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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 247          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Garland M. Baker 
A rocky surprise awaits motorists near Dominical during a recent storm.

Controversial mine reported moving ahead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vannessa Ventures Ltd., the company that owns the controversial Crucitas gold mine, near the Nicaraguan border, has announced that it has concluded the environmental- permitting process. 

The final resolution was issued by the Secretaría Técnica Ambiental Monday and follows the approval of the environmental impact statement which was announced in early September, the company said.  The statement said that Vannessa had complied with all of the requisites of Costa Rican mining and environmental regulations, the company said. 

The resolution has also specified the amount of the required environmental performance  bond as $600,000.  Vannessa said it has made preliminary arrangements for bonding to be put into place and this will be finalized now that the exact amount of the bond has been identified, it added. The mine is an open-pit type.
The company said it has been working towards producing a feasibility study to secure project financing since the environmental impact statement was approved in September. Vannessa has now hired Geostat International, Inc., to complete a compliant resource evaluation, it said. Other consultants and contractors have been retained, both in Canada and Costa Rica, to assist Vannessa in the development of the project, the company said.

Vannessa also said that it has continued working with the small communities near the mine in the Provincia de Alajuela to ensure that community needs are addressed and the environmental impact statement is followed.

The Canadian-based company, working through its subsidiary, Industrias Infinito S.A., plans to put in an open pit mine. The project has angered environmentalists because the company will use the chemical mercury to leach the gold from crushed rock. Opponents fear the mercury will find its way into the San Juan River nearby.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 247

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National chorus plans
'Messiah' tripleheader

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Coro Sinfónico Nacional has planned three presentations of George Frederick Handel's "Messiah" for Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Cartago, Heredia and Escazú.

Costa Rican soprano María Marta López along with Brazilian alto Paulo Mestre and North Americans Larry Gerber as tenor and Scott MacLeod as bass are scheduled to perform along with the choir. They will all be accompanied by a chamber orchestra directed by Ramiro A. Ramírez.  He has been the choir's director since 1989. 

The first concert will take place Friday at 7:45 p.m. in the Basílica de la Inmaculada in El Guarco de Cartago.  The second is Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Catedral de la Inmaculada in Heredia.  The third will be Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in the Iglesia de San Miguel in Escazú. 

The "Messiah" is based on biblical texts and is divided into three parts.  The first part has to do with the prophecy of Christ's birth.  The second recalls his passion, death and resurrection.  The third is the final judgement.   Because of the length of the "Messiah," it is rarely performed in full.  The musicians are scheduled to perform the entire first part and sections of the last two parts. 

Man's death in Limón
involved police officer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Limón are looking into the circumstances that resulted in the death of 48-year-old Jesús Jiménez Vásquez.

According to reports, Jiménez left a bar in Liverpool de Limón Monday afternoon and shot his gun into the air.  A police officer arrived and tried to talk Jiménez into handing over the weapon, agents said. 

Instead, Jiménez pointed the gun at the officer, then took off running to a new bar, agents said.  The officer followed the man inside and Jiménez ran off once again, agents said.  Then, shots were heard and Jiménez died, agents said. 

Raid nets cash, cars
in probe of Liberia heist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Liberia raided four homes and the “Las Tenis” store in Leon XIII early Tuesday morning before arresting a 27-year-old man identified by the last name Bustos. 

He is suspected of participating in an assault against an armored car business in Liberia Dec. 7, agents said.  In that heist, the bandits made off with approximately 130 million colons ($262,573).  In the homes, agents seized a Hyundai and a Honda as well as two motorcycles, agents said.  They also seized a .38-caliber firearm and 2 million colons ($4,039) in cash, agents said.

Feb hikes interest rate
another fraction in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, Tuesday raised short-term interest rates for the 13th consecutive time since June 2004. The rate hike brings short-term rates up to 4.25 percent.

Short-term rates in the United States have been raised by 0.25 percent to 4.25 percent. That is their highest level since April 2001. Stock prices in New York rallied on the news, mainly because many analysts believe the central bank's current cycle of raising rates is nearing an end.

The tightening cycle follows a period of interest cuts from 2001 to 2003. Then the central bank sought to stimulate an economy weakened by recession and the uncertainty from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Our reader's opinion
He hopes inspections
contribute to highways

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The anger over the road conditions in Central Guanacaste as written by Jim O'Neil, is mirrored by many others who must or choose to use the roads here, and certainly, that anger comes from people all over the country, not only central Guanacaste, but across this great country.  So, what's my point??
Recently, I found it necessary to renew my vehicle inspection, so visited RTV in Alajuelita.  After having my paperwork processed, I was given the number to one of the (long) lines.  For a Monday, I couldn't believe the sheer numbers of cars which filled lines in every one of the six service entrances. It took over 40 minutes for me to move to the front of the line, and when I looked behind me, there were even more vehicles then when I began the wait.
All of this to say that it appears that RTV processes an unimaginable number of vehicles six days each week, and must take in an enormous amount of money.  I was informed by a gentleman who, as a native Costa Rican, saw the inception of the RTV, and who was given to understand (as was the general population) that at least a portion of revenues generated by RTV would be used to improve the roads country-wide.
Now if this is not, nor ever has been true, it is really a shame. Frankly, I would be happier to hear that it is true rather than discover that the funds have been diverted into some politicians pocket, or used for "pet" projects to benefit only a few.
President Pacheco, you were voted into office to serve the country.  Our road infrastructure is deplorable, and with the upcoming election, this would be a most opportune time for you to take a leadership position, and put the "road-repair" agenda on the front burner, instead of leaving the whole mess to the next administration!
John Rubida
San Ignacio de Acosta
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 247

