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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 226          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
This is where the culture ministry wants to invest $20 million

Aduana project pricetag will be $20 million
By Selleny Sanabria Soto
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cultural ministry wants to convert the old customs building on Avenida 23 into a $20 million megacomplex complete with a 500-car underground garage.

Although the public knew that the ministry wanted to use the sprawling structure for cultural events since August 2003 when a private exposition company was kicked out, the scope of the plans were not made known until Monday.

The brick building is 215 meters (705 feet) long and 17.5 meters (57 feet) wide and is empty right now. It had been used for dance classes. Ministry officials say they want to make the center self-supporting by selling tickets to expositions and renting out spaces to culturally related enterprises.

Plans call for the construction of a new building within the shell of the customs house structure. The building is known in Spanish as the antigua aduana, using the word for old and customs. The building was designed to handle cargo that arrived by train from the coasts. The Estación al Atlantico is just west across Avenida 23. More recently it was called FERCORI after the Feria Internacional de Costa Rica, a firm that used the structure for expositions. The structure was built in 1891.

Guido Sáenz González, the culture minister, said that 70 percent of the cost will be born by the public budget. A law providing that and authorizing the project is awaiting approval in the Asamblea Legislativa. The project will remain under his ministry, the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

This is not the first time that the culture
ministry has taken over an historic building. The former factory of the national liquor monopoly east of Parque España houses offices, exposition areas and theaters.

About 30 percent of the cost will be born by private entities, according to the plan. The building already has been declared a national historic place.

Workmen already have replaced much of the slanted roof of the building, which contains 4,160 square meters, some 44,778 square feet. Some concrete work also has been done. The government of France is helping with architectural plans.

The restored aduana structure will be competition of sorts for a proposed convention center the government seeks to build west of San José.

Officials hope to get major construction started on the site in March, although still unclear is exactly from where the government's share of the money will come.

Officials have complained that there is not even enough money to fix the country's roads. And the Ministerio de Hacienda, the budgetary arm, has rejected plans for a $30 million office tower for the legislature as too costly.

The legislature is working under an order of eviction leveled on a number of structures in its complex around Castillo Azul on Avenida Principal by the health ministry, the Ministerio de Salud. The structures could not withstand an earthquake and are crawling with uninvited animals and insects.

It is likely that many of these projects depend on passage of the proposed new tax plan that is designed to raise $500 million more a year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 226

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Free trade opponents
plan a show of force

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the free trade treaty will take to the streets Thursday even though the multi-national trade pact appears to have enough votes for passage in the Asamblea Legislativa.

Thursday will be a showdown for Albino Vargas and the rest of the union leaders who oppose the agreement. Already they are making excuses for what might not be a major turnout. Vargas said recently that regional protests would take place in other cities distracting participants in his march.

Vargas is general secretary of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados which represents the unions whose members feel their jobs will be jeopardized by passage of the free trade treaty.

The protests seem to have lost a lot of steam since every other country involved in the treaty has passed the measure. Plus proponents of the agreement have mounted an extensive television campaign.

Also involved in the protest are organizations like the Movimiento Cívico Nacional, the Comisión Nacional de Enlace, the Magisterio en Acción and the Coordinadora de Unidad Sindical y Magisterial.

The protest Thursday will be centered at the Parque Central.

The free trade treaty is in the hands of the legislature where a vote probably will be delayed until at least next year.

The pact has entered into the presidential campaign with some candidates, including Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, saying the treaty needs to be renegotiated. Óscar Arias Sánchez, of the Partido Liberación Nacional, widely believed to be the front runner, supports the measure.

Treaty backers plan session

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pro Costa Rica, the organization that campaigns for the free trade treaty with the United States, plans a seminar Friday entitled "The TLC and its importance for the future of Costa Rica."

Specifically the impact on the consumer will be discussed, the group said in an invitation. Ernesto Grijalva, vice president-legal for Pricesmart, will be a principal speaker.

The session will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Hotel San José Palacio. More information is available at info@porcostarica.org or by telephone at 232-4567.

The agreement lowers trade barriers among the United States, El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Costa Rica has not approved the treaty, which takes effect for the rest of the nations Jan. 1.

Big Women's Club bazaar
will be Saturday in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Women's Club of Costa Rica is holding their biggest fundraiser of the year.  The club's annual bazaar is scheduled for Saturday at the Country Day School in Escazú.   The bazaar is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and end by 3 p.m. 

All profits are going to charity, primarily social services and scholarships, said Mary White with the club. 

“Unfortunately, there are more requests than money,” Ms. White said.  In the past, the organization has bought playground equipment, musical equipment for a school wishing to start a music program and cooking pots for missionaries among other items.  They donate to schools, handicap organizations and a little of everything else, Ms. White said. 

The club is planning many activities for the bazaar.  They will have what organizers say is the largest book sale in the country, donated clothes for sale, a new children's corner with activities for kids such as face painting, races, used toys, children's books and clothes.  They also plan to have a miniature international food court with baked goods and Tico specialties. In addition, there will be vendors hocking crafts, plants, edibles and more, the club said. 

