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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, July 30, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 150                          Email us
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Caribbean coast, Turrialba slammed by heavy rains
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rains that brought devastation to parts of the province of Limón are expected to continue through Tuesday with even more rain predicted for early today.

A least four persons died, including an 84-year-old woman who was trapped in the rubble of her destroyed home for eight hours.

Slides cut off San José from the Caribbean Saturday. Even the alternate route through Turrialba was closed due to slides. Highway officials opened Ruta 32 Sunday but said they would close the highway, the main route north from San José, to all but emergency vehicles until 5 a.m. today. That was a precaution on the highway that is prone to major slides.

Perhaps as much as 25 inches of rain fell on the mountains in Limón. The central canton, Limón Centro, saw 103.1 millimeters (4.05 inches) from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday but only 8.5 millimeters after 7 a.m.

Turrialba Centro received 316.7 millimeters (12.5 inches)  Saturday through 7 a.m. Sunday but only 3.5 for the rest of Sunday, according to the automatic weather stations maintained by the Instituto Meteorological Nacional.

However, Jiménez in Cartago province got 125.4 millimeters (4.9 inches) to 7 a.m. Sunday and 193.7 millimeters (7.6 inches) thereafter.

Most sections of the Central Valley had steady rain Saturday and Sunday but only with an accumulation of an inch both days.

Hardest hit were the Caribbean coast and the northern zone.

At 7 p.m. Sunday the weather institute said that the ríos Tortuguero, Sixaola and Reventazón were running out of their banks and that the Blanco-Reventazón, Pacuare, Sixaola and Parismina were still rising. They were being fed by rainfall in the mountains.

The national emergency commission said that rains Friday night and Saturday caused landslides and flooding in the cantons of   Turrialba, Paraíso, Jiménez and part of  Cartago Centro. Roads, bridges, houses and other structures were damaged. The slides were on national and municipal routes. Some utility lines were washed away, too.

Some locations reported flooding up to four meters deep. That is more than 12 feet.

The reason for all the rain was a low pressure system that moved into the country from Panamá.

Alerts were issued Sunday for Talamanca, Matina,
rain map
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
The area in red is where most of the rain fell

Siquirres the central canton of Limón and Jiménez, Turrialba and Paraíso in Cartago province.  La Suiza in Turrialba also suffered from the rain and a bridge there collapsed.

It was in a community called Nochebuena de Turrialba where the woman, Lidia Quirós Sánchez, died after being trapped for eight hours in her home that was leveled by a slide. Others were believed to have been swept away by raging rivers in other parts of the country.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, said that although it managed to open Ruta 32 to traffic Sunday the highway all the way from  San José to Guápiles was threatened by saturated soil and possible slides.

The agency said that Ruta 35 along the Caribbean coast from Limón to Sixaola in southeastern Costa Rica was closed due to a large slide at a point called Cataratas. The Interamericana Sur was cut down to one lane in some places, the agency said.

The Fuerza Pública and the Cruz Roja were attempting to rescue families that had been cut off by the flooding. Some persons in native reserves in the mountains were getting food and supplies by helicopter.

The national emergency commission will begin assessing the damage today if the rains ease. The commission, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, said that more than 2,000 persons had been moved to at least 33 shelters.

Shelters were all over the Caribbean coast, including Sixaola, Matina, Batán, Ujarrás de Paraíso and in Siquirres. Many more persons were with family and friends. Some of these areas are flooded two to three times a year.

Meanwhile, despite the rain, many pilgrims were walking to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles as part of the annual homage to the country's patroness.

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Our readers' opinions
Whales deserve support
as creatures of the earth

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Which is more moral? Upholding a law or extermination of a species?

MAN UP?????   Get off the sauce, Patrick Mach.  Paul Watson and his crew are doing the world a favor while suffering injustice, lies, and deceit by the savages whose practices he tries to undermine.  If you truly deplore what the Japanese fishing fleet is doing to the waning whale population, then back this champion and his cause, rather than denigrating him.

My guess is that you are an ex-cop or something similar, where you would “uphold the law” no matter how ridiculous or immoral it may be.  No one else has been able to dent Japan’s whaling activities and, moreover, who else would be effective at saving these mammals? In fact, who bothers?  Ineffectual pleas from other countries remain ignored by Japan.

