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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 213            E-mail us
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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Publica/Paul Gamboa
Tiny figures of police officers survey sediment dumped on Costa Rican soil by dredge
Nicaraguan diplomat casts blame on Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Round Two of the Río San Juan saga will be in the diplomatic arena.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday that it has received a reply from Nicaragua to the protest it lodged a week ago about dredging on the river, which is part of the northern boundary of the country.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto was very diplomatic and non-committal about the note. It simply said in a release that Harold Rivas, the Nicaraguan ambassador here, had delivered the note and that the message would be analyzed and that there would be a determined response in defense of the national interests.

The ministry did not say what was in the note. Reports in Nicaraguan newspapers say that the note claims that it was Costa Rica that violated the territory of its northern neighbor with what the government there said were troops of the armed forces of Costa Rica. The note demanded that the events not be repeated.

Nicaragua also claimed that the dredging also was an anti-drug operation.

The Nicaraguan denial comes in the face of photographs by the security ministry in San José that clearly show that the dredge was pumping river bottom onto Costa Rican land.

Also on record confirming that the land is Costa Rican is Eden Pastora, the former guerrilla in charge of the river operation. He was overheard on a marine band channel telling workers on the dredge to remove the outflow pipe from Costa Rican territory.

The various treaties give Nicaragua the river and place the international border on the south bank.

The Nicaraguan note was drafted by a man identified as Manuel Coronel Kautz, a vice minister there.

What the response does not address is that Pastora
and his crew chopped down a line of trees with the apparent intent of dredging a canal or new channel for the Río San Juan. Basically, he was seeking to change the international boundary. The security ministry confirmed the tree cutting but only said that the canal would go to a nearby lagoon.

In fact, that lagoon is just a short way from the Caribbean. A new channel for the river would put significant  amounts of land that now is Costa Rican under Nicaraguan rule.

Security ministry officials sent heavily armed tactical squad officers to the northern border Friday. There was no confrontation with the Nicaraguan army, which was close by. Nicaragua has closed the river to civilian travel.

The situation does show that Costa Rica has failed to maintain control over the sparsely settled northern frontier. A family named Reyes said that a complaint was filed earlier in October about Nicaraguan soldiers taking their cattle and slaughtering them for food. Nicaragua claims it busted up a drug boat refueling operation there.

The nearest Costa Rican community of any size is  Barra de Colorado just south of the border on the Río Colorado, which really is another mouth of the San Juan but totally in Costa Rican territory. Residents there, particularly those in the sportsfishing business, worry that dredging and other activities by Nicaragua will destroy the flow of the Río Colorado and damage their business. The area is well known for tarpon and snook fishing.

Nicaragua, in the note, also raised the issue of two Judicial policemen who were detained overnight after entering Nicaragua a few feet in another area of the border. They were later returned to Costa Rica. The agents said the border was not well marked.

Nicaragua suggested that a binational commission immediately begin to put in border markers along the river based on the Treaty of Jerez Cañas and subsequent accords. That probably is needed. Costa Ricans living along the river said that Nicaraguan workers uprooted boundary markers and dumped them in a lake.

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Former rail bridge placed
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The small agricultural town of Estrada in the Provincia de Limón has a new bridge, thanks to the national railway system.

The town has been plagued by flooding that destroyed an older bridge, and it has been cut off frequently by weather. The town is about 30 kilometers west of the city of Limón. That's about 19 miles. The bridge was moved in by truck. The former railway span is some 50 meters (164 feet) long and 14 meters (46 feet) high.

The national emergency commission invested nearly $800,000 to prepare the supports for the bridge.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles will participate in a ceremony Friday formally inaugurating the bridge along with the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

Driving examiners told
to stay off job for probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The undercover judicial police operation seeking driving examiners who took money has netted a total of seven.

The Poder Judicial identified them by the last names of Recia Chinchilla, Cubillo Guzmán, Céspedes Sandí, Rodríguez Camacho, Guerrero Mora, Torres Torres and Calderón Chinchilla. They were arrested Tuesday.
Five were detained at the Dirección General de Educación Vial in Paso Ancho where driving tests are administered. Two were detained at their homes, agents said.

