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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 216       Email us
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This old house
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

'This Old House,'
Costa Rica style

This could be the Costa Rican version of “This Old Casona.” Workmen have pulled the old roof off adjacent structures on Calle 5 and are in the process of restoring a mansion and adjacent commerical space that is more than 100 years old. The job is being bankrolled by the culture ministry. The mansion was a glaring eyesore filled with trash and transients. But now it is seen as a possible tourist attraction

Our story is


Decline in tourists prompts call for new markets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism chamber has expressed its concern because it said tourist visits are off 3.9 percent in the third quarter of the year.

The chamber said that the country probably will not reach its goal of a 5 percent annual increase over 2010.

The statistics are limited to tourism arrivals by air. The Cámara Nacional de Turismo said that 312,659 tourists arrived that way in July, August and September. That's 12,275 fewer than in the same period in 2010, it said.

The chamber called on the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo to focus on new markets to boost the number of international tourists. The chamber suggested Russia, China and Brazil.

The chamber's numbers are at variance with statistics maintained by A.M. Costa Rica, which show 366,968 air arrivals at both international airports for the three months of July, August and September 2010. That would mean a decline of 54,309 tourists this year. That discrepancy could not be resolved late Monday. If the A.M. Costa Rica figures are correct, the decline in tourism is 15 percent.

The tourism institute has just kicked off a $2.9 million trip givaway promotion in most of the United States and Canada. That runs through February. Even in the tourism institute itself there are grumblings about the scope of the promotion, which uses Facebook as a base. Those geographical
areas are the traditional markets for Costa Rica.

Juan Carlos Ramos, head of the chamber, said that even though the period generating the statistics is the low season, the country ought to look for other markets.

In the last few years the air route represented about 69 percent of the country's entire tourism, the chamber said.

For the entire first nine months of the year, tourism is up 2.3 percent when compared to 2010. The Liberia airport, Daniel Oduber, is up 15.5 percent, the chamber said but Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela is down nearly two-tenths of a percent, the chamber noted.

Costa Rica's tourism is overstated because the tourism institute, using immigration department figures, includes a large number of persons who are not traditional tourists even though they may arrive as such.

For the year 2010 the tourism institute reported 2,099,829 tourists had visited the country. However, only half that number came from North America, including México. Some 642,517 came from other Central American states, including 427,362 from Nicaragua. There were 277,412 European visitors but only 2,583 from Russia.

Citizens of many Asian countries, including mainland China, require a consular visa to visit Costa Rica. The chamber already has called on the Chinchilla administration to reduce the paperwork for such visas.

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Central government to pay
what is owed the Caja

By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social celebrated it's 70 years Monday at the Teatro Nacional, where President Laura Chinchilla confirmed that the government was going to give more aid in order to help the struggling health and social services agency.

The Costa Rican government signed an agreement during the celebration that will give 123 billion colons (about $241 million) to the Caja  in what the President of the Republic referred to as a necessity to the country and its people. The funds will be paid in 18 months.

“It is unimaginable a Costa Rica without a Caja,” said President Chinchilla.

She added: “We will adopt all measures and means to make the Caja work.”

After the president's speech Fernando Herrero, the minister of Hacienda, and Ileana Balmaceda Arias, the executive president of the Caja, signed the agreement. In July of this year it was reported by the Panamerican Health Organization that the Caja was in a financial crisis, by 2015 there would be a huge deficit.

"Social Security is a patient diagnosed with time, and it has all the vital signs, in other words, Social Security lives!" said Ms. Balmaceda Arias. "It will not fall upon this generation the terrible crockery of its death."

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social was established on Nov. 1, 1941, under the Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia administration. The Caja started as a national security retirement program for the country.

Ms. Balmaceda Arias also announced that the Caja board of directors decided to name the Hospital de Golfito after Costa Rican hero Manuel Mora Valverde. She said the board found the hospital worthy of the name.

The central government has been deeply in debt with the Caja, and has been subject to substantial criticism as the health care agency approached serious financial trouble. This is the second infusion of money for the agency. A special commission empaneled to study the Caja's problems recommended that the central government pay up what it owes.

Our reader's opinion
Why can't there just be
warnings against speeding?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've seen many, many signs warning people that underage prostitution is illegal in Costa Rica and could cost the purchaser a great deal of money, deportation, or even jail terms. I agree with the concept whole heartedly.