Whales have as much right to survive this slaughter as did the holocaust victims of Hitler and the Nazis. While they are not human, they are creatures of the earth with validated emotions and family ties.  They are being hunted to extinction by the Japanese whaling fleet. 

Watson has made a career of harassing the whaling fleets and selling the tapes to the media. Yes, he has. Watson should be applauded for bringing this butchery and the plight of these declining species into the forefront of public awareness.  Moreover, his “career” proceedings go to fund these crimes against humanity. Extinction of the hunted species would, after all, affect each and every one of us.

If Watson were to stand trial, these activities would likely cease, and yet another creature would be wiped from the face of the earth forever. 
Darlene Mokrycki
Turrucares, Costa Rica

Watson might not find
justice in his trial here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am afraid that Patrick Mach, in his letter about Paul Watson’s courage, underestimates the ability of the Costa Rica justice system to abuse defendant's rights. Specifically very slow justice and excessive detention while awaiting trial. And would there eventually be justice for him on these trumped up charges?

Costa Rica authorities – and justice — would be very susceptible to bullying and bribing from both Japan and criminal shark finning operators. These high seas bandits would do this and more. They greatly want him out of their way, Watson and his group being the only ones brave enough to hinder and slow their ugly and illegal activities.

It is perplexing that Mr. Mach would label Mr. Watson a coward, because he professes knowledge of his background and activities. He should therefore be aware of the many times Watson has put himself in personal physical danger in the course of his cause. If Mach doesn't know this, he might check out the well-documented record out before assailing someone’s personal character. Myself being one who hesitates to criticize, I don’t like to guess about Mr. Mach’s own personal courage, or what he has contributed towards the cause he claims to support. But judging from his letter, I would guess there’s not much substance behind the bluster.
R. Martin

Failure to mention Costa Rica
put damper on his Olympics

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was disgusted by the lack of mention of Costa Rica in the televised Parade of Countries in London today, Although we are a small country, as we all know Costa Rica has no standing army, is a peaceful, sport-loving country, and has been voted one of if not the happiest countries in the world to live.  Isn`t that what the Olympics are all about? So why not say so?  The Costa Rican Tourist agency (if there is one) could have used this opportunity to put us on the map once again. This just spoiled the whole of the opening ceremonies for me. 
Max Spicer

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 150
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Two chambers ask president to veto change gutting copyright
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla is poised to sign a new law that essentially guts copyright protection for artists, authors and manufacturers of music and movie discs.

This is a measure that ostensibly was designed to allow students to photocopy textbooks for academic use. What the revision does is eliminate stiff prison penalties for stealing all copyrighted materials and, instead, imposes a fine.

The measure comes from Frente Amplio, which characterizes copyright as furthering neoliberal philosophy, protection for transnational firms and a step toward monopoly. A supporter of the amendment said that such restrictions limit the free circulation of ideas.

Also opposing the original law and backing the change, which already has been approved by the Asamblea Legislativa, is the local association of photocopying stores. The operators of these stores have said they were concerned that they would be jailed for photocopying school texts.

Photocopying texts is business around universities even though under current law these are punishable acts.

Opposing the amendment are the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación and the Cámara Costarricense Norteamericana de Comercio. In a press release, these organizations said that if Ms. Chinchilla signed the revision the acts of pirating software, multimedia, a painting, an architecture plan or even a book of poetry would no longer be considered the Costa Rican equivalent of a felony but would be sanctioned with a fine from one to 500 base salaries.

Intellectual property pirates would consider such a fine as just the cost of doing business, said the two groups.

They are calling on the president to veto the measure.

The new copyright provisions were consistent with the Free Trade Treaty between the United States and Central America. The leftist Frente Amplio strongly opposed the free trade treaty.

The treaty leaves the decision up to each country on how to punish copyright infringement, but the nations that signed the
treaty agreed to enact “remedies that include sentences of imprisonment or monetary fines, or both, sufficient to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement.”

The current law provides from one to six years in prison for copyright infringement.

The two chambers of commerce said that their representatives met with the photocopying organization last week and agreed that they could accept photocopying for educational purposes.

