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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Dec. 3, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 239           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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The portal or nativity scene at the Teatro National this year has a modernistic theme with a swooping roof. But the window frame with a waiting angel is definitely from an earlier era.
Teatro Nacional portal
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Low pressure area moves off after damaging many
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A low pressure area has moved toward Panamá leaving flooding, death and heavy damage in its wake.

The national emergency commission said that 2,000 persons were being housed in 38 shelters as a result of the heavy rain that began Monday.

Some 90 localities were affected, said the commissions. About 1,200 persons were without electricity, and at least three bridges were down.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad managed to open Ruta 31, the San José-Limón road by noon Thursday. It had been closed north of San José by a
landslide. Officials also said that they bridged the Río Chirripó in Río Frio de Sarapiquí for pedestrians and then with a temporary span for vehicles. The river undermined the existing bridge.

A man died in Valle de la Estrella on the
 Caribbean coast when he was swept away crossing a river. There were other deaths that may or may not be attributed to the weather.

One Central Valley man fell off a highway into a stream bed where he suffered fatal injuries on rocks. A woman died of a heart attack while her home was flooded near San Carlos.

The Cruz Roja said it made 60 water rescues of people who were trapped by the rising floods.

Five communities faced landslides and 90 had flooding, the Cruz Roja said.

The emergency commission said that the cantons most affected were Sarapiquí, Siquirres and Matina. The commission confirmed late Thursday that the waters were receding. The agency estimated that 33 highways suffered damage.

More rain is expected today in the central and south Pacific, the commission said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 238

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Our readers' opinions
Costa Rican hypocrisy
needs to be confronted

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have only lived in Costa Rica two years now so forgive me for being so surprised at the apparent hypocrisy of Costa Rica´s positions on many of today’s issues. What scares me more is not many noticing or commenting how two-faced it is. We will endure many issues like this any country we live in, but we need more participation by all resident here to point these issues out as they appear and scream "This is wrong!"

Firstly, let's all agree any nation should not encroach on the lands of its neighbor. It's deplorable. Please tell me though how this neighboring country, Nicaragua, squatting on an island owned by Costa Rica is any different than squatters here in Costa Rica taking land from immigrants owning property here. These immigrants happen to be out of country for a while and return to a nightmare legal battle to remove these squatters.

Most pensioners not having deep pockets for legal help to sort out the mess. Squatting on land has become a business for many and is in effect endorsed by laws of the land here in Costa Rica. So please tell me how Costa Rica can claim in world courts that squatters on their island on the northern frontier is so deplorable while they allow and endorse it here against immigrants and landowners here??? Pensioners here do not have world court efficiency to handle squatters as Costa Rica is enjoying at the moment. It’s interesting to note Costa Rica wants quick resolution from international courts, but does not offer that here to resolve similar problems we all encounter. Our friends here in San Ramón will be many years sorting out a squatter problem.

Secondly I, like many immigrants, have been stopped and had my passport inspected to assure I was legal here maybe five or six times in two years. Each time while being with my family enjoying some sort of trip in the car. We were not suspicious looking. We were not doing something illegal. We were just going about our day as a family, not likely robbing homes and stealing anything. The police were just doing their job as far as we are concerned.

In Arizona laws have been passed to empower police to check immigration status of suspicious persons. We all heard how Costa Rica has entered a “friend of the court “ application against such ability as being grossly unfair. Again why does Costa Rica expect the world to listen to their view outside of Costa Rica which is completely contradictory to their own actions and laws here?

Lastly, having just returned from Canada, I notice many discussing actions of Costa Rica in Calgary against the gold mine just recently banned here. The on-and-off-again approvals have cost a Calgary Canadian company over $67 million plus loss of profit. To most outside Costa Rica, it appears to be the wild wild west here with little chance of justice prevailing. I can tell you first hand this will and is going to affect foreign investment here unless lawlessness is confronted head on by the courts and leadership of this country.

Maybe we ought to look into challenging Costa Rica in court to run their internal matters with individual rights and freedoms with the same respect and integrity they expect the rest of the world to afford them! This country has so much beauty and potential, if they just managed it as they expect others to elsewhere in the worldwide. It would be amazing to see what happens here!
Tony McCeath
San Ramón

EDITOR'S NOTE: Costa Rica's effort to submit a friend- of-the-court brief in the Arizona case was rejected because the time limit expired.

Haitian pregnancy wave
self-centered, inhumane

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

More babies in Haiti?  How totally selfish, self-centered and inhumane to even think about bringing children into the world to live amidst such squalor as currently exists in the tent cities in Haiti! 

