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(506) 2223-1327         Published  Friday, Nov. 12, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 224            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Nicaragua digs mini channel to bring river to sea
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Friday at 9 p.m.

Late word from northern Costa Rica reports that Nicaraguan workers have dug a small ditch from a bend in the Río San Juan to the Caribbean coast in Costa Rican territory.

The ditch is just two or three shovelfuls wide, but local observers expect the hydraulic power of the river to blow out a new river mouth during the late November and December rainy season there.

Nicaragua is expected to claim the land north of the river once the new channel creates itself. International treaties set the international boundary at the south bank of the river.

Residents in the area have had experience before with the power of the Río San Juan and the Río Colorado. A small opening is enough for the force of the water to enlarge a channel dozens of feet wide and dozens of feet deep.
The reports said that the ditch was dug where Nicaragua workers had cut down trees several weeks ago.

There was no report from Costa Rica, which is believed to have the area under observation.

The work appears to have been going on while the complaint of Costa Rica was being considered in the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States. That body met today but there was no resolution to Costa Rica's complaint that Nicaragua had invaded Costa Rican land.

Nicaragua, perhaps with the help of other countries, is attempting to improve access to the river. An Israeli newspaper said that Venezuela and Iran are helping in an effort to create a transoceanic canal to rival the one in Panamá.

Costa Rica, which does not have an army, has declined to confront the Nicaraguan invaders and has taken the case to the hemispheric body.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Mercedes military trucks pass through Margarita on the southern Caribbean coast Thursday
Isla Calero deadline passes with no Tico action
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Organization of American States Thursday delayed a hearing on Nicaragua's land grab at the mouth of the Río San Juan and decided to meet today instead. The meeting will be at 3 p.m. Washington, D.C., time.

The delay was described as giving more time for negotiations. Costa Rica had given Nicaragua until Thursday afternoon to remove its soldiers from Costa Rica's Isla Calero. Nicaragua also was urged by José Miguel Insulza, the organization's secretary general, Tuesday to pull out the troops.

Costa Rica does not have the means to enforce its deadline demand against elements of the Nicaragua army. Armed police are stationed in nearby Barra del Colorado. Costa Rica has no army.

The location is in northeast Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, said that the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border situation was a trial balloon by the creators of a plan to build a new canal in Latin America. The article written by Shlomo Papirblatt, cited unidentified Latin American sources. It said the border incident is a sign of "an ambitious plan by Venezuela, Iran and Nicaragua to create a 'Nicaragua Canal' linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that would rival the existing Panama Canal."

Haaretz is considered the country's most influential daily and probably has access to government intelligence sources.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Thursday that such a canal would be expensive but not as expensive as the $3 billion expansion project being done in Panamá now. However, A.M. Costa Rica had no information on Iranian support of Nicaragua in the Isla Calero land grab.

This newspaper said Thursday: "The activity there has been disguised as a dredging operation, but the real motive is to punch a channel through the Isla Calero to the Caribbean sea so that vessels have rapid access to the river."

A.M. Costa Rica's associate editor, Saray Ramírez Vindas, expressed surprise Thursday when she encountered a convoy of military trucks in Margarita, near the Costa Rica-Panamá international border on the Caribbean coast. The vehicles were heading north. They were Mercedes trucks suitable for troop transport or movement of supplies. The drivers wore civilian clothes, she said.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública confirmed later that the six vehicles crossed from Panamá into Costa Rica with Nicaragua as a destination. The ministry said that the vehicle paperwork was checked twice and everything was in order. The ministry said the vehicles, which had been stopped in Limón, could continue their travels.

The vehicles came from Germany and were unloaded in Panamá.

The use of the convoy saves the cost of transporting the vehicles through the Panamá Canal and up the Pacific coast to Nicaragua.

Ortega uses tested propaganda techniques to lie
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The invasion of Costa Rica by Nicaragua is far from over, but Daniel Ortega and his aides clearly are the winners of the propaganda war.

Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, has been able to frame the invasion of the Isla Calero as a border dispute to avoid the international condemnation that would follow a military maneuver against a country that does not have an army,

An analysis of the news

Ortega and his advisers also have raised the specter of drug trafficking to justify putting Nicaragua troops on Costa Rican soil. His campaign got help because Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said very little for days, and the invaded country looked to international organizations for help.

