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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 233
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

A preview of Central Valley passenger train service showed some serious problems.

A reporter found out Monday and Tuesday that the trip from the Pacific train station to either Pavas or Mall San Pedro took 40 to 50 minutes, much more than a similar trip in a taxi would take.

Theoretically the train leaves every hour. But the timetable is disrupted by crashes with cars. Vehicles parked near the tracks or buildings that nearly touch the passing train bring the speed down to a kilometer an hour.

See our full report BELOW!

Bill to protect women runs into a gender gap
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed law to protect women is running into problems in the Asamblea Legislative because some lawmakers think the measure is discriminatory against men.

One deputy, Miguel Huezo, said Tuesday that the measure is an attack against the human rights of men.

Woman could use the law against a spouse or an employer simply as revenge, he said, and then someone would have to decide between the word of a woman and the word of a man. He called the proposal extreme and dangerous.

Among other aspects the proposal would penalize the death of a woman the way 

deliberate murder is now — with some 20 to 35 years in prison. The measure also established categories of emotional violence and psychological violence with penalties of from six months to two years in prison.

Two Libertarians also expressed opposition to the measure in legislative floor debate Tuesday. One, Federico Malavassi, said the proposal has constitutional problems.

Deputy Joyce Zurcher, in response, said the measure should be approved. "This bill is absolutely necessary. We cannot continue permitting violence against women," she said.

Deputy Gloria Valerín said that with 18 deaths of women so far this year, the measure was an urgent one.

Public employees get a long vacation as a Christmas present
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employees will have another long Christmas vacation.

Fernando Trejos, minister of Trabajo y Seguridad Social, said Tuesday that those who work for the government will have the days Dec. 20 to Dec. 31 off.

That means the vacation will run from Dec. 17 to Jan. 3.

Employees of the judicial branch will get more time off. The courts and associated departments will close from midday Friday, Dec. 24, to reopen Monday, Jan. 17.

In all cases, essential services will be maintained.

In both cases, officials said the country would save money by applying the time to vacations and by not having to maintain buildings during the period.

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La Costanera, Quepos, Parrita, Manuel Antonio

Pacheco will travel
to earthquake zone

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco will visit the Quepos-Parrita earthquake zone Saturday, a week after a 6.2 magnitude quake hit.

Pacheco issued an emergency decree for certain areas of the country Tuesday, thereby allowing the spending of government funds and the transfer of money among ministries. Meanwhile, the estimate of loss from the earthquake exceeded $5 million with damage to highways and bridges set at $1.1 million.

Disaster areas include Aguirre, Parrita, Garabito and Guaycara in the Cantón of Golfito. The central canton of San José is included along with Escazú, Desamparados, Puriscal, Tarrazú, Aserrí, Mora, Goicochea, Alajuelita, Vásquez de Coronado, Acosta, Montes de Oca, Turrubares, Dota and León Cortés. 

Texan drowns in rapids.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Texan has drowned while whitewater rafting in Rio Reventazón, Limon. He was identified as Warner Joe McMurray, 64. Officials said he was on a vacation cruise with his wife and his cruise ship stopped in Limón for a day of recreation.

McMurray went whitewater rafting Sunday. He fell into the river at a point called Devils Elbow where he was swept away by the currents, said a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization. Attempts by other tourists who were also in the raft to rescue him failed. His body was recovered approximatley 12 kms. further down stream, official said. 

Letters from readers

Embassy lists tips
for emergency help

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Over the past couple of years, I have admired A.M. Costa Rica’s efforts to ensure that A.M. Costa Rica readers have access to safety information.  I hope you will find the following information useful.  It covers three issues: emergency situations, general safety information, and how to reach the U.S. Embassy in an emergency. 

Emergency situations: 

The U.S. Embassy has posted on its website ( information sheets on emergency preparedness for locally-resident U.S. citizens. The series has thus far included information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency  on what to do before, during and after an earthquake, hurricane or volcanic eruption, as well as information from the Centers for Disease Control on protecting oneself and one’s family from dengue, malaria and other food, insect and airborne diseases. 