So why can't the car rental firms and the tourism board make the same statements and post warnings about the use of excessive speed in cars? $600 isn't such a great amount if one can afford to rent a car in this country. Nor is such an exorbitant fine for locals who wish to speed and endanger the lives of others.

There are other, greater costs involved in owning a car — costs that cannot be avoided. Speeding tickets can be avoided simply by obeying the laws. Why should rental companies and the tourism board expect their clients to get away cheaper?

The entire idea is ludicrous. I hope they lose their case.

Judy Griffith Gill
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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News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 216

Trash litters the courtyard of Casa Jiménez, but this time there is a reason. For years the area was a local trash dump, but now the debris comes from inside and is part of the renovation project.

This old house
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

City mansion saved from the brink of ruin by ministry
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When someone thinks of Costa Rica, old buildings may not be the first idea that comes to mind. But workers at the Centro de Patrimonio of the Ministerio de Cultura believe the national heritage, much of it stored in historical landmarks, can play just as important a role as beaches, volcanoes, and cloud forests in bringing in tourists.

Currently the center is involved in a 100 million colons ($196,000) project to restore two neighboring, historic structures near Parque Morazán in downtown San Jose. Although the primary goal of the project may not be to promote tourism, that result may go hand in hand.

The center's head of restoration and conservation, Adrian Vindas, said at the very least tourism is an added bonus. He pointed to México and Europe as prime examples of places where citizens preserve their architectural heritage and, in turn, draw visitors.

“Clearly there exists an important connection between tourism and the preservation of national history,” Vindas said. “Tourists are very interested in historical architecture, especially when its works express part of the culture of a country, its influences and values.”

For those reasons Vindas said he believes the two structures in downtown San José, Casa Jiménez de la Guardia and Edificio Maroy, are worth rehabilitating. The Casa Jiménez de la Guardia is one of the few standing examples in San José of architecture done in the style of art nouveau. And, once belonging to the prominent Jiménez de la Guardia family, it stands as an important landmark in the collective memory of the city.

The site is on Calle 5 just a half block north of Avenida Primera. It is on a street that receives a lot of tourist foot traffic due to the nearby park, Holiday Inn and other locations for accommodations.

Although the ownership of the property is still being decided in court, Vindas said ultimately the buildings may be used for cultural purposes in a joint project between the ministry and Banco Popular.

He said the project should be completed within two months and will include a total overhaul of the inside and outside, including the ornate ironwork. The job requires carpentry and fresh coats of paint. And the buildings are in need of it too. The walls are lined with graffiti and the outside structures stand in disrepair.

Workmen last week had the roof off the entire structure and were installing new galvanized corrugated sheets.

One of the workers helping to rehabilitate the house said his is a specialized type of work, attempting to preserve,
This old house newer
Photo supplied by the culture ministry shows the home in its prior glory.

Man working on house
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Workman prepared an opening for a window

and at the same time renovate, something that old. He said it comes with its unique challenges compared to other types of construction. The structure is believed to be more than 100 years old.

Gerardo Cartin, who works at a parking lot across the street said he is tired of watching the building deteriorate. The front courtyard has been a trash dump and homeless refuge for years.

“It's a beautiful building,” he said. “But the restoration will make it better.”

Berrocal launches a movement for security and sovereignty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fernando Berrocal is starting on the campaign trail early but decisively.

The former pre-candidate and security minister was at the legislature Monday promoting a proposed law that would provide more coordination among the many police forces. He met with Juan Carlos Mendoza García, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, and presented a letter outlining his concerns and suggestions.  He has called for restructuring the Fuerza Pública.

Berrocal, a lawyer and former journalist and television personality, already has launched the Frente Patriótico y de Defensa Nacional in which he is critical of what he calls the cowardly abandonment of the Costa Rican Isla Calero to Nicaraguan soldiers. Nevertheless, he still considers himself a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional, according to his Web site.

His organization appears to be a direct challenge to the Laura Chinchilla administration.
“Costa Ricans do not accept more incompleted promises in matters of territorial security and citizen security,” he said on the Web site. “Sovereignty is not negotiable. It is defended with valor and patriotism.”

It was Laura Chinchillla in her presidential campaign who promised a firm hand against crime. But there have been few concrete proposals except requests for more taxes.