The club hopes to make approximately 1.5 million colons ($3,049) to donate to its causes. 

Parmenio figure acquitted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man facing trial in the murder of radio commentator Parmenio Medina Pérez was acquitted of unrelated charges of kidnapping in the Tribunal de Juicio de Heredia Monday afternoon. A companion also was acquitted.

They are John Gilberto Gutiérrez Ramírez and Ronald Paniagua López. Gutiérrez, a Colombian, is accused of being a middleman in the transaction that led to hired guns killing the radio show host as he drove to his Heredia home in 2001.

In the case decided Monday, the two men were charged with kidnapping for profit in 2002. Also acquitted was a lawyer with the name of González who was accused of transferring the property of the two kidnap victims.

The trial in the Parmenio Medina case begins Dec. 6. Some 225 witnesses have been designated.

Patrolman wounded in city

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man with a gun in a bar on Avenida 10 early Monday fired and wounded Rogelio Vargas Otoya, a Fuerza Pública officer who came to investigate.

The man escaped after shooting the patrolman once in the chest, but police think they know who he is. The shooting happened about 5 a.m., officials said
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Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 226

Quepos commercial fishermen block docks in dispute
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A blockade of the Quepos fishing dock Friday by commerical fishermen had some local sportfishing operators angry and frustrated. 

“Some people lost a lot of money,” said captain Dave Dobbins of Fish LaManta.

Friday morning, Dobbins tried to go to the dock where he keeps his boat.  The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura has a booth on the main public road, Dobbins said.  Friday, commercial fishermen had blocked it off.  

“There was no way to get to my boat without swimming about two miles,” he said.  The fishermen had also blocked the river mouths that local fisherman use to get to the ocean.  Nobody could get out, Dobbins said.   

The root of their discontent was a law making it illegal to fish within 12 miles of a protected area of a national park, said Francisco Barrientos of High Tech SportFishing.

For years, the limit was three miles, said many operators.  Not long ago, the limit was extended to six miles from any protected environmental area, said Barrientos.  Four days before the strike, it was extended to 12 miles, Barrientos said. 

Edwardo Madrigal Vargas of the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura confirmed the law. 

Manuel Antonio National Park is just south of the town and Dobbins said that the real reason for the strike was the sudden enforcement of the law.

Chris Bernstel with Kinembe Sportfishing, agrees: “There are a lot of laws that aren't enforced,” he said. 

Even the less stringent law was regularly broken by commercial fishermen, Dobbins said.  But days before the strike, agents of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta, the coast guard, seized at least two boats, as well as all the equipment, said Barrientos.  The boats were returned, minus the equipment, Barrientos said.   

By Saturday, the dispute had been resolved and Blue Fin Sportfishing as well as other sportfishing operators were able to leave the dock as normal,
Ginnette Gondonneao, of Blue Fin said.  But some people lost a lot of money. 

“I had clients who had paid for four days,” Dobbins said.  Luckily, they had planned an off day and Dobbins took his clients surfing in Dominical.  Some operators had to pay their clients back when they weren't able to leave the dock and lost a lot of money.  A day of fishing can cost more than $1,000 at some tours. 

Though the law currently says that persons are only limited from fishing within 12 miles of the national parks, Dobbins said he has heard talk of the law being extended to the entire coast but he doesn't really care either way.  

He says that commercial fishing has so depleted the catch near shore within the last 10 years that he only takes his clients well offshore.  

Monday morning, the commercial fishermen were back to their normal routine of fishing well inside the protected zone, Dobbins said. 

“I guess the strike must have worked,” he said.  
Coastal zone management
topic of Nicoya seminar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Experts from throughout the country in fishing, tourism and cross-border management among others are scheduled to descend on Nicoya at the Centro Mesoamericano de Desarrollo del Trópico Seco at the Universidad Nacional campus in Nicoya.

The conference, “Gobernabilidad de las zonas marino costeras en Costa Rica,” is scheduled to run Wednesday through Friday. 

According to organizers, the objective is to analyze the management of development of marine coasts in Costa Rica and the politics that guide the development among others.

Participants will discuss several large themes: integrated, cross-border management of maritime zones, local development and marine coast management in Costa Rica, environmental vulnerability in the maritime zones of Costa Rica and economic development of these zones.  

Administrator at Czech Embassy shot by robbers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cerny Yorblukin, an administrator at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Pavas, hopped into his car parked at the embassy Monday morning. 

Before he could drive away, a bullet shattered the driver's side window and wounded Yorblukin's left arm, police said. 

His attackers descended upon the car, stole the $5,000 Yorblukin was carrying, and took off in a white Toyota Corolla, police said.

Yorblukin immediately called for help and the Fuerza
Pública was notified.  A short time later, officers located a car at the Clinica Solón Núñez de Hatillo matching the description Yorblukin had provided. 

