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(506) 223-1327           Published Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 2             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

It's that time
of the year

The dry season is just that and also a time for brush fires. A fireman here douses a  blaze in a lot near the Río Torres in north San José caused by youngsters with matches Monday. Nearby homes were threatened. The blaze is a harbinger of things to come as the country dries out.

A.M. Costa Rica/Selleny Sanabria Soto

Corcovado test results still unavailable.
Hunger still best guess for dead park animals
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators continue to blame the deaths of monkeys, birds and other animals at Parque Nacional Corcovado on malnutrition.

Alejandra Monge said that her foundation had been working with Grace Wong and Edwardo Carrillo, the head researchers investigating the deaths, and that the results of blood and tissue samples showed that the dead animals had nothing in common except a lack of nutrition. 

Ms. Monge is executive director of the Fundación Corcovado which helps support the park, which is located on the Osa Peninsula in extreme southwest Costa Rica.

Malnutrition is what officials said when the deaths were reported. In early December one of the chief researchers said that half the monkeys in the park may have died. The deaths were attributed to the intense rainy season, officials said then.

Tuesday, Fabian Sandoval Bello, tourism coordinator of the park, amplified this explanation. The animals either simply died of starvation or parasites that were already present in their systems fought through the animals' weakened immune systems and killed them, he said.

Because of the Christmas and New Year's holidays researchers directly involved in the project have not been available. The park was closed Dec. 5 to Dec. 20 as a precautionary measure.

When the park closed, officials sent blood and tissue samples from the dead animals to laboratories in Texas and elsewhere to determine the cause of death.  The exact
nature of the reports have not been made
public. Nor have the exact nature of the parasites been disclosed.

“It's hard to believe that a sloth could die from hunger.  They eat leaves,” said Sierra Goodman.  She is the owner of the Delfín Amor Eco Lodge in Drake Bay, just north of the park. 

“I had a sloth die right on my doorstep and he wasn't skinny,” Ms. Goodman said.  She agreed that the lack of nutrition could have been the culprit.  After all, she said, this year's rains were the hardest she had seen in her seven years in the country and the landscape was damaged. 

“It could have been a mold, or a nutritional thing, but it's difficult to believe that hunger killed so many animals,” she said. 

Whatever the cause, the unusual number of deaths seem to have stopped.

Ms. Wong is a primatologist specializing in monkeys and Carrillo is a biologist.  Both are associated with Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

Carrillo said Dec. 8 in a telephjone interview  that the last time animals in the park died in such drastic numbers, the culprit was yellow fever.  That was some time in the 1950s. He estimated that this time perhaps half the monkeys in the park had died, but officials were not able to provide any firm numbers.

Park officials were known to have been worried that any publication of the animal deaths might hurt tourism. As a result, the original order for closing the park did not become available until a park employee faxed the paper to a reporter several days after it had been signed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 2

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Valentine's Day tourney
planned for golfers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For those who need an excuse to tee off, the sixth annual “Have a Heart,” charity golf tournament will raise money for students and schools in the canton of Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. 

The tournament, at Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course, will start at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 14.  Teams of four golfers will play in a scramble and the first, second, third and fourth place teams win trophies for their efforts. 

The cost is $99 per person and players are invited to attend the registration party Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.  That party is scheduled for Villa Alegre Bed and Breakfast in Playa Langosta, just south of Tamarindo.  The entrance fee will pay for greens fees, a cart and an awards luncheon. 

For more information, contact Suzye and Barry Lawson at 653-0270.

Death toll for holidays
was 29 from all causes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 29 people died throughout the country between Christmas Eve and the Sunday, the first day of the new year. 

The deadliest day was Christmas Day.  Eight people died in traffic accidents and homicides.  The youngest victim was 11-year-old Beatriz de los Ángeles Franco Lara.  She died Wednesday when she was hit by a car in La Cruz, Guanacaste, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.  The oldest, also hit by a car, was 63-year-old Arnulfo Solís Alpizar.  He died Christmas Eve in San Marcos de Tarrazú, the investigating organization said. 

In all, nine persons were killed when they were hit by cars during the week.  Nine more were murdered.  Five persons died in traffic accidents, two drowned and four persons took their own lives.      

Year's first drug arrest
takes place at airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug agents made their first drug arrest of the year only a few hours after it had started early Sunday morning. 

The arrestee, a Jamaican identified by the last name Schuaoz, is suspected of being a drug courier.  Officers arrested him as he tried to board a plane bound for Miami at Juan Santamaría international airport, they said. 

Drug agents said Schuaoz looked nervous as he waited for his flight.  That combined with his odd baggage, persuaded the officers to detain him, they said. 

Once the agents were able to search him well, they found 73 small packages of cocaine hidden in the lining of his pants, they said.  In all, agents said they seized 945 grams of the drug. 

The 24-year-old suspect entered the country in December, said Rogelio Ramos Martínez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.  If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison, agents said. 

Last year, agents arrested 29 suspected couriers in the Alajuela airport, they said.  The suspects were North Americans, Spaniards, Nicaraguans, Italians and Mexicans among others, the security ministry said. 

Drug agents are seeking
recruits who can drive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug agents with the security ministry said Monday that they are recruiting at least 30 young people to help in the ministry's fight against drug trafficking in the country. 

