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(506) 223-1327          Published Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 237          E-mail us    
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Lafleur headed favored ad agency
Canadian scandal figure lives large in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sometimes Escazú resident has been thrust into the spotlight because of his connections with a Canadian scandal that resulted in the Monday vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The man is Jean Lafleur, who is being characterized by the Canadian media as a party boy who is living large in Costa Rica.

The Canada Free Press  online newspaper said he had been annoying his Escazú neighbors with "late-night bacchanals."

Judi McLeod, editor of Canada Free Press, said that Lafleur is one of the key ad executives at the center of the Liberal Party sponsorship scandal and that the executives were paid more than $15 million in expenses over four years by the Canadian federal government.

Mario Laguë, the current Canadian ambassador here, also was linked to the scandal that surfaced last year involving the government's $100 million sponsorship program that critics said was designed to put money into Liberal-friendly advertising firms, and involved double-billing, false invoices and payments for fictitious work, according to The Ottawa Citizen at the time. Laguë served as communications director from December 2003 to July 2004.

There was no suggestion that Laguë was involved in illegal activities but rather that he worked in 2002 to sugar-coat the report of an audit that criticized the program. The Canadian press has called him Martin’s spin doctor. Laguë presented his credentials to President Abel Pacheco Oct. 11, 2004, and has pretty much kept a low profile.

        Paul Martin    Mario Laguë     Jean Lafleur

Lafleur appears not to be keeping a low profile.  The Canada Free Press said he had become the bad boy of his apartment complex in San Rafael de Escazú with his wild parties and that his neighbors were cringing because he was expected to return around Christmas after a month and a half absence.

Lafleur Communication managed more than $30 million in sponsorship contracts in the mid to late 1990s, and Lafleur's son Eric earned more than $1.1 million in salary while his firm acted as his father’s sole supplier of federally branded promotional items. Like his father, Eric reaped huge windfalls after the sponsorship’s creation in 1997, said the online newspaper.

In testimony before a government inquiry, Eric, an ex-Liberal Party campaign worker, placed responsibility for apparent billing irregularities at the feet of his father and sister, Julie.

Martin's Liberal Party minority government was ousted Monday by a parliamentary vote of no confidence. There will be new elections in Canada, probably in late January.

Martin's opponent, Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party, organized the no confidence vote. He says he hopes revelations of a scandal that saw millions of dollars in government contracts go to supporters of the Liberal Party under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, will convince Canadians to change leaders.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 237


Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575
 



Click HERE for great hotel discounts

 
Our readers' opinions
This reader is citing
other crime statistics


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Interesting that Scott Pralinsky quotes NationMaster as evidence that Costa Rica has a low crime rate. The NationMaster statistic he didn’t quote is that Costa Rica ranks No.19 as the most murderous country per capita and No. 7 in total recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per capita

John Earl
Alajuela

Figures are not valid,
this reader argues


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Scott Pralinsky’s letter in your online paper today shows how figures lie.  If anyone looks at the parameters that were measured for his 80 per thousand statistic, they would see how worthless that figure is.  Take a look at just robberies as an example.
Ken Holdeman
DeBary, Fla.

Crime statistics lack
validity in Third World


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with great interest Scott Pralinsky letter citing crime statistics. As everyone knows “there are lies and then there are statistics”.

Scott is wrong Costa Rica is 41st, he claims 46th, on the list and he did not include the key definition “Note: Crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence . . . ."

The other trouble I have is with the definition of crime by the reporting government.  Let us look at some statistics which are more relevant, the murder rate Costa Rica is 19th, US 24th, Canada, 44th.

Manslaughter Costa Rica 3rd, Canada 40th, U.S. not on the list.  Murders with weapons CR 7th, U.S. 8th, Canada 20th.  I am having fun perception of safety walking at night Canada and U.S. tied at 82% Costa Rica is not listed but New Zealand at 62% is the lowest. Why go lower?

I would posit that most crime which lacks a consistent definition and enforcement in Costa Rica does not get reported.  The statistics are probably a joke for other than the first world.

Now where do you feel safer?

