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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 243        E-mail us    
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During better weather a barge and tug under contract to Industrial Maintenance Divers await the next repair or installation job.

Industrial Maintenance Divers photo

Limón firm has job to fix break in ARCOS cable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Port Limón company has the job of fixing one of the two breaks in the ARCOS-1 undersea fiber optic cable that carries Costa Rica's Internet connection.

The company is Industrial Maintenance Divers, owned by Perry Edwards, a former commercial diver and long-time Limón area resident. The company specializes in undersea utilities.

Edwards said that a tug and barge operated by his firm were doing fiber optic cable installations in Nicaragua and Honduras when the break in the ARCOS cable became known.

His crew and vessels are in port now awaiting better weather to fix the break, he said.

Edwards said the break happened when a local fishing boat lost power and began to drift. The captain radioed a distress message and then threw out an anchor to stop being pushed to shore, he said, adding that it was the anchor that damaged the undersea cable in 57 feet of water.

The break is just offshore from Port Lempira in northeastern Honduras, he said. Although the break was located days ago, the seas have never calmed down to permit repair, said Edwards.

A second break in the ARCOS cable is between Puerto Rica and the Dominican Republic in much deeper water. Another firm is trying to fish up the cable to make repairs there.
ARCOS stands for the Americas Region Caribbean Optical-ring System. It is an 8,600-km (5,330-mile) cable that encircles the Caribbean. In addition to Internet, the system carries telephone and cable television signals.

Because the cable is in a circle, when one break takes place data is routed in the other direction and eventually to the cable landing point in Miami, Florida. Now that there are two breaks in the 24-pair cable, data from the south cannot reach Miami.

Costa Rican Internet providers Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad use a second cable, the Maya, which is carrying the bulk of the data now. However, the cable is overloaded and data transmissions to and from the United States are slowed. Delays are obvious to Internet and e-mail users.

Once Edwards' employees pull up the fractured cable, they will take it to what amounts to a clean room on the barge. Here humidity, temperature and air quality are controlled, and it is here where technicians will fuse the cable pairs together.

Edwards also said that his firm will be among those with contracts to do $21 million in upgrading that the cable operator, New World Network, has promised to make by the middle of next year.

He is known to many expats as the former owner of Puerto Limón Agency that handled their household shipments.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 243  

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Motorcycle officers held
in extorsion of U.S. citizen


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Fuerza Pública motorcycle officers and a third man fell into a trap in front of La Soledad church on Avenida 9 and were led away in handcuffs Wednesday afternoon.

They are suspects in the blackmail of a U.S. citizen who was being threatened because of his immigration status, sources said.

Rafael Ángel Gutiérrez, vice minister of Seguridad, confirmed the arrests and identified the officers by the last names of Luna Arrieta and Porras Mora. They were detained when they were in contact with the victim in front of the downtown church. A third man, dressed in civilian clothes, also was detained.

The arrests were made by the Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization. The policemen were at work and were riding their motorcycles. The policemen, still wearing their motorcycle helmets, were shoved face down on the city street with their hands in cuffs behind their backs.

Little was being said officially about the case, but informal sources said the victim is a Rohrmoser resident.  The man was picked up Monday by two officers who threatened him with arrest if he did not make a payment. The first payment was $5,000, said a person close to the case. The man got angry when the same people contacted him a second time and sought more money.

The money that was involved in the arrests Wednesday had been marked by judicial officers so it could be identified.

Gutiérrez said later that there was no room for corrupt police in the Fuerza Pública. If the security ministry had to keep only half the current number of policemen because these are the ones who are honest, it will and do the job with half the officers, he said in a statement.

Luna joined the force in 1994 and Porras did so in 1990, Gutiérrez said.

There was another arrest involving a Fuerza Pública officer Wednesday.  A man identified by the last name of Gorgona Gorgona, who has been on the force for 20 years, was detained on an allegation that he raped a 14-year-old girl, Gutiérrez said.

Place on waiting line
was fatal one for man


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man standing in line waiting for the main driver's license facility to open Wednesday died when two cars collided nearby and crushed him.

The dead man is Carlos Burgos, 44, of Coronado. He was waiting with others on the sidewalk in south San José when the two vehicles collided and lost control. One ended up on its side close to the wall of the license facility run by the  Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Officials said that one of the drivers would be investigated for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Bypass route intersection
will get tunnel at circle


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General de la República has authorized a direct contract to Constructora Sánchez Carvajal S.A. to build a tunnel at what is now the San Sebastián traffic circle on the Circumvalación.

The amount, dispersed by the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, will be for $3.5 million.

