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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 243           E-mail us
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Downtown still is the Christmas hub in San José
Police tower
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Policeman surveys afternoon crowd near Mercado Central.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials have erected two towers to let policemen keep an eye on holiday crowds. They are in Avenida Central's pedestrian mall.
The central business district is still a vital economic center for the central canton of San José. Although there are a handful of malls surrounding the central city, working-class Ticos still shop downtown.

They will be rewarded tonight with the 5:30 p.m. kickoff of the municipality's Avenidazo, a mixture of music and events to keep the shoppers coming. The event today is called Navidad en San José and features an 80-piece orchestra and two choruses.  The program includes such favorites as "Jingle Bells," Spanish versions of popular English carols like "Noche de paz," Latin hymns like "Adeste Fideles" and purely Spanish Christmas songs like the Argentine "Huachi torito."

There always are police reinforcements at Christmas. Thanks to the Christmas bonus or aguinaldo, shoppers are heavy with cash. But usually there are few serious crimes and not many thefts. The security forces hope to continue that tradition this year.

Coming up Saturday is the Festival de la Luz parade, which always attracts younger teens with beer cans, despite police efforts.



Outdoor annual art show begins today in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the first of the four-day EmbrujArte, which brings the works of leading artists to an outdoor sale at the soccer field in San Rafael de Escazú. Organizers promise 2,500 works on display and have a series of events to attract visitors.

Among these is an outdoor painting contest for 40 artists. They will paint, and the product of their efforts will be judged and then donated and sold to benefit the Asociación Unidos por la Niñez.
The local celebrity will be Cristian Madriz, the Escazú singer who recently placed tops in a television musical show.

The official inauguration is tonight at 7 o'clock although artists booths are open from 10 a.m. today, as they are everyday through Sunday.  Admission is free.

The name, of course, is a play on the reputation of Escazú having been home to witches or brujas in Spanish.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 243

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Araya brings his wish list
to Casa Presidencial


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are four priorities in the agenda of Johnny Araya, who won election Sunday as mayor of the central canton of San José.

He met Wednesday to discuss his plans with Laura Chinchilla Miranda, at Casa Presidencial.

Araya revealed on election night that he seeks to construct a trolley system in San José. That was one of his priorities. He won with about 60 percent of the vote.

Older residents were pleased by the idea because they remember when a trolley line ran up Paseo Colón and when it was covered over with asphalt.

Araya and the president also discussed citizen security, the creation of more technical colleges and preparation of the country for the Central American Olympic games.

Ms. Chinchilla said she saw the necessity of the central government helping municipalities to improve management and advance projects for the benefit of residents, said Casa Presidencial. She won her party's presidential nomination in a race that included Araya.


Ban seeks resolve to raise
$100 billion a year


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Committing funds to climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries will lead to a safer, healthier and prosperous world for all, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told delegates at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancún Wednesday as he urged them to find ways of raising the required resources.

“Climate financing is one of the most important aspects of our efforts to address the climate change challenge,” Ban told a side event related to his advisory group on climate change financing.

“It is not a panacea for the climate problem, but it is crucial to have adequate financial support for developing countries and for building trust between countries,” he said.

The group was constituted by the secretary general and is co-chaired by prime ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Jens Stoltenberg of Norway to look into mobilizing financing to help developing nations deal with climate change.

In a report issued last month, it stated that, while challenging, the goal of raising $100 billion annually by 2020 is feasible.

“There is no silver bullet – no one-size-fits-all solution for raising these funds,” Ban said. “We will need a variety of public and private sector sources. But with political will, leadership, appropriate public policy signals for the markets, and financial ingenuity, it can be done.”

The secretary general urged delegates at the conference to anchor the findings and recommendations of the advisory group in their climate change negotiations.

At the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, last December, developed nations pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012 and committed to jointly raise $100 billion annually by 2020.

Financing is just one of several issues – along with the sharing of technology, reducing deforestation, and adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change – that delegates meeting in Cancún at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change are discussing.

Also on the agenda of the two-week meeting, which is set to conclude Friday, is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.

Speaking to reporters in Cancún yesterday, Mr. Ban said that there is no single magic solution to climate change.

“We need to make progress wherever we can, and keep moving forward in the right direction. I do not expect governments to reach an all-encompassing global agreement here in Cancún,” he stated. “But we need to see progress on all fronts of the negotiations.


 
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
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary








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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 243
Latigo K-9

Visitors Wednesday appear to appreciate statues of average Costa Ricans at the west door of the Banco Central.
Banco Central
A.M. Costa Rica photo

Business operators show a slight weakening of confidence
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Business leaders as a group are pretty much unchanged in their perception of economic activity and their confidence in the future.