I won’t touch on the other part of the Web site ranking Costa Rica as first for Mortality: Failure in dosage during surgical and medical care (per capita) among other poor health care statistics.

David Moir

Country is not corrupt,
so Dall'anese was right


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The A.M. Costa Rica staff in their Nov. 29 editorial titled, “An analysis of the news: Crime-solving monopoly lacking in controls” overstated their justification for the existence of separate police powers for Paul Cháves’ Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The tenor of the editorial suggested this small group of investigators was more effective than the Ministerio Público and the Judicial Investigating Organization (OIJ), which to the contrary, according to Fiscal General Francisco Dall’Anese’s ruling last week.

According to the 2004 Global Corruption Report from Transparency International Costa Rica ranks 41st of 146 countries (50th in 2003) they compared in determining the least corrupt among them. Although the U.S. ranked 17th that was behind the leaders, which included Iceland and Finland. Maybe A.M. Costa Rica should have compared the Costa Rican system to them or other regional systems such as Chile (21) and Barbados (24).

Positive highlights of the report about Costa Rica included the 2004 legislative approval of the Law against Corruption and Illegal Enrichment in Public Office and 2004 Supreme Court revocation of provisions for “special courts for the mismanagement of public resources and tax crimes” considering the limited resources of the court system such investigation was considered best coordinated under a streamlined authority.

The A.M. Costa Rica staff’s support for the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública was based on a flimsy comparison to the complex layers of law enforcement agencies in the U.S., which failed to acknowledge recent consolidation of numerous U.S. agencies under the Department of Homeland Defense.

As important to consider in making such governmental comparisons is recognition of the differing form of governance in the U.S. among local, state and federal authorities and their policing powers as compared to Costa Rica, which is much smaller in land mass and population. And limited financial resources necessary to complete public projects is a reoccurring theme found in the stories of A.M. Costa Rica. According to Transparency International, Costa Rican authorities are appropriately dealing with some of these issues exemplified by the 2002 legislative appointment of such road construction oversight bodies as the National Laboratory of Structural Materials and Models (LANAMME). Sure there are continued problems with slow road construction and questionable construction quality, but much of the problem is rooted in the lack of government resources that duplicate law enforcement authority can result in.
 
Paul Cháves can continue to push for changes in the law as can any Costa Rican or special interest, but everyone must do it within the constraints of the legal framework established by the CR legislator and judiciary. For A.M. Costa Rica or anyone else to advocate extra-legal solutions and faulty comparisons to the U.S. system denies the accomplishments and achievements that Costa Rica has made in becoming the most transparent and least corrupt government in Central and South America.
John Hawley
Quepos
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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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 237








Today is the day for Scotland and an early saint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Saint Andrews Day.  Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.  Scottish First Minister Jack McConell had this to say about the holiday:

“Over the next few days, Scots, people of Scots descent and friends of Scotland around the world

St. Andrew
will gather together to celebrate St Andrew, our
patron saint.  It is a chance to think about Scotland, our traditions and our history, but it is also an opportunity to consider Scotland’s new place in the world,” McConell said.

According to the Edinburgh library service, St. Andrew was one of Jesus' 12 disciples and he lived
and worked as a fisherman in Galilee. He was the brother of Peter, another of Christ's disciples.

After Christ's crucifixion, one version of the legend is that Andrew went to Greece to preach Christianity, where he was crucified for his beliefs at a place called Patras, on a cross in the form of an X. However, the
X-shaped cross played little part in early legends of St. Andrew and, indeed, in early versions of the tale, Andrew was nailed to an olive tree, not a cross, the Edinburgh library said.

St. Andrew's Day used to be a very popular feast day in Scotland. It was a common custom for farm workers and laborers to go "St. Andra'ing". They would catch rabbits and hares and later on in the day would feast and drink. There have been debates on and off for some time now about making St. Andrew's Day a public holiday in Scotland, the library said.

Many people wonder what they should eat on St. Andrew's day. Because Andrew was a fisherman, it seems appropriate to eat fish. Otherwise you could eat any traditional Scottish food. It used to be that a singed sheep's head was traditional, said the library

In the past, some feasts were held in the Central Valley to honor the patron of Scotland. However,a spokesman for the British Embassy said that he was unaware of any plans this year.