They work for the Sección Especializada de Tránsito in the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

A judge ordered Wednesday that they be separated from their jobs for six months while the investigation continues. They were jailed briefly.

Plan to repair autopista
reported to take 10 weeks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A plan to fix the Autopista del Sol where the highway collapsed will take 10 weeks, the operators predicted in a plan presented last week to the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones.

The private operators proposed four stages for the work with the highway being closed during the final stage. They said they hoped that they could be finished sooner if the weather cooperated.

Among other jobs, the concession holder has to take out two bailey bridges that are now carrying traffic over a spot at Kilometer 47 where the highway slipped downhill. Also necessary, according to the plan, is improvements in the drainage.

The concession council has not given the final approval yet for the work to begin.

Gallery to open in Golfito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Bambú Art Gallery in Gofito opens for business Saturday with an open house and exhibition of original paintings, the gallery said. The gallery also features other art objects.

The gallery is opposite Banana Bay Marina in the south Pacific coast town.

Find out what the papers
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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. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 213

Latigo K-9

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Workers have to truck in water for concrete because a tap still has not been approved
When the approval process runs into lack of accountability
By Steve Doyle*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

We are Americans who like many others have chosen to make our home in Costa Rica.  To start, let me be clear, we love this place and the people.  It offers so much and is a grand adventure.  But . . . .

We are experiencing, to say the least, a most perplexing and aggravating situation.  You see, we purchased 10 acres of land with one of those to-die-for vistas in Volio (a small village located five minutes outside of San Ramón in the Central Valley).  This land is one source of our love for this country, the enthusiasm we have for living here, but also the source of the greatest aggravation I personally have ever faced.

The plan is to build and develop our little slice of paradise, keeping about three acres for ourselves and selling the remaining seven acres to folks like ourselves as neighbors.  We won’t get rich on this scheme by any stretch but hope to clear enough to help offset the costs of the land and building the needed infrastructure.

The infrastructure is where the aggravation comes into play.

Last year, we initiated the process in earnest to get the infrastructure on the land completed.  This includes building a road, installing electricity poles with street lights, transformer, etc, and laying and connecting the water lines.

All has progressed better than planned except for the water.  The local water concession is an ASADA (similar to a locally owned coop like we have in the States).  The full name is an asociación operadora de sistemas de acueductos y alcantarillado sanitario. The Volio ASADA consists of selected local citizens serving as a board of directors making decisions on the management of their water lines and sources. 

They are by no means professionals, nor do they necessarily have expertise in running a coop or any other business enterprise for that matter.  There begins the basis for problems.

When we bought the property approximately three years ago, everyone, including the ASADA board at that time, assured us that water was no problem and would merely require us setting a time and date to begin laying pipe and hook up.  Well aware that water can be an issue, we made what we thought was more than adequate inquiry and investigation as to water availability prior to closing on the property.

When we started in February 2009, the first thing we did was seek construction of the water lines.  An engineering analysis provided the specifications for installing adequate water to the 10 acres.  We would need to install water lines connecting to the ASADA water mains located near our property.  The installation includes a pump and tanks, etc., that will provide the necessary volume and pressures for our lines (for brevity I will spare all of the technical detail).  The key detail is that we know what is needed, it is within reason (expense and time) and we are willing to do it.  So far so good.

We approached the ASADA.  They initially gave us encouragement, then there was hesitancy, then out of the blue they decided to consult the Instituto Nacional de Acuductos y Alcatarillados for guidance.  Somewhere in here, our 10 acres and six water meters became complicated beyond reason.  The ASADA could not make a move without the national water company providing their advice and counsel.  The AyA advice and counsel became a 10-point process of studies, volumes, stresses, 10-year water usage, and more.  Our application and addition to the water system of Volio promises significant benefits to the community beyond additional income for the ASADA.  Yet the Volio ASADA has NEVER offered to help us by guiding us through the process, or partnering with us on the application to AyA.  They have done NOTHING. Great future neighbors we have to look forward to living with in Volio.

