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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 227          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A guest editorial from a reader
Pretty public buildings but the service lags
By Robbie Felix*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Regarding the $20 million dollar price tag to fix up the old aduana building as a cultural center:

It is a disgrace really to drive around San José and see the buildings and the great expense put into them by many public agencies.

The most notable, in my opinion, is the new Instituto Costarricense de Turismo building near the Best Western Irazu. That building is recently inhabited by the ICT, which has shown itself to be a terrible waster of money. Meanwhile just a few moments after, one passes Hospital México, a disaster, an ugly eyesore. I think the stark contrast is sad, especially after the recent fires at Hospital Calderón Guardia where many lost their lives.

The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados has a gorgeous new building
in Pavas, and the infrastructure of the water management company throughout Costa Rica is old, inadequate and poorly maintained.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad always has a lot of new buildings. Yet, until recently, they have failed to keep the infrastructure in good repair, the Internet services are extremely inadequate and their overall service record is not well-regarded.

I think it is time the government established it's priorities. How they can expect anyone to support the fiscal reforms is a joke. They so poorly manage the funds they have and then they throw it in our faces with these expensive buildings while their basic services do not improve much.

I for one would like to see a whole lot more attention on service and a whole lot less on buildings for bureaucrats.

* Robbie Felix is a hotel owner in Quepo- Manuel Antonio

Nation is short $51 million to repair roads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Repairing hurricane damage to roads and bridges will cost some 28 billion colons ($57 million), and President Abel Pacheco is counting on the proposed new tax plan to pay much of the cost. Otherwise the country does not have the funds to do the job.

The estimate of damage came Tuesday from Randall Quirós, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes. Some 41 cantons have been affected by the hurricanes Rita and Stan. These districts are mainly on the Pacific coast or in the Pacific coast of Guanacaste, said Alejandro Molina, director of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which is in charge of the roads in the ministry headed by Quirós.

Quirós said he has asked other agencies and institutions of government to shift any spare funds into the road repair project because his ministry is short some $25 billion colons ($51 million).

The two officials said that the first step will be an extensive program of resurfacing with asphalt that will increase security.
Fixing the roads is considered a major necessity for the coming high tourist season.

Needed are some 20 billion colons ($40 million) for roadways swept away or damaged by the flooding. Also needed are some 2.6 billion colons ($5.3 million) for storm and sanitary sewers destroyed by the floods, some 3.3 billion colons ($6.7 million) to repair and rebuild bridges and 3.1 billion colons ($6.3 million) for dikes and other water channeling structures.

Although the Pacheco administration has been accused of deliberately neglecting the roads in order to pressure the legislature to pass the tax plan, there is no doubt that the hurricanes caused extensive damage to the already weakened road system.

Pacheco, who was present at the press conference with Quirós and Molina, lamented that the tax plan has been in the Asamblea Legislativa for more than two years. It would raise $500 million a year in new taxes. The president urged lawmakers to approve the plan as quickly as possible, calling the road situation a crisis.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Second news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 227

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New low-pressure spot
means even more rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has been monitoring a low-pressure system off the Caribbean Coast which forecasters say will cause a rainy weekend.  Currently, the institute sees no threat of the system turning into a tropical storm or hurricane, it said.

The system is moving slowly north and is starting to dump rain on the Caribbean and northern zone, forecasters said.  Tuesday night, forecasters were saying that the intermittent rain would vary in intensity throughout the evening and this morning. 

Conditions should stay the same for most of today.  In the afternoon, the Central and Southern Pacific Coast could expect similar rains, the institute said. 

The Central Valley and Northern Pacific Coast should expect little rain but moderate winds, the institute said. 

Forecasters are expecting rain throughout the country for the rest of the week. 

Big project in Golfito
has not broken ground

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Coral Gables, Fla. developer is planning a $125 million series of resorts for Golfito.  The project, which was supposed to break ground in September but hasn't yet, is scheduled to be done by 2013. 