The measure that is on the desk of Ms. Chinchilla specifically exempts photocopying for educational purposes, but an additional paragraph removed the prison penalty for all acts of piracy. The law that is about to be changed is No. 8039 that was passed in October 2000, and the disputed amendment is No. 17.342.

The measure originated with José Merino del Río, who represented Frente Amplio in the previous legislative session. The amendment received overwhelming support in the legislature when it was brought to a vote for the required two times.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez reduced copyright protection for music when he signed a decree changing Costa Rica's acceptance of international treaties on copyrighted music.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance issued a blistering report on copyright protection in Costa Rica. Said the organization:

“Both physical and digital piracy in Costa Rica have caused such major losses that many in the content industries have been forced to leave the market. For example, only two international record companies still conduct operations through offices and staff employed in the country. Unfortunately, one of them has had to significantly reduce operations in 2011. Further cutbacks could be necessary in 2012.  Local independent producers have practically disappeared because of the lack of real opportunities to sell recorded music profitably.”

The U.S.-based alliance represents associations that encompass more than 1,900 producers of software, movies, television programs and even computer games.

Local author pens third novel based on race for presidency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local author, Albert A. Correia, will soon release the third
Correia author
Albert A. Correia
book in his Eden Trilogy, a political drama and thriller set in Costa Rica that follows the lives of an idealistic doctor and an ambitious attorney.

Correia said that the latest book, “A President for Eden,” will be
ready for publication in about three weeks, and it will be released solely in digital form on Web sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Correia moved to Costa Rica 17 years ago from Southern California. He found inspiration for the series while people-watching at the Gran
Hotel Costa Rica in 2006 and decided to write a series that incorporated the country and its people. “Costa Rica is an interesting place, and the people are interesting,” he said. “So, I wanted to write a book set here.”

The two main characters throughout the trilogy are a doctor that runs a series of medical clinics that serve the poor and an at-times corrupt attorney aspiring to become president of Costa Rica, and their lifelong rivalry.

Correia said that the books now write themselves independently of what he thinks will happen.  “Sometime early in the game the characters took over the book,” he said. “I have no idea what they’re going to do.”

The new release as well as his other books, “Even in Eden” and “Eden: Health, Politics and Rage,” will be available on his Web site and all major book-selling Web sites solely in digital form. That includes A.M. Costa Rica.

Airport immigration agent detained in visa-related scam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An immigration official who worked at Juan Santamaría airport became the fourth person in that agency to face a criminal charge in the last eight months.

He was identified by the last names of Camacho Camacho.

A summary of the crime by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said he took money from a Costa Rican women on the pretext of obtaining visas to the United States for two family members,

The man was detained Tuesday, but the announcement of the arrest was not made until Friday.
The agency said that Camacho met the woman at the immigration control point at the airport when she was returning from the United States. The agency said he offered to obtain the woman the needed visas in exchange for 300,000 colons, about $600. Later that figure was increased by 100,000 colons or about $200, the agency said.

Finally when the promised visas were not forthcoming, the agency said that Camacho said the money would be returned by the U.S. Embassy. When that did not happen, the woman involved called the immigration department.

Camacho was detained at his workplace at the airport. Another immigration agent was detained there earlier this year, and two more were detained at the southern border.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 150
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Prime Pacific beach tourist areas seeking self-governance
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a march to Nicoya last week on Annexation day, hundreds of Nosara community members called for the communities between Sámara and Ostional to part ways with Nicoya and become its own canton.

The proposal stems from the community having waited years for any level of government to make good on promises for desperately needed infrastructure repairs, most importantly paving the stretch of highway between Sámara and Nosara.

Jorge Arrieta, treasurer of the Nosara development association, said that the communities could divert money going to Nicoya and spend it on their own development. The area generates significant revenue from its popularity as tourist destinations,

“The municipality is doing nothing for Nosara,” he said. “The idea is to keep the money here and spend it on the community.”

Nosara has been slow to receive basic infrastructure upgrades because it is situated in a remote location on the Pacific Coast in Guanacaste. In the last decade its popularity has grown significantly among tourists and people looking to become permanent residents.

This growth has exacerbated the problems that the community faces.

The primary issue for years has been paving at least the stretch of key highway, which has not occurred despite the previous Óscar Arias administration’s promise to do so.

