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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 208            E-mail us
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Nicoya residents get chance to learn about quake
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Earthquake experts are hosting another conference Friday to alert Nicoya peninsula residents to the probability of a major quake.

The event is being sponsored by the Red Sismológica Nacional, and it will be in the Cruz Roja building in the town of Nicoya at 10 a.m..  Wilfredo Rojas, a geologist associated with Universidad de Costa Rica's Red, will be the featured speaker.

This is the latest in efforts by the scientific and government communities to prepare residents for what is considered an inevitable major earthquake.

The Nicoya peninsula rides atop the Caribe tectonic plate which is inching southwest above the Cocos Plate. The movement is estimated at about 9 centimeters per year, a bit more than 3.5 inches.

According to Cal Poly Pomona University earth scientist Jeff Marshall, the peninsula is unique because it is one of the few landmasses along the Pacific Rim located directly above the seismogenic zone of what he calls a subduction megathrust. He is one of the researchers who has been studying the peninsula in detail for years. The area even is the location of university summer programs in earthquakes.

Another expert is Marino Protti, director of Universidad Nacional's Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. He can easily be called the man who wrote the book on the coming earthquake. He authored with two others the 2001 report that evaluates the earthquake potential of the Nicoya peninsula and also Heredia. Protti, too, has been giving seminars, some sponsored by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the insurance company.

The reasoning behind the earthquake prediction is that major quakes in the 7.0 magnitude range have taken place in 1853, 1900 and 1950. In addition, a 7.0 quake took place just south of the Nicoya peninsula in 1990 and another took place in 1992 north of the peninsula in Nicaragua. Experts expect the new epicenter to be somewhere between these two points and the magnitude to be in the 7.6 to 7.8 range.

Both Marshall and Protti expect the western beaches of the peninsula to jerk up perhaps as much as two meters or a bit more than 6.5 feet.  Land on the east shore of the peninsula is expected to subside. That is what happened in the 1950 quake, Marshall noted in a 2008 book chapter.

The highly active peninsula is being studied in detail by monitoring sites and satellites, but there is little chance of much warning. In 1950, one witness said the howler monkeys began shouting just before the quake. There are some scientific studies that suggest animals can hear an 
File graphiic 
 Map shows the direction of tectonic plates with
 the Mid-Atlantic trench just offshore. Green
 dots are epicenters of past earthquakes.

approaching quake much better than human ears.

A.M. Costa Rica has written about the earthquake threat in the past. But scientists seem to have taken a renewed interest in warning the public. The Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake was a 7.0 magnitude and killed 230,000 persons, mainly because of lack of preparation and bad construction practices.

The prognosis is not good. Scientists say there are plenty of substandard buildings on the Nicoya peninsula and that the quake would cause considerable damage in the Central Valley. The April 12, 1991, earthquake in Limón province also caused major damage in the Central Valley. That was a 7.5 magnitude quake that killed 53 persons.

The main problems for expats would be in getting medical care and having enough water, fuel and food to survive for several weeks. The prediction is for downed bridges, blocked highways and limited access by emergency workers during the first 48 hours. The damage will be regional with the Interamericana North probably cut in several places, too. That is on the mainland.

The magnitude scale for earthquakes is geometric, so the Nicoya quake is expected to have 10 times the force of the Jan. 8, 2009, quake at Cinchona north of Heredia. That was a 6.2 magnitude event. Some 22 persons died there.

The experts from the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales at the Universidad de Costa Rica have said most of the buildings on the peninsula do not comply with quake codes. 

The expectations of disaster are so well known that both San José television stations had crews en route by air to the peninsula shortly after a 5.1 quake took place off Montezuma Sept. 15.

The best they could find for their viewers was minor damage and street scenes of Cóbano.

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Our readers' opinions
There is no need to build
airport in southern zone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank goodness for the Río San Juan to awaken the deep environmentalist nature of Ticos!

Even a "perceived" threat to the environment that may be caused by its northern neighbor in Nicaragua, to an area on the fringe of the country is enough to send religious fervor through the veins of high minded Ticos perched atop the mantle they've fabricated for themselves, as the first "developed" country in Latin America, qualifying them to a level of supremacy in areas that Europeans, and North Americans have pioneered, such as ecology, and environmentalism.

I find it rather interesting when it comes to open pit gold mining, and an ill-planned new airport for the southern zone, for examples, a level of somnolence is the norm.

That there are two proposed new international airports, within 100 miles of each other, on opposite sides of the southern border, reflects a lack of co-operation between the governments of Panamá and Costa Rica, that bodes ill for the future of tourism in both countries, due to the environmental degradation that will ensue.