An A.M. Costa Rica news analysis
Presidential outcome is keyed to number of voters

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans are victims of a massive epidemic of election apathy. Many say they will not vote Feb. 5.  There does not seem to be the outpouring of party support that is typical once every four years.

In part, the political parties are to blame because they have failed to capture the imagination of the voters.

In part, a big lead held by Óscar Arias Sánchez in the public opinion polls suggest that there is not much of a contest and makes his campaign planners cautious.    

In part, having the current and three former presidents under investigation diminishes the credibility of the political process.

In part, the weak candidacy of Ricardo Toledo removed the ruling party, Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, as a contender early in the game.

Citizens were disillusioned by a cascade of scandals. First officials of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and the CEO of a leading pharmaceutical company were linked to a $9 million rakeoff from a $39 million foreign aid loan from Finland to purchase hospital equipment.  Later, former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier of Unidad,  among others, was accused of being one of the architects of the commission deal. He served from 1990 to 1994.

Not long afterwards, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría, who served from 1998 to 2002, was accused of getting the lion’s share of a kickback from the French telecommunications firm Alcatel on a major cellular telephone contract. Rodríguez, also of Unidad, was the former president who served briefly as secretary general of the Organization of American States until the scandal broke in mid-October, 2004.

Meanwhile, José María Figueres Olson, yet another former president, serving from 1994 to 1998, refused to return to Costa Rica to face questions in the Asamblea Legislativa. A committee wanted to ask him about the $900,000 he got from Alcatel. He is a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional, founded by his father, former president José Figueres Ferrer.

Then there is the current administration of Abel Pacheco, a psychiatrist who  presented himself as something other than a professional politician. Pacheco aides say nature battered the administration with storms, flooding and hurricanes, and the world economic situation and oil prices took their toll.

For whatever the reason, the nation's roads are in a mess, major projects have been stalled and a fire that killed 19 at the Caja's Hospital Calderón Guardia showed that even the most basic security systems were not operating.

Amid the background, the current presidential campaign is mostly lackluster. There is a clear 

Oscar Arias

Ottón Solís

division between candidates who favor and those who oppose the free trade treaty with the United States. The pact is being discussed in the legislature now, but it has not been exploited fully in the campaign.

Arias favors the pact, but his closest opponent, according to the polls, Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, rejects the agreement.  Until now the thrust of the Solís campaign has been to dispel the Arias aura of invincibility.

The best campaign spots have been of boxers wearing Solís and Arias masks slugging away at each other. "Are you sure Arias is going to win," asks a voice off camera.

Arias, the Liberación candidate, is another former president, 1986 to 1990. He seems to be content to remind voters that he won the Nobel Prize for Peace for ending the Nicaraguan war.  He is the champion of the business class, which is suspicious of the more socialistic Solís.

The older, nostalgic voters seem to favor Arias, even though his presidential term was not a golden age. Younger voters might be the best hope of the Solís camp in the Feb. 5 voting.

The Christmas season provides a break from hard campaigning. January will be the month when the gloves might come off. For the youthful Solís, the goal will be to force Arias into a runoff while gaining a significant number of party victories in the legislative elections.

There are seven significant presidential candidates who might divide the popular vote enough to cause a presidential runoff.  At that point the election will hinge on how negative the Solís campaign dares to get.

Arias with his support of the free trade treaty, personal investments and long public life carries enough baggage to make him vulnerable to attack advertising. Then there is the surprising Sala IV high court decision that voided the Constitution and allowed him to run for a second term.

A lot depends on how many voters visit the polls.

Police tighten Nicaraguan border and get $50,000 in illegal merchandise
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in La Cruz along the Nicaraguan border have recently tightened their enforcement in an effort to stem the flow of illegal items streaming south from Nicaragua, officers said. 

Since the stronger enforcement went into effect, officers have made a total of seven seizures of medications, fireworks and clothes among other items along the border, officers said.  The items are worth an estimated 25 million colons, officers said.  That's some $50,000.

Officers said they detained a Nicaraguan identified by the last name Vélez who was attempting to transport a load of medications into Costa Rica without approval from the Ministerio de Salud.  The woman also had 26 pairs of camouflage pants with her.
In two other police actions, officers said they seized a total of 1,788 fireworks.  These were probably being brought to the country in preparation for the holiday festivities.  The two persons suspected of trying to transport the explosives into the country were a Nicaraguan woman identified by the last name Navarro Ortíz and a Costa Rican man identified by the last name Garro, officers said. 

In addition, police said they have seized four false cédulas, Costa Rica's identification document.  These were taken from foreigners trying to enter the country to stay, officers said. 