Ms. Chinchilla bested Berrocal to become the Liberación candidate in 2010. She cannot run for office again in 2014.

Earlier Berrocal served as security minister under then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez. But Arias fired him March 15, 2008, just after Berrocal suggested that some Costa Rican politicians were involved with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia drug smugglers.

Arias appointed his then-vice president, Ms. Chinchilla, to serve temporarily as security minister.

Ms. Chinchilla named Berrocal ambassador to Panamá, but he resigned that post before ever leaving the country.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 216

Gas station closed after diesel found in water source at Tilarán
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's environmental tribunal Monday froze commercial activity at the Estación de Servicio Lago Arenal after it received reports of fuel spills contaminating the aquifer that serves the community of Tilarán.

The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo said that a private well some 4 kilometers from Tilarán showed contamination and that persons using that well had to be provided water trucked in by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

It was the institute, the nation's prime water provider, that filed
the complaint. The tribunal cited the grave risk of contaminating the entire aquifer.

The aquifer is some 106 meters below ground, and the tribunal received reports of diesel fuel being found in small quantities in the water.

The tribunal also ordered an immediate study of the gasoline station's tanks and the creation of a plan of remediation within 30 days.

Acueductos y Alcantarillados provides the water service to Tilarán.

Security firm figures in probe of firearms purchases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and Fuerza Pública officers staged three raids Monday in an investigation of a security firm and the purchase of 35 handguns.

Four persons were detained, including the owner of the firm.

Two persons who also were detained are believed to be employed by the security ministry in its department of services for private security firms.

The company is Grupo Seguridad Integral or GSI S.A.

The Judicial Investigating Organization announced the arrests at midday. A release said that two persons in the Dirección de Servicios de Seguridad Privada had been detained by judicial agents on the allegation that they had accepted 35,000 colons or about $68.50 to register individuals as security guards even though some lacked the permit to carry weapons.

The Judicial Investigating Organization did not make clear if the two cases were related.

The security firm case involved the allegation that the purchase of 35 handguns was done in the name of another firm that
secuirty company
A.M. Costa Rica photo
This is the Los Yoses office that was searched Monday.

had no knowledge of the purchase. The original complaint came from the unidentified firm.

GSI is a well-known security firm and even operated armored cars for delivery of cash and valuables. The firm has many employees.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 216

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New film questions work
of Shakespeare and his plays

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

What if William Shakespeare never wrote a word? What if, instead, the plays and sonnets attributed to him were the work of a worldly English aristocrat during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I?  The question has been debated for a century. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich rekindles the debate in his film “Anonymous.” The movie offers great performances, impressive cinematography and an inspiring tale about the power of words.

A review

Filmmaker Roland Emmerich sets “Anonymous” in a royal court where Queen Elizabeth's scheming advisers, William and Robert Cecil, have dampened her majesty's love of the arts.

Anonymous is Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. In the film, the nobleman despises the Cecils for their rigidity as much as they despise him for his poetic license. His social standing does not allow him to publish his work under his name. So, he hires a lowly actor to pretend he is the bard and stage the plays for the masses.  The imposter?  William Shakespeare.

“Anonymous” is based on a theory that emerged about a century ago. It claims that William Shakespeare could not have written the literary works attributed to him because he had neither the education nor the worldliness reflected in the manuscripts.

Roland Emmerich's film validates the idea. The German filmmaker, known for action films, surprises with his skilled and nuanced depiction of the times.

Acclaimed actors such as Derek Jacobi, who introduces the story, and Vanessa Redgrave, who plays an older Queen Elizabeth, offer superb performances and give weight to the theory.

Less well-known actors, like Rhys Ifans, who interprets Edward De Vere, and Edward Hogg as the venomous Robert Cecil are so riveting they make the story credible.

Emmerich believes the theory.

"I am one hundred percent sure that William Shakespeare was a fraud and was like a play broker, a great merchant, a minor actor and there is no evidence in all his records that he was a writer," said Emmerich.  "It more looks like he was illiterate."

The story describes De Vere's writing as politically subversive.   In the film, the plays incited the masses to rise up against self-serving aristocrats in the royal court.  

Proponents of Shakespeare concede there is no direct evidence to prove without a doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays and sonnets.   