Joseph Goebbels, the Reich minister of propaganda, could have done no better, and it appears Ortega is following vintage propaganda techniques carefully. Gobbles used them, we know from his diary. The Soviets were masters. And the North Vietnamese and Chinese are the successful students. Not to mention the Cuban Communists and the lapdog Prensa Latina.

Ortega had to move fast because the Isla Calero clearly is Costa Rican soil, and his dredging overseer did not hide efforts to cut down trees and
dump river sediment on Costa Rica soil. So Ortega adopted the big lie, the technique of telling a big untruth so frequently that people believe it.

One such lie was that the operation was to clear the river of sediment. The real purpose is to put a new direct route from the Caribbean to the river by putting a channel through Costa Rican land.

Then there was the evidence: An incorrect google map found online.

And the stall technique: An offer to negotiate and much discussion about fixing the boundaries along the Río San Juan.

Ortega even brought the country's legislators to the river in a special meeting to validate his territorial claims. The bandwagon technique.

Every successful piece of propaganda has a kernel of truth, and the Río San Juan boundary has been controversial for more than a century. Plus there is deep prejudice against the wealthier Costa Rica among the average Nicaraguans.

But it also helps that Costa Rica made little effort to counter the propaganda coup until Wednesday when Ms. Chinchilla bemoaned the lack of international action in the face of an invasion. Ortega created so much smoke and mirrors that it is not clear to leaders of other countries that the issue is not a boundary dispute. Except those leaders who know Ortega and those like him.

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Our reader's comments
Fishing lodge operator
says Barra open for fishing

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I wanted to let you know that unless they have changed the rule again in the last hour, there has been great confusion in the Costa Rican press about the Barra del Colorado airport.  I am a commercial instrument pilot and flew out of Barra in a private charter Tuesday.  The airport is in a restricted area which allows private charters in and out with advance flight plan.  The disputed island land is in a prohibited area which is a no-fly zone for public safety. It is a long way from Barra and the Rio Colorado Lodge.
We want all of our fishing customers to know that the Rio Colorado Lodge is open for business.  The fat snook (Calba) have arrived early this season and are there now and that the tarpon fishing is wide open river and ocean.  We are 3.5 hours away from the border dispute by river and an hour by ocean.  The large police group in Barra is there only because it is the closest airport to the frontier.  We have never been safer. Our three town robbers are afraid to go to work with all the police hanging around the airport. 

Rio Colorado is providing ice for the police, doing some laundry for the officers and using our fumigation equipment to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  We  have 100 smiley face Tico police in our town playing army, giving the local kids cookies and pops.  If you remember Barney Fife, Sheriff Andy's deputy with his bullet in his pocket with his trusty pistol rusted in his holster, you can multiply that times 100 and get the picture.
Fish is good and the photo ops are super, so come on up and catch a fish and be a part of history.  Flying direct is not a problem.  Thank you for letting your readers know the situation here.  Our great staff is here waiting for the fishermen.
Dan Wise
Archie Field's Rio Colorado Lodge
Barra del Colorado

New Web site discusses
doing business in Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The parent company of A.M. Costa Rica has launched a new Web site where Costa Rican business owners and managers can share information and discuss common problems.

The site is, and the first postings discuss keeping track of visitors to commercial Web sites and also recent news developments on business themes.

Business operators are invited to submit articles, and a mailing list will be established over the weekend.

Nicaragua gets tourism loan
for Grenanda and San Juan

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nicaragua will improve tourism offerings in San Juan del Sur and Granada with a $10 million loan by the Inter-American Development Bank.

The loan will finance restoration and improvements of tourism resources in both areas as well as training and technical assistance to micro-, small- and medium-sized companies to improve the quality of services provided for tourists. It will also support measures to improve the planning and management capabilities of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute, the country’s leading tourism agency.

The project is designed to increase average daily foreign tourists spending by more than 35 percent in San Juan and more than 25 percent in Granada, allowing local firms to double the number of formal tourism jobs, a move that will contribute to increase household income and reduce poverty in both locations.

In San Juan del Sur, the Inter-American Development Bank will support the development of a cultural and leisure center; the restoration and improvement of the coastal promenade; construction of overlooks, bicycle paths and pedestrian walks along a new scenic coastal route as well as finance the reconstruction of the legendary Ruta del Oro between San Juan del Sur and La Virgen.