Additionally, the community has set up its own waste disposal system, volunteer fire department, and body governing water distribution, since the Nicoya canton has been unable to effectively accomplish these tasks.

However, these tasks were only supposed to be temporary solutions until higher levels of government were able to take over the responsibilities, but many have since turned into permanent short-term fixes.

“We are trying to do projects here,” said Arrieta. “We have no money because the municipality doesn’t do much here.”
A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
This is one of those famous Nosara potholes.

However, the proposed canton would be very small, and not all community members are convinced that it could govern itself.
“My only concern is who would run it,” said resident Bobbi Johnson.

Ms. Johnson said the idea has been proposed numerous times over the years, and also said that Marco Antonio Jiménez, mayor of Nicoya, has expressed support for the idea.

“The canton would not have to take responsibility for the town, which they don’t take responsibility for anyway,” she said.

Even with the support of all levels of government, Ms. Johnson explained that the process of separating from Nicoya and becoming a new canton could take five to 10 years. That would mean that infrastructure issues would not be solved any time soon.

Despite all of the things the government has not done, Arrieta said it is still important to work with other levels of government during the process.  “That is the best to get what we want,” he said.

If the community begins to take steps to become its own canton, it will be the second segment of the Nicoya Peninsula to begin the process. The first is a much larger area farther south on the peninsula, partially in the province of Puntarenas and partially in Guanacaste. It is several years into the procedure.

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U.N.'s Ban cites failure
of arms accord as setback

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Describing it as a setback, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his disappointment over the failure by United Nations member states to reach agreement on a treaty that would regulate the conventional arms trade.

"I am disappointed that the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty concluded its four-week-long session without agreement on a treaty text that would have set common standards to regulate the international trade in conventional arms," Ban said.

"The conference's inability to conclude its work on this much-awaited ATT, despite years of effort of member states and civil society from many countries, is a setback," he added.

Ending on Friday without agreement, the four-week long conference brought together the U.N.'s 193 member states to negotiate what is seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations. According to media reports, some countries had indicated they needed more time to consider the issues.

Costa Rica has been a strong proponent of the treaty. Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez began pushing the treaty concept 15 years ago.

Despite the lack of agreement, in his statement, Ban said that he was encouraged that the process was not over, with states having agreed to continue pursuing "this noble goal."

"There is already considerable common ground and states can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations," Ban said, while also noting that his commitment to the pursuit of "a robust ATT is steadfast."

"A strong treaty would rid the world of the appalling human cost of the poorly regulated international arms trade," the secretary general said. "It would also enhance the ability of the United Nations to cope with the proliferation of arms."

In February, the heads of several U.N. agencies -- including the UN Development Programme, the UN Children's Fund, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees -- called for a comprehensive arms trade treaty that requires states to assess the risk that serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law may be committed with weapons being transferred; includes within its scope all conventional weapons, including small arms; and ensures that there are no loopholes by covering all types of transfers, including activities such as transit, trans-shipment, as wells as loans and leases.

Venezuelan diplomat
strangled in Kenya

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Kenyan police say the acting Venezuelan ambassador to Kenya, found dead in her official home in Nairobi Friday, was strangled.
Nairobi’s police chief, Anthony Kibuchi, identified the victim as Olga Fonseca, the charge' d’affaires and acting ambassador of Venezuela in Kenya.
Kenyan officials say Ms. Fonseca arrived in Nairobi on July 15 to replace Ambassador Gerardo Carillo-Silva.
Carillo-Silva left Kenya after three male workers at the embassy filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Ms. Fonseca reportedly intervened, threatening to fire the workers if they did not withdraw the complaint.

Kenyan police say they have begun interviewing two staff members at the residence.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry mourned the career diplomat's death and said it was confident the Kenyan authorities would catch those responsible.