The Circumvalación, a four-lane bypass route in south San José contains three traffic circles that create jams at peak hours. Officials have constructed a bridge at the Y-Griega circle that carries traffic to Desamparados. The San Sebastián circle is further west.

Arias measure advances
at U.N. General Assembly


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Wednesday initiating a diplomatic process to consider creating an international treaty on the global trade in conventional arms.  The treaty is being promoted by President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

The resolution was adopted  with 153 countries in support and 24 countries abstaining.
 
The United States was the lone opponent to the text.  Under the terms of the resolution, the member states will be asked to comment on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a legally binding document for common international standards of the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.  Progress is to be reported on in the next General Assembly meeting.

The measure also established a group of governmental experts to start examining in 2008 the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such a treaty. This will be considered by the assembly’s sixty-third session, which opens in September 2008.

Presidents will meet here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will host the 21st summit of the chiefs of state of the members of the Sistema para la Integración Centroamericana Dec. 16. The event will be in the Hotel Ramada Herradura. In addition to the Central American presidents, Costa Rica also has invited Daniel Ortega Savaadre, the president-elect of Nicaragua, said the foreign ministry.

Government officials from the countries involved will be meeting much of next week to prepare documents and resolutions to be approved by the presidents.

Music stars invited here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican resort may be a future hotspot for celebrities. Gift certificates to Kiana Resorts in Playa Dominical were given to many of the celebrity presenters and performers at this year's American Music Awards, the company said. The resort will feature 26 beachfront villas surrounded by a nature preserve, a beachfront restaurant and other amenities. 
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 243  






Arias meets with Bush, but there are no solid deals struck
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez came away from his White House visit Wednesday with praise and vague promises.

Arias met for 45 minutes with George Bush, and at a press conference later both men were full of respect.

"Mr. President, you spent a lot of time talking about the importance of education, and I respect you for that, and I appreciate your emphasis on education," George Bush told Arias. "And we will investigate ways to determine whether or not the United States can help, if you so desire, on matters of education. And I congratulate you on being very successful in educating the younger children of your country. And I, again, admire your focus on extending the education through all grades in Costa Rica."

Responded Arias:

"Concerning education, this is my priority. Peace was my priority 20 years ago, now it's education. I was asking President Bush that his program, No Child Left Behind, could be applied in many Latin American countries."

One goal of the visit by Arias was to convince the U.S. president to forgive a $104 million debt and allow Costa Rica to plow this money into education. Although some Democratic senators seemed to warm to the idea Tuesday, there did not seem to be any firm promise from Bush.

Arias noted that he had been in the Oval Office in the past, during the time when conflicts tore through Central America and Ronald Reagan was president and later when the current U.S. president's father was in the same office.

"This room is familiar to me," he told Bush. "I visited the Oval Office in the past, during the Reagan years and when President Bush was president. I was telling President Bush that in the past, every time I came to the White House it was not to talk about Costa Rica, but about Nicaragua, and I'm very happy that we had a chance to talk about Costa Rica this time."

White House photo by Eric Draper
President Arias is greeted by President Bush

Arias, of course, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping craft a peace agreement for Central America. Since then he has been highly critical of U.S. presidents and the current Bush in particular. He  has spoken against the war in Iraq.

Both Bush and Arias said they discussed the free trade treaty between Central America and the United States. Costa Rica is the only party that has not yet ratified the agreement. He said the treaty was an important priority for his government.

Also at the meeting Wednesday was Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of State; Mark Langdale, the U.S. ambassador in Costa Rica, and Tony Snow, presidential press secretary.

Arias was accompanied by Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister; Guillermo Zúñiga, minister of Hacienda; Marco Vinicio Ruiz, minister of Comercio Exterior,  and Roberto Dobles, minister of Ambiente y Energía.


Plaza de la Cultura will be sprouting trees under program to bring art to citizens
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 30 cylinders will be like urban trees. They will be placed around the Plaza de la Cultura from Sunday through Dec. 18.

This is the third part of an art exposition that is designed to surprise pedestrians by putting art in unexpected public places. The artist is Costa Rican Alejandro Villalobos.

The cylinders are being recycled. Originally they were used to transport vinyl materials used for advertising banners. They have been painted and prepared to withstand the sun and the rain. Each one resembles to some extent a tree, so the exposition is being offered under the title "Silva pro Nobis," Latin for Trees for Us.

The Museos del Banco Central, the owner of the plaza, is inviting the public to come Sunday at 11 a.m. to meet the artist and perhaps participate in some of the designs. The Banco Central is putting on the Fiesta del Arbol at the same time

Museos del Banco Central photo
Four recycled cylinders give an idea of what to expect.
 
