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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Jan. 16, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 11        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Sardinal-Coco water line suffers another setback
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ruled against the Sardinal-Playas del Coco water pipeline. The court, in a decision released Thursday, said that construction of a pipeline violated the constitutional rights of the residents of Sardinal because there was no certainty that sufficient water would remain for local needs. The court also said the residents had a constitutional right to participate in decisions involving the pipeline.

Developers along the Pacific coast, including Grupo Mapache, have put $8 million in trust so that the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados can construct the pipeline, which will carry 167 liters of water per second or 44 gallons per second. The water is vital for continued development along the coast, and some condos are standing empty because they lack water.

In the decision, the court emphasized, perhaps incorrectly, that the water project was a private one. It said had the project been public the Contraloría de la República would have reviewed it. The Contraloría is the financial watchdog.

In fact, the Contraloría studied and released a critical report in November. It said that it has discovered serious faults and omissions in the legal process.
The Contraloría ordered Acueductos y Alcantarillados to begin steps to void the estimated 4,127 permits for water service issued in the area on the strength of the proposed water line.

The Contraloría also ordered the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental, the environmental watchdog for the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, to begin administrative hearings for those employees who approved the water line without completing all the legal steps.
The Sala IV court also said in its decision that the government agencies involved did not hold public hearings in Sardinal about the pipeline.

At the time the Sala IV case was filed by the Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca, that was true, but the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones did hold a hearing later.

The pipeline has become a target for anti-U.S. and anti-development sentiment. Gangs damaged the pipeline in a protest on May 12. Some in the community support the pipeline because of the promise of more jobs along the coast.

This most recent court decision certainly means that more environmental studies will be ordered in an effort to salvage the project, which is about 75 percent completed.

Grim quake photos generate a call for censorship
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two shocking photos in El Diario Extra have generated a wave of condemnation and calls for newspaper censorship.

The photos, published Jan. 12, show earthquake rescue victims unearthing the bodies of a mother and her two sons. A front-page photo on the highly circulated daily newspaper shows a rescue worker lifting one child from the temporary grave. A photo inside the newspaper shows the untouched scene with the mother face down hugging the children in vane.

Some readers were outraged, and a petition campaign has started on the Internet. The newspaper's subdirector, Mario Ugalde Cordero, said in a reply to one of the critics that the newspaper seeks to show the true magnitude of the tragedy. The quake struck a rural area north of San José, Heredia and Alajuela the afternoon of Jan. 8. There are 23 confirmed dead and at least eight missing in the wreckage and the subsequent landslides.

El Diario Extra routinely runs photos of victims of violent death on its front page and elsewhere. It also publishes front page photos of nearly naked women. The newspaper routinely is accused of practicing yellow journalism. The daily is the country's biggest seller.

The photos were of Idania Pérez Borges and her two children.

Said Ugalde: "Certainly this news breaks our heart and we cry to see the tragedy of our brothers, but although crude, we ought to transmit them to you so you can realize the magnitude of
dramatic find thumbnails
These are thumbnails of the offending photos

what happened and cause you to empathize and support the most affected."

"Your reply is just an excuse for lack of professionalism," countered Gioconda Quesada, a woman who had raised the issue in a barrage of Internet e-mails that she copied to the news media.

The condemnation graduated from exchanges of e-mails to, a Web site that allowed Costa Ricans to create petitions for whatever purpose.

Here the call began for censorship. This petition is for the national censorship office to intervene in this type of publication, said the Web page. It said that El Diario Extra had shown lack of respect toward children and the Costa Rican family.

The censorship office seldom makes the news, and the principal job is keeping an eye on radio and television. The official title is the Comisión de Control y Calificación de Espectáculos Públicos. In May 2004 it shut down two magazines, Chavespectáculos and Sexxxo Caliente, not because of content but because the owner would not submit to a prior review.

The current Internet petition touched a nerve and now a chorus is condemning the newspaper. One writer even calls for a boycott.

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Lawmakers approve loan
to pay for quake damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers passed on first reading Thursday a measure that will allow the country to accept a $65 million loan from the  Banco Internacional de Reconstrucción y Fomento for earthquake recovery.

The loan had been in the works because government officials wanted the money to take steps to eliminate possible points of disaster. The Jan. 8 earthquake in the vicinity of Cinchona and the Volcán Poás has generated haste among legislators.  The final vote probably will come Tuesday.

