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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 206      E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias photo             
Air view shows Portalón and the area swept by the Río Portalon Sunday.
Central Pacific digs out and surveys the rain damage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heavy rains Sunday caused problems for at least 500 persons in the Central Pacific, and the national emergency commission has declared an alert in the Quepos region.

There also was rain damage further south in Río Claro and Golfito, the commission said.

The rest of the Pacific coast is under a preventative alert, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The commission set up a command center at the Quepos fire station and called in engineers and geologists to evaluate the condition of the infrastructure, including dikes, bridges, roads and pipelines.

The early reports were not good. Two dikes collapsed. One was in Portalón, the long-suffering town south of Quepos. The other was in Río Claro to the south, the commission said.

Bridges were destroyed in Portalón and La Lucha de Río Claro, too, and the communities were cut off from the rest of the world.

Some 150 meters of road between el Silencio and Santo Domingo were destoyed, and there is no passage there and to the community of El Brujo de Pérez Zeledón where streams were out of their banks. The commission said it was hiring machines to open the way.

The commision said that Route 2 between Río Claro and Ciudad Neily was blocked by landslides
but a way was opened by machinery Monday. There were more slides in Bambel in the Golfito area.

A pipeline colapsed between Chacarita and Rincón de Osa on the way to Puerto Jiménez, and the mess means that only four-wheel drive vehicles can get through. Another pipeline was reported damaged in  Río Caracol de Río Claro, and passage was blocked.

The emergency commission said that Mata Palo, Naranjito, Dos Bocas and Hatillo also suffered damage. At one point water was up to the waist of an adult in sections of Quepos Sunday evening.

Some 21 persons were being housed in the Gimnasio Municipal in Golfito and the  Cooperativa de Producción de Palma was holding some 70 families of Finca 63 in Río Claro.

Some 35 families in Portalón fled the town when the rain began, said the comission, and they are staying with famlies and friends in Quepos.

Portalón was the community nearly wiped out by the raging Río Portalón in September 2005. The bridge to the community was wiped out then, too.

A commission assessment team flew over Portalón Monday and found that about half of the town had not been damaged by the river currents. However, there were ample signs that the river had run out of its banks and swept a large section of the town.

There was no sign of the full-size trees and giant rocks that swept through the town a year ago when most structures were destroyed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 206

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This edition welcomes
start of a sports page

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With this issue, A.M. Costa Rica begins a sports page that will accommodate local sports and international sports wire feeds.

The new page is in response to favorable reception by readers of the BBC sports summary that is carried on the fourth news page. However, some North American readers complained that there should be more baseball and U.S. football coverage.

The new page is linked to the navigation boxes of the newspages and may be found HERE!

The editors hope that the page also will provide an outlet for participatory sports in which expats here engage as well as some sports generally restricted to the expat community, like flag football.

So readers are invited to provide results of their sports activities, including sports fishing.

In addition, the newspaper is now publishing international news related to the Internet on the employment page and news of entertainment on the calendar page.

Our readers' opinions
He is not concerned
about high-tension lines

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I usually enjoy Garland Baker’s advice regarding real estate in Costa Rica, but Monday’s article on health issues tied to the electric grid made me scratch my head. I’m all for a healthy community. But that can only be delivered by good, basic infrastructure including reliable electricity. Costa Rica will not prosper without it. I always laugh when
my friends talk about the “good old days.” I reply, “Yes, outdoor plumbing, one-room schoolhouses, polio . . . .!”

Terry Beach
Belleville, Illinois

Canadian says that Bush
goes in with guns blaring

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I like to take this opportunity to respond to G. McMahan’s letter in your publication on Oct. 12.

This person is under the impression that what Mr. Bush did was correct. I’d like to point out that no one invited him or his army into Iraq. His father did at least understand the bounds of the conflict before. That was to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

This time, using fabricated evidence and without U.N. approval, he violated the borders of a country that wasn’t causing trouble. Yes, Iraq’s political history is not the fairest or cleanest, but that is an internal matter, not one the U.S. should have intervened in.