After what officers described as an intense chase, they managed to pull the car over and arrest the three persons inside. 

The suspects were identified by the last names Carballo Madrigal, Monge Ureña and González Solano, officers said.  Police also found $5,000 and various firearms in the car, they said. 

Yorblukin was taken to Escazu's Hospital CIMA in stable condition, officers said.   

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Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
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You need to fill this space ASAP!

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Arias takes a dive in new commercial from Solís
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In sharp contrast to an otherwise boring political season, Óscar Arias Sánchez and Ottón Solís got into the ring Monday night and began slugging it out.

Alas, a real fight was not to be. The two round boxing match was just a commercial, and the results were fixed beforehand: Arias was going into the ropes.
The two candidates, despite an age and weight difference both seem to be in good shape. But the commercial featured persons wearing masks of the candidates.

The commercial gets high marks for creativity. The main message, the punch line if you would, was that Arias can be beaten if enough Solís supporters got to the polls in February. Polls show Arias is the frontrunner, and much of the electorate thinks the election is a done deal.

Number of foreign students in U.S. takes a dip
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States needs to do a better job of recruiting foreign students to American colleges and universities.  That's the assessment of a nonprofit group that tracks educational exchange programs.  The International Institute of Education says while growing numbers of U.S. students are studying abroad, fewer international students are coming to America.

The nonprofit group, Institute of International Education, says foreign students are still wary of studying in the United States because they think it is too difficult to meet visa requirements.  The vice president of the group, Peggy Blumenthal, says more work is needed to improve this image.

"There was a low period right after September 11th," she said.  "We're seeing the new enrollment starting to pick up again, but we need to keep working at it, because American universities have to get the message out very strongly that we do welcome international students and the State Department's improved visa regulations and visa processing have not really sunk into the consciousness of a lot of students."
The group's study shows that about 565,000 students enrolled in U.S. colleges last year. That's 1 percent less than the year before.  Ms. Blumenthal says reaching out more to foreign students could help stop the decline in enrollment.

"I think it's an information campaign we have to do and we also have to keep reaching out to international students and letting them know that they are welcome," she added.

Based on a survey of the 2003-2004 school year, the number of U.S. students enrolled in foreign universities grew 9.6 percent from the previous year. A total of 191,000 Americans studied abroad in that school year.

The Institute of International Education says Europe is the top choice for American students going overseas, attracting 61 percent of the students.

India is the number one country for sending students abroad, followed in order by China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Canada. Ms. Blumenthal says encouraging students to go abroad is important because the economy is becoming global.

Fox and Chávez clash as ambassadors are ordered back home
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela and Mexico are recalling each others ambassadors, amid an escalating dispute between the countries' presidents.  Venezuela has ordered the withdrawal of its ambassador to Mexico.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said on U.S. television Monday that his country would also recall its ambassador.  Fox said he will not accept verbal attacks made on him by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Chávez used his Sunday radio and television show to criticize Fox after last week's Summit of the Americas, saying Fox was the U.S. government's "cub" for supporting a U.S.-proposed Western Hemisphere free trade zone.

Today, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ali Rodríguez rejected Mexico's demand that Venezuela apologize for the comments.

Chávez is quickly emerging as the principal critic of the United States in the hemisphere.

Concern expressed for Cuban journalist who returned to hunger strike
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International concern is being raised about the health of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, who has been imprisoned in a Cuban jail since July 13.

He began a second hunger strike protesting his detention Nov. 3.

In a 10 statement Thursday, the Paris-based press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said Guerra is a contributor to the U.S.-government-run Radio Marti and to the U.S.-based Web sites Payolibre and Nueva Prensa Cubana.

In demanding Guerra's "immediate release" from jail, Reporters Without Borders said: "We are all the more concerned about this second hunger strike as he had only called off the preceding one a few days before and he was still very weak.  There are no serious grounds for holding him as all he did was describe what life is really like for Cubans."

Guerra was arrested in July while staging a fast, along with a dozen other dissidents, in protest against the
harassment he has undergone as an independent journalist and representative of a movement called the "Corriente Martiana" (José Martí Current), which defines itself as "patriotic, humanitarian and cultural," according to Reporters Without Borders.

Guerra's articles address social issues affecting the Cuban population, such as poverty and the lack of medical care.  According to Reporters Without Borders, Guerra had been harassed before his arrest by agents of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.  At the beginning of 2005, he had to leave his sister's home where he had been living after state security officials threatened to evict her if she continued to house Guerra.

Reporters Without Borders also reported that another journalist, Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero, has been transferred to a Cuban prison because she continued her journalistic activities in defiance of a court order issued by the Castro regime.

Gutiérrez, who was sentenced Aug. 9 to seven months of house arrest for "resisting the authorities" and for "civil disobedience," joined 24 other journalists currently imprisoned in Cuba.

Jo Stuart
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