That was the most significant development in earthquake relief Thursday because bad weather kept helicopters on the ground and slowed the effort to find an estimated eight more victims of the quake. There are 23 dead so far.

Residents of the area got a reminder Thursday when 10 more quakes took place. Nine of them were between 2 and 4:30 p.m. Magnitudes ranged from 2.7 to a healthy 4.1. The Jan. 8 quake was measured at a 6.2 magnitude.

There was no damage reported from the aftershocks, but residents took to the streets. Most quakes were in the vicinity of Cinchona, a town that has been abandoned because of the damage.

The rain and the cold encouraged officials to announce that the 2,300 persons in government shelters would be relocated in temporary housing starting next week. Many are living in tents or unheated buildings, and the country is experiencing a cold wave as well as high winds.

Marco Vargas, the minister who is coordinator of the new Comisión de Reconstrucción, said that a United Nations program, Un techo para mi país, would allow the erection of 200 homes in a single day. He also said that the government might seek shipping containers to convert into homes.

More than 500 homes have been damaged or destroyed and are unfit for habitation, according to government figures.

Total public and private damage will be more than $100 million.
Teen faces murder trial
in great-grandfather's death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16 year old goes on trial today in the murder of his great-grandfather and the wounding of his great-grandmother.

The case will be in the Juzgado Penal Juvenil de Cartago. It was in Cartago last June 29 when both great-grandparents suffered injures. Dead was Alfredo Quirós Barrientos, 87. He was knifed. His wife, identified by the last names of  Loaiza Brenes, was hospitalized. She was 86 at the time of the attack and suffered blows to the head.

The couple were in the care of a grandson, and investigators said that their assailant waited outside until the grandson left the home to run errands. Police allege that the great-grandson made his presence known at that time and asked the great-grandparents for money. When the elderly man refused and turned his back to reenter his home, he was attacked with a knife, agents said.

English teachers to hear
of structural approaches

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican and Honduran teachers of English will hear from Spencer Kagan, an educational psychologist who has developed what he calls the structural approach to cooperative learning. He is the author of more than 80 books.

Kagan will direct a video conference at the 25th Conferencia Nacional de Profesores de Inglés. The two-day event begins Wednesday at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

Attending the opening ceremonies will be Leonardo Garnier, minister of Educación Pública; Peter Cianchette, the U.S. ambassador; Neil Reederm the Canadian ambassador, and Sheila Pacheco, vice consul of the British Embassy.

Fishing boat in distress
gets a coast guard tow

By the A.M. Costa rica staff

A fishing boat suffered electical problems off Playa Guiones Wednesday, and the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas had to bring the boat to shore.

The ailing vessel was identified as the 32-foot "Atlantis."  The crew radioed for help about 4 p.m., and the coast guard station in Flamingo sent the launch “Bone Fish” to help. The boat and its crew of four were towed to San Juanillo, the coast guard said.

Blood type is required
for driving licence renewal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials say they will reject driver license applicants whose medical report does not include their blood type and a statement whether or not they would donate body organs upon death.

The medical report, called a dictamen, is filed out by a private doctor. Frequently the doctor is in an office near the licencing facility. Some doctors have been leaving the spaces blank, causing officials to reject renewal applicants, they said.

The examining doctor usually will need a report from a private lab saying the blood type, although some will take the word of the applicant.

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Avenida Escazú takes shape near Hospital CIMA along the Autopista Próspero Fernández. This project will include offices, 150 residences, hotels, another hospital and a commercial center. The work is scheduled to be finished in 2010 or 2011.  Nearby, Multiplaza is expected to start on a fifth section this week.
Escazu development
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Punta Uvita hotel manager held in credit card fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Law enforcement officials searched a hotel in Punta Uvita Thursday and detained the manager.

The search was involved with a fraud case handled by  Fiscalía de Fraudes and the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The Poder Judicial said that the case involved the use of credit cards that belonged to British and Nigerian residents.

No names were released, as is usually the case with the
Poder Judicial when the arrested party has not appeared before a judge.

Investigators said they confiscated a large quantity of money, some 136 million colons or about $250,000.  They also confiscated computer equipment and various paperwork, they said.

The Poder Judicial said that the investigation was involved with a worldwide band of criminals that use fraudulent credit cards. The Poder Judicial said that a twist with this case was that the crooks used a computer program that used an alphanumeric code to simulate virtual credit cards.

Police call in reinforcements to quell riot in Puntarenas neighborhood
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública said Thursday it had captured 10 suspected participants in a riot that broke out Wednesday night in Barrio El Progreso, Puntarenas.