General safety information:

The U.S. State Department publishes consular information sheets for every country, in order to assist U.S. citizens in keeping themselves safe as they travel abroad.  U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad may want to review the updated consular information sheet for Costa Rica. This document and other safety information may be accessed on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in San Jose at or on the U.S. State Department’s website at

How to reach the U.S. Embassy in an emergency:

U.S. citizens who seek emergency assistance are encouraged to call the U.S. Embassy at 519-2000 during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays), or 220-3127 after business hours and on weekends.  These numbers may be found on the homepage of the Embassy website at, via the State Department website at (click on "U.S. Embassies and Consulates" in the left-hand margin), and by performing a Google search for the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica.

I hope that this information is useful!

Robin Morritz
Consul General
U.S. Embassy, San Jose
He discounts dictionary
for economic answers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest how Mr. Mattingly in his article "just say no to spending" believes all answers to international economic issues can be found in his Webster's (dictionary). I suppose this illumination should eliminate years of economic study being offered at our finest universities. How simple. 

After applying Mr. Mattingly's formula, I became perplexed, and admittedly a bit frustrated when looking up things like "the impact increased costs of imported goods, raw materials & oil costs have on domestic prices," or "how variations in currency exchanges affect prices," or "how natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, epidemics etc. impact labor pools, inhibit exports & impact prices," or "how situations like Mad Cow disease, Sars, Bird flu, Plagues, War etc. alter labor & food supplies & affect prices." Unfortunately, none of these issues were in my dictionary. Nor was much on the "impact of an aging population," the "implementation of fair taxes" or  "that foolproof system guaranteeing government revenues for police, fire, bus, garbage, medical & other services," or "fair wages & benefits & their role in increasing productivity." 

So I wondered what might happen if we just printed no money at all, and the workers and producers in our society could just barter their goods & services to the highest bidder. Again not in the dictionary, but it soon became apparent to me that Mr. Mattingly might have to find another way to exist besides relying on his wealth of economic expertise. 

Ron de Jaray
Professional Directory
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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Papagayo proves to be a challenge to foreign investor
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anna Moscarelli came to Costa Rica in 1997 with a dream. She said that she felt sure that she could successfully invest in the Costa Rican tourist industry.  Six years later, her dream is now in tatters. She stands to lose $5 million of her money and the majority of the property she purchased in the Papagayo resort in Guanacaste. She said that her main troubles began when Ruben Pacheco resigned as minister of Turismo to concentrate on his company in Papagayo. 

Ms. Moscarelli said that her situation became so desperate that she decided to take the fate of her business into her own hands, writing an open letter of complaint to the President of Costa Rica, Abel Pacheco. 

Ms. Moscarelli, 60, left her job in Switzerland to come to pursue her dream of investing in Costa Rica. She said that she felt sure that her previous experience would benefit her in Costa Rica.  But she said, "A lot of people don't know what an investment is in Costa Rica. When they finally realize it is too late."  She wants potential foreign investors to know about the truth when it comes to Costa Rican investment. "There is no law for investors in this country. You are on your own. Completely on your own." she said.

Ms. Moscarelli has asked the Asamblea Legislativa to create a law to protect tourist investors when they take out a mortgage in Costa Rica. She has been told that issue will not be discussed for at least two more years. 

Ms. Moscarelli  said that she believes that private banks in Costa Rica do not believe in foreign investment and therefore are reluctant to offer financial support. She also said that the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is doing nothing to help people that need financing to continue developing their projects. 

Ms. Moscarelli began with her first project in Papagayo in 1998. Her El Nakuti Resort was opened to welcome the new millennium Dec. 15, 1999. The resort was opened by then-president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez.  Her investments began well but after Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorism attacks in the United States, Ms. Moscarelli said that she experienced a sharp downturn in business. 

