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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 220       E-mail us
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students cheer
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas      
Visiting U.S. students cheer the elections at a celebration arranged by the U.S. Embassy
On historic evening all wanted a photo with Obama
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At the end of the U.S. Embassy's election night party, the sound that filled the room was not cheers or wild applause, but the thud of empty wine bottles being dumped into garbage cans. TV wires taped to the floor with grey masking tape were yanked loose. The giant, flat white screen that projected CNN's announcement that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had become the president-elect of the United States was hauled down and folded away.

As the U.S. embassy's election night festivities came to an end at 11:30 p.m., the loneliest figure in the room stood by a table covered with stray cubes of yellow cheese and beer-stained napkins. It was a cardboard cutout of the defeated Sen, John McCain of Arizona. Most of the excitement in the room rotated around a cardboard cutout of president-elect Obama, where a long line of grinning Ticos and Gringos alike waited to have their picture taken standing next to the first African American president of the United States.

“It's more than exciting intellectually,” said Benjamin Weidman, 22, a student from New York who cast an absentee ballot for Obama. “It's touching, emotionally.”

Obama's stated policy positions for Central America and the Caribbean are best described as vague, if the brief summary at www.barackobama.com are any indication. Without going into details, Obama has promised to promote democracy in Cuba, engage Central America in promoting clean energy policies, and “stand firm against agreements” that go against U.S. economic interests.

“Time will tell what will happen,” said the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Peter Cianchette. He refused to say for whom he voted, but he is a former Republican gubernatorial candidate in Maine. “History was made tonight, and I am confident that U.S. commitment to Costa Rica and Latin America will remain strong.”

Whether it was at the U.S. Embassy's election night celebration or the many other smaller gatherings of expat Democrats and Republicans that met in cozy houses across Costa Rica, history weighed heavily on voters' minds as they reacted to Obama's victory.

“He's already changed the world,” said Ramiro Crawford, editor-in-chief of Limón Roots, a magazine that caters to Afro-Caribbeans. “I've never seen a U.S. politician gain the world's sympathy in such a way.” He was at the embassy event.

For many expats, election night began after the first polls in the U.S. closed at 5 p.m. At the house of Jean Redmond, 74, and her husband Rich, 79, 18 members of a local chapter of Democrats Abroad came together to watch live polling results and munch on chips and guacamole.

Even before the results for key swing states such as Virginia or Florida were in, many voters were already expressing weariness with what they said was a long, painful election.

“I'm mainly feeling relief that this ultra-odyssey is coming to an end,” said a 78-year-old retired peace activist who asked that his name be withheld because of his history of protesting against the U.S. Embassy here. “I wish we could take over the British election system where you have six weeks, and then it's over.”
More photos HERE!

For many retirees who voted by absentee ballot, the thousands of miles between the U.S. and Costa Rica did not lessen interest in one of the most highly contested and expensive presidential contests in U.S. history.

“I've been holding my breath,” said Susan Fogg, 64, originally from Portland, Oregon. “I'll be staying here watching until all the results are in, or until I get drunk enough.”  She was at the Redmonds.

In Pavas, about 400 guests watched election results at the Consejo Nacional de Rectores, during an event organized by the U.S. Embassy.

Even in a traditional mock-vote, which the Embassy sponsors during every U.S. presidential election as an example of the U.S. democratic process, guests cast their ballots in favor of Obama: 79 guests voted for McCain, while 218 went for Obama.

Nancy Szalwinski, the cultural affairs officer at the Embassy, said she doubted that any undemocratic pilfering occurred at the voting booth, which consisted of a slitted cardboard box.

“It's a fairly low-tech affair,” she said.

The embassy did not keep records of how many of Costa Rica's approximately 35,000 expats cast votes this year. Up until 4:30 on Nov. 3, U.S. citizens could mail their absentee ballots via the embassy, depending on where they were registered to vote.

A few souls still missed the deadline.

“I actually didn't vote in time for my man John McCain, so now I guess I'll be serving President Barack Obama,” said Mike Ouellette, a member of the U.S. marines who has been stationed in Costa Rica for the past 10 months.

“I was pretty young, so I didn't actually start paying attention to the election until six months ago,”  he said.