Nevertheless, those few Scots who take strong drink might find the day as an excuse to gather at a watering hole and toast resurgent Scotland.



Festival will highlight the works of author Tolkien
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sociedad Tolkien de Costa Rica has organized its annual Tolkien festival to honor the deceased author of the “The Lord of the Rings.” 

The Festival Tolkien 2005 is scheduled for Dec. 17 and 18 at the Ministerio Cultural, Juventud y Deportes. 

Organizers invite people of all ages to come and share the celebrations with people dressed as elfs, hobbits, wizards and all the other mythical characters from Tolkien's popular books.

Festival organizers have planned a variety of activities as well, among them movie and documentary presentations and exhibitions of archery, magic and juggling, organizers said.  There will also be an exhibition entitled “El Mundo Según Tolkien,” where, through illustrations and colectables, organizers have planned a discussion of the late author's philosophy and values. 

The ministery has also planned a discussion of the more intimate details of Tolkien's life including his friendship with C.S. Lewis, author of “The Chronicals of Narnia.”  There will also be a workshop where participants can learn to draw the characters from

Tolkien society members pictured at previous event

Tolkien's books, learn the history of Middle Earth and how to talk and write like elfs.   

Organizers have also planned a variety of games, raffles, and competitions to take place throughout the festival. 

The festival starts at 11 a.m both days.  Entrance costs 1,000 colons but children under 10 get in free.  For more information, go to www.sociedadtolkiencr.com or call 399-9120 or 369-9767 or e-mail.


American International School plans a bingo fund-raiser for Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The American International School is sponsoring a bingo night to raise money to repair the school's gymnasium and make a donation to the Cruz Roja of San Antonio de Belén.

The event is scheduled for Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8
p.m.  Tickets cost 2,000 colons at the door and will buy the purchaser one bingo card. 

Prizes include: 10 pounds of Costa Rican coffee, hotel stays, raft trips, gift certificates, dinner, wine, bus tickets and more.  The American International School is in Ciudad Cariari.  For more information, send an e-mail to keithconvery@yahoo.com.


 
A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 237


Technical end of hurricane season hosts new storm
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The official 2005 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season comes to a technical end today with officials and victims in the Americas assessing the damages of what may be the worst season ever, and keeping an eye on another tropical storm swirling in the mid-Atlantic.

Leaders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laid out the year’s toll in a Washington, D.C., briefing Tuesday.

“This hurricane season shattered records that have stood for decades — most named storms, most hurricanes and most Category 5 storms,” said Conrad C. Lautenbacher, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. “Arguably, it was the most devastating hurricane season the country has experienced in modern times.”

The 2005 season held a record in producing 25 named storms, pushing past the previous record in1933 when 21 storms gained enough strength to earn their own names. Just as officials prepared to announce the record Thursday morning, a 26th cyclone reached the 39 mph [62.7 kilometer] wind speed that classifies a weather system as a tropical storm.

The new storm is dubbed Epsilon, a name that marks another record for the 2005 season. It is the first time the National Hurricane Center ever has used letters of the Greek alphabet for storm names, having exhausted all the names on the pre-determined alphabetical list.

The 2005 season was also a record-breaker for the fiercest and most destructive storms. Three storms this year – Katrina, Rita and Wilma – escalated to the greatest intensity – Category 5 with winds in excess of 74 mph [119 kilometers]. This year also brought the costliest storm the United States ever has seen, with at least $80 billion worth of damage caused by Katrina, which slammed ashore on the Gulf Coast in late August.

With at least 1,300 deaths, and a count still likely to rise, Katrina was also the deadliest hurricane to strike the United States since 1928.

The backlash from the storms caused heavy damage in Costa Rica, mostly in the Central Pacific, the southern zone and Gunancaste. The community of Portlón and nearby settlements were whiped out. Many millions in repairs are needed for roads, bridges and sewer lines.
Unprecedented though it was, the 2005 storm season could repeat itself next year, or the year after, weather officials said. Their analysis shows that Atlantic Ocean storm activity is now in what they call multidecadal cycle in which conditions are just right in the ocean and the atmosphere to brew up monster storms.  The ocean water is warmer than normal, the wind shear is low, the winds coming off West Africa are just right to set a tropical cyclone in motion.