Those baby producers would be better off if they dug in and tried to clean up the aftermath of the mess resulting from the earthquake in January.  If those people want more babies, there seems to be an abundance of children in the orphanages in Haiti waiting for adoption.  And the clinics are struggling to provide pre-natal care. What are those potential mothers and fathers thinking?!  Certainly they are NOT thinking with their heads, but only with another part of the anatomy!

SHAME!  SHAME! SHAME!  Your article cited a person who will leave to have her baby away from the camp, but if she's able to do that when the baby comes, why isn't she there now enabling her to get the required care?  I love children and agree they are truly a gift from God, but when I read that the young man says all they do is ". . . sit around all day in the camp . . . ." I cringe at the thought of what the  unborn child will have to endure in her/his short lifetime.  May God Bless those children.

Ann Boyd
Canoas, Alajuela

Chinese cultural pact OK'd

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa has approved without dissent a cultural cooperation agreement with the People's Republic of China. The agreement was negotiated in October by Manuel Obregón, minister of Cultura y Juventud, during a visit to China.

Among other actions the agreement provides for a grant for musical instruments for the Costa Rican Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical. The agreement also opens the door to a wide range of cultural exchanges, including exchange visits by artists, writers, works of art, movies and technicians.

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 239
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Municipal political parties
Election tribunal tries to drum up support for Sunday vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who say that all politics are strictly local could be talking about Costa Rica. The nation goes to the voting booths Sunday to pick leaders in 81 cantons. There are 43 different political parties represented. Many are local.

The most watched race is that in the central canton of San José where long-time Mayor Johnny Araya is facing two former legislative deputies and other challengers.

The Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones has been working hard to get a good turnout. Luis Antonio Sobrado González, the president of the fourth power of the Costa Rican government, noted in a speech announcing the elections that municipalities do more than pick up the garbage and issue patentes or business licenses. Ultimately the success of each municipality rests in the hands of the mayor, vice mayors and council members, he noted.

Sobrado's speech notwithstanding, turnout probably will not be higher than the 25 percent that marked municipal elections in 2002 and 2004.

As is traditional, large gatherings in competition with elections are prohibited. That includes soccer matches. The tribunal has said it thinks other gatherings may impede persons who want to go to the a voting center.

One event that was affected is the annual Teletón put on by the Club Activo 20-30. The event will begin today and run through Saturday. The tribunal almost canceled the event, but the organizers made a special appeal. The telethon usually runs through Sunday.

The event, based in Heredia, has a goal of 500 million colons or about $1 million to benefit the Hospital Nacional de Niños.
This is the last year that the municipal elections will take place in the same year as the national elections. A new election code puts the next voting half way though the presidential term.

Those elected Sunday will take office Feb. 7, and municipal leaders will serve for five years.

This is the first time that political parties will be getting public money for the campaign. That is usual in national campaigns and now has been extended to the local level.

This also is the first year that political parties had to balance their tickets so that they had gender parity.

The election tribunal expects to have the first results by 8 p.m. Sunday night.

The San José race pits Gloria Valerín Rodríguez of the Partido Acción Ciudadana against Araya, Also a strong candidate is Óscar López Arias of Accesibilidad sin Exclusion. He was the blind legislative deputy who nearly always is pictured with a white cane. Ms. Valerín was an outspoken legislator who left office four years ago but then obtained a spot on the legislative staff where her experience gave her great influence in drafting bills.

The Movimiento Libertario fielded Mario Alfaro Garcia to run as mayor. The Partido Integración Nacional is running Luis Arturo Polinaris Vargas. Each mayoral candidate has at least one running mate for vice mayor.

Although serving politicians are supposed to remain neutral during elections, former ones are not, and former president Oscar Arias Sánchez is making television appeals on behalf of his Partio Liberación Nacional, whose candidates include Araya. Basically Arias is promoting his party's candidates as the most experienced.

Here's two gripes and a report on a wonderful dinner
Where is the complaint box?  Lately expats have been grumbling about the changes Amnet has wrought and a number of other things that have been irking them this year. I have been asked why don’t I talk about this.  Since I not only sympathize with them, I have decided to contribute my own.

I, too, am annoyed and befuddled at the changes Amnet has made and the channels they have removed.  I know many people miss Fox News. My friend, Helen, misses the House and Garden Channel, which has been moved to a premium package.  I tend to be more upset about the loss of the Food Channel because watching someone else cook is almost as relaxing as doing it myself -- and a lot easier to clean up afterwards. I remember very well on Sept. 11, 2001, when watching the Towers fall one more time was more than I could bear so I switched to Food Channel where Mario Batali was masterfully mixing his latest Italian dish and telling us all about its origins, as if everything were still normal.  Of course it wasn’t.  But I appreciated the respite.

To make the change by Amnet especially annoying, they did it at the same time the U.S. where many programs originate, turns its clocks back or ahead (I never remember just which) so I am trying to get used to the new times as well as the changed numbers of the Channels.  Is this some kind of test?