Suburban sprawl is not what makes for long-range tourist attraction, as is now being proven, and if this region wants to continue to expand its tourist economy, then more co-operation, and better planning is needed between countries, as well as enlightened leadership.

Costa Rica would be better off taking the money it plans on spending for the new airport and up-grading its school system immediately, while letting Panamá with its vastly larger land space, to host the airport and negotiate for concession rights.

Hari Khalsa

Asia is the wrong star
to hitch economic future

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The report issued by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean as outlined in A.M. Costa Rica, suggesting that Latin America should forge closer ties with Asian Pacific nations because of their economic growth, is a recipe for sociocultural and environmental disaster that Ticos should reject unequivocally.

The documents which were presented by a Ms. Alicia Bárcena, the organization's executive secretary, apparently imply that if Latin American countries embrace/emulate the Asian model(s) of economic growth, the result will be "sustainable, long-term economic growth with equality and competitiveness" in the region.

Have Ms. Barcena and her esteemed colleagues been living on another planet for the last 20 years? One would have to be that far removed from the reality of the Asian economic "phenomenon" to not have seen the truth: most Asian growth has been built on the backs of underpaid and often cruelly abused workers toiling in sweat shop conditions amid horrific environmental degradation to turn out goods that have in far too many instances proved to be of poor quality at best, and at worst to be dangerous to consumers.

Who in their right mind would want to forge closer ties with countries whose values and policies are so morally and ethically bankrupt? Apparently Ms. Barcena would like to overlook the fact that it was Asia that sucked the life out of much of the Latin American manufacturing sector and put millions of Latinos out of work by undercutting labor costs!

Everything I've seen here in Costa Rica over the last 10 years, and everything I've read in A.M. Costa Rica suggests very strongly that the Costa Rican government and people are striving for a socioeconomic reality that totally rejects this sort of inhumane treatment of workers and ignorance of environmental protection. It goes without saying that Costa Rica isn't there yet, but I sincerely believe that Ticos hold those desires and values dear to their hearts.

I think Ms. Barcena's comment that "We need to view relations with Asia Pacific not as a menace, but as a great opportunity and advantage," acknowledges the reality that most who aren't involved in economic policy spin control can see very clearly, that Asian countries are in fact a model of how NOT to grow an economy.

Asia is like an out-of-control locomotive headed full steam ahead for an unsustainable and calamitous future that all of Latin America should repudiate. Latin Americans should be especially vigilant to insure that their own governments don't damage their economic futures by selling off their precious and non-renewable natural resources to feed the furnaces of Asian manufacturing.

Costa Rica's new friend and benefactor, Communist China, is the prime example of the new Asian economic predator nation, stalking the developing world in search of every last ounce of fodder for its insatiable economic engine.

Everything China is saying/doing here has one veiled and ominous purpose; to exploit Costa Rica's rich oil reserves. One has to wonder how long the Costa Rica government can hold out in this respect, given its dire need for capital investment in infrastructure and social programs, and considering China's deep pockets.

SHAME on the United Nations for allowing one of its agencies to put out such a load of ignorant nonsense, when the U.N. itself has on numerous occasions condemned the horrific working conditions and environmental destruction that are emblematic of so many Asian economic strategies.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 208

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Suit seeks $750,000 for death of tourist in fishing accident
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The family of a man killed in a boating accident in Costa Rica have filed suit for damages in U.S. district court in New Jersey.

The family said in its complaint that the court there has jurisdiction because the case stems from a maritime injury.

The complaint also argued that the court has jurisdiction over the Costa Rican defendants because they have been doing business in New Jersey.

The victim is Brian Wolf, who died in the mouth of the Río Colorado in northeast Costa Rica while fishing for tarpon. He lived in New Jersey.

The defendants are the well-known Tico Travel, which is a Florida corporation, and Bob Marriott's Flyfishing Store, a California company. Also named are three corporations associated with the Casa Mar Lodge in Barra del Colorado.

Wolf died June 7, 2007, when the 25-foot boat he was in overturned in turbulent water at the mouth of the river. His cousin, Kevin Holmes, 25, made it to shore, but the victim's body was not found until three days later. Also  killed were the fishing guide and his son. The guide
 worked for Casa Mar, and the lodge owned the boat, said the complaint.

The complaint said that the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas warned Casa Mar Lodge and its fishing guides not to go to sea that day because of the choppy ocean. It also said that the Casa Mar boats and its fishing guides were not inspected, certified, registered or licensed

The boat involved, the Don Coto, was not seaworthy, said the complaint.

The complaint also said that the lodge did not provide life jackets and that the guide was drinking alcohol.

