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These stories first were published Thursday, Nov. 8, 2001
Eclipse promotion
begins to pick up

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Tourism Institute has jumped on the eclipse bandwagon with a proposal for a postcard campaign to draw more tourists here for the Dec. 14 celestial event.

The institute has designed and produced a unique postcard with the pitch "Only in Costa Rica."  The card shows the stages of the eclipse and the darkened country dominated with an eclipsed sun.

The idea, according to institute officials, is for hotel owners in the eclipse path or even elsewhere in Costa Rica to mail the card to former customers and others on their own mailing lists.

This targeted marketing campaign shifts some of the expense to the hotel owners and avoids mass media campaigns, particularly expensive ones in the United States. The postcard suggests that recipients go to the National Center of Science and Technology Web site for more information:

(http://www.cientec.or.cr/astronomia/
eclipse/index.html).

The town of Samara already has developed an eclipse Web site, in part because Samara is one of the better vantage points from which to view the event which will take place low over the pacific Ocean.

The event is considered a boon for tourism, and a number of groups and companies have scheduled eclipse tours to Costa Rica.  Also using the eclipse to promote its work is the Intercultura Language School of Heredia, which is opening a branch in Samara.

For the eclipse, the school offers packages of a week’s classes before or after the eclipse, plus accommodations in a luxury hotel or homestay over the eclipse weekend, according to Laura Ellington, the school’s Samara director. There are lots of  activities going on in the town, she said, adding that several nightspots are having an eclipse party.

The school has set up a special eclipse page to go along with the regular Web information: http://www.samaralanguageschool.com/eclipse.html
 
 

Bush negotiator promises
to play leadership role

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. negotiator at a climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco, said that global climate change warrants real commitment, and that the Bush Administration will continue to play a leadership role in addressing the long-term challenge of climate change both at home and abroad. The negotiator is Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs.

In a statement delivered to the seventh session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dobriansky said the United States wants to work with its friends, allies and major trading partners "to develop climate change partnerships, even though in some cases, we will pursue different paths toward the same destination."

Environmental ministers and senior officials from around the world are in the second week of their two-week meeting to hammer out the detailed operational rules of the Kyoto Protocol, a legally-binding treaty that would require developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Costa Rican Tourism Institute postcard

Dip in tourism was 7.7%
for the month of October

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism in October was not the total disaster that those in the industry here expected. Nor was it bad enough to warrant the grimaces and negative responses from those on the front lines.

Total tourism in October was 7.7 percent lower than the previous October, according to figures released by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute. In tourists, that represents a drop of 3,858 individuals.

These figures were collected at Juan Santamaría Airport and only reflect tourists who came by plane. That’s traditionally about 75 percent of all tourists. 

In October 2000, some 50,115 tourists visited this way in October. The total last month was 46,257, the tourism institute said.

Tourists from the United States fell a bit more, some 11.1 percent when compared to the same period a year ago. Some 17,040 U.S. citizens came as tourists last month.

Tourism institute officials also are cheering the arrival of the traditional winds that herald the holiday season. Dec. 1 is the official start of the high season that runs until the last day of March. The winds for the past two days suggest that the rainy season might be ending right on time. 

The Costa Rican Meteorological Service predicted Nov. 15 as the end of the wet season that those in tourism prefer to call "the green season." The weathermen used a statistical average of past years rather than actual predictions based on weather conditions.

Costa Rica lost about 8,800 airline tourists in September because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, based on A.M. Costa Rica calculations. 

Figures from the institute show that 38,894 tourists arrived by air in the country that month. For five September days the bulk of the airlines in the Western Hemisphere were grounded for fear of terrorism.  Still the decline was about 11 percent when compared to the prior year. 

Because the country was experiencing a tourism boom of about 8 percent over the period year, the actual lost income from tourism probably is higher than the simple comparisons between 2001 and 2000 would show.

Time to dig down again to pay for your car or truck
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

The time of the year is here to pay your vehicle insurance and taxes for the coming year, the so-called "marchamo."

This year motorists will not have to have their exhaust emissions checked first in order to get their vehicle registration for next year. That was announced this week on the Web site of the National Insurance Institute: www.ins.go.cr

In the past, motorists had to have the emissions certificate as well as their cedula or identity papers and the "revision technico" or registration papers for the vehicle. 

This year all that will be needed are the identity papers and the registration papers if the vehicle is a passenger car. Trucks and buses have other requirements.

Some 432 locations around the country, including many groceries, will be accepting marchamo payments. Most will be sporting signs: "Pague aquí su marchamo."

So how much to pay? The insurance institute has constructed a Web site where you can punch in your license plate number and get a readout of what you owe. The big hit will be property taxes, but there are five other payments you make at the 

same time, including the obligatory vehicle insurance.

This also means you can look up the name of the person who cut you off in traffic Wednesday or the name of the young Tica in the BMW. All you need is the plate number. No address or telephone number, but at least the name.

A typical payment based on a 1985 Nissan is about 21,000 colons (about $63), with about 10,000 colons going for property tax.  Most North American drivers also purchase private insurance as a supplement to the obligatory insurance.


Web site gives you the bill


But you are not done yet, even after you pay your marchamo at Mas x Menos. You still need that emissions certificate, just not before you pay the marchamo.