The developer, Coastal Systems Inc. plans three sister resorts: the Marina Pedestrian Village, the Exclusive Island Resort and the Altos de Golfito American Island Community. 

According to the company, the marina concession has been approved and phase one of the project, which involves 70 slips and facilities for the marina as well as 50 condo units was supposed to break ground in September.

The Marina Pedestrian Village will consist of several components centered around the original banana boat pier on 43 acres of titled, concessionary and reclaimed land, the company said. This village is planned to include a 200-slip marina, private cruise ship pier, 420 condo and hotel units, 250 guest rooms, as well as retail and entertainment space.

The Exclusive Island Resort is the first of that name to be developed in Costa Rica, the company said. The 187-acre resort should be 10 minutes by boat from the Marina Pedestrian Village. The resort will consist of a five-star, 120 room hotel, a 200-slip marina, 95 marina condo units and 80 tree-top villas, the company said.

Altos de Golfito American Zone Community will be a single-family residential district built on 15 acres overlooking the airport and the former management homes within the historical American zone, the company said.

240 kilos of cocaine
seized in Pérez Zeledón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Pérez Zeledón seized 240 kilos of cocaine early Tuesday morning that agents believe was destined for the United States, they said. The amount is 528 pounds.

At the organization office in Corredores, agents said they received an anonymous tip that a white Suzuki Sidekick in Pérez Zeledón was carrying a large quantity of cocaine.

At 2 a.m., agents said they found a car matching a description in the place indicated and arrested the two Costa Ricans inside.  They were 35-year-old Carlos Rojas Arias and 28-year-old Rigoberto Fuentes González, agents said. 

In the car, agents said they found 240 packets of cocaine, weighing in at a kilo each.  They also found a 30-30-caliber rifle and a .380-caliber pistol, agents said. 

After a long search, agents said they arrested a third suspect, 40-year-old José Luís Ramirez Riveros of Colombia at 5:30 a.m. Agents said they found Ramirez near the Polideportivo de San Isidro. 

Agents believe the cocaine had passed through Panama from Colombia and was in route to the United States, they said.   

Governance of Internet
tops off U.S. summit

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

How to finance more equal access to information technology and how the Internet should be governed are among the more contentious issues to be tackled at a United Nations summit opening this week in Tunis, Tunisia, which expects to draw about 11,000 participants, from heads of States to representatives of the private sector and civil society. 

The World Summit on the Information Society, which aims to bridge the “digital divide,” the wide gap in access to information technologies between affluent and poor communities, will hold its second phase for three days in Tunis starting today.

In preparation for this phase, the Economic Commission for Africa held the African Regional Preparatory Conference in Accra, Ghana, in February, drawing over 2,000 African experts in Information and Communications Technology. They held discussions on an African-led roadmap for communication development on the continent.

In Tunis, African delegates will meet again to fine-tune the plan.  Parallel events, including high-level panel discussions, aim to prescribe specific steps towards bridging the digital divide around the world.  The first phase the summit took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from Dec. 10 to 12, 2003, when 175 countries adopted a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action toward more equal access to information technology.
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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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A.M. Costa Rica

Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 227

Problems with overfishing blamed on government
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Quepos fishermen are angry and frustrated with the Costa Rican government's management and control of commercial fishing off the country's coasts.

Jesse Baletti has fished for a living most of his life.  As a kid, his family ran charter-fishing expeditions off the coast of New York.  Then, for 22 years, he caught king crab in the unforgiving waters off the coast of Alaska.  He moved to Quepos 13 years ago where he has run sport fishing operations ever since.  His current operation, Wave Dancer Charters, is catch-and-release only.  Wave Dancer uses circle hooks, he said.  These hooks function in such a way that if the fish swallows the bait, most of the time the bait will fly out of the fish's mouth and the hook will catch in the jaw.  This allows the fisherman to release the fish relatively unharmed, Baletti said.   