In Granada, one of the oldest colonial cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, the project will finance the restoration of the historic center; highlight elements of the local history and culture, and upgrade the boardwalk and small docks that serve as points of departure for tours to Lake Nicaragua.

The loan will also help finance sustainable management of tourist areas with adaptation to climate change and natural disaster risk management in coastal areas. In particular, it will include investments for land and urban planning, sustainable management of beaches, and promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the sector.

At the truism agency, the loan will also help finance the redesign and the update of the system of registration, rating, control and inspection of tourism businesses.

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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 224

Latigo K-9

Nation slowly continues to repair extensive storm damage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country continues to dig out and make repairs in what has been described as the biggest disaster in 13 years.

Some 16 highways remain closed. Agriculture is heavily damaged and many are homeless.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that 1,169 persons continue to be housed in public shelters. That is far less than the 4,000 who were housed at the peak of the emergency. The number of shelters has been reduced to 29 from 86.  Some have no where to go.

The emergency commission said that 2,626 homes were damaged as were 439 stretches of roads. Some 85 bridges collapsed or are is such bad condition they cannot be used. The death toll stands at 28, mostly from the landslide that buried homes in San Antonio de Escazú early last Nov. 4.
The Judicial Investigating Organization has a list of seven persons who have not been seen since the storm began.

The Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo donated $200,000 to help with the emergency and the U.S. Embassy put up $50,000. There were crews and aircraft from Panamá, Colombia and Guatemala.

The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social said it had transferred 32 million colons (about $632,000) to 93 families that suffered losses in one of the 29 affected cantons.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that 90 per cent of the damaged areas had been fixed. At one place,  Playón de Quepos, workers had to put in 1.4 kilometers of new line that had been destroyed by the four days of storms last week. That's more than three quarters of a mile.

Repair crews will be working through the weekend at locations in Los Santos, Acosta, Parrita, Quepos,
Dominical, Palmar Norte and Buenos Aires. The major problem the crews have is access, the company said.

The company also reported that 99 percent of the cell towers were now in operation. Many had been damaged in the storms.

Much of the damage was in the central Pacific. The company said that some 800 customers remain without telephone or Internet service in Parrita, Manuel Antonio and Bijugual.

The company said that there were 4,819 electrical outages attributed to the storm, 5,141 telephone and Internet outages and 174 cell towers knocked out. Not all Costa Ricans are serviced by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, so there have been many more outages on lines of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz S.A., the Heredia utility provider and the various electrical cooperatives around the country.

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, S.A. said that five electrical generating plants suffered damage. They are west of the metro area. The Nuestro Amo and Ventanas plants suffered major damage. The plants are insured, the company noted.

As to its electric customers, the company said that Vista de Mar de Goicoechea, Bajo Los Anonos, Bello Horizonte in Escazú. Ciudad Colón, Tarbaca, Aserrí, San Juan de Dios de Desamparados and Cascajal suffered the most damage.  Bajo Los Anonos still is out of service because the storm carried away all the electrical infrastructure, the company said.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is working hard to restore the vital Interamericana Sun that was cut in a handful of places and landslides. That represents part of the 250 kilometers (155 miles) of roads that have been closed.

The ministry said that work continues on the Costanera Sur along the central Pacific but that the road is open for those who need to travel to the southern zone or to Panamá.

More San José jewels found on a north side hike
Not long ago I wrote how lucky Costa Rica was because it was protected from the ravages of nature, the Central Valley being the most blest.  Since then we have been clobbered by rains and winds and then Tropical Storm Tomas.  There are many people who have lost family members and their homes and desperately need help. Pride in anything, it seems, comes before the fall. I will be more careful in my boasting in the future.  Making matters worse is the unseasonable drop in the temperatures.  Very few buildings have heat.

So perhaps it is a good time to consider joining the throngs of people in San José and hope the combined energy will keep us all warm (at least those of us who are lucky enough to get downtown.)

Restaurants open and close with regularity in San José, but there are some that have been around for a long time – and with good reason: They have what restaurants should have: good food, good service and pleasant ambiances at reasonable prices.  One that most people know about and have enjoyed for years is Tin Jo on Calle 11.  Tin Jo serves dishes from just about every Asian cuisine and has maintained its quality for over 20 years.