That may be a hassle because the Ministry of Public Transportation has designated only about 60 locations for the exhaust fumes to be checked. The charge is supposed to be 2,100 colons ($6.25) for a gasoline passenger car and 2,400 for a diesel. There are some 600,000 vehicles that must be tested before January when the traffic police will start handing out 10,000 colon ($30) fines to those without the so-called "ecomarchamo" sticker on their windshield.


 
Heredia language school
heads for Samara beach

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Heredia language school is expanding to the beach.

The Intercultura Language School has opened a new campus in Samara, which is on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

The school is in the Centro Turistico Isla Chora in the center of town just 100 meters from the beach, according to Laura Ellington, director of the Samara program.

The program is considered a boon for the local economy that was struggling during the low season. 

In addition, Director Ellington said that by housing students with local families, the long-time residents have a chance to profit directly from tourism, something they have not done before. In addition, they are thrilled to be involved in the educational 

process instead of having to settle for traditional service jobs, said Ms. Ellington.

The school has two local Spanish teachers and six teachers who rotate in turns from the Heredia campus.

The number of students at any one time ranges from single digits up to 30, said Ms. Ellington. The school has been offering single-week programs and has just started offering month-long study programs at the beach.

In addition to the director, the local coordinator is Marlo Goldstein. Both work under Adelita Jiménez, the director of the main campus.

The school also is promoting the new campus location with an eclipse package. The Dec. 14 solar eclipse should be highly visible from Samara if the skies are clear. The school offers a week’s study on either side of the eclipse.

The Web page for the school is  www.interculturacostarica.com. The Web address for a special eclipse page is: www.samaralanguageschool.com/eclipse.html


 
U.S. acts to freeze more bank accounts linked to terrorists
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — President Bush says the Treasury Department will freeze the assets of an additional 62 individuals and organizations believed to be supporting international terrorism.

The latest actions, announced Wednesday, bring to 150 the number of groups and individuals who will no longer have access to their assets in the United States.

Bush said that the Group of Eight countries — the United States, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, and Russia — along with the United Arab Emirates, worked together in blocking assets and coordinating enforcement action against the Al Taqua and the Al-Barakaat financial networks.

The president explained that Al Taqua is an association of off-shore banks and financial management firms that have helped al Qaeda shift 

money around the world, and Al Barakaat is a group of money-wiring and communication companies owned by a friend and supporter of Osama bin Laden.

"Today's action interrupts al Qaeda's communications," Bush said. "It blocks an important source of funds. It provides us with valuable information and sends a clear message to global financial institutions: you are with us, or you're with the terrorists. And if you're with the terrorists, you will face the consequences."

Attorney General John Ashcroft said that the Justice Department has executed search warrants on all of the offices of Al Taqua and Al Barakaat and has charged two individuals with operating an illegal foreign money transmittal business in Dorchester, Mass.

The United States already has frozen $24 million in U.S.-based assets of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and is reviewing an additional 962 accounts.


 
Venezuelan military
denies coup rumors

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Venezuelan military is expressing its support for President Hugo Chavez, as he denies rumors of a coup attempt. 

The military high command issued the surprise statement Tuesday, saying no one should doubt the loyalty of the armed forces to President Chavez. No reason was given for the statement signed by Defense Minister José Vicente Rangel. 

The announcement came as Chavez faces criticism over his policies from political opponents and the opposition-dominated news media. 

Critics accuse Chavez and his government of incompetence, authoritarianism and corruption — and they expressed fear he is creating a dictatorship. They also have criticized his ties with leaders like Cuban President Fidel Castro. 

The Venezuelan president hailed his public backing from the military, saying it will counter what he calls continuing efforts by his political enemies to destabilize the nation. 

President Chavez was elected to office in 1998, but his overall popularity has fallen as he contends with ongoing poverty, crime, unemployment and falling world oil prices. Venezuela's economy depends heavily on petroleum industry exports. 
 

Missing girl is safe

A Pavas girl who ran away from home because she feared her school tests has called home. The girl’s photo had been published in Spanish-language newspapers with the permission of her frantic father. 
 

Argentine government,
governors in agreement

Argentina's Federal government is close to reaching an agreement with provincial governors over the reform of federal transfers to the provinces. 

Negotiations between the federal and provincial governments began after lower federal tax revenues prompted the central government to halt its $1.36 billion monthly transfers to the provinces. The government now seeks to reduce the amount of those transfers and to pay them in the form of bonds rather than cash. 

An agreement limiting the transfers is crucial for convincing international investors and the International Monetary Fund to agree with Argentina's current plan to restructure a large part of its $132 billion debt and avoid a default. The IMF extended an $8 billion emergency package to Argentina in August. 

Brazil will test
vaccine for AIDS

Brazil says it has started testing an experimental AIDS vaccine on humans. A healthy, 38-year-old man was the first to be injected with the new drug. 

Brazil will inject a total of 40 volunteers with one of two test vaccines or with a placebo. One vaccine comes from France and the other from the United States. 

At the end of six months, Brazilian researchers will check the blood of the volunteers to see if it contains antibodies to the HIV virus which causes AIDS. The presence of the antibodies would indicate that the person is protected by the AIDS vaccine. 

The study is backed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and is also being carried out in Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. 


 
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