At the embassy gathering, the crowd began to thin after CNN projected Obama's victory at 10 p.m.. A group of mostly youth voters remained in order to watch Obama's acceptance speech. When the president-elect finally took the stage in Chicago, a few youth voters screamed, a few cried, but most clutched their paper cups and looked stunned.

“The last eight years have been a long draught,” said David Dufford, 54, a retiree who has lived in Costa Rica since 2000. “I think it's very healthy for the country to be mature enough to elect a qualified minority – I mean, look at this guy. I am so proud. His story is the American dream.”

At the end of the night, the cardboard cutout of president-elect Obama was quietly hustled away, while Embassy volunteers concentrated on dismantling the clusters of red, white and blue balloons that decorated the walls. John McCain's cardboard doppleganger, meanwhile, stood hunched and temporarily forgotten in the corner.

Across the room, a crowd of youth voters booed when technicians suddenly cut the TV signal, replacing images of Obama and Vice President elect Joe Biden with a giant, blue buzzing screen.

“History has already been made tonight,” said Crawford, a Tico of Afro-Carribbean descent. “The question is how Mr. Obama is going to turn this into more than just another historical moment.”


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 220

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


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'Criminal tourism' phrase
created by investigators


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's a new phrase: criminal tourism. Investigators coined the phrase when they arrested two men from Nigeria who traveled here at the same time a wave of automatic teller thefts began.

The men, who have the last names of Ayanboye and Johnson, are accused of obtaining credit cards from Europeans, producing twinned credit cards and otherwise creating the ability to make dozens of fraudulent withdrawals from automatic teller machines. Those who took the money also had PIN numbers.

Investigators here were alerted by the police in Nigeria where people began complaining about fraudulent charges to their accounts. The banks that were the greatest victims of the crimes here are HSBC and Scotiabank, said the Poder Judicial.

Agents conducted a raid, and the two men are now in preventative detention. Agents found and confiscated 13 million colons, some $23,600 and amounts of money in many other currencies.


Judicial surplus might
finance victims' office


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Corte Suprema de Justicia has a 6 billion colon surplus that lawmakers want to use to support a proposed office to protect witnesses, victims and judges. That amount is about $10.9 million.

The Comisión Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana and the legislature's analysis department encountered the surplus by studying the budget. Lawmakers also are wondering what the original purpose of the money was and why was it not spent.

Financing is the stumbling block to a proposal to protect witnesses and victims, Judges were added later as a few faced threats and a judicial office in Pavas was firebombed. Law enforcement officials say that a number of witnesses to crime are murdered each year before they can be called to testify.

Officials are hoping to set up a witness protection program, but the big problem was money. Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, testified in a committee hearing that her Fuerza Pública just did not have the money.

The proposed office is being called the Oficina de Protección de Víctima, Testigos, Jueces y otros intervinientes en los procesos judiciales. Lawmakers said they expected the courts to provide the money, which is an estimated 1.6 billion colons a year, about $2.9 million


Election tribunal emptied
after call reports bomb


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An afternoon bomb scare at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones in San José led to mass evacuations and multiple roadblocks by the Fuerza Pública.

According to officer Javier García, the bomb threat came in at 12:30 p.m when someone called the central telephone operators at the Tribunal. Officer Carlos Leo said the caller was a male who used a public telephone. By 1 p.m. the Fuerza Pública had cut off all main roads leading to the Tribunal, blocking pedestrians, cars, buses and taxis.

About 500 employees from the tribunal were evacuated from the building, said García, and relocated to the Parque Nacional. In addition to the Fuerza Pública, the evacuation was handled by the tribunals internal security.

A bomb squad was called in to inspect the building, which is bordered on the east by the Parque Nacional and is between avenidas 1 and 3.

About 60 officers and the canine unit searched for explosives that the caller said had been left in a bathroom.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 220

A.M. Costa Rica likes trees
protection ad
Axel's ad

democrats
Some Democrats saw victory at the Moravia home of Rich and Jean Redmond



Jack Brennan
Jack Brennan, 17, prepared his mock vote. He said he will turn 18 in six days.
barrack
Giant screen dominated the embassy gathering

Ambassador
Peter Cianchette, the U.S. ambassador, observes the party.

A hot ticket brings
 a lesson in democracy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The hottest ticket in town Tuesday night was for the bash the U.S. Embassy threw in Pavas.

