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(506) 223-1327  These stories were published  Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 222   E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Banco ELKA depositors getting money soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Depositors and other creditors of the Banco ELCA S.A. will get a first payment next week of about 40 percent of what the bankrupt bank owes them.

Only those who have validated their debt with the bank will be paid, according to a detailed report from the Junta Liquadora y Administrativa elected to distribute the bank assets.

Government regulators closed Banco ELKA June 29, 2004, because the institution lacked solvency, they said. The action was a blow to a number of expats because the bank had actively sought their deposits.

The junta handling the liquidation of the debts and assets said that the payment next week will be about 7 billion colons or about $14 million dollars.

The junta anticipates that it will be able to make a second payment of about 10 percent of what each depositor is owed in March and yet 10 percent more in June.  At the same time the junta is selling office bank assets and collecting debts.

The junta said in its report that customers representing some 4 billion colons did not take steps to validate the deposits. Those who did so said that the process was highly detailed and lengthy, particularly for foreigners who had to provide certified copies of paperwork.
In all, the junta said, customers representing deposits of 12.3 billion colons validated their debt. That's about $25 million at today's rates. Some smaller creditors, such as checking account holders were paid off early in the bankruptcy proceedings.

The junta said it had improved the finances of the bank. The junta was formed by a vote of creditors and began work in April.  The bank had current assets of about 78.62 per cent of its debt when the junta took over, it said. Now the percentage is 81.5.

The junta statement seems to support the concern of the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras when that agency closed down the bank. Private banks in Costa Rica are supposed to keep at least 10 percent of assets as a cash reserve.

The junta said it would make a fourth distribution to creditors in December using money that becomes available. It is pursuing collection and legal ways to enforce contracts and obtain the money owed to the bank, it said. Some 6 billion colons or $12.2 million is listed as uncollectable by the junta.

Some bank assets will be auctioned off in November, and an auction of bank furniture and other office gear is planned for December, the junta said.

A meeting Tuesday will allow creditors to discuss and ratify what the junta hopes to do with bank assets.

Police catch two robbery suspects who used motorcycle
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers arrested two men on a motorcycle minutes after a pedestrian was robbed near the Facultad de Agronomía of the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro, officers said.

The suspects, identified by the last names Valverde Calderón and Sibaja Araya, would ride toward their victims at full speed, officers said.  Then, one of them would jump off the bike and, with weapon in hand, strip
pedestrians of their belongings, police said.

The officers were able to recover the belongings of two recently robbed youths, officers said.  Police also seized a .38-caliber firearm and the motorcycle the two allegedly used to rob their victims, the officers said. 

A similar robbery by two men on a motorcycle led to a shootout Monday in the center of San José where bus passengers, including an A.M. Costa Rica reporter-photographer, were caught in the crossfire.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 222

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'Uvieta,' the name of the lead character, is billed as a show and mascarada for the whole family.

Humility turns to greed
in this Costa Rican play

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the plays from the I Encuentro Nacional de Teatro emphasizes the importance of humility.

“Uvieta,” which will show tomorrow at the Teatro Cuatro Vientos, is the story of a field worker by that name who, due to a drought, looks for more effective ways to make a living.  In the midst of his poverty, he shares his last morsels of food with persons more needy than him.

These beggars turn out to be the Holy Family.  Jesus, in recognition of the field worker's selfless act, grants him three wishes.  These are supposed to be used to fulfill his immediate needs but instead the once humble field-worker wishes for more and more.

Along the way, he loses his best virtues, solidarity, humility and respect for other people.  At the end of his greed, he finds himself alone and embarrassed.  The show starts at 8 p.m. at the theater in San Joaquín de Flores. The work is by Costa Rican Playright Carmen Lyra.

The I Encuentro Nacional de Teatro, which has several more works planned, runs through Nov. 20.   The purpose is to promote the dramatic arts.

Two held in crime wave
that hit Cartago area

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Cartago raided two homes in San Vicente de Tres Ríos at 4 a.m. Tuesday morning and led away two men suspected of robbing more than 20 businesses in the Cartago centro, agents said.

The two suspects, aged 30 and 35, would violently enter the businesses waving firearms, agents said.  Then they would gag the workers, lock them in the bathroom and steal all the money, said agents.

Agents added that in the two homes, they found evidence linking the suspects to the crimes.
Police sweep Pacific coast
in advance of high season

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a province-wide cleanup this weekend, Fuerza Pública officers in Puntarenas seized 18 marijuana joints, 126 rocks of crack cocaine, a 9 -mm. pistol, two .25-caliber revolvers and four small bags of cocaine, they said. 

The object of the cleanup was to improve the safety of the province for the tourism high season and accordingly, officers concentrated on the province's destinations that are popular with travelers.  In Quepos, officers arrested 11 subjects for possession of drugs or firearms, they said. 