Tax hike for wealthy puts
spending bill in doubt

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Unless the U.S. Congress acts, most Americans will pay more taxes next year to a federal government forced to slash domestic and national defense spending.  Such an outcome would significantly cut the deficit, but could also damage an already-weak U.S. economy.  The November elections could determine how the nation proceeds.
Last week brought a tantalizing hint of movement in a politically divided legislature.  The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill to retain current tax rates on earnings under $250,000 a year.  Democrat Charles Schumer said, “The House should act immediately so the president can sign this bill into law.”
But Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, say the measure will die in the lower chamber.  House Speaker John Boehner had a message for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. “Mr. President, I tell you what. If you want to show that you stand with American small-business owners, the best thing you can do is drop your plan to increase their taxes on January first," he said.
Republicans want current tax rates extended for all income levels, including the very wealthy, whom they describe as America’s job creators. Senator John Thune said, “The one thing we do not need in the middle of this kind of an economy is a big, fat tax increase.”
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, summed up his take on the Democratic agenda by saying, “Taking more money from those who earn it for the government to waste.”
Democrats counter that allowing the tax rate for top earners to rise would reduce the severity of automatic spending cuts that will disproportionately affect poorer and middle-income Americans.  President Obama says America's deficit cannot be eliminated by budget cuts alone. “I do not believe you can reduce the deficit without asking the wealthiest Americans, including folks like me, to give up the tax cuts they have been benefiting from for the last decade," he said.
While Republicans portray themselves as champions of businesses small and large, Democrats want voters to view them as defenders of a faltering middle class. 
Sen. Barbara Boxer said, “Who are you fighting for?  Are you fighting for the people who make a billion dollars a year?  That is who the Republicans fight for.  Or are you fighting for the middle class, the heart and soul of America?”
With neither political party able to exert its will, both are waiting for the American people to weigh in at the ballot box in November, and possibly alter the balance of power in Washington. 

Political analyst John Fortier, who examines possible outcomes, said, “If the president is reelected, he will be reelected with at least part of a Republican Congress, the House and maybe the Senate.  We will have divided government, and many of the same fights we are having today over the raising of the debt ceiling and other budget differences will probably be replayed again and again for the next four years.”
On the other hand, a victory by Republican challenger Mitt Romney could break the gridlock to the benefit of his party’s agenda, assuming Republicans see further gains in Congress.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 150
Real Estate
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Jo Stuart

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Residents in San Ramón
seek Texas collaboration

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Four representatives from San Ramón have visited Austin, Texas to promote collaboration around environmental initiatives.  During their visit the group met with the city officials and representatives of a number of organizations and agencies.

The meetings focused on opportunities for collaboration including San Ramón carbon neutral, renewable energy generation; university exchange programs, infrastructure improvements; green building supply exports, scientific industrial park anchors, manufacturers, assembly, testing and central and Latin American operations, said the delegation.

The group included José Zaglul, president EARTH University who was born in San Ramón; Jorge Araya, president of the San Ramón Chamber of Commerce; Glen Nickerson, renewable energy executive and 22-year resident of Austin, and Mike Styles, president and co-founder of the Community Action Alliance of Costa Rica.  Zaglul was a guest of Whole Foods which sells EARTH University sustainable bananas and other sustainable food products and is headquartered in Austin.   

The San Ramón delegation said it targeted Austin as a potential sister city based on shared values and vision: Austin is a leader in sustainability, carbon neutrality, renewable energy, technology incubation, project commercialization, alliance formation and cultural exchange/technology transfer. 

“We have been focusing on Austin because of its reputation as a world class innovator in green initiatives, said Styles. “The development model used in Austin which relies on collaboration between government, education and business has produced tangible results which we believe can be modeled in San Ramón.  We also believe that San Ramón has much to offer Austin as witnessed by the overwhelming openness and willingness to collaborate shown during every meeting we took: they want to help.  We believe there is much to be accomplished based on these shared values and many bridges that can be created.” 

Bus and security firm
are targets of bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers stuck up a bus Sunday and other bandits staged an early morning raid on the offices of a security company.

Judicial agents said that one of the two men who stuck up the driver of a Tibás bus about 1 p.m. Sunday also shot the man. The two men boarded the bus as if they were passengers, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The robbery and shooting took place in the Cinco Esquinas section of Tibás.

The driver, identified as a 45-year-old man with the last name of Cepeda was hospitalized.

The security company raid took place about 4:30 a.m. in Santa Cecilia de Heredia.  Armed men surprised a guard, tied him up and then took 19 shotguns, two revolvers and a pistol, judicial agents said.

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