“Costa Rica has the same problem the United States used to have,” he said.  Throughout his life as a fishermen in the United States he saw the effect of unchecked harvesting on the ocean's ecosystem.  He's beginning to see it here too.

“10 years ago, I would see 25 to 50 sailfish a day following the teasers we would string behind the boat,” Baletti said.  Last year the most he saw in one day was 18.  A normal day is eight or nine, he said.

“These sailfish are the biggest of their kind in the world,” he said.  “They are a species among themselves.”

As a king crab fisherman in Alaska, Baletti said that the threat began when the government allowed boats with on-board processors to go out.  These boats could catch under-sized and female crabs, process them and cook them in the relative obscurity of the open ocean and no one would ever know.  The government caught onto this and began regulating it.  He said similar measures are needed in Costa Rica.  

“If there's no fish to filter the water, the ocean turns to green slime,” he said.

Baletti said the problem is the lack of regulation.  One reason may be the fact that until only six years ago, no market existed for sailfish or marlin.  Then, the commercial companies found a market and the species began their decline.

He related a story from two weeks ago when, on a jaunt to Puntarenas to have his boat engines maintained, he passed by a group of men hacking slabs off two majestic 400-pound sailfish.

“And they were selling them cheap,” he said.  Afterwards, he fell into conversation with two commercial fishermen in a local restaurant.
“How's the fishing?” Baletti asked.

“We're wackin' 'em out by Flamingo and Samara,” the fishermen answered.

“Whatcha catchin'?”

“Marlin and sailfish.”

Another problem is the lack of enforcement.  The current law says that it is illegal for commercial fishermen to fish within 40 miles of the coast, he said.  But this is almost never enforced.   A strike Friday of the commercial long-liners was the direct result of authorities beginning to enforce the law, said many sport fishermen.

By Saturday, the strike was resolved and at least one sport fishing captain, Dave Dobbins of Fish LaManta, said that commercial fishermen had returned to their normal routine of fishing inside the protected zone. 

Baletti agrees.  Besides unchecked commercial fishing, gill-netting is having an enormous effect on the ecosystem, he said.

Gill-netters started putting up shacks on the river mouth about eight years ago, he said.  They string nets across the river mouth that kill everything going up or down the river.

“The government lets this happen unchecked,” he said.  If the government were to install a fish and wildlife department similar to that of the United States, the long-liners would have another means of making a living, Baletti said.  The long-liners could use their boats to be game wardens he said. 

Baletti believes that Costa Rica could also reap a huge financial benefit from more strict regulation.  Baletti figures that each sailfish earns approximately $2,000 for the Costa Rican economy if one figures in plane tickets, hotel rooms, food, alcohol and tour prices, that a given fishermen spends to reel in a catch. 

“And they're reusable if they are released,” he said.  By the same standards, Baletti estimates that a marlin fetches $10,000 for the economy. 

To a commercial fishermen, a sailfish is worth about $25, said Baletti.  A marlin goes for approximately 40 cents a pound, he said.   But for Baletti the most tragic loss would be that of the species themselves. 

“Sailfish have a migratory route of only about 800 miles,” he said.  Otherwise, these giant fish being caught in Costa Rica would be prevalent throughout the world.  They're not.

“Marlin have a memory like a caveman.  They may travel 5,000 miles in two years and always come back to the same breeding ground.” 

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?

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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. 16, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 227


Trafficking monitor sees advances in combatting ills
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Western Hemisphere has come a very long way in the last few years in addressing the problem of human trafficking, according to John Miller, director of the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

In prepared remarks for delivery Tuesday at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., Miller said the hemisphere is now much more active than in previous years in fighting the human trafficking problem, which he likened to modern-day slavery.

"When I came to the State Department three years ago, the issue was in its infancy.  We are seeing so much more recognition and activity" against trafficking, Miller told the bank audience.

The official singled out the actions of Brazil, in particular, in combating labor trafficking.