Commissioner Juan José Andrade, the regional director of the Fuerza Pública in the province said that the agency plans to maintain a strict vigilance in the tourism sectors of the province.   

Hearing set on landfill
near town of Aserrí

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Secretaria Tecnica Nacional Ambiental is holding a hearing Saturday to hear citizen input from Aserrí and Desamparados about a proposed landfill in El Huaso de Aserrí – Desamparados. 

The meeting starts at 8 a.m. in El Liceo de Asserí, 100 meters west of the building of the Municipalidad de Aserrí.  It is open to the public. 

Child victim of hit-and-run

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization are looking into the circumstances that caused the death of a 9-year-old boy in Aguazarcas de San Carlos, they said.

The youth was trying to cross the street when he was hit by a car, agents said.  The driver of the car fled the scene and the boy died on the way to the hospital, agents said. 

Art exhibit scheduled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students and faculty at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas of the Universidad de Costa Rica will show their work in two exhibitions at the Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer. 

David Carcachi, a student at the school, will have 13 black and white and color pencil drawings on display of unconventional supports, like boxes.  The other exhibition is 14 photographs taken by alumi and professors of the school.  The works are primarily experiments with light and form.

Both exhibitions will be on display until Nov. 30. 
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 222

Costa Rica votes with majority on U.S. Cuba embargo
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.N. General Assembly — including Costa Rica's delegation — has overwhelmingly urged the United States to end its 44-year trade embargo against Cuba.

This is the 14th consecutive year the General Assembly has passed a resolution criticizing Washington's embargo against Cuban leader Fidel Castro's government.

The margin of approval — 182 in favor, four against, with one abstention — was the widest since Cuba began introducing the measure in 1992. Those voting with the United States were Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Micronesia abstained, and five other countries did not vote.

The list of 20 nations addressing the Assembly in support of the resolution included many vocal critics of U.S. policy. Among them were Sudan, Venezuela, Iran, China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, South Africa, Belarus, Syria and India. After the vote, representatives of North Korea and Zimbabwe also rose to condemn U.S. Policy. 

Although Costa Rica  voted in favor of the resolution, Roberto Tovar Faja, Costa Rica's minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, reiterated that the vote, which favors free trade, in no way varies Costa Rica's position on the validity of the rights, the freedom and the aspirations towards democracy held by the Cuban people.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque spoke for the Havana government. Addressing the assembly through an interpreter, he referred to the embargo as a blockade, and charged that it had been tightened during President George Bush's administration.

"Never before as in the last 18 months has the blockade been enforced with so much viciousness and brutality, never before have we seen such cruel and relentless persecution by a U.S. administration against
the economy and the right of Cubans to a decent life," he said.

Representing the United States in the Assembly was Ambassador Ronald Godard, a senior adviser at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. In his address, he rejected Cuba's characterization of the embargo as a blockade.

"Castro claims that the embargo is a blockade," he said. "He knows this is a lie. Cuba is free to trade with any other country in the world without interference from the United States. Castro knows that the real reason behind Cuba's trade problems is the failure of his country to pay its bills, and billions of dollars in loans in arrears."

Ambassador Godard argued that the trade embargo is a bilateral issue, and should not be brought before the General Assembly. He charged that the root of Cuba's problem is not the embargo, but Fidel Castro.

"If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not the embargo," he said.

Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton did not attend the gathering. Speaking to reporters, he ridiculed the proceedings.

"This is a complete exercise in irrelevancy," he said. "A General Assembly that has not yet seriously attempted to reform the U.N. Human Rights Commission or engage in the revolution of management reform that Secretary Rice talked about, to adopt this exercise in Cuban propaganda really tells you something."

The resolution passed Tuesday has no legal effect, and has not been observed in the past. But the votes are considered a barometer of international opinion. The United States imposed the trade embargo after Fidel Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault on the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Costa Rican orange crop is estimated at about 200 million kilos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's nearly orange season.  And though the oranges from Costa Rica may be greener, smaller and for the most part, consumed differently than their North American counterparts, they're still sweet and highly anticipated here in Costa Rica.  Ticos seem to prefer to skin their oranges, cut a hole in the top, and suck the fruit dry rather than cut them into wedges.

The Programa Nacional de Cítricos predicts a national production this season similar to that of last season – approximately 5,000,000 boxes, each of which carries nearly 41 kilos, some 90 pounds.
Though orange trees can be seen throughout the country, the majority of orange farmers harvest their crops in the north Huetar region and in communities sprinkled throughout Santa Cecilia de la Cruz in Guanacaste, said the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. 

