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(506) 223-1327          Published Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 211        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Even the oxen come out against the free trade treaty

Even the oxen made it to the protest march Monday. These, Los Pintos, are being led by Lidiano Villalobos Chavarria of Los Angeles in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

See our story HERE!

Dock strike
declared illegal

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

TV and radio stations for Universidad Estatal a Distancia
Lawmaker wants more culture on nation's airwaves
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica needs a new educational television station and one for the radio band, according to a legislator.

The lawmaker, Jorge Eduardo Sánchez Sibaja, has proposed legislation that would grant the Universidad Estatal a Distancia a television and a radio frequency so education and cultural events could be put on the air.

Sánchez happens to have extensive experience in audio visuals working with the state university and says that the production equipment is available but that the law creating the educational entity did not grant it frequencies on which to operate.

The proposed legislation would tell the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública to
 grant an FM radio frequency and either a VHF or a UHF television slot.

Costa Rica already has the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión, which is supposed to be responsible for some cultural programming. The proposed legislation would allow some efforts between the two entities in production and programming, at least while the new stations get off the ground.

Sánchez is a legislator from the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, which has few members in the Asamblea Legislativa.

However, one of the campaign promises of current President Óscar Arias Sánchez was to strengthen the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión and cultural programming in general, which he said should not be relegated to "Siberia."

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 211

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Bad weather moves on
for drenched Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The pressure is off for the hard hit Pacific.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Monday that weather conditions are about to return to normal. That still means rain but not to the degree of the storms that hit the Pacific and the Nicoya Peninsula over the weekend.

The winds and low pressure that existed last week are leaving, the weather experts said.

They also promised that the anticipated rain would be light and that it would dissipate in the early hours of the morning. For today, the weather institute is predicting a partly cloudy morning.

Meanwhile about 1,000 persons in the south of the country have water problems, thanks to the weekend storm. This is in  La California and Tierras Morenas in the Canton de Pérez Zeledón.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that the storm damaged at least five bridges and affected at least 42 communities.

One bridge, that over the Río Mala Noche at Torito between Carrillo and Sámara on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, collapsed as a result of the storm. The commission has approved the construction of a detour and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte is studying reconstructing the bridge.

Daniel Gallardo, commisison president, inspected the damage Monday. He said that all over the country some 200 commission employees were at work and some 50 machines were clearing the way.

A few people were reported still in a shelter at Carrillo. Work also will have to be done on the storm drainage on the Nicoya-Sámara road, said the commission.

New tour firm targets
boomer generation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new retirement tour business has opened targeting baby boomers, the post World War II generation that is reaching the end of their working years. It is no coincidence that the business is named Boomers in Costa Rica Tours.

San Ramon-based ex-pats Alexandre Race, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Andrew Mastrandonas, formerly of Washington, D.C. are the principals.

The company joins a field of at least a half dozen firms providing similar services.

"Our tour is different from the other retirement tours of Costa Rica because we also focus on business opportunities geared to younger baby boomers who may be moving here to invest, start a new business, and lead a simplier life, while continuing to be active," said the owners.  "We also provide to each tour client a jam-packed CD containing a wealth of information on moving here, obtaining residency, building a home, and much more."

Mastrandonas, a former airline industry executive, also runs a bed and breakfast, Angel Valley Farm B&B, in Los Angeles Sur, near San Ramón.  Ms. Race moved to Costa Rica with her husband Davide, after a successful career in the U.S. which included small business ownership and experience in technology and investment management, said a release on the new business.

The company has established a Web site and also had a blog.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 211

Goverment weighs next step as dock strike is ruled illegal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias government moved closer Monday to firing recalcitrant dock workers in Limón.

Marco Vargas, minister of Coordinación Interinstitucional, said that a judge has declared the job action by dock workers to be illegal. The decision came from a judge of the the Juzgado de Trabajo del Primer Circuito Judicial de la Zona Atlántica.