The following year brought more difficult events. On May 21, 2002, Ms. Moscarelli lost her son, Athos, in a car accident. But it was the incident just before his death that affected her the most. Two weeks before the fatal accident seven men attacked her son and left him with severe facial injuries. His jaw had to be reconstructed by surgeons. No one was ever prosecuted for this crime, but Ms. Moscarelli said that she knows the family that was responsible for his injuries and indirectly for his death. 

"I love Costa Rica, but I am running out of options" said Ms. Moscarelli.  She was prosecuted in Switzerland where a court decided that she had misused the money given to her by investors.  She said that this charge was brought against her even though her three projects, Hotel Giardini, Nakuti Resort and the Jungla Lodge were up and running successfully. 

Ms. Moscarelli is particularly upset at Rúben Pacheco, the former minister of Turismo. In her letter to

A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Ms. Moscarelli discusses her case

President Pacheco, she called the former minister the president’s cousin.

President Pacheco said at a news conference Tuesday that none of the government appointees bearing the Pacheco name are close relatives. Rúben Pacheco is a second cousin.

Ms. Moscarelli sees Rúben Pacheco as a strong competitor because he, too, has companies involved in the Papagayo Project.

At the beginning of this year Ms. Moscarelli decided to sell her Hotel Nakuti Resort in an attempt to generate funds. However, she never got the money she thought she would.

At the same time she was trying to obtain a mortgage from a private bank to replace one that she had with a bank that folded. She said that she spent nearly a year in negotiations, but got a surprise Nov. 10 when the bank took legal action to auction off her Hotel Giardini Papagayo.

She is convinced that business people in Papagayo are interested in taking over her land, and she has brought her case to public attention via a number of journalistic interviews.

Ms. Moscarelli said in the last paragraph of her letter to Abel Pacheco that investing in Costa Rica is a trick, worse than investing in Africa, where she has had projects in the past. Here in Costa Rica, she said, only large companies can survive. Many foreigners don’t leave Costa Rica simply because they don’t know where else to go. They have invested all of their savings and dreams. Ms Moscarelli said, "To return home would be to die."

PAC leader Campbell thinks Solís needs strategy change
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A. M. Costa Rica staff

The leader of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, Ottón Solís Fallas, must change strategy before running for president of Costa Rica, according to Epsy Campbell Barr, a legislative deputy who leads lawmakers of the same political party.

Ms. Campbell said that she believes that Solís should make the most of this historic period in Costa Rican politics.  "He has to grow, and he has to change," said Ms. Campbell,  "They can no longer talk about the same issues that they did in 2002," she said, adding that the party needs to evolve and become a much stronger political force with defined ideas. If this does not happen, Ms. Campbell said that the party will dissolve. 

Ms. Campbell said it would be unfair for her to run for president herself at this moment in time.  "I do not know what my future is. I have a great amount of pressure behind me with people telling me to say what my intentions are. I am not ready to be a chess piece," said Ms. Campbell.

Solís ran for president in 2001-2002 and finished third. He forced a second round of voting between the current president, Abel Pacheco, and Partido Liberación Nacional candidate Rolando Araya. 

He was considered a strong candidate in 2005-2006, but deputies elected to the Asamblea Legislativa on his party’s slate split, and one faction bolted from the party.

Solís also has been hurt by a scandal involving his brother, Alex Solís, the new contralor de la república. Alex Solís was appointed by  the legislature to the fiscal watchdog post. But then former members of Acción Ciudadana raised questions about his personal business.

Alex Solís admitted that he applied notary validations to signatures he, himself, had written for other people. Legislators have been investigating him particularly after news reports revealed that he was making high interest loans to people who wanted to hire coyotes to smuggle them into the United States.

Many people have suggested that Ms. Campbell put herself forward as a candidate for the presidency. "This would be irresponsible of me at this moment. I have no group supporting me, and it would be a failure for me and for the country if I was to do so."   She said that investigations have shown that she is popular amongst her colleagues. Ms. Campbell said that she wants to be involved in politics for a long time and because of this, she believes that this experience will help her achieve her goals. Ms. Campbell cites her main aims are to focus on both racial and gender equality in Costa Rica. 