My other complaint is the weather, and I don’t know who the culprit is in this case.  I am so sick of the rain and the cold (anything under 70 degrees is cold to me) that I have actually been thinking about escaping to Panama City and staying in a B & B with no air conditioning. Because I am mostly huddled at home, I watch more TV.

So while I’m at it, I am also sick of news anchors and interviewers adding “We appreciate it.” to their thank yous to their guests.  This takes the emphasis off the guest and puts it back to the channel or interviewer.  A simple "thank you" is far more powerful and sincere, guys.

Someone at the American Legion meeting this week asked me why doesn’t Costa Rica return to numbering street and buildings.  I don’t have an answer to that, unless it is that they resist change as much as I do right now. But I am annoyed with the taxistas who don’t know either the landmark or the street when I give them directions.  I am accused of being the busiest back seat driver in Costa
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Rica.  I’ve had to learn to be one if I am going to get to my destination.

Now there is something I am happy to say, that I have no complaints about. (This, after my friend Darrylle and I waxed indignant over the high cost of all restaurants.)   It is my enjoyment of a relatively new restaurant I found, thanks to reader, Tim.

The Food, Inc. Café is tiny – just five tables indoors but it does have several more outdoors in the front covered passage.  It is located across from the American Embassy in Pavas in the Plaza Oeste.  The owners, two Brits, a Canadian and a Tico, are charming, friendly and inviting. The name, Food, Inc. is ironic, based on the Web site that tells about the danger Monsanto is doing to our food by altering the crops and seeds it sells.  The goal of the restaurant, I am told, is to prepare home grown, organic or at least small supplier fresh foods.

The cesar salad (with romaine and a touch of anchovy and great croutons!) is the best I have had in Costa Rica. The pasta with clams and sun dried tomatoes was intoxicated with enough garlic, even for me.  Tico Chef Rodrigo Nuñez Corrales will soon also prepare Moroccan dishes, and sushi. Another chef, David, makes the best fish and chips I have ever had.  The natural fruit drinks are above average and generous.  Each day they have specials that are always good – and some dishes have enough food to share.

As yet they don’t have an alcohol license, but on Thanksgiving we were able to take our own wine.  Although you won’t dine at bargain prices, you will enjoy gourmet food and feel it was worth every cent. Today that is a bargain.

So far, everyone I know who has dined there has agreed:  Not only no complaints, but the best food they have had in a very long time.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 239

Container training pays off with confiscation of marijuana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most expats are not aware that shipping containers do not take a direct route from the United States or Canada.

In fact, sometimes the ship carrying the container makes two or three stops. Two such containers were located in Moín a week ago, and they represent the tip of the iceberg involving another drug ring.

Dock workers loaded the two containers on a ship in Savana, Georgia. Each contained cartons of light beer made in the United States. The ship first went to Jamaica and then to Cartagena in Colombia before tying up in Moín on the Caribbean coast.

Anti-drug police, who have been taking part in a course to prevent illegal uses of containers noticed that the labels on the two containers were different. That should not be the case if they were shipped from the same port at the same time.

After obtaining permission from a judge, police opened the container to find 195 kilos of high-grade Jamaican marijuana packed in bags around the beer cartons. There was no effort to hide the bags, so police suspect that the smuggling operation has accomplices here.

Security ministry officials said this was a new method of smuggling drugs, but it might only be new to police
contaner marijuana
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguirdad Pública photo/Paul Gamboa
Anti-drug police officer inventories the shipment of marijuna he and associates found in a shipping container.

officers. The usual route of the containers would be to go to the customers warehouse where they would be opened and inventoried.

The U.N. Office of Drug Control provided the training for police officers and others who might work with containers. The training involved government workers from Limón and Caldera on the Pacific.

Amnet suffers major outage of its Internet operations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet, the cable television and Internet provider suffered a major outage Thursday. The company's telephone system continued to report at 1a.m. that the network was not functioning.

A subscriber in Sabana Norte said that the company lost its television signal Thursday afternoon but that he was restored before sundown. Television was not affected elsewhere.

The company, which is the subsidiary of a firm that will seek a cell telephone concession in Costa Rica, has been suffering periodic outages.
The company appears to be unable to handle the Internet load when office workers return to their desks about 1p.m. each afternoon. The outage Thursday happened at that time.

Amnet maintains a direct connection to the world Internet network, and this is where the problem appeared to be Thursday. Internet subscribers could open the company's Web page that is maintained on its own server but they could not open Web pages on the other side of the server.

A company technician was non-committal when contacted in the support department about 10 p.m. He allowed that the Internet could be restored late Thursday but then again it might not be. He was unsure of the exact problem.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 239

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Panamá, U.S. sign tax treaty
to give access to bank info

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Panamá and the United States will be exchanging banking information for tax and other purposes under terms of an agreement signed this week.

