the Organization of American States said.

U.S. Ambassador to Panamá William Eaton has cited the importance of the canal to Panama's future but said it is the Panamanian people’s decision whether to seek modernization of the canal. 

Opponents of the proposal in Panamá say that the econlogical impact has hardly been studied and that there are archaeological sites that will be destroyed.
Aristides Royo, Panama's permanent representative to the Organization of American States, said approval of the canal expansion will allow the transoceanic waterway to handle almost double its current volume of traffic and accommodate larger ships.  The existing canal, first completed by the United States in 1914, is deemed too small to handle contemporary shipping needs.

Under Panama's Constitution, the expansion initiative — which the OAS said will cost an estimated $5.25 billion — first must be approved by popular vote.  During a visit in
May to Organization of American States headquarters in Washington, Panama First Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis said the proposed expansion would promote national development and help overcome poverty and inequality in his country.

The proposed expansion, Lewis said, would speed the movement of ships that now must wait in long lines at the entrances of the canal.  He said the expansion proposal includes the construction of new locks on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal. According to news reports, the expansion project would be an expensive undertaking, requiring 10,000 workers and taking 10 years to finish.

Environmental groups have expressed concern about expanding the canal, saying such a massive project would harm ecosystems, displace thousands of peasant farmers and require too much water.  Critics also argue that the costs for the project are underestimated and the economic benefits exaggerated. They claim that even the proposed wider locks and deeper and wider access channels would be inadequate to meet future shipping needs.

Pope Benedict proclaims four more saints, including a Mexican bishop
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pope Benedict has proclaimed four new saints at a canonization ceremony in the Vatican's Saint Peter's Square. They included an American 19th century nun, a Mexican bishop and two Italian founders of religious orders.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said four new saints are now being proposed to the veneration of the universal church. He said they would be remembered forever. The new saints include two Italians Filippo Smaldone and Rosa Venerini, who founded religious orders, and two foreigners.

Many Mexicans turned out in Saint Peter's Square Sunday for the canonization ceremony, which included one of their own. Bishop Rafael Guizar y Valencia risked his life to assist the wounded during the Mexican revolution.
The Pope said Guizar y Valencia was called the bishop of the poor because of the heroic way in which he lived.

Americans were also present to celebrate a French-born nun who endured harsh conditions in what was American frontier land at the start of the 19th century and pursued her dream of establishing Catholic education for pioneers.

Mother Theodore Guerin established a college for women in the midwestern state of Indiana. Pope Benedict said she overcame many challenges. Members of Guerin's order and hundreds of students from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and their families traveled to Rome for the canonization ceremony.

Sunday's canonization ceremony was Pope Benedict's first in nearly a year. His predecessor celebrated both canonization and beatifications regularly during the year.

Noboa and Correa will meet in a Nov. 26 runoff for president of Ecuador
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services reports

Banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa and economist Rafael Correa will meet in a Nov. 26 runoff election in Ecuador, according to results Sunday reflecting 65.5 percent of the votes cast.

Noboa won 26.7 percent in the crowded field Sunday. Correa got 22.5 of the votes already counted, said the election tribunal.
There were 11 other candidates on the ballot who got from less than 1 percent of the vote to 16.01 percent.

Noboa is Ecuador's wealthiest man. Correa is a U.S.-educated economist.

Each has run on a populist platform, promising to improve the lives of Ecuador's poorest citizens.

No presidential candidate has won outright in Ecuador since the runoff election system was implemented in 1979.

Boat people rescued in the Pacific are to return to Perú by plane today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 140 Peruvians and Chinese nationals were to head back to Perú today after being rescued on the high seas by the U.S. and Costa Rican coast guard Thursday.

The individuals, presumably illegal immigrants trying to get into the United States, were found on a disabled boat
about 91 miles into the Pacific but still in Costa Rican territorial waters.

Over the weekend the immigrants were taken to Puntarenas and then to the immigration holding facility in Hatillo.

The trip back will be better. The government of Peru is sending a plane

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