“Because we’re 11 years into an active hurricane era,” said Jerry Bell, lead meteorologist at the Climate Prediction Center, “it’s reasonable to expect ongoing high levels of hurricane activity for many years to come, and importantly, ongoing high levels of hurricane landfalls for the next decade . . . "

The prospect that greater than average hurricane activity will pound vulnerable Atlantic and Caribbean coastal areas for years to come makes a joint international scientific project all the more urgent, according to Lautenbacher.

More than 40 nations and 25 international
organizations are working to establish a Global Earth Observing System as a reservoir of climatic and environmental data from all around the planet to form the basis for better understanding and predicting how Earth functions as a single system.

“This total global coverage of weather information and service information will allow us in the future to be able to build better models and better predictions,” said Lautenbacher, “and allow us to tell you more accurately what will happen and will give you much longer warning times.”

Better science is on the horizon even as the global observation system is being implemented. In recent years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service have made progress in predicting the direction that a hurricane might take and where it will come ashore.

Predictions have gone from a 300-400 mile [483-648 kilometer] error track to an error track in the area of 25 miles to 30 miles [40.2-48.2 kilometers], Lautenbacher said of recent improvements in forecasting capability. The next priority for improvement will be in gauging the intensity of storms, acquiring the capability to tell a given city that the storm bearing down will be a minor blow or a major killer, he said.


Holidays for public employees will begin Dec. 16
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employees in the Executive branch here will leave work at the end of the business day Friday, Dec. 16, and not show up again until Jan. 2. The days off are counted as vacation, according to officials.

A presidential decree sets the holiday, which amounts to 10 working days. Employees this year are not getting vacation credit for Christmas and New Year's Day. Both fall on Sundays.
Excepted are emergency services and other critical occupations, which will be covered during the holidays. 

The Canadian Embassy will be closed Monday, Dec. 26, and Dec. 27. 

The days off are to mark Christmas, which falls on a Sunday this year, and Boxing Day, the traditional Commonwealth holiday, also known as St. Stephen's Day.


Soccer fans from Honduras try to make run to avoid immigration checks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in La Cruz arrested 12 Honduran soccer fans Tuesday intent on entering Costa Rica to see their team, Olimpia, play Liga Deportiva Alajuelense – even if it meant doing so illegally, officers said.

When stopped, the undocumented fans were all sporting Olimpia jerseys and bandanas, officers said.   

According to police, this is not abnormal, in preparation for such an event, border police had 
increased their number since the early morning hours Tuesday.  A bus with 27 Hondurans – all with the legal documents – entered the country earlier in the day. 

However, later at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, Fuerza Pública officers stopped another bus in Peñas Blancas.  Eight of the Hondurans on the bus also had the required documents.  The other 12 hopped out of the bus while it was still in Nicaraguan territory and made a run for it.  Authorities caught them. 

Instead of watching the match, all 12 are stuck under the control of immigration, officers said.


Dance company festival starts today and will run through Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Danza is organizing a gathering of dancers, choreographers and anyone else who loves dancing.  The fair, Mudanzas II, is planned for the Teatro de la Danza at the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes today through Friday.  Entrance is free. 

Organizers have planned activities for the public as well as those directly involved in the industry.  There will be classes, workshops and round tables, discussions and informal chats about the development of a Central American dance circuit, organizers said. 
This forum will continue work that was started last year at Mudanzas I, said Carlos Ovares, the director of the Compañía Nacional de Danza.

This year, organizers hope to discuss the company's proposed curriculum and the organizing process for local and national events among other themes.   

Activities have been going since Monday but the official inauguration is today at 9 a.m., organizers said.  Ovares as well as Guido Sáenz, minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, will be present. For more information, call 222-2974 or 256-4838 or e-mail comdanza@mcjd.go.cr.






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