"Brazil has been especially diligent and productive in this regard.  It is a world leader in identifying labor victims, especially in agriculture," said Miller.

However, Miller said he is concerned that a State Department "Tier 2 watch list" contains a number of Western Hemisphere countries that are weak in prosecuting human trafficking.  Those countries are Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua and Surinam. 

The main purpose of this watch list is to "stimulate action, not make a comparative list of who's up and who's down," said Miller.  "We make each recommendation based on the minimum standards described in the law, not as a function of politics."

Miller said that in recommending follow-up action, the State Department looks at three facets of the anti-trafficking fight -- prosecution, prevention and protection.

"My message -- in every country I visit and with every dignitary I meet with -- is that each part of this three-part approach is essential," Miller said.

The Western Hemisphere needs to give extra attention to four broad areas of the human trafficking phenomenon, said Miller.  Those areas, he said, are the explosion of child prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation, the many faces of the migration
issue and the frequency with which human smuggling turns into human trafficking, the fact that state corruption often facilitates human trafficking and the need to encourage non-governmental involvement in the solution because private organizations are often essential in victim protection.

Miller said the U.S. government estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across borders around the world each year, and between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States yearly.  Millions more are trafficked within their own countries, he added.

On the positive side, Miller said that in recent years, governments and citizens and nongovernmental organizations have begun to awaken to the problem of human trafficking.  Worldwide, the number of trafficking-related convictions has increased to more than 3,000 in 2004, and new legislation to combat human trafficking was approved in 39 countries, he said.

"We need your dedication and energy and patience," Miller told the the bank audience.  He added that the U.S. government "can engage governments, we can seek to educate people around the world, but the fight to end modern slavery" depends on the involvement of nongovernmental organizations, regular citizens, individual diplomats, businesspeople and others -- "all of us committed to the new abolition movement" of ending human trafficking.

One of the tools to combat human trafficking is the Trafficking in Persons Report mandated by the U.S. Congress since 2000. Among Western Hemisphere countries, there are, according to the U.S. Department of State:

-- Two Tier 1 countries: Colombia and Canada.

-- Twelve countries on Tier 2: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay.

-- Six countries on Tier 2 Watch List: Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Surinam.

-- Three countries on Tier 3: Cuba, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

-- Bolivia and Jamaica started on Tier 3 but took significant steps to avoid sanctions and were raised to Tier 2 by President George Bush in September.

Court in Chile refuses to set free former Peruvian president Fujimori
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chilean court has rejected a second request to free former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who was arrested at Peru's request when he arrived in Chile last week.

The Santiago Court of Appeals Tuesday turned down the motion made by a private citizen, whose connection to the case was not clear. This means the former president will remain under arrest.

Fujimori fled to Japan and faxed his resignation letter
 to Peru in the midst of a corruption scandal five years ago. He was arrested when he traveled to Chile last week. If returned to Peru, he faces charges of corruption and of authorizing death squads.

Japan's foreign ministry said Tuesday that Peru has withdrawn its ambassador to Tokyo, after a Japanese consular official visited Fujimori in detention.

Lima views the move as interference in Mr. Fujimori's extradition process, but Tokyo insists it is not treating the former president differently than any other of its nationals.

Woman leads in race for president, polls in Santiago report
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — The latest public opinion polls here show socialist Michelle Bachelet still leads the presidential race and stands a good chance of becoming the nation's first female president.

A poll released Tuesday showed Ms. Bachelet's support among registered voters has dropped from 45 to 39 percent in the past two months, but she is still well ahead of her competitors.
Conservative candidate Sebastian Pinera mustered support from 22 percent of those polled. Another conservative, Joaquin Lavin, took 21 percent, while leftist Tomas Hirsch garnered only 3 percent.

If one candidate does not get more than half the votes in December's election, a January runoff will be held.

Today's results, taken from a survey of some 1,500 registered voters, predict Ms. Bachelet would win in a runoff with her competitors.


Jo Stuart
About us

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