The mob activity continued until about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Officers had entered the area to check for fugitives. That sparked the riot by rival gangs about 7:30 p.m. The bulk of the lawlessness was rock throwing, but one person
arrested had 12 shotgun shells on his person, officers said.

Injured in the confrontation was Marlon Cubillo, regional commander. He was hit in the helmet with a rock and the projectile split open the protective gear and injured him in the head. Also hurt were a passenger and a driver of a bus. Cubillo was hospitalized.

Police called in the riot squad, the Unidad de Intervención Policial, to handle the mob.  Tear gas was used. Of the 10 arrested, only six were adults.

City being as usual masks the great tragedy that is nearby
Unlike the residents and tourists in the area of Poás volcano and Vara Blanca, those of us living in San José proper have not felt the brunt of the Jan. 8 earthquake. Plenty of minor damage, but no one is homeless. Less than four hours after the quake I was downtown. (This was after I had picked up the fallen books and cleaned up the mess made by some broken bottles and the large mirror over my sideboard.)

Downtown everything looked normal.  The children were chasing the pigeons in Parque Cultural, their mothers looking anxious that they would run into people like me trying to cross the park.

The clowns were twisting their balloons into silly shapes, and the vendors had their wares laid out on blankets on Avenida Central.  McDonalds was full of customers. The sidewalks looked as they always have — as if they had been hit by a series of minor earthquakes.

I walked into one shoe store on Avenida Central, and, as usual, a clerk quickly approached me to ask if she could help. As usual I replied “Thank you, I’m only looking,”

I’ve decided that trying to buy a new pair of shoes is like getting a Ph.D. in some academic discipline.  In one you are going to have to squeeze and shape your foot into whatever is the latest fashion. In the other you have to do the same thing with your mind.  In both you need strength of character to defy what is in. That is only my opinion.

So generally things were normal.  Including public transportation in the city.  So on Wednesday my friend Steve and I decided to check out the train that runs from Pavas to San Pedro.  We caught it at its stop in Sabana Sur at around 7:15 a.m. Most of the cars were already well-occupied, although there were still seats in the one we entered (actually, two young women kindly gave us theirs because they were getting off soon — one of the benefits of white hair.)  When I asked the conductor what the fare was he asked how far we were going.  The fare to San Pedro was 400 colones.  I love trains of all kinds, and this was no exception.  It went along quite smoothly rocking from side to side and I thought it might be a bit more difficult to read while riding the train than a bus.

But on my first trip I had no desire to read. 

We traveled the north side of town, probably a good 15 to 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

20 blocks from the Avenida Segunda.  A lot of people got off at the stop that obviously was opposite the center of town.  I guess they took a bus from there.  Two stops later we were at Plaza Viques. I used to go to the feria there.  The train headed northeast and crossed Avenida Segunda.

At one point, possibly just after Barrio Escalante, it began to back up after its stop, and I began to worry. But somehow we arrived at San Pedro, right behind the Universidad de Costa Rica, just a couple of blocks from the main street.  The trip had taken about 40 minutes.  A trip that would have taken at least two bus rides with many more stops and surely more than 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, the train runs only in the morning and late afternoon.  You can call 8305-3440 or write for information about the schedule.

After walking around San Pedro and finding no café open for breakfast, we caught a bus and had something to eat at one of my favorite sodas: Pat’s place in the Centro Cultural.  

Our pleasant day emphasized to me that we were spared, but others have not been. There are several ways you can contribute to alleviating some of the suffering caused by the earthquake.  One is by attending the next monthly meeting (Monday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.) of the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica at the Laurence Olivier Theatre.   Bring a contribution of nonperishable food, bottled water, disposable diapers, and of course, money, You will also get to see a preview of their next production, “Calendar Girls,” and to meet more interesting expats. That is, if you live here.

Otherwise, as noted in Wednesday’s A.M. Costa Rica, you can send money to Banco de Costa Rica, account number 91100-3 for colons and 118281 for dollars. Or Banco Nacional, account #911-8.  Banco de Costa Rica will match your contribution.                  

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 11

Two stars visit Costa Rica to push for safe driving
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A seven-time Formula One world champion and an action movie star were in Costa Rica Thursday to promote safe driving.

They are the German racer Michael Shumacher and Michelle Yeoh, a former James Bond star and costar with Jackie Chan.

They were campaigning to "Make Roads Safe." The race driver presented the government with a $1 million grant to develop better sidewalks and to create bike paths.