The action is being brought by the victim's parents as administrators of his estate. They are seeking $750,000 in damages.

The suit claims that Tico Travel and Bob Marriott's knew or should have known of dangerous and unsafe conditions at Casa Mar. In addition to the $750,000 actual damages, the suit asked for at least $150,000 more as punitive damages or punishment.

The case was filed in June, but a copy just became available in Costa Rica.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
Messenger carried a varied collection of 200 knives
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unusual situation developed at Juan Santamaría airport Wednesday when officers of the Vigilancia Aérea discovered a messenger who was transporting 200 knives. Most were of the pocketknife variety, but there was at least one butcher knife.

The messenger told officers he received the knives as a gift, but they said he could not remember who gave him the
present. The messenger had credentials that allowed him access to the area north of the principal hangars of the main terminal.

Police confiscated the knives as well as two canisters of pepper spray that the man carried. They also revoked his credentials.

The company for which the messenger works denied any knowledge of the apparent delivery.

U.S. expats have chance to get or upgrade radio licenses
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Volunteer Examination Coordinators of the American Radio Relay League plan the fourth annual examinations for U. S. amateur radio licenses to be given in Costa Rica. These exams will be offered for only the fourth time in the Central American region, and will be open to any U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident with a permanent U.S. address, regardless of where they live at the moment.

The tests, required to obtain U.S. amateur radio licenses, will cover technical topics, radio standards and practices, and the legal rules governing the operation of transmitting ham radio stations.  The tests are written multiple-choice, but no longer include a morse code proficiency requirement as they once did, and will be administered for all three grades of license.  Those currently holding licenses may take this opportunity to upgrade if they wish. The fee for the exam is $15, same as in the U.S., and this entitles the applicant to take and receive credit for as many test elements as he or she can pass that day, including for higher grades of license.
Those persons interested in taking the exam should contact Carlos (Keko) Diez, TI5KD, at as soon as possible to make arrangements, to get directions to the test location and to reserve a spot.  The tests will be administered Oct. 29 in La Guacima, Alajuela, at 10 a.m.    If someone needs practice taking the tests, find free practice tests at 

The same page has links to study information and guides. This will likely be the only opportunity to take the test this year anywhere in Central America.

Expatriate holders of U.S.-issued ham radio licenses may, under the terms of a reciprocal operating treaty with regional governments, receive permits by their host governments to operate in most other countries as well, including all the nations of Central America. 

All licensed hams in Central America are invited to participate in the morning coffee klatch on 3785 Khz. LSB at 6 a.m. daily, or call CQ at anytime on 145.770 Mhz on two-meter FM.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 208

turtles freed
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos

Police officers were treated to a turtle release party in Playa Hermosa near Jacó this week. Some 300 tiny oliver ridley turtles were released into the surf. Police officers were being rewarded for keeping an eye on the turtle-nesting sites in the area. Franklin Cárdenas,
the local police chief, said that in 15 years the number of turtle nests on the beaches had doubled from 750 to 1,500. The activity was at the beach side of the police station. The event was supervised by environmental ministry workers.

Statistical report cites growth in amount of protected areas

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin American and Caribbean countries have increased the amount of protected areas in order to preserve biodiverity and has reduced consumption of ozone-depleting substances, according to a U.N. agency.

The estimates come from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean which pubished Wednesday the "Statistical Notebook Nº 38: Environmental Indicators of Latin America and the Caribbean 2009," which includes indicators that reveal the main environmental trends in the region.

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the regions in the world that largely depends on the exploitation of natural resources to manage and sustain its economic growth and human development, it said. This document provides governments and the general public with environmental statistical series in the region with the aim of contributing to the monitoring and design of public policies for development and sustainability.

The Statistical Notebook Nº 38 compares indicators calculated for 1990 with the most recent data.
The document reveals, for example, that the designation of protected areas in order to preserve biodiversity made up 19.5 percent of the region's territory in 2009, whereas in 1990 it was only 9.5 percent.

Another indicator that signals a changing trend over the past two decades is in the lower consumption of ozone-depleting substances: from 74.500 tons of ODP (measurement of ozone depletion potential) in 1989 to 6.700 tons in 2008, it said.

In contrast, the loss of forest surface and coverage in the region worsened from 1990 to 2007 with total loss reaching 78 million hectares (192.7 million acres).

The indicators also show a sustained increase in the intensity of the use of fertilizers and agrochemicals in countries with available information.

With regard to biodiversity, Latin America and the Caribbean shows a concerning index of threatened species (plants and animals), while water and air pollution in cities is also high, with their subsequent effects on the quality of life, human health and the ecosystem, the report said.