G. McMahan mentions other conflicts not been resolved since World War II. That is not because of wishy washy politicians totally, but one must look at the conflicts. Vietnam, for instance had been fought by the French for 20 years before they decided it was unwinable, but the U.S .thought they could win. Wrong!!! Korea was a tie at best and as for the invasion of Grenada, well, they just shouldn’t have been there. It’s a British protectorate and NONE of the U.S.’s business!!!

Maybe before the U.S. goes in with guns blaring, they should consider their options better. Now we have North Korea creating a political “hot potato”, the U.N. wants the U.S. and N. Korea to talk. But, no, the U.S. and the Bush administration just want stiff sanctions without getting the other side of the story. Democracy is based on understanding ALL the sides of an argument. Namely free speech, but this administration seems bent on dictatorship. If they don’t like it, they invade it.

The attitude of this administration does not instill a sense of security and although I feel for the troops that are overseas, I have no respect for the Bush politics that engulf the world in conflict.

Brian Castle
Ontario, Canada

Amnet kept his old rate,
this computer user reports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Everyone who subscribes to Amnet for Internet service needs to check their bills.

I signed up for Amnet Internet service in August.  I signed the contract for 1mbps/256 service and told the sales representative that that is the service I wanted. He explained that the rates were being lowered in September due to the competition’s rates.

So, I assumed my bill was going to be lowered in September.  I was wrong.  What Amnet did, on their own, was to increase the 1mbps service to 2mbps and keep you at the same monthly rate.

I specifically wanted to stay on the 1mbps rate, but I guess they decided they would lose too much money, so arbitrarily they kept me, and everyone else, at the same rate. So they are now advising me that I need to go to their office to change back to the 1mpbs service without a credit for prior months.

We all know of course there is not much more you can do with 2mbps service that you can’t do with 1mbps service.  We also know that the speed you actually receive is much less than what you pay for, it all depends on the bandwidth in the area.

I would suggest that everyone look at their bill to see what they are paying and go to Amnet to change their service to the 1mbps service and lower your bill, unless they believe they will benefit from the 2mbps service.

Also, make sure they contact RACSA to change your service.  I have found they have a difficult time communicating with RACSA.

Patrick Williams

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 206

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
How many can you identify?
These guys are just not ready for the car cemetery yet!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

How about a car you can tune up yourself without calling in a technical team from NASA?

How about those politically incorrect V-8 engines that get you there before you know you have left? With no vibration.

Back when gasoline was 29.9 cents a gallon, the cars were made of steel, and not some newfangled plastic. The guys at the assembly plants built muscles mounting heavy fenders, and the doors forever made a solid sound when slammed.

Those days are just around the corner at a local junk yard where the owner is hoarding a handful of vehicles from  1950 to 1960. They are U.S. products: Chevrolets, a
Dodge, a 1950 Plymouth plus a few odd relics. All have seen ample service on Costa Rican highways.

Modern cars would have rusted through by now, but these solid highway citizens are ready for a little tender care and maybe a battery, new tires, a paint job, new interior, valves, brakes, oh and that thing they call a carburetor. Not to mention ignition wires, a little solder on the radiator, a few pieces of replacement chrome.

Did we mention shocks and a new exhaust system?

There are those who love such cars, which is why the owner is willing to part with them for a mere $3,000 to $4,000 apiece. He is  Celso Andrés Fernandez Jiménez. He doesn't take checks, there is no guarantee past the curb, and bring your own tow truck

Even the government is keepng eye on new exchange system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even public entities that deal in large sums of money are a little nervous with the new currency exchange system that goes into effect today.

The Ministerio de Hacienda said that its customs unit, the aduana, starting at midnight Monday would use the Friday bank exchange rate of 523.39 colons per dollar. After today, the customs agency would be using the reference rate supplied by the Banco Central.

Customs agents handle many goods denominated in dollars, and they have to collect duties in colons. But the Central Bank is not publishing a reference rate until later today.