A survey sought responses from 456 business leaders in October. They were asked their expectations for the final three months of the year and they were asked to assess the status of their business for the three months just concluded.

The Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, which did the survey, said that the perception of how the businesses fared dipped from 5.07 in the same period a year earlier to 4.98 on a 10-point scale.
 
The chamber said that this result was in line with an index of economic activity computed by the Banco Central, which said that the economy dipped about 3.4 percent in July, August and September.

Confidence in the future was estimated at 5.5 or about 1 percent lower than the previous report, the chamber said.

The organization made much of the small changes and said that the central government needs to send clear signals over the opening of the telecommunications market as well as take other concrete actions that have been promised. One
of these is to execute a loan for the Limón Ciudad Puerto that has been in the works for two years. That project involves heavy expenditures to improve the infrastructure of the Caribbean province.

The chamber produces a survey every three months, and the data has been an important index during the economic crisis. The responses to the survey are affected by the nature of the industry in which each business owner is involved. For example, operators of construction firms showed a drop of 17 percent, from 5.2 to 4.3 in confidence over the last three months of the year.

The tourism industry also showed a weakening of confidence, dropping to 4.3 in confidence against a previous 5.9 in estimating business in the last three months of the year.

Some 56 percent of those surveyed said they thought that the Banco Central's system for setting the exchange rate with the dollar needed to be revised.

The chamber has been doing this census of business attitudes for 11 years.

The results, released Wednesday, come at a time when the Chinchilla administration is pushing through a series of new taxes in the Asamblea Legislativa.


Nation en route to logging fewer traffic deaths for the year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officials are hoping that the year closes with a reduction in traffic deaths.

Figures through November show they are on track. The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes said that as of Nov. 30 just 257 persons died in traffic accidents. That is the fewest since 2005 when there were 251 reported deaths by that date.

Of course the Christmas holidays are still ahead, and at least four more persons have died in December. Yet officials hope that the death toll will stay well under 300.
They are attributing some of the reduction to the new traffic code that contains serious consequences for speeders and drunk drivers. There also is the rigorous vehicle inspection program.

The average death toll for December is about 23, so officials hope to finish the year with about 280 deaths.
The year 2009 saw 315 deaths, and there were 283 by Nov. 30, according to ministry statistics.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros reports that there are 973,000 vehicles on the road now compared to about half that in 1996. So the death toll per mile traveled should show a reduction by the end of the year.


Quakes a day apart rock western part of the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For two days in a row, the Nicoya peninsula and Guanacaste area has been rocked by earthquakes.
A 4.0-magnitude quake took place off Montezuma on the tip of the peninsula at 11:12 a.m. Tuesday. Wednesday at 12:27 p.m. a 3.7-magnitude quake was reported 12 kilometers southeast of Filadelfia further north.

Both quakes were blamed on local faults, but the
Montezuma quake, estimated to be 16 kilometers southeast of Cóbano is in an area where quakes have taken place repeatedly.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia made both estimates. The Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica estimated the magnitude to be 4.1 for the Tuesday quake and 3.9 for the quake Wednesday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 243


Reinforcement work completed at nation's oldest church

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Centro de Patrimonio has pronounced reinforcement work on the country's oldest church to be finished. There was a ceremony to that effect Wednesday at the church, the  Templo Católico de la Purísima Concepción del Rescate. It is in Ujarrás de Cartago.
 
The structure and surrounding park is owned by the

old church restored
Minsterio de Cultura y Juventud photo
Manuel Obregón participates in the ceremony
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and the church usually is called the Ruinas de Ujarrás.

The Centro de Patrimonio spent 10 million colons ($19,940) in studying the vulnerability of the structure and 33.9 million colons ($67,600) in reinforcement work.

Tradition says that the church was built in 1638.

Part of the vulnerability study involves making sure the ground was secure because there had been reports of landslides at nearby streams. The study discounted those rumors, said the director of the centro, Sandra Quiròs. The church has suffered heavy damage from earthquakes.

It is no more than a shell now.

The work on the church ruins involved filling cracks with concrete and constructing concrete supports for the front and back walls. There also was extensive drainage work around the exterior walls.  The centro also has supported the restoration of adjacent buildings.

Manuel Obregón, minister of Cultura y Juventud, noted in the ceremony that the end of work marked a year in which there were other restorations in the province of Cartago.



Court workers managed to amass 5,500 presents for kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A mountain of Christmas presents Wednesday morning astonished youngsters from the Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo dropped by the Corte Suprema de Justicia.
The Poder Judicial said that some 5,500 presents were available for distribution, and the youngsters present received one. The association works in low-income communities.