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Press freedoms worsen,
new index report says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rwanda, Yemen and Syria have joined Burma, North Korea and Eritrea in the group of the world's worst abusers of the media, according to Reporter's Without Borders 2010 Press Freedom Index.

Reporters Without Borders says press freedom is getting worse in the 10 countries at the bottom of its index. It says it is becoming hard to tell which country has the most problems, because all are persecuting the media and blocking news and information to their citizens.

Rwanda is cited as one of the 10 worst offenders, according to the report. The research director at the media watchdog, Gilles Lordet, says Rwanda's government cracked down on the media earlier this year during the country's election.

"We had a journalist who had been killed this year. Several journalists have been put in jail," said Lordet. "Newspapers and Internet sites have been closed and journalists have been forced to flee the country to take shelter in neighboring countries. And we see that it was directly orchestrated by the president, Paul Kagame."

Rwanda's government has repeatedly denied allegations it abuses press freedom. The government says it is important for security in the country that the media is not free to incite violence.

China is also on the list. The report calls for the Chinese government to free Liu Xiaobo, a human-rights campaigner who just won the Nobel Peace Prize and is imprisoned in China.

But Lordet says in one respect the situation in China is not as bad as the other countries at the bottom of the index.

"We are seeing more and more mobilization of bloggers, people active on the internet," added Lordet. "The journalists and people who work for information on the Internet start to be very, very active."

Asia's four Communist countries come in the bottom 15 of the report's list: North Korea comes in second to last, after Eritrea.

Lordet says another Horn of Africa country, Somalia, is among the 20 worst offenders.

"I think about Somalia, about the press and about the journalists in Somalia, we are a bit desperate because it is a war and it is a very chaotic war," said Lordet. "There is a very, very big problem of protection of journalists and I would say that for the time being it seems impossible to solve."

The Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index was first published in 2002. It ranks 178 countries. Six northern European countries - Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland - have topped the index since it was created in 2002. This year, for the first time, Cuba did not come in the lowest 10.

Costa Rica was in 29th place, up slightly from last year.

Survival looks doubtful
for miners in Ecuador

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescue efforts continue as officials in Ecuador say survival looks doubtful for two men trapped in a gold mine since Friday.

Emergency teams in the mine about 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) southwest of the capital, Quito, are continuing to dig toward where they believe the two men are trapped.  But officials say the temperature, humidity and oxygen levels in the mine are unacceptable for survival.

Rescue teams worked through the night to try to remove a six-meter-thick barrier of rock and wood.  Diggers estimated late Tuesday it could take at least 10 hours to break through the barrier.

The two missing miners were with two other workers in the mine Friday when a cave-in occurred, trapping the men about 150 meters below the surface.

The bodies of two miners were recovered Saturday.  There has been no contact with the two remaining workers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 208

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Contraloría stands its ground
in cell phone bid process

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República has rejected arguments by the telecommunications agency and told it to move ahead with providing more information to would-be bidders for frequency.

The agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomuncaciones, argued against the Contraloria's original order to make certain technical data available to bidders. Several private firms complained to the Contraloría about the lack of technical information in the bid proposal.

The Contraloría found in favor of the companies. It was this decision that the telecom agency protested.

The awarding of cell telephone frequencies has moved from a business deal into the legal realm. The Sala IV has weighed in as did the Contraloría, which approves all major bidding processes.

The private firms want everything spelled out because they fear that the former monopoly, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, will be hard to work with once the frequencies are awarded. At stake are three sets of frequencies that will allow a firm to offer its own cell telephone service. But issues of interconnection with the existing system worry bidders.

U.N. expert urges Haiti
to enforce law and plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.N. expert on the rights of displaced persons says a profound humanitarian crisis remains in Haiti and the reconstruction process needs to be accelerated.

Walter Kaelin, the U.N. top representative on human rights for internally displaced persons, says there is an urgent need for health care, water, sanitation and education not just in camps for the displaced, but also for other Haitians who remain in their homes.

Kaelin also expressed concerns about high levels of rape and other violence against women and children in the camps.

The U.N. says 1.3 million people are in the camps, nine months after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti.

Kaelin is calling on the Haitian government to come up with a development plan and to enforce the rule of law in the camps.

The U.N. representative also called on international donors to provide funding to allow Haitian neighborhoods to rebuild.

Kaelin made the comments following a recent trip to Haiti. His findings are similar to those expressed in a recent report from the advocacy group, Refugees International.

A  7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit near Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, Jan. 12, killed more than 200,000 people and left more than a million others homeless. 

International donors have pledged nearly $10 billion for the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, though U.N. officials say many countries have not followed through with those pledges.

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