Our project now rivals any of the most controversial projects you have read about by the major developers in Costa Rica.  But, we negotiated through this, hiring engineers with experience in obtaining infrastructure approvals and building of same.  At significant cost to our limited budget, we have complied with all of the requested information and studies.  This process started in October of 2009 and finally resulted in a presentation package in May of this year.  In that eight month time frame the Volio ASADA was constantly a roadblock unable or unwilling to help or do anything that smacked of making a decision, being responsive, or having

Retaining wall
Steve Doyle photo
Retaining wall is going up, thanks to trucked water.
project entrance
Steve Doyle photo
Despite real estate sign at project entrance, occupance depends on water.

any responsibility (recall my comment about no business background?  Add to that no common sense).

Our engineer presented the application package to the ASADA for its review and decision in June.  In early July he was informed the board could not understand the technical detail of the application.  This from the same folks who requested this information and had the AyA supposedly guiding them through the process.  It just keeps getting better.

The application went to AyA in our canton where it languished for a week or so and then was forwarded to San José.  There it was placed in the hands of the engineer (that’s the one and ONLY engineer in AyA Costa Rica, assigned to ASADA application reviews) who is responsible for reviewing and approving ASADA related applications.  He went on a two-week vacation in the midst of this, so we lost that time to his job benefit.  No one but him works these cases.  He has absolutely no accountability nor obligation to anyone except himself.  He works at his own pace, and if you ask about your project, he basically tells you to go  . . . .

Our engineer has since June, made several attempts to obtain status on where we are in the queue.  The response from this individual is stop calling and bothering them.  They will get to it if and when they decide. We are at four months of waiting with no indication of where the application is in the process, nothing.  The application is simple. I really feel for someone who has an application pending that is complicated or requires extensive analysis and review.  There is no responsibility, no accountability, and no obligation to even communicate.

AyA and these related ASADA’s are the most dysfunctional and poorly run organizations I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with in my life.  I know we are not the only ones facing this situation with this department of AyA, and that alone speaks volumes about AyA management.   If AyA senior management is unaware of this individual and his performance, shame on them.  If they ARE aware of his work ethic and poor performance, that is UNCONSCIONABLE, for they are just as incompetent if not more so, than their employee.

I need help.  If anyone reading this has meaningful suggestions, I am open and ready to hear them.  I am trying to do our project within the parameters of Costa Rica.  This is not the U.S.A. and I have no illusions that those standards apply here.  I do not believe paying graft to get this done is the way to go, though that has been the suggestion of several resources.  I will not contribute to that sorry process.

Our little 10-acre project promises to employ through contractors, suppliers, and our eventual residency on the property several hundred local folks over a period of several years.  The purchase of supplies alone for construction of the houses and infrastructure on the land, will amount to several hundred thousand dollars spent in the local community.   We want to be part of the community and participate as good citizens.  We may not be “citizens” of Costa Rica, but we have a significant economic interest here.  Besides, our corporations facilitating the ownership of the land are citizens of Costa Rica.  At this juncture we all are being treated shabbily, and Costa Rica is shooting itself in the foot, because of it.

To Laura Chincilla, I would not have her job at any cost.  She has so much incompetence to deal with, it is near impossible to know where to start.  One place I would take a close look is anywhere in the governing agencies where people and their poor management skills or capabilities directly affects the pocketbook of Costa Rica.  This San José AyA engineer is one glaring example.

Some day sooner than later, I hope, we will get water.  If not, what is for us a significant investment will not be worth spit, all because we tried to pursue a dream and live in a great place.  We are not giving up, but we will not put up with this forever and we will make sure this stain on the Costa Rica way of doing things gets as much air time as possible.  This has nothing to do with the “Pura Vida” mind-set, or the Latin vs. Gringo way of doing things.  The issue is incompetence and lack of accountability.  These are issues that differentiate functioning environments from potentially failing ones.  That is a universal truth, regardless of the society. 

AyA and the Volio ASADA are failing Costa Rica at this juncture.  They can not manage the simple processes (ie.: our water infrastructure application), which exposes why the AyA in particular, have such a lousy track record managing the really critical issues

*As he said, Mr. Doyle lives in Volio and is trying to develop a small residential project.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 213

Orchestra to celebrate birthday with Chopin and Beethoven

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional celebrates its 70th birthday this weekend with the usual double concerts. The house already is sold out, but Teatro Nacional workers will be putting up a tent and giant television screen on the Plaza de la Cultura for those who cannot get inside.