Another, perhaps less well-known, is Café Mundo on the corner of Avenida 9, right on the edges of barrios Otoya and Amón.  Café Mundo serves a continental cuisine with an emphasis on Italian dishes.  The food is usually excellent, and the wine generous. It has the added charm of outdoor dining on a patio about eight feet above the street.

Upon leaving Barrio Amón, walk downhill from Café Mundo to Calle 5 and turn left.  Go uphill to Avenida 7 and right behind the Holiday Inn is an art gallery that specializes in Costa Rican art. (And I have forgotten its name!  But go in.) Then turn onto Calle 5, which runs alongside the hotel.  On the right hand side is an open door front into Mora Books.  I suggest you go there after lunch because it is a mess of books stacked every which way, in shelves on the floor, on the counter.  It is not a very appetizing place, but you can find some reading treasures there.  They also will give you credit for your own once-read books.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

If you are looking for a clean, well-lit place with new
books, try Seventh Street Book Store.  Walk through Parque Morazán, exit through the middle gate which will put you on Calle 7.  Go straight ahead, cross at the light and go down about three stores on the left side and there is 7th Street Bookstore. All is orderly and clean.

If you continue down Calle 7 you will come to Avenue Central, a pedestrian boulevard.  Join the crowd and enjoy the window shopping. If you walk west on the avenue towards the clock in the intersection, you will come to the Plaza de la Cultura where, if it is a holiday or just a nice day, there will be clowns twisting balloons for the children chasing pigeons and perhaps some Peruvian musicians playing their upbeat music, or maybe a mime. If you go into Pops Ice Cream on the corner, you can exit (for a fee) holding one of their very rich ice cream cones then enjoy the festivities with something in common with the rest of the onlookers.  Although I can do without the pigeons, watching the children is great fun.

 At this point you may discover that you are tired and would like to spend the night in San José so you can do more exploring tomorrow.  The last time my son visited me he said he was not going to ride the bus with me anymore. His legs are too long and he would like to spend more time in San José.  We went to look at the rooms in Casa Alfi. If you go past the Teatro Nacional and cross the street, going south you are on Calle 3.  Casa Alfi is on Calle 3 between avenidas 4 and 6.  We both liked the rooms and the prices: $30 for a single and $40 for a double for bed and breakfast.  The phone is (506) 2221-2102. There is not a more ideal location in the heart of the city. And you will be doubly in luck if there happens to be a performance at the national theater that evening and tickets are available.

Del Rey accommodations

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 224

Get the reindeer! San Ramon's portal contest is coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas is coming quickly. The Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer in San Ramón announced its annual portal contest Thursday.

The portal is the nativity scene, usually Joseph, Mary and Child with shepherds, wise men and animals thrown in.

This is the 11th annual contest run by the center, and the judging of contestants' home nativity scenes will take place from Dec. 7 to 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The scenes will be graded on creativity, organization, conservation of traditional elements and the degree of
difficulty in building the scene, said the center. Contestants have to enroll with the center. More information is on the Web site.

Prizes will be awarded Dec. 18.

At Christmas most homes and many public offices have nativity scenes. They range from the low-budget to the elaborate. Among the most popular is one put up by the Teatro Nacional each year. The inauguration of the display usually is in the first week of December, and each year workers there try to create an unexpected theme.

One year it was a rainforest nativity scene with large plastic tree trunks.

Latin tax reform linked to low-carbon development

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The urgent need to close equality gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean should be complemented by the imperative of attaining low-carbon sustainable development.

That was the view expressed by the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. She is Alicia Bárcena and she was speaking this week in Germany.

Public finances in Latin America have a chronic weakness that is reflected in a low tax burden (combined with high levels of tax evasion and avoidance), a regressive tax structure and a heavy dependence on a specific resource for tax collection (copper, oil, agricultural and livestock exports), she said. Diverse demands compete for public resources, producing constant tension among the different options of public spending, according to the head of the commission, a U.N. agency.
Ms. Bárcena stated that for Latin America, green fiscal reform "is a serious challenge but also a new opportunity to combine the establishment of solid fiscal foundations with environmental preservation, as long as this can be adequately combined with greater investment in critical areas such as infrastructure, which could generate decent jobs with environmental sustainability. This will depend, undoubtedly, on financing, investment and technological innovation".