Dock workers at Limón and Moín have been staging a job action since Sept. 25. First they wanted money the government owed them. Then they demanded that President Óscar Arias Sánchez promise that he will not seek to lease the docks as a concession.

The government leased the Caldera docks on the Pacific as a concession on the condition that the private concessionaire make major improvements. The government does not have the money to make needed upgrades.

Vargas said that the hearing on the legality of the job actions — mainly continual slowdowns — was instigated by Wálter Robinson, executive president of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica against the union representing dock workers.

The legal decision said that the job action affects an important public service.
"This decision is congruent with the position of the administration in not permitting the indispensable services for the national economic development to be affected," said Rodrigo Arias, the minister of the Presidencia. He said the landscape had changed and officials would meet with Robinson to discuss the next step.

Meanwhile, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo weighed in with a warning that job actions by dock workers which might grow to a strike Wednesday could have serious repercussions on the tourism business linked to cruise ships, which dock in Limón.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister of Turismo, called on the union not to affect the arrival of the passenger ships. He said the Carnival Victory was due Wednesday, the Amsterdam on Friday and the Coral Princess on Saturday. He said each brings an average of some 1,500 tourists. If there is a strike, the ship officers might skip the stop, he said.

Agricultural producers already report that they have lost millions due to the job actions at the docks. Arias sent the Fuerza Pública in to control the docks early Sept. 28, but the administration stopped short of bringing in foreign strike breakers to run the machinery.

Dock workers have joined forces with the anti-free trade demonstrations around the country because they see the treaty as promoting concessions. In fact, the Caldera concession was developed under national laws.

Geovani González, ICE worker
. . . with knife representing treaty

Laura Jimenez and Johan Swett
. . . frog makes a rude gesture

Teresa Aguero, 75
. . . loves Costa Rica more than cash

Anti-trade treaty strike fails to draw extensive support
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A protest march against the free trade treaty Monday drew fewer participants than earlier demonstrations, and coordinators hope to do better today.

Despite threats from opponents to the treaty, most public offices functioned with a degree of normality. Not counting marches roads were not blocked except in a few areas outside San José.  Teachers averaged about 31 percent participation in the so-called general strike, according to a Casa Presidencial survey. And the bulk of hospital employees stayed on the job.

Still, there were demonstrations throughout the country, but the march to the Asamblea Legislativa in San José was by far the biggest. Reporters estimated participation at about 3,000 persons. Organizers said up to 10,000.

Some marchers blamed what they called a coordinated campaign by President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his staff to frustrate the general strike. Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the president's brother and minister of the Presidencia, was the principal spokesman. Last week the administration warned that strikers would not be paid their salary for the days they missed.

In addition, Arias embarked on a publicity campaign stressing dialog instead of street demonstrations. And the security minister ordered officers into the street without their guns as a show of support for a peaceful demonstration.

Officials reported only one incident that marred the peaceful tone of the march. Near the Universidad de Costa Rica youngsters wearing ski masks made menacing moves toward a Channel 6 news crew, but march leaders called them off. Some youngsters continued to wear masks and bandannas.

A fist fight between two men took place during the march on Avenida 2, but officials did not report that, and the reason for the fight could not be learned.

Brief road blockages were reported in San Carlos and in Río Cañas. The Interamerican highway was reported to have been blocked briefly.

In a midday press conference Rodrigo Arias said that the goal of the marchers was to cause the government to withdraw the free trade treaty from consideration in the legislature. He said the Arias administration would not do that.

Casa Presidencial said that a survey of hospitals showed
that 198 employees had joined the strike. The absences
 ranged from one person in Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas to 75 at Hospital Calderón Guardia in San José. Hospital officials said their institutions were working with at least 90 percent efficiency and the predicted delays in surgeries, examinations and distribution of medicines did not take place.

The school survey showed that strike participation reached 60 percent at institutions in Cartago and 4.5 percent in Cañas. In all, 1,211 teachers were reported on strike, some 31 percent of the primary and secondary workforce.