The program Friday night and Sunday morning is under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero, a well-known musician who now is director of the Nashville, Tennessee, symphony orchestra. Performing will be 19-year-old Costa Rican pianist Daniela Rodó, soprano Kelley Nassief, mezo-soprano Jennifer Hines, tenor Bryan Griffin, bass  Kevin Deas and the Coro Sinfónico Nacional.

The program for the weekend includes "Concert for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in F Minor" by Frédéric Chopin, who
 composed it in 1830 when he was just 20. The work contains three movements. Also on the program is Ludwig van Beethoven's 1824 "Symphony No. 9 in D minor." Some say this is one of the greatest musical compositions ever written. The final movement features the singers and the chorus with the "Ode to Joy," based on a poem by a poem written by Friedrich Schiller.

The orchestra was founded in 1940 and has been a major element in the country's cultural life since. The current director is Chosei Komatsu, who has held the position for seven years. He is leaving after the final concert of the season in November, the orchestra said.

The orchestra performs at 8 p.m Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday with duplicate programs. The orchestra consists of 72 professional musicians, most of whom are Costa Rican.

Smoking, AIDS, sanitation cited as major health problems

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The use of tobacco is now the primary cause of death around the world.  And the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says not enough countries are taking adequate steps to discourage it.  Thomas Frieden also touched on other threats to global health recently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. 

More than 5 million people die each year from smoking, many of them in developing countries.  And Frieden says fewer than 10 per cent of the world's nations are doing enough to prevent it.  The head of the Centers for Disease Control points to the United States and Uruguay as countries whose anti-tobacco programs have worked. 

He says other countries should follow their example. "Tobacco is now the world's leading single cause of death.   It kills more people than AIDS, TB and malaria combined.  And unlike those conditions which are decreasing, it is increasing as a cause of death," he said.

But smoking is only one of the world's major problems, Frieden said, pointing out that traffic accident deaths are becoming an epidemic.  More than 1 million people are killed in traffic each year, he said, including people who are walking or riding bikes.  

"What will happen over the next 25-20 years, unless we
 take urgent action, is that road traffic injuries will increase from 2  percent of all deaths, to 3 and a half percent of all deaths.  They will become the fifth leading cause of death around the world," he said.

Frieden says respiratory infections, such as tuberculosis, continue to be another key problem. He says one billion people do not have access to clean water and two and a half billion do not have adequate sanitation. 

He says better access to both would prevent the deaths of millions of people, including children who die from diarrhea disease.  "We have cholera still in many parts of the world, a reflection of the failure to provide clean water and adequate sanitation."

The centers director says AIDS is still the major killer in Africa.  He says part of the problem is that half of the people who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, do not even know they have it.  "We know that people who know they're positive are much less likely to spread infections to others, and the only way you can get services is to know you're positive," he said.

Frieden says obesity is also an increasing health problem.  He points out there are now more overweight people worldwide than underweight people.   And he says the yearly number of deaths from cancer could be cut in about half if people quit smoking, maintained a healthier diet and took part in more physical activity.

Cholera outbreak in Haiti still has not peaked, U.N. reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top United Nations health official says the cholera outbreak in Haiti has not been contained, and is yet to reach its peak.

The warning came Wednesday from Claire-Lise Chaignat, who heads the World Health Organization's cholera control task force. 

The U.N. agency says more than 3,600 people have contracted cholera in Haiti, and as of late Tuesday, 284 have died from it.

The death rate is lower than it was when the outbreak began a week ago, but Chaignat says it is still far above what the World Health Organization considers normal.

Health officials' main goal now is to keep the outbreak from spreading south to the capital, Port-au-Prince, where
 hundreds of thousands of survivors of January's massive earthquake are living in crowded and unsanitary camps. The outbreak has largely been confined to the Artibonite region of central Haiti.

Health officials say they are providing powdered chlorine for water purification and testing water being distributed in settlement camps.  The U.N. agency says the Haitian government has established a contingency plan to prevent the disease from spreading across the border into the Dominican Republic. 