Ms. Campbell said the result of the presidential elections in the United States is a " disaster for humanity."  She does not believe that the result will help Costa Rica. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Epsy Campbell Barr at work

According to Ms. Campbell, George Bush has not handled foreign affairs intelligently, and the United States has not understood its international responsibility.  Ms. Campbell dislikes the American culture of consumerism and individualism and does not agree with the way that the country to the north has impacted Costa Rican culture and daily life. 

Ms. Campbell was born in San José. Her family is from Limón. Her family environment was multilingual. "I spoke Creole English. The pronunciation is very different, and Costa Rica has a lot of ignorant people." She is the only one in a long line of family members who was interested in studying economic politics. 

She said that her main influences are her grandmother. More famous female figures include Angela Davies, Gloria Bernard and Winnie Mandela. "They broke away from the structures," said Ms. Campbell.  Ms. Campbell has two children and is divorced. "I raise my children economically on my own, but their father does help. My children are also committed to social issues."

Ms. Campbell is only the fourth Afro-Costa Rican to be part of the Asamblea Legislative. She said that her cultural and racial identity are very important to her. She said that she believes Costa Rica is a very racist country. "It is the sort of racism that is institutionalized," she said. 

She has begun a campaign to introduce literature into schools that will give the Afro-Costa Rican population the opportunity to learn about their ancestors. 

Ms. Campbell spoke of her experiences of racism. She said that a lot of people overrate her achievements because she is black. ". . .This is a consequence of racism," she said.  Ms. Campbell said that she experiences racism in several different ways. From people telling racist jokes to receiving letters with racist connotations. 

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Temorary tent shelter provides a refuge for men who seem to have little to do during the day.
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Passenger train preview discloses some problems
By Saray Ramírez Vindas 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A week-long preview of rail passenger service shows that the Central Valley is not well prepared for what regular trains would bring.

The traffic score is trains 2, cars 0. Both Monday and Tuesday motorists ran afoul of tons of moving steel. Monday the accident was in San Pedro. Tuesday the crash was at the Sabana Oeste crossing near the Minsterio de Agricultura y Ganaderia.

The passenger train is running from Pavas to Mall San Pedro as part of the week-long festival of the arts. Passengers can board at the Avenida 20 Estación al Pacifico for a roundtrip ride in either or both directions.

Theoretically the train leaves every hour. But the timetable is disrupted by crashes with cars. Vehicles parked near the tracks or buildings that nearly touch the passing train bring the speed down to a kilometer an hour.

In addition to encroaching vehicles and houses, the right-of-way is littered with garbage and the occassional group of crack smokers.

Officials are studying plans for a mass transit system that will take advantage of the existing lines. The project is in the feasibility stage. But the trip on the art train shows there are a lot of hidden problems.

Some cargo is carried now from the docks at Caldera to the Central Valley, but the regularity is much less than passenger service would bring. Usually the cargo trains do not go from the Museo Nacional along Avenida 2 to Mall San Pedro, the route used by the art train.

A reporter found out Monday and Tuesday that the trip from the Pacific train station to either Pavas or Mall San Pedro took 40 to 50 minutes, much more than a similar trip in a taxi would take. That was due to the slow speeds, daring motorists and badly parked vehicles.

Rail planners envision speeds exceeding those of vehicles to whisk workers from Pavas and elsewhere to their jobs downtown.  That would mean the government would have to expropriate a number of parcels where structures encroach on the rail line.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Right-of-way attracts trash

More signals will have to be installed to warn motorists of rail crossing. 

A trip on the  train also highlights social problems. In most cases to the south of the line are the homes of the poor. To the north are businesses or homes of the better off. And it is in the poorer areas where frequent smokers of crack conceal themselves from vehiclular traffic and passerbys — but not the unexpected train. 

It is here, too, that the railroad right-of-way and adjacent land is used as an informal garbage dump.

Tourists are exposed to some of these same scenes because a tourist passenger train makes a run to the Pacific many weekends.

Traffic detours around rail cars on Avenida 2 not far east of the Museo Nacional in a location where trains are not a daily event.
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Jo Stuart
About us
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