Embassy officials bragged that they only spent $4,000 because most of the goodies were donated. And about 400 Gringos and Ticos alike seemed to have a great time.

The party is really business, however. Each presidential election embassy employees set up the event to keep the minds of Costa Ricans and visitors centered on the democratic process in the United States.

After two elections that hung in the air for days, the one Tuesday was decisive and — even better — early.

The event always features a mock vote, and the Democrat always wins because the crown usually is made up of students, embassy staff and Costa Ricans who are slightly to the left politically. But this year the Democrat really won.

And the party could not have had a happier ending.
-Alvaro Cubillo Periodista.
Alvaro Cubillo, a radio journalist, stands by a cutout of Barack Obama at the embassy party.


McCain had breakfast knowing that he would lose election
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was little chance of a Harry Truman-type photo opportunity Tuesday night. Modern polls are pretty accurate.

Truman had the great fun of standing on the back of a train in 1948 holding up an early edition of the Chicago Tribune with the headline "Dewey defeats Truman."
Of course that did not happen.

Reporters and editors made the mistake, in part, because polls showed that Republican Thomas Dewey would win. Truman, a tireless campaigner, and his appeal to the average voter, turned the race around.

The major polling firms failed to catch up with the Truman wave.

A more recent major failure was in 1992 where pollsters predicted a Labour victor in the British elections. Conservatives won.

Britain is a lot like the United States in that the total popular vote does not decide a race. In the United States there are separate races in each state to determine who will win the electoral college votes. In Britain the voting is for the local member of Parliament. The political party with the most members of Parliament forms a government, and the party leader becomes prime minister.

That means a poll must be conducted at the local level. In
the United States that means individual polls of each of the 50 states. In Britain there are 646 separate races.

Modern news organizations like CNN and some of the bigger newspapers employ polling firms, but the big employers are the various political organizations that generally do not make their findings public. That is why Jimmy Carter knew he lost a reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980 even before the polls opened.

John McCain knew Tuesday, too. Modern pollsters do not make the errors of 1936 or 1948, and there are just too many polls to select. The polling consensus was that McCain would get about 190 electoral votes, 80 fewer than needed to win. The final tally might show that he actually received less.

Every national poll that mattered showed that Barack Obama would win. Many even called correctly tight state races.

CNN predicted McCain would get 150 electoral votes to Obama's 301.  The final figures will be close to those numbers.

The biggest problem with public opinion polling is that it cannot call a close race. Candidates whose support falls within the margin of error are considered in a dead heat. That margin might be 5 to 6 percentage points.

Obama's election day lead of about 7.4 percent was outside the error range.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 220


dock in maritime zone
Tribunal Ambiental Admininstrativo photo
This dock and other construction on the Río Térraba was frozen by the tribunal
Environmental tribunal lists projects under investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Twin sweeps by the environmental watchdogs resulted in 15 development projects being frozen and 18 more under investigation in the Cantón de Osa.

This was announced Tuesday by the Tribunal Ambiente Administrativo, a dependency of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

The tribunal and its judges along with advisers and experts, conducted two sweeps of the fast-growing Pacific coast canton. One was July 7 to 11, and the other was Oct. 20 to 24.

All of the projects frozen were those investigated during the first sweep. Some 14 of the 15 projects cited in the first sweep are frozen, according to the tribunal. The 18 projects cited and perhaps closed temporarily during the second sweep still are under investigation.

In all, the tribunal said it found 33 projects worth looking into for violations of environmental rules, lack of permits, illegal tree cutting or invasion of waterways.

The projects that were frozen range from what the tribunal said was an illegal gravel pit on the bank of the Río Barú in the Cantón de Aguirre to developments covering some 600 hectares (1,483 acres) with 1,000 homes planned in Chontales de Osa.

In several cases four separate subdivisions were listed as one project when they were under common ownership.

Some owners of properties cited by the tribunal in the second sweep contacted A.M. Costa Rica to complain that the paperwork was in order but permits were in San José or elsewhere rather than the construction site. These projects should be cleared quickly.

The sweeps ranged from Dominical to Sierpe on the Pacific coastline. Involved in the sweep along with the tribunal were the Area de Conservación de Osa, the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental of the environment ministry, the ministry's Departamento de Aguas and the Dirección de Gestión Ambiental, the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the Contraloría General de la República and two non-governmental agencies.