The money comes from the foundation of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the racing rule-making body.

Shumachaer pointed out that street racing is highly dangerous and that Formula One drivers have special tracks, rules and systems to save lives.

Karla Gonzáles, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, noted that the new traffic law combats drunk driving and drag racing. She also pointed out that some 33 persons, a tenth of the 2008 death toll, died while using a bicycle in the street. She and the visitors helped dedicate a new bike path.

Ms. Yeoh, a former Miss Malaysia, performs many of her own movie stunts. She starred in  "Tomorrow Never Dies" and  "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." She is a global ambassador for the foundation. Her husband is the  former CEO of Ferrari. Ms. Yeoh just made a film 
visting celebrities
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Michelle Yeoh and Michael Shumacher

for the foundation, "Make Roads Safe - Demanding Action in 2009."

The Make Roads Safe campaign is calling for a Decade of Action for Road Safety to tackle the worldwide road deaths epidemic which takes the lives of 1.3 million people and injures over 50 million each year. The Decade of Action would follow the precedent set by the U.N. Decade to Roll Back Malaria with a coordinated global effort to help countries tackle the growing road death toll, the foundation said.

The campaign is supported by public figures including Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Sonia Gandhi. Make Roads Safe is calling on governments attending the first U.N. global ministerial conference on road safety in Moscow in November 2009 to agree action to reduce by 50 percent the projected increase in road deaths to 2020.

Paris celebration inaugurates International Year of Astronomy as tool for peace
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A large cluster of astronomers has been sighted in Paris at the official launch of the International Year of Astronomy, the U. N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said.

The year, also known as IYA2009, was planned to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations of the heavens with a telescope and, under the theme ‘The Universe, Yours to Discover,’ is meant to reignite the wonder that the starry realms have always provoked in humankind, according to a news release.

“People have always looked to the sky for answers to the questions ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘Why are we here?’” said Koïchiro Matsuura, director general of the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He spoke at the opening at the agency’s headquarters, where
astronauts, artists, diplomats, industrialists and astronomy undergraduates from over 100 countries have gathered.

“The sky belongs to everybody,” Matsuura added, avowing that “Astronomy is an instrument to promote peace and understanding among nations and as such is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission.”

The two-day launch ceremony is hosting presentations by Nobel Prize winners Bob Wilson and Baruch Blumberg, revelations of the latest discoveries, discussions on the role of astronomy in culture and public engagement, real-time astronomical observations and a closing performance by the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet.

Hundreds of events on the global, national and regional levels have also been planned for the first weeks of the Year in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union,  the agency said.

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A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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European central bank
cuts interest rates again

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Another major interest rate cut in Europe has failed to rally world markets.

Hoping to stem the effects of a deepening recession, the European central bank cut its main interest rate by half a point to 2 percent. Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the decision was approved unanimously by the institution's governing council.

"Why? We were taking into account significant further alleviation of inflationary risks, due in particular but not exclusively to the slowing down of the global and European economy," he said.

The banks' action is the latest in a series of rate cuts undertaken by central banks around the world. Last month, the central bank slashed interest rates by an even larger amount, three-quarters of a percent. Trichet said he believes economic conditions will remain difficult for 2009, but predicted a recovery in 2010.

The global slowdown began in the United States after a home mortgage crisis that in turn prompted a sharp worldwide decline in the ability of banks to loan money. The United States is believed to have been in a recession for just over a year, during which time unemployment has risen by more than 2 percentage points and now stands at 7.2 percent.

Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that new claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week to 524,000 job-seekers, up more than 50,000 from the previous week. David Weiss is chief economist at Standard and Poor's.

"Any way you look at it, the labor market is weak and getting worse," he said. "We are in a recession. I am not sure whether it is the worst recession since 1982, or the worst recession since the 1930s. but it is going to get worse before it gets better, and do not expect any turnaround until at least mid-year."

Venezuelan lawmakers OK
elimination of term limits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's national assembly has taken a key step in allowing President Hugo Chávez and other elected officials to seek re-election indefinitely. Lawmakers have approved a controversial constitutional amendment that eliminates limits on how many times elected officials can serve.

The amendment must now be submitted to referendum within 30 days. Voters rejected a similar referendum to lift term limits in 2007. President Chavez has urged voters to approve the measure so he can seek a third term in 2012. Chavez has said he wants to move Venezuela toward what he calls 21st century socialism.

Jo Stuart
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