Of the approximately 200 million kilos, farmers plan to harvest, 90 percent is earmarked for international exportation, said the ministry

Based on the climatic conditions that predominated the planting and growing season, officials predict that the harvest will extend through April or May. 

Many of the national publications are claiming that real estate in Costa Rica is grossly overpriced and that the time has come and gone for the land of Pura Vida. True or False?

Well, if you read the classified ads in the English-speaking countries it would seem that a small lot on the beach can run easily in excess of $250,000 and a home in the mountains of trendy Escazú can run well over $500,000. And even a basic home in Heredia can quickly top $300,000.

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Can the average "Gringo" still afford to retire here?

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A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 222


Well-dressed property swindler on the loose here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man impersonating a banker has been selling repossessed properties at bargain prices. The problem is that the man is a crook and not a banker.

The Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization would like to find the man because he has swindled more than one person out of money, they say.

The man claims to have the inside track on property
about to go to auction. Agents say he induces a would-be buyer to deposit money in a bank account  in anticipation of getting ownership papers. Once the deposit is made, the man vanishes without delivering any papers, agents said.

The well-dressed man travels on a motorcycle and carries a briefcase, agents said.

Agents said those who have been swindled by this individual should call 295-3312, 295-3313 or 295-3314. 

Nicaraguan foreign minister says some there have eyes for Guanacaste
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The squabble over passage rights on the Rio San Juan has escalated with a comment by the foreign minister of Nicaragua that some in his country would like to take over Guanacaste, the location of many of Costa Rica's popular beaches.

The Nicaraguan minister, Norman Caldera, made the comments on a television show in Managua in discussing an expected international court battle with Costa Rica.

The core of the dispute is that Costa Rica wants its police to be able to carry firearms on the Río San Juan, a Nicaraguan waterway just north of the Costa Rican line. The river is in Nicaragua, but it is a preferred way of traveling in north Costa Rica.

Costa Rica says an 1858 treaty gives police the right of free passage. Nicaragua disagrees, and officials there became upset when Costa Rica sought a hearing at the International Court in the Hague.
The Nicaraguan foreign minister said that if Costa Rica puts in doubt the 1858 treaty and an 1888 line adjudicated by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, then an agreement about Guanacaste also was up in the air. Both agreements also ratify Costa Rica's possession of Guanacaste.

Guanacaste residents voted in 1825 to join with Costa Rica, and a day marking the decision is a national holiday.

Costa Rican diplomats reacted diplomatically. Roberto Tovar Faja, foreign minister, called the statements lamentable and said that they did not reflect history nor the respectful relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Costa Rica agrees that the Río San Juan is property of Nicaragua. the only dispute is about passage rights. Nicaragua has hiked a fee for tourists on the river in light of the decision to carry the matter to the Hague.

Nicaragua has sent more troops to the border.

U.S. risk insurance will help build Nicaraguan ecolodge on San Juan
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. small business will use political risk insurance from the Overseas Private Investment Corp. to develop an ecological resort in Nicaragua, helping the country take advantage of its tourism potential.

The agreement was announced by Robert Mosbacher, Jr., head of the Overseas Private Investment Corp.

The agency will provide $2.2 million in insurance to The Corea Group, Inc., of Rockville, Md., for the development of the resort, to be called the Sacuanjoche Adventure Lodge, in the San Juan River area of Nicaragua. The resort will comprise 16 bungalows, reception and dining facilities situated on 138 acres surrounded by the river and tropical forest. Its services will be marketed to foreign visitors seeking to experience the rainforest in an ecologically friendly manner.

The site is about 45 miles from the Caribbean coast and east of Crucitas in Costa Rica.

The resort site is near the Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, a 3,618-square-kilometer tropical forest set aside by the Nicaraguan government. The reserve is home to more than 600 species of birds, 300 species of reptiles and 200 species of mammals, including several endangered species of monkeys, jaguars, giant anteaters, crocodiles, birds, orchids, and butterflies.
Mosbacher noted that the project will minimize disturbances to the environment and increase social awareness by offering reforestation resources and training to local farmers. "This project offers a model for the development of Nicaragua's ecotourism industry, which holds great promise and is already growing," Mosbacher said. "Through its attention to the preservation of Nicaragua's environment, it will provide valuable lessons both to ecotourists and future tourism providers."

The Overseas Private Investment Corp. was established as an agency of the U.S. government in 1971.

It helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets, complements the private sector in managing risks associated with foreign direct investment, and supports U.S. foreign policy. Because the agency charges market-based fees for its products, it operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to taxpayers.

The Corea Group carries the name of Guillermo Corea, and the company's Web site says that the inspiration for the project was the famous Lapa Rios ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

However, the Web site also says that the company needs and is seeking $300,000 more investment to come up with 50 percent of the cost of the project. .

Jo Stuart
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