The two environmental sweeps served to verify the enormous environmental impact that is taking place on the coastline of Osa, including the peninsula, and that is compromising primary and secondary forest zones, aquifers, areas of protection for rivers and ditches and the maritime zone," said José Lino Chaves, president of the tribunal.

Here are the cases cited by the tribunal from the latest sweep:

•  Costa Verde Estates with 462 hectares (1,142 acres) of land with 56 terraces for homes in th first stage along the
border between Osa and Pérez Zeledón. The second stage involves a road the tribunal said was in the protection zone of a river;

•  Construcciones de Zawadi Investments with three sections within a forest zone in Hermosa Arriba de Osa;

• A hotel owned by Tucano Group S.A. in Playa Hermosa de Osa that appears to have been constructed without permits with three sections within a forested zone;

•  Cabinas La Parcela, four cabins and a restaurant that the tribunal said were constructed within the 50-meter prohibited maritime zone. The tribunal recommended eviction. It is in Punta Dominical;

• Osa Tropical Properties, Tres Ríos Arriba de Coronado, where the tribunal said roads were constructed and work done in a waterway channel and intrusion was made into a water source as well as land being moved to create slopes of 55 degrees;

• Hotel Cuna del Angel in Bahía Ballena where there was new construction in the protective zone of a runoff ditch and structures in the public area of the maritime zone;

•  Proyecto Costa Azul in Vergel de Osa where building sites and roads were built in a forest zone;

•  Proyecto Three Kings in Coronado de Osa where the tribunal said land was moved and terraces constructed in places where there was a 70 degree slope;

•  Proyecto San Buena 2 in Bahía Ballena where roads and terraces were constructed;

•  Villa Necochea in Pozo Azul de Osa where a home was built in what the tribunal said was the zone of protection for a runoff ditch and standing water was found;

• A home the tribunal said was illegal in Pozo Azul de Osa that was constructed without permits and on land that is the property of the state. The owner disputed these allegations in a telephone call and said the permits were in order but not on the job site and that the land had been removed from state ownership;

•  Aserradero Ecolumber S.A which had an accumulation of wood and contamination by solid waste and the dumping of industrial water into a ditch which also was was invaded by construction;

 • Corporación Magariños S.A., owner of a two-story home with swimming pool that lacked environmental viability;

• Periquín del Sur S.A. that built a home, but no permits were on site;

• A property with unidentified ownership in San Buenaventura de Osa where road work was being done and other works carried out in a forested zone and a stream bed.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 220




A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.


Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.



U.S. drug agency agents
get heave-ho from Morales

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bolivia says agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration based locally must leave in three months.

The Bolivian government issued the deadline Tuesday, days after leftist President Evo Morales suspended their work, accusing them of spying and supporting anti-government protests.

Morales alleges the anti-drug officials financed criminal groups so they could act against Bolivian government officials, including the president.

Morales accused the Drug Enforcement Administration of supporting groups that took part in violent political protests in September. U.S. officials rejected the accusations.

The United States recently suspended Bolivia's trade preferences. The deal lowers tariffs on Andean nations that help the United States fight drugs. The U.S. has accused Bolivia of failing to meet its obligations to combat drug trafficking.

In October, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a six-month extension of the Andean Trade Preference Act, which extends privileges to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Top general in Colombia
quits over execution  claims


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's top army commander has resigned following allegations that soldiers killed civilians in an effort to inflate military successes in a war against leftist rebels.

Gen. Mario Montoya announced Tuesday he will step down as head of the army. He gave no reason for his decision to leave the military after 39 years of service.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe named Gen. Oscar Gonzalez as Montoya's replacement. Uribe described Montoya as one of the country's best generals.

Montoya's resignation came days after President Uribe fired at least two dozen army officers, including three generals, following an investigation into suspected executions initially reported as combat deaths.

The dismissals last month followed public outcry over the deaths of a group of young men who disappeared several weeks ago from a poor Bogota suburb. Their remains were later discovered in mass graves in the country's northeast. The civilians were originally declared to be rebels killed during fighting.

Human rights groups say the army has regularly executed civilians and passed them off as slain guerrillas to inflate their tallies of defeated enemy fighters.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has denounced what she called the Colombian army's widespread and systematic killing of innocent civilians.

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