"A better design of public finances that may expand the margins for environmental security as well as for attaining the imperative of social welfare requires using the opportunities of taxation in sectors such as energy, transportation, urban development and infrastructure in general," she said.

This undertaking faces the political challenge of taxation, she added, which has to do with interest groups and privileged economic groups in a high-carbon development path. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 224

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U.S. beefs up air cargo rules
in wake of Mideast bomb plot

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

British police say a cargo bomb found on board a plane originating from Yemen last month was timed to explode while the plane was over the United States.  The incident has led to air cargo rules that could significantly affect businesses.

Scotland Yard issued a statement saying a forensic examination of an explosive device taken off a plane in central England shows it would have detonated while in flight.

Aviation analyst Chris Yates says the likely plan was for it to explode over the United States. 

"If these devices hadn't been stopped in motion, then they would have detonated somewhere over the eastern seaboard of the United States," said Yates.

Analysts say the bomb was disguised as a printer toner cartridge and was detected only because of an intelligence tip.

Because the explosive was odorless and colorless and looked much like toner ink, and the electronics were similar to those in a normal printer cartridge, regular security screening would not have identified it.

Since the plot was discovered, the United States, Britain, France and Germany have suspended flights from Yemen.

Analyst Chris Yates says additional security measures are preventing cargo from being shipped from Yemen and Somalia.

"We have instigated an enhanced screening regime on cargo, air freight coming from places like Pakistan, India and so forth and that's about as much as we can do at the moment," said Yates.

Shipping agents and representatives here in Britain were reluctant to discuss on the record new air security rules being introduced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  But documents obtained by news agencies state that new regulations will ban air shipments to the United States of all elevated risk cargo.  That includes personal effects and household goods, shipments paid for with cash, check or cash-on-delivery, or from a company that does not have an existing account with the shipper.

Federal Express spokeswoman Sandra Munoz read from a prepared statement and would not comment on how the regulations might affect businesses.

"FedEx has extensive measures in place; we're always enhancing our capabilities," said Munoz.  "But our first priority must always be to focus on tactics that are effective."

Munoz said cargo security relies on close cooperation between the private sector and government security agencies.

Aviation analyst Chris Yates says European businesses are at a disadvantage.  He says they bear most of the costs of security as opposed to businesses in the United States, where the government pays for security.  Yates points out that much of the world's air cargo is carried on passenger planes.

"There's a big debate going on between, for example, the United States and Europe as to how you can effectively screen every single piece of air freight for a passenger jet in the time that is available, in the space that is available.  It's a complex process," added Yates.

Early morning quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small earthquake took place today at 4:56 a.m. The epicenter appeared to be in the vicinity of Volcán Poás. There has been no official word, but seismographs at the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica captured the event. The early estimate of the magnitude was 2.9.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 224

Latin American news
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Carnival cruise ship in port
after being disabled by fire

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The disabled Carnival cruise line ship Splendor has been towed into the western U.S. port of San Diego, California after three days at sea without power.

Tug boats brought the roughly 300-meter ship into dock Thursday.  The U.S. Coast Guard escorted the ship.

Officials say it could take several hours to get the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew off the ship.

An engine fire early Monday cut the ship's power and set it adrift about 80 kilometers off Mexico's Pacific coast, leaving passengers and crew without air conditioning, hot water or regular phone service.

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, was on a training mission Tuesday in the area and was diverted to bring the disabled ship emergency food supplies.

The head of Carnival Cruise Lines says the engine fire that cut power and disabled the ship is the worst accident in the company's history.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill says the crew tried to make the best of the situation by providing free drinks and satellite phones for passengers to call their families.

Some stranded passengers reported sleeping on deck, and waiting in line several hours for food.

The cruise line says the passengers will receive a full refund, will have their travel expenses paid and will receive a future cruise of equal value.

Museum gets new director

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sandra Quiròs Bonilla, the director of the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural, has been named director of the Museo Nacional. She replaces Ana Patricia Fumero, who was suspended for her handling of a case involving archeological pieces.

Intersection being closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Municipal workers will close a key intersection Saturday and Sunday to fix a growing crack in the pavement. The location is the intersection of Calle 7 and Avenida 8.

The job is being done with fast-setting concrete by the firm Cemex de Costa Rica. The firm worked on the intersection several months ago, so the crack is its responsibility, municipal officials said.

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