Police have also seized chocolate, deodorant, a frying pan, four gallons of cooking oil, disinfectant, soap, 7 kilos of caramel, 141 pairs of pants and 176 other garments, officers said.  All were being transported into the country illegally, officers said.    

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 247

Trade meeting opens in Hong Kong amid shouts
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 149 members of the World Trade Organization have opened talks in Hong Kong aimed at cutting global trade barriers and lifting millions of people out of poverty. The talks got underway as thousands of anti-globalization activists took to the streets.

The meeting kicked off with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy telling members that despite wide differences going into the talks there is hope for an agreement. Speaking above the shouting of demonstrators, he said it is possible for participants to walk away from these talks with something in hand.
"But for that, some risks have to be taken," said Lamy. "A popular Chinese proverb says if you don't go in the cave with the tiger, how will you get its cub. In other words, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Negotiations are deadlocked primarily over demands by poor countries that richer ones liberalize farm trade, while wealthy nations want developing economies to open markets to industrial products and services.

More than a dozen anti-globalization activists managed to get into the opening ceremony, where they shouted slogans and held written signs, including some that said "WTO, Go to Hell."

Scientists find Mayan mural with a creation myth
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Archaeologists working in Guatemala have unearthed a large, brightly-colored Mayan mural thought to be the oldest of its kind. The 2,000 year old wall painting depicts the mythology surrounding ancient kings and life during a period in early Mayan civilization.

Using carbon dating, archaeologists have put the age of the mural at 100 BC.

It was discovered in an ancient Mayan pyramid at San Bartolo in Guatemala by scientists who found another mural at the site four-years ago.

While that finding was spectacular, team leader William Saturno of Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology says it did not prepare archaeologists for their most recent discovery. "I was awestruck by its state of preservation. Its brilliant colors and fluid lines looked as though they could have been painted yesterday. More important than its preservation, however, was its content. As the wall was uncovered, so too was the Maya story of creation," he said.

Saturno says the nine-meter by one-meter mural shows the establishment of the Mayan's belief in world order. Four deities, which are variations of the
same figure and apparently sons of the maize god,
offer up blood sacrifice as they set up the physical world. "We then witness the maize god's birth, his death and his resurrection, before the wall ends with the coronation of a named and titled Maya king, newly crowned in the company of the Gods," he said.

As for what the room was used for, Saturno says archaeologists are still trying to figure that out. "Our best guess is that this was sort of a preparation room. That this is where the king performed ceremony, and sort of rehearsed the mythology that he would perform on the front side of the pyramid," he said.

Two kilometers from the mural room, archaeologists discovered a tomb containing the remains of what they believe to be one of the early Mayan kings. Outside the pyramid, archaelogists found nine-thousand mural chips, which they intend to piece together in the hope of gaining a fuller picture of the ancient civilization.

Before the discoveries, scientists say they had very little information on the lives of the earliest Mayans.

Scientists say they have no plans to move the murals or put them on display, although that is something the Guatemalan government may do in time.

The latest findings from San Bartolo will be published in the January 2006 issue of National Geographic.

International press group urges Cuba to free ailing journalist
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MIAMI, Fla. — The Inter American Press Association Tuesday added its voice to an international clamor for the release from prison of Cuban independent journalist Ricardo González Alfonso, who is serving a 20-year term and whose health has deteriorated.

González Alfonso was arrested in March 2003 during the Cuban government crackdown on the independent press and political opposition. His wife, Alida Viso Bello, issued a public call to democratic governments, prominent figures and international organizations around the world “to intercede before the Cuban government on behalf of prisoner of conscience Ricardo González Alfonso, who is in an extremely poor state of health.”

The chairman of the Inter American Press Association's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared, “We are committed to continue supporting action on behalf of the independent press in Cuba and in the specific case of González Alfonso we urge the authorities in that country to grant his immediate release, as well as that of all those convicted and sentenced for merely practicing journalism.”

At the time of his arrest González Alfonso, 55, was president of the Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Society, correspondent of the Paris, France-based Journalists Without Borders, founding editor of "De
 Cuba" magazine, director of the Jorge Mañach
independent library, and a stringer for the association Web site.

Along with González Alfonso, 24 other independent journalists are in Cuban jails serving sentences for having exercised the right to press freedom.

In another development, the association received a complaint from independent journalist Carlos Serpa Maseira, correspondent on the Isle of Pines of the independent news agency Lux Infopress and bureau chief of the Puente Informativo Cuba-Miami (Cuba-Miami News Bridge). He said his office, which is also his home, was raided by State Security agents Nov. 29.

He said the four agents seized books, tape recordings, notebooks, diskettes, films, DVD equipment and other items. They took photographs, he added, and made off with bureau documentation, threatening to charge him under Law 88 (known as the gag law), which makes activities carried out by opposition politicians and independent journalists punishable offenses.

“We insist that the Cuban authorities should ease the restrictions to free speech and press freedom. A demonstration of their interest in fostering true democracy would be the release from prison of the independent journalists unjustly detained,” added Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, daily newspaper Prensa Libre.

A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the association.

Jo Stuart
About us

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