Albino Vargas and his Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados put on a happy face in the association Web page. They called their effort democracy in the street.

Photos by
José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Observers said that the bulk of the San José marchers were from the union headed by Vargas, the union of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, that of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros and that of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz. Employees at all of these public institutions feel threatened by the possibility that the free trade treaty will eliminate their monopolies.

One, Alfredo Cambronero Ramírez, a member of the union representing insurance institute workers, told reporters that he was at the assembly building so that Arias would listen.  Arias only won election by a few votes, he said, and that not only would he be signing the free trade treaty but so would the Costa Rican people. Arias won Feb. 5 by a bit more than 1 percent of the vote. One of his principal campaign promises was to get the free trade treaty passed.

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the domestic Internet provider, did not participate in the strike. Electric company workers put up a small picket line, but the agency known as RACSA was open for business all day.

Vargas said the protest would continue today with a rally at 9 a.m. in Parque Central and another march to the legislature.

The treaty still is in committee at the legislative assembly. The Partido Acción Ciudadanas, which opposes the agreement, wants to continue hearings with members of the public, but the Partido Liberación Nacional, the party of Arias, and other treaty supporters want to bring it to the floor for internal debate.

In addition to the United States, the treaty involves Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. All have signed the document. Only Costa Rica has not ratified it.

Marchers still cover much of Avenida 2, but they are more spread out than in previous demonstrations.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 211

Letters from our readers on treaty and George Bush
Cautions on big march
caused him to be sad

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I can’t tell you how much sadness I felt when I read your article on “Protest ground rule for the expats” published today.  In my opinion, it was extremely biased and unrespectful for me, a Costa Rican.   Making fun of a critical situation for Costa Rica like CAFTA and public demonstration of ideas is not good.

How come can you say students from universities can be communists-in-training? “Marchers are in good mood, don’t hesitate to take photos...but they should obey police orders?” What are they, monkeys?  Shall you recommend them to have a one-on-one with marchers, so that they can see their diverse perspectives to grow culturally?

As a former student of the Universidad de Costa Rica and a current employee of an American company — which I admire — I think they have the right to express their ideas, specially in such a creative way they’re doing now by integrating arts.

Is that the picture of social democracy of Costa Rica you show to the expats and tourists in your newspaper?

Paul Vargas
Costa Rican

Nicoya’s east coast cited
as best weather here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

About a quarter of a North American’s annual income is spent on leisure time, commodities and services, a truly significant amount. A substantial portion this discretionary, disposable income is devoted to boating and exploring outside North America.

North America’s winter is Costa Rica’s summer, with warm sunshine, December through May, on the Nicoya Peninsula’s gulf side.  During the June – November period, precipitation occurs, starting around nightfall. The days are generally sunny.

In my opinion the peninsula’s gulf side enjoys the best sea level area weather available in Central America.   It should also be noted there is no history of a hurricane ever hitting Costa Rica. The small country with both Pacific and Atlantic side coastlines has great variety from sea level to mountain attractions, numerous parks, preserves and reserves occupy approximately 25 percent of Costa Rica’s total land mass.

My comments are based on my 15 years of experience with Costa Rica, plus many additional years of visits to all of the countries south of the U.S. border except Paraguay.

More & more tourists visit this stable democracy, many to return and establish permanent residency here. The literacy rate is above that of the U.S.A., and the life expectancy is higher.

Is there something to complain about?  Yes, the roads. Maintenance has been poor, and many are in need of repair.  However, the roads go practically everywhere, as distinguished from many Central and South American countries.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner,  Arias, recently elected president, is expected to further improve a number of programs further benefiting Costa Rica and visitors.

George  Perrochete
Nicoya Peninsula

Some trade treaty fears
just don’t make sense

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please help me out in understanding some of the things relating to the TLC (The North American Trade Agreement).

I do understand that ICE wants to remain a government monopoly along with INS because the employees are afraid of loosing their cushy job and benefits. And that the dock workers (where some say it take three people to operate a broom) are fighting private concessions.