Magda Pereira, a supreme court magistrate, noted that five years ago the court workers collected just 125 toys and she said that she hoped that other institutions would follow the example of the Poder Judicial. Receiving the bulk of the donation on the behalf of the association was the Rev. Sergio Valverde.
christmas presents
Poder Judicial photo
Here are some of the presents collected by court workers



New opinion page will feature readers' letters from archive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the first year that A.M. Costa Rica was published, reader letters were printed on a special page. That gave less than adequate exposure to some interesting thoughts and ideas that readers have.

Since then, reader letters have been published on a news page, frequently Page 2. Although those pages were archived and the reader letters are available with a search, they are hard to locate.

So beginning Monday reader letters were archived in a news feed that appears on A.M. Costa Rica's new opinion page.
The page also is being constructed to provide room for the newspaper's opinion and outside opinion that is designed to promote discussion and thought.

Also on the page, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders launches a strong defense of Wikileaks, the Web site that is publishing the formerly confidential or secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Please find it HERE!

And those who wish to comment on the guest editorial or on any other aspect of Costa Rican life are invited to send their letters to:

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 243

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Rioting follows report
of Haitian finalists


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian President Rene Preval has called for calm after protesters set fire to the headquarters of his ruling coalition, accusing it of rigging the preliminary results of the Nov. 28 national election.

President Preval made the appeal in a radio address Wednesday.  Late Tuesday, the nation's provisional electoral council announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Celestin had advanced to the second round of the country's presidential poll.  Third-place candidate Michel Martelly trailed by less than 1 percent of the vote.

Thousands of people, angered by the vote outcome, have been taking to the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, starting fires, throwing rocks and setting up barricades.  Witnesses said black smoke filled the air as flames tore through the government building.

U.S. air carrier American Airlines suspended flights to and from Haiti for Wednesday and Thursday because the company's employees have not been able to get to work.

A United Nations spokesman says Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is concerned about the fraud allegations and is strongly committed to supporting free and fair election results that reflect the will of the Haitian people.

Supporters of Martelly, a popular entertainer, were the most vocal Wednesday.  They had expected him to at least make it to a runoff round. Haitian police reportedly made no attempt to stop the protests.

Violence also erupted in the southern town of Les Cayes, where demonstrators set fire to government buildings.

The United States has expressed concern over the situation.  A statement from the U.S. Embassy said the results are inconsistent with the published results of the National Observation Council, as well as domestic, U.S. and other international observers.

Haitian election officials said no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote.  The runoff has been scheduled for Jan. 16.

The vote, held despite a cholera outbreak, was marred by violence and accusations of cheating.  Many voters were unable to find the correct polling station despite repeated attempts.

Several presidential candidates have already challenged the vote. 

The impoverished Caribbean country is still struggling to recover from an earthquake in January that killed more than 200,000 people and left 1 million others homeless. The ongoing cholera outbreak, first reported in October, has killed more than 2,000 people.

Prison fire in Chile kills
at least 83 inmates


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 83 inmates have died after a fire swept through a severely overcrowded prison in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Hundreds of inmates were evacuated and at least 14 were injured, some with serious burns, as flames tore through the building.

Local television footage showed smoke billowing from the prison while inmates waved their hands through the prison windows.  Other footage showed panicked relatives pressed upon the prison fence, throwing rocks, and scuffling with each other and police. 

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera called the conditions at the prison "absolutely inhumane."

Relatives told local media that prison police had initially prevented firefighters from entering the building.

Officials said the fire broke out during an early morning fight between inmates. There are 1,900 inmates in the prison, which was built for no more 1,100 people.

A Chilean official said it is the deadliest incident in the history of the country's prison system.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 243

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Latin American news
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Telecom agency stresses
phones must be approved

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Telecom regulators are warning citizens that the cell telephone they purchase should carry a sticker saying that it will work on the country's network.

The Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones said that a directive that went into force nearly a year ago allows it to specify what telephones will work with the national network.

Right now the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad still is the only provider, but competitors are about to participate in an auction that will provide them frequencies.

A Web page lists the telephones and GPS locations that are approved. There is a code that is used to activate the cell phone that verifies that it has been approved, the agency said.


Colombian rebels to free
hostages with conditions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's largest rebel group says it plans to free five of the hostages in its custody.

The Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia said in a statement Wednesday that it would free two politicians and three members of the military. The statement did not specify a date.  The leftist guerrilla group said the release date would depend on guarantees from the government that the captives would be received by former mediator and senator Piedad Cordoba.

In September, Colombia's inspector general expelled the outspoken opposition senator from Congress and barred her from public service for 18 years, because of her alleged links with the rebel group.

Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez said Ms. Cordoba was dismissed for promoting and collaborating with the rebels.  Ms. Cordoba has been involved in past efforts to secure the release of hostages.

The rebels have been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.  The rebel group has been designated as a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States and the European Union.





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