The ministry said that other elements of the government also were paying close attention to the change. That includes the Tesorería Nacional, the Dirección General de Tributación, the Contabilidad Nacional, and the Dirección
de Presupuesto Nacional. The ministry collects taxes and maintains a national budget.

The Central Bank has announced that it will no longer be setting specific rates for the colons. Until now, the Central Bank purchased and sold dollars at a rate that was set daily. Now the Central Bank will let the colon float, initially between a floor of 514.78 colons to the dollar and a ceiling of 530.22 colons to the dollar.

Banks and authorized exchange houses will be able to set their own buy and sell rates for the colon and dollar within that range. The Central bank will continue to devalue the colon each day by raising the ceiling some 14 centimos or hundreds of a colon and lowering the floor by 6 centimos.

Those with big holdings in colons are concerned that the currency might lose value rapidly. The Central Bank said that the system is a way to reduce inflation, which is now running at about 11 per cent.

Agents say wine confiscated at Juan Santamaría airport packed a punch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents stopped a Spanish woman returning home at Juan Santamaría airport and said she had nearly 10 kilos of cocaine diluted in bottles of wine.
The arrest took place Saturday when the woman was waiting to board a plane to Madrid. Anti-drug agents said they spotted her because she was nervous.

She is the 59th person too face smuggling charges this year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 206

Guatemala and Venezuela deadlocked for U.N. council seat
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela and Guatemala are locked in a fierce battle at the United Nations to win an open seat on the Security Council. Ten rounds of voting have proven inconclusive.

Venezuela's bid for a Latin American seat in the Security Council suffered a setback Monday as it finished behind rival Guatemala in nine of 10 rounds of voting in the General Assembly. One round ended in a tie. But in the 10th and final ballot of the day, Guatemala had 110 votes, 15 short of the necessary two-thirds majority. Venezuela had 77.

Voting continues Tuesday. Diplomats say the contest appears deadlocked. Each side seems to have enough support to block the other from getting the needed votes, but not enough to win.

Denmark's U.N. ambassador, Ellen-Margrethe Loj, says she expects a long, drawn out struggle.

"I think it will take a while," she said. "I don't think we'll have a solution tomorrow."

The campaign for the Latin seat has been bitter. Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chavez, have characterized the race not as a contest with Guatemala, but as a fight against the United States. He has lobbied heavily with countries that are a odds with the United States.

As his country's support faded late in the day, Venezuela's U.N. ambassador, Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas, lashed out, called Washington's backing of Guatemala obscene and vowed not to withdraw from the race.

"Venezuela will not quit for anything," he said. He accused the United States of acting like the "owner of the universe," and thanked those who he said "oppose the gross and obscene campaign the United States is waging against Venezuela." He accused Guatemala of being Washington's puppet.

Guatemala's foreign minister, Gert Rosenthal, immediately responded to that charge. He said that his country's foreign policy differs from the United States on many points.
"We were not member of the coalition of the willing in Iraq," said Rosenthal. "We have diplomatic relations with Cuba. We are an independent country, and, frankly, we resent it a bit being told that we are going to toe the line of the U.S. or any other power. We make our own decisions."

The apparent stalemate has given rise to diplomatic speculation that a compromise candidate might eventually spring up. Mexico, Chile and Uruguay have been prominently mentioned as possible compromises. Rosenthal told reporters "this is not the time to give up" but acknowledged compromise might be the only way to break the deadlock.

"We have to be realistic, if this goes on for several days, and we can see that there's no movement in either of the candidates being able to get two-thirds of the vote, we probably would have to think of a third consensus candidate for the region, but we think the time hasn't come for that yet," he said.

Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, had been due to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington Monday, but stayed in New York to bolster support for Guatemala's candidacy. Bolton said he was ready for the long haul, noting that in 1979, a battle for a seat between Latin American contenders Colombia and Cuba went on for 154 ballots before a compromise candidate was found. Mexico was elected on the 155th ballot.