But why are the school teachers and medical personnel fighting? Are they afraid that school teacher and doctors will come in and compete for the Costa Rican salaries in these professions?

I guess maybe as an ex-pat living here we would be better off without TLC. We wouldn’t have to worry about Costa Rica competing with the rest of Central America. The economy would remain the same or decline and the prices would be about the same as they are now except for imported good, and we could enjoy a sleepy Third World existence.

And maybe some of the Ticos who wanted a better life could sneak into Nicaragua or Salvador and look for work in construction or as domestics. After all the Nica and Salvadorian economy will be improving. They joined CAFTA.

Doug Gesler
Sabana Oeste
U.S. Bush administration
a smokescreen of lies

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Treadway of Esterillo Oeste is far off-base. “Some evidence may have been erroneous,” as he says, is a forced -acknowledgment there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The U.S’s own experts determined no such weapons existed.  (Perhaps Treadway should share his evidence with them.)
Indeed, “curveball”-based “evidence” was seized on to justify a pre-determined decision to invade — regardless.  A smokescreen of lies and deception was used to justify the invasion.  Any evidence to the contrary, including the number of troops needed, was dismissed — along with the top army general who made the troop-estimate — by the war-seeking fanatics who had their own agendas.
Rumsfeld — largely side-lined by the effective CIA-run operation in Afghanistan — wanted “his own” war, dammit.
In Grenada, Reagan had a clear goal, sent in the forces needed to do the job, declared “mission accomplished”  — when it really was, unlike the present Reagan-wannabe — and got out.
As for N. Korea, its neighbors most effected  — and who best understand the issues and personalities involved — have long pushed the U.S. to have direct talks.  But this administration will only talk to friends. Even James Baker — long a Bush family consigliere — has said it’s past-time to talk to the other side. But insecure, swaggering people who want to be seen as ‘”tough” see it as a weakness.
(At least ‘till the elections are over)
If the U.N. is so bad why was Bush overheard on an open mike in Russia saying he hoped Kofi Annan would do something about Hezbollah, and why does the administration, with its credibility shredded, now seek to wrap itself in the U.N. mantle?
There must be something in the air at Esterillo Oeste.
Carl Robbins
Atlanta and Alajuela.

Iraq was cheating
on ceasefire pact

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Bravo for Mr. Treadway. One thing that he neglected to mention was the cease-fire agreement following the first Gulf War.

At the completion of the first Gulf War, agents of the Iraqi government signed a ceasefire agreement which stipulated things such as no-fly zones and what arms the Iraqi army was allowed to have in their inventory.

Basically, the coalition agreed to stop attacking the Iraqi military if the Iraqi military agreed to the terms.  If the Iraqi military broke the terms, the U. S. could begin attacking once more.

Weapons found in the Iraqi military inventory in the second Gulf War were in direct violation of the cease-fire agreement from the first Gulf War because they had ranges greater than those permitted by the cease-fire agreement.

This makes the weapons of mass destruction issue a moot one.

Even though there were no nukes, weapons of mass destruction, or terrorist links found, the Iraqi military was in direct violation of the cease-fire agreement that they signed.

What would have happened if Japan or Germany violated their terms of surrender after World War II and started building up their military?  You can bet bombs would have started falling on them once more.  An agreement is an agreement.

J. B. Call
Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 211

Saprissa heads for Santa Bárbara for 11 a.m. game Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Deportivo Saprissa will be going to Santa Bárbara Sunday for an 11 a.m. game with Carmelita.

The team physician, Willy Gálvez, reports no injuries as a result of the last game with Pérez Zeledón. Only Gabriel
Badilla remains in treatment.

The team also is seeking to change the date and time of their game with Santos de Guapiles. The game is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m, but efforts are being made to change the time to Sunday at 11 a.m. The encounter will be in the Estadio Saprissa.

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Jo Stuart
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