The first part of the art project was to place the works casually and unexpectedly on the sidewalks, plazas and boulevards of the city. The second stage, some 53 cylinders, was presented in October at the  Galería Nacional del Museo de los Niños 


Colombian Christmas traditions will be on display at culture ministry Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three organizations have joined to bring to the public a presentation of Colombian Christmas traditions.  The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, the Asociación de Consultores y Asesores Internacionales, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees have put together the Christmas show that is set to begin at 5 p.m. Friday.

The event features the dance performance of “Perlas distorsionadas” by Gustavo Vargas, a musical presentation
by young refugees, a play about Colombian traditions by a women's group, the National Christmas chorus from the Sabanilla district, the choreography by the Parceros group, story telling, the Grupo Vallecumbia's Ballenato-style music and more.      

There will also be food tastings and micro-enterprise presentations for those who attend.  The Christmas show is in the amphitheatre of the Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura, the cultural minister on Avenida 7 at parque España. 




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Latin, Caribbean states lag in competitiveness, official says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nations in Latin America and the Caribbean are falling dangerously behind in global economic competition, which has negative implications for both that region and the United States, said an official with the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

The official is Walter M. Bastian, the Commerce Department’s deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere. He said this week that enhancing competitiveness in Latin America and the Caribbean extends to such issues as offering better educational opportunities for its citizens.  Bastian quoted studies that show the lack of private sector-funded university research and government-funded universities, which are “things which have really benefited the United States” but are still “foreign” in the Latin America/Caribbean region.  Only one university in all of Latin America and the Caribbean is on annual listings of the world's top 200 universities, he said. It is in México.

“Almost anything can make you more competitive,” Bastian said.  “Providing better education, power generation, communications, and better roads and infrastructure” are all ways to help a region compete in the global economy, he said.

Bastian participated in a daylong “Competitiveness” forum at the 30th annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean Basin, held in Miami through Wednesday. 
Bastian said the issue will receive further attention in Atlanta June 11 to 13, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez will host the “Western Hemisphere Competitiveness Forum” focusing on innovation and the importance of managing the supply chain to get a product in and out of a country.  Gutierrez will invite his counterparts from the Western Hemisphere to the Atlanta conference, along with senior officials from the region’s private sector.

Bastian emphasized that Latin America and the Caribbean need to improve the time it takes to move a product from the supplier to the consumer.  He cited the example of how the UPS and FedEx corporations are able to get a package moved off a cargo plane, and through U.S. customs and agricultural and security inspectors, ”all in a matter of 13 minutes.”  In Latin America and the Caribbean “it may take you literally months to get a product loaded on a ship and out of the port,” Bastian said.

”You can’t compete that way,” Bastian said. "We’re trying to expose people [to] more efficient ways of doing business.”

A recent report from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum characterize the Latin America/Caribbean region as “stagnant, lagging behind the growth and productivity of other emerging markets.”   Those reports indicated that even the adoption of preferential trade benefits for Latin America and the Caribbean “have not served as the catalyst for long-awaited gains.”


Ex-dictator Pinochet, 91, improving after being hospitalized for heart attack
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A doctor at the Santiago, Chile, military hospital says Tuesday former dictator Augusto Pinochet is out of critical condition following a heart attack. The 91-year-old former leader is expected to remain in the hospital for a week. He underwent an angioplasty Sunday to reopen his arteries.

Gen. Pinochet has been accused of numerous human rights violations during his 1973 to 1990 rule. More than 3,000 people disappeared or were killed for political reasons during that time.
Monday, an appeals court released him from the house arrest imposed last week in connection with the killing of two bodyguards of the president he overthrew in 1973.

On Pinochet's 91st birthday last month, he said he took what he called "political responsibility" for everything that happened during his rule.

The general has been stripped of the legal immunity granted to former presidents. But he has avoided prosecution, as Chilean courts have ruled he is physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.


Ailing Cuban dissident unexpectedly released from prison after three years
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban dissident Hector Palacios, 65, has been unexpectedly freed from prison after three years.

The sociologist spoke to reporters at his home Wednesday, saying he was released because of his poor health.  He is reported to have heart problems. Palacios was among 75 people jailed in March 2003 in a government crackdown
 on dissidents.  He was later sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring against Cuba with the United States. 

A total of 15 others arrested in that crackdown have since been freed because of health problems.

Palacios's wife is one of the Ladies in White, a group of wives of jailed dissidents who hold a weekly march to demand release for political prisoners.


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