The so-called tax information exchange agreement gives U.S. officials access to suspect bank account information.

At the same time the Inter-American Development Bank said it was loaning Panamá $200 million for 20 years to do a compete overhaul of its tax structure.

Panamá has long been a place where U.S. citizens could stash unreported income from the Internal Revenue Service.

Said The Panamá News:

"Actually, the tax exchange agreement between Panama and the United States ends banking secrecy for those U.S. citizens or U.S. resident aliens who are being investigated by the IRS. It does not appear to directly affect those who are parking their money here to cheat ex-spouses out of property settlements, avoid child support payments or evade private creditors. It also does not allow Panamanians who have suffered at the hands of Panamanian shell companies without insurance or assets to identify and collect from those who profited at their expense.'

Officials of both the United States and Panamá signed the treaty in Washington Tuesday.

“Today, we are ushering in a new era of openness and transparency for tax information between the United States and Panama” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said.  “This bilateral agreement to provide for the exchange of tax information between our two countries reflects the commitment of the United States and Panama to the importance of transparency of tax information.”

The agreement will permit the United States and Panamá to seek information from each other on all types of national taxes in both civil and criminal matters for tax years beginning on or after Nov. 30, 2007, said the Treasury Department.  Information exchanged pursuant to the agreement shall be used for tax purposes, although the information may also be used for other purposes as permitted under the the provisions of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the United States and Panamá as long as the tax authorities of the country providing the information consents to such use in writing, the department added..

Honduras gets $135 million
to modernize its main port

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Honduras will expand and modernize Central America’s biggest port with $135 million of loans from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Puerto Cortés is the main port of Honduras, handling almost 90 percent of maritime traffic. Located on the northeast coast of the country, on the Caribbean Sea, it is the biggest and deepest port in Central America handling a large portion of the region’s containerized exports. It is the main point of entry for imports of grains and fertilizers, among other goods essential to the Honduran economy.

The development bank will help finance the dredging of the port basin and slips and works to reclaim land from sea by depositing the material dredged from the harbor. The new space reclaimed from the sea will accommodate a new container terminal and serve as a future expansion area and an area for the future terminal, said the bank.

The project will support the construction of the container terminal on the reclaimed land as well as the acquisition of specialized equipment and the provision of in-port storage yards, improving port operations and preventing interference with urban transit. The project will also support training and technical assistance for the Honduran Port Authority to strengthen its management and supervision of port activities.

Construction works financed by the project will reduce operating costs and delays in vessel and cargo handling, and enable the development of logistics operations typical of specialized container terminals.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 239

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Jamaican immigrant votes
with his feet for Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police in San Pedro encountered a Jamaican deported in September after he lived three years here illegally. Not only was the man still an illegal immigrant, Fuerza Public officers said he was carrying a .40-caliber pistol.

They identified the man as William Ann Marie, who, police said, told them that he returned to Costa Rica via the Panamá land route because of unrest in his own country. He said that when he arrived, a friend sold him the pistol for self-protection, police said.

Police stopped the man at the Fuente de Hispanidad in front of Mall San Pedro.They said they found two pouches of marijuana and ecstasy tablets.

Immigration records showed that the man reentered the country in November, police said.

Suspected Zeta leader
captured by Mexican cops

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican federal police say they have captured a regional leader of the Zetas drug gang, who allegedly trafficked drugs from the Dominican Republic and Panamá to the United States.

Security official Luis Cardenas said Thursday that Eduardo Ramirez Valencia was detained Wednesday along with an accomplice in Hidalgo state. Cardenas also said Ramirez was thought to have collaborated closely with Heriberto Lazcano, an alleged Zeta leader.

Authorities have blamed the Zetas, in part, for an escalation in violence in northeastern Mexico this year.

Mexico's northern border is being rocked by violent crime and clashes involving groups battling for control of drug-trafficking routes into the United States. About 30,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006 and began cracking down on the cartels.

Brazil sets up controls
over offshore oil drilling

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian lawmakers have approved legislation that will give the government more control over developing offshore oil fields.

The lower house of the Brazilian congress passed the bill Wednesday, sending it to outgoing President Luiz Inacio da Silva for his signature.

The measure allows the state-owned oil company, known as Petrobras, to be the sole operator of unexplored offshore oil fields, as well as a 30 percent stake in any joint ventures.

Brazil has discovered potentially large oil reserves off the country's southeastern coast, some of them thousands of meters below the sea floor.  Some estimates say the fields may contain more than 50 billion barrels of oil.

Brazilian lawmakers also approved a provision that will allow non-oil producing states to receive more oil revenues.

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