Bolton said that, for Washington, preventing Venezuela from winning a seat was important in ensuring that the work of the Security Council is not disrupted.

"It's very rare for the United States to say anything in a Security Council race, and we didn't do this because of expectation of votes on the council," he said. "We did it because of our concern for the integrity of the council itself."

Balloting for four other non-permanent council seats Monday went smoothly. Belgium and Italy were elected without opposition for European seats, and South Africa was unopposed for an African seat. Indonesia easily defeated Nepal in the first round of a race for an Asian seat.

Banana billionaire was a surprise when he finished first
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In Ecuador's presidential election, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off in Nov. 26. With nearly 70 percent of the votes counted, a billionaire banana magnate is leading with nearly 27 percent of the vote, and a leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is second with almost 23 percent.

To win outright, a candidate needed 50 percent, or 40 percent with a 10-point lead over the other candidates.

Voters waking up in Ecuador Monday may have been surprised to learn that one of the wealthiest men in the country, Álvaro Noboa, was narrowly ahead of the expected front-runner, Rafael Correa, in Sunday's elections.

Correa, a 43-year-old U.S.-educated economist, is running as a left-leaning political outsider. He proudly acknowledges close ties to Venezuelan President Chávez, and says he would end free-trade negotiations with the United States, and ask the U.S. to leave its counter-narcotics base in Ecuador.

In contrast, 55-year-old Noboa runs a massive banana-growing and exporting company, and has promised
to ally himself with the United States. Noboa has traveled across Ecuador in recent weeks, handing out medicine, wheelchairs and computers. This is his third run for the presidency, and many in Ecuador believe Noboa would mean more foreign investment, more factories and more jobs.

Noboa told the press after the elections that the people of Ecuador have a clear choice. He said his opponent, Correa, represents a Communist position, like Cuba. He said his proposal is to be like Spain, Chile, the United States and Italy, countries with liberty.

For his part, Correa appeared on television a short time later, referring to Noboa's alleged use of child labor on his banana plantations, and to all the presents Noboa gave out to voters during his campaign.

Ana Palacio, the daughter of Ecuador's current President Alfredo Palacio, may have summed up the hopes of many Sunday when she commented after voting:

"I hope that democracy endures, that we choose well, and the president can remain in office for the full four years," she said. Ecuadorians have ousted three presidents in the last decade through street protests.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 206

Shifi Surf Shots photo
Germaine Myrie Medrano of Puerto Viejo de Limón shows his abilities in California.
Three Costa Ricans make quarterfinals of world surf contest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
And special reports

Costa Ricans Germaine Myrie Medrano, Gilberth Brown and Diego Naranjo have qualified for the quarterfinals of the World Surfing Games 2006 in Huntington Beach, California.

Competition began Monday with the open longboard and bodyboard divisions. Spirits were high among the 33 competing teams from as many countries, with the waves breaking from 2 to 4 feet making the wave selection crucial for the world’s finest as they battled it out on behalf of their respective countries.

Myrie Medrano of Puerto Viejo de Limón won his first heat in the second round of the open with 10.70 points. Jean Carlos Schaeffer of Venezuela took second in the heat with 10.36.

Brown scored a 12.13 in the 15th open heat, easily defeating Peter Rangel of Venezuela and Gavin Gillette of Hawaii. 
Diego Naranjo was second in the 30th heat of the day with a 9.50, exceeded only by the 10.10 of Alex Smith of Hawaii.

All three went on to win in the second heat, too, thereby qualifying for the quarterfinals.

Luis Vindas finished second in his first heat, but was eliminated when he finished third in the second heat of the day.

Over the first two qualifying rounds, the open longboard division called for a combination of traditional techniques and modern day tricks. Registered with the highest combined two-wave score of 14.60, Matthew Moir of South Africa led the pack earning the highest score of the competition with an 8.5 with his speed.

His performance was then followed by a surprise second place score by the United Kingdom’s Benjamin Skinner with an impressive combined 14.50. Three-time world champion Colin McPhillips of the United States finished with the third highest combined score of 14.0.

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