The border remains open, but Dominican authorities are stepping up security.  They canceled a binational market normally held near the border this week. 

Cholera, a bacterial infection, is spread by contaminated water, food and human waste.  The disease is treatable but can kill within hours without treatment. A contaminated river in the Artibonite region is the suspected source.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 213

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Kirchner brought stability
to Argentine economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has died at age 60. The husband of current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner died after suffering a heart attack in the southern city of El Calafate. Nestor Kirchner presided over Argentina's recovery from a severe economic crisis and backed those seeking justice for human rights violations committed during military rule.

When Nestor Kirchner became president in 2003, Argentina had endured three years of gut-wrenching economic chaos, marked by runs on banks, the collapse of the national currency, default on Argentina's foreign debt, harsh government-imposed economic controls, and massive street riots.

To make matters worse, Kirchner arrived in office with a shaky electoral mandate. Having received less than 25 percent of the vote in the general election. He avoided a run-off when his main challenger, former-president Carlos Menem, bowed out of the contest.

"Nestor Kirchner confronted a terrible economic crisis. And he also confronted a situation where he had some 22 percent support. So he had to resolve an economic crisis and also build political support to be able to govern effectively," said Michael Shifter, Inter-American Dialogue president.

A former governor of Argentina's sparsely-populated Santa Cruz province, Kirchner belonged to the party of two-time president Juan Domingo Perón. Determined to stabilize a floundering economy, Kirchner heaped scorn on the neo-liberal policies pursued by many Latin American governments in the 1990s with the backing of the International Monetary Fund.

Kirchner said the so-called "Washington Consensus" has generated ample evidence of the failure of such neo-liberal policies. He said that Latin America in general and Argentina in particular are prime examples of the destructiveness of the theory of trickle-down economics.

Kirchner restructured Argentina's foreign debt, encouraged agricultural exports, and boosted foreign currency reserves. Argentina logged vibrant economic growth of 8 percent or higher in each of the four years he was in office.

He also reshuffled Argentina's supreme court and backed judicial reform, facilitating the prosecution of dozens of figures from Argentina's past military dictatorship for human rights abuses.

Despite these actions, the late president Kirchner was no ideologue, according to Johns Hopkins University Latin America expert Riordan Roett. "Nestor Kirchner was a pragmatic populist. What played well with the Peronist majority is what got done in Argentina. He was very good at marginalizing many of his potential opponents. It was all about opportunism and populism," he said.

Whatever his governing style, Kirchner's administration seemed to receive the ultimate validation in 2007, when Argentina elected his wife, Cristina Fernandez, to succeed him as president. Riordan Roett says, even as "first husband," Kirchner continued to exert tremendous influence.

"A large part of the Nestor Kirchner program was to get his wife elected, which, of course, he successfully did. The issue now becomes whether La Senora is going to be able to build enough support, which she does not have now, for a second term next year," Roett said.

Until his death, Kirchner had been considered a likely contender for the 2011 presidential race, taking back the reins of power he handed to his wife in 2007.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 213

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dancers in China
Promotora del Comercio Exterior photo
'Mi Linda Costa Rica' will perform in China

Costa Rica to have its day
at the Shanghai Expo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica Day will be celebrated at the Shanghai Expo Friday. A stand set up by the Promotora del Comercio Exterior attracts about 8,000 visitors a day during the week and 24,000 over weekends, the country's promotional arm said.

“Mi Linda Costa Rica,” the typical dance group, is scheduled to perform Friday.

Also expected to be there are U.S.-Costa Rica astronaut Franklin Chang and sculptor Jorge Jiménez Deredia

The Shanghai expo runs through Sunday. It started May 1. Costa Rica has used four colors to characterize itself. The white represents peace, the blue symbolizes technology, industry, commerce and investment, the red suggests culture, education and the people, and the green symbolizes conservation, tourism, environment and sustainable energy.

In a related event, Anabel González, the minister of  Comercio Exterior hosted a luncheon for Chinese business people in the country's capital of Beijing this week. Representatives of 100 companies attended, the ministry said.

The minister emphasized Costa Rica as a destination for direct investment and business partnerships. The luncheon, of course, featured a Costa Rican menu.

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