But Michael Collins, a professor of English at Georgetown University, says there is enough information to establish Shakespeare as the author.

"Edward De Vere was dead in 1604, I believe," said Collins.  "Shakespeare continues to write till 1612, 1613. So, that's the other question. How do the later plays which embody, from some points of view, references to contemporary events?  How do you account for the fact that De Vere is dead and the plays continue to be written?"

Anonymous is an entertaining story, well told, that celebrates the works and words of the bard. They survive to this day regardless of who wrote them.

Improved drug may stem
tropical leishmaniasis

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ansar Deldar, 4, shows signs of leishmaniasis, a common disease among children in Afghanistan.

Scientists have developed a new version of a drug used to treat leishmaniasis. The new formulation may help better battle this tropical parasitic disease.

Leishmaniasis is transmitted by the bite of certain sand flies.

The World Health Organization says as many as 12 million people are infected with the leishmaniasis parasite.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis, which affects the skin and mucus membranes, is the most common form.

But the more serious form, called visceral leishmaniasis, attacks the immune system. Without proper treatment, it's often fatal. One of the drugs used against leishmaniasisis is amphotericin B.

Amphotericin is effective, but it has some numerous drawbacks. It's expensive, it has to be given as an injection, it's highly toxic to the kidneys, and it loses effectiveness if exposed to high temperatures.

University of British Columbia researcher Kishor Wasan has been testing an improved version he developed.

He says his new formulation addresses all these shortcomings: it's much cheaper, for one, and it can be taken by mouth. 

"It's tropically stable,"  Wasan says. "We've been able to develop a formulation that does not need refrigeration, and that's a huge factor in the developing world. And finally, we're looking at a formulation that is very effective, but does not have that kidney toxicity."

To test the effectiveness of his new version of amphotericin B, Wasan sent samples to a laboratory at another university, where it was used to treat mice infected with visceral leishmaniasis.

"And the results were just remarkable," he says. "We found greater than 99 percent reduction in the parasitic load in less than five days, and remarkably, in 60 percent of the animals, we completely eradicated the infection."

After the positive animal-test results, Wasan is now seeking funding to begin human trials.

The new formulation for amphotericin B may be useful against other conditions, too. The drug is also used to treat fungal infections in people with compromised immune systems, such as HIV patients and organ transplant recipients.

"The impetus originally to do the work was actually in the fungal infections,"  Wasan says. "Physicians wanted a cheaper, more accessible form of amphotericin B than the injectable. So the oral formulation was going to help in those situations as well. So, yeah, there actually are multiple uses for this formulation."

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 216

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school work
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Ingrid Luna
Some 40 officers in the Dirección del Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea gave up a day off to fix up the Escuela Aeropuerto in Alajuela. Some 137 students benefitted from the efforts. The work included painting, repairs to concrete, garden work and setting up a soccer field. The officers also donated books for the library. The school, of course, is near Jaun Santamaría airport where the men and women work.

Rights foundation asks court
to overturn libel verdict

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Human Rights Foundation sent a letter Monday to the magistrates of the national court of justice of Ecuador, exhorting them to overturn the verdict that sentenced journalist Emilio Palacio and three executives of El Universo newspaper to three years in prison and ordered them to pay  $40 million in damages to Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador. The letter to the magistrates was accompanied by a legal report that analyzes Palacio’s case under international human rights law.

“In authoritarian regimes, those who offend or criticize the dictator usually go to jail or into exile. In Ecuador they go a step further. Those who offend or criticize President Correa are jailed or exiled and also bankrupted,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of thefoundation. “Ecuador’s high court must show its independence from the executive branch and revoke this abhorrent sentence,” concluded Halvorssen.

Feb. 6 Palacio published the article “No to lies,” an opinion piece critical of President Correa and his government, in his Sunday column in El Universo. In response to the article, on March 21 President Correa filed a criminal suit against Palacio, against three executives of El Universo, and against the company that owns the newspaper, for the crime of slanderous libel. President Correa’s criminal suit also requested  $80 million in damages. On July 20 a district court convicted the defendants, sentenced them to three years in prison, and ordered them to pay $40 million in damages to President Correa. On Sept. 20, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s sentence. In the next few days, the high court will issue a final decision that will uphold or overturn the verdict against Palacio and El Universo.

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