Applicants must have completed high school and preferably have a driver's license.  This means that the agents are primarily looking for agents older than 18 years – the minimum legal driving age in Costa Rica.  The ministry said that those who are given employment will receive a good salary but will be subjected to an extensive hiring process.

The Policía de Control de Drogas of the ministry is responsible for the seizure of nearly six tons of cocaine in 2005, as well as thousands of crack-cocaine rocks and marijuana, they said. 

Those that are interested can apply at the Policía de Control de Drogas building in the central building of the security ministry.  For more information, call 227-6352.

Driver dies in morning mishap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The driver died and a passenger, his father, suffered serious injuries when their passenger car collided headon with a bus about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

The dead man was identified as Óscar Eduardo Rodríguez. His passenger was Jorge Eduardo Rodríguez. Both are of San Ramón.

The accident happened in the four-lane Bernardo Soto highway in El Roble de Alajuela. This is the main east-west highway west of San José. The bus, which was traveling from Alajuela to Atenas empty suffered heavy front end damage. The vehicle, a small Japanese-made vehicle was torn apart by the collision.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 2

A little satire goes a long way in the propaganda war
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government is paying big bucks to win the hearts and minds of whole hosts of persons, but a little bit of ridicule and satire goes a long way.

The most creative of these efforts can be seen on Amnet cable, which delivers the U.S. Voice of America channel, and that carries Miami-based TV Martí. Such broadcasts are only for export.

Wednesday nights and at off hours a little show called "La Oficina del Jefe" makes its appearance. The Jefe, of course, is Fidel Castro, and it sure looks like him.

Except when he says: "I don't believe in a cult of personality."

Then there is the time when his brother and friends visit for his birthday. One friend in fatigues wears a red beret. Could it be Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez? And could that be a conical birthday hat Chavez is putting on atop his beret with an elastic strap under his chin?

The man next to him looks a lot like some movie actor. All becomes clear when he is referred to as the Patrino, another expert in authoritarian control. The Marlon Brando lookalike adopts the manner of speech made famous in "The Godfather."

A slightly confused fake Fidel
Except it is all in Spanish with a lot of in jokes only Cuban patriots would understand.

Nevertheless, there are indications that the show is being received well in Cuba when the government jamming is not effective.

The show is not "Saturday Night Live," and the humor and situation wear thin after a few shows. But the gigantic egos of the likes of Castro and Chavez must be smoldering. Hey, didn't Chavez just decide to set up a television network? Stand by for "La Oficina del Shrub."

It's non-stop TV ads from now until Feb. 5 election
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The political campaign took off again Monday as candidates inundated television stations with their spots.

The day marked the end of the holiday truce that barred campaigning since Dec. 16.

Now the gloves are off, and some parties that have not advertised in the past will be trying to deliver their message to voters. The television channels are showing up to four campaign ads during each prime time station break.

Candidates do not have a lot of time. The presidential election is Feb. 5. Most politicians expect that the election will require a runoff between the top two vote-getters, who are likely to be Óscar Arias Sánchez of the Partido Liberación Nacional and Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana.
The other candidates hope to attract enough votes to win seats for their slate of deputies and attract enough support so they are rewarded financially four years from now. Costa Rica provides campaign funds based on the percentage of the popular vote.

Among the smaller parties there is a growing stop Arias movement. Such parties only will have power in the legislature if there is no clear majority from a more established party.

Many of the new parties are groups who have fractured off the party of Solís or Arias' Liberación.

An Arias-Solís runoff would be a clear test of public opinion on the free trade treaty with the United States. Arias supports the treaty, and Solís does not.

Several legislative candidates for smaller parties are waging a one-issue campaign against the treaty hoping to attract enough votes to win a four-year job.

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Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
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You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 2

Bush health officials stress preparing for pandemic
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Although the H5N1 strain of avian influenza — or bird flu — that has resulted in the deaths of 74 people in Asia and millions of birds throughout Asia and parts of Europe has not yet demonstrated the ability to spread easily among humans, the international community must take steps now to prepare for a possible pandemic, Bush administration officials said on two talk shows Jan. 1.

“The virus continues to spread in wild birds across the world. There is no reason to believe that at some point it will stop.  We need to be prepared,” Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said on CNN's Late Edition.

"Viruses know not sovereignty. They understand no political boundary. They travel by the rules and laws of nature and there are many of them and they are continually changing and working their way toward ways to adapt so that they can inhabit human hosts and other living things," he continued.

Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control agreed on CBS’s Face the Nation.

“We've probably never been closer to a pandemic," she said.  "[W]hen we see the ominous signs of this very bad virus continuing to propagate [in Asia and Europe], we do need to take it seriously and solve some of the problems that would be in our way for an effective response in the United States."

Dr. Gerberding noted that the world has experienced three flu pandemics in the last 100 years, "and there's
certainly every reason to suspect that it will happen again."
 "And that's why, whether we're preparing for H5N1, or some future pandemic, the steps we're taking now really will save lives and will really help us do more to protect people in the future," she said.

Leavitt and Gerberding emphasized the importance of establishing a reliable vaccine supply system, of developing more and better anti-viral drugs to prevent a flu outbreak and of strengthening the U.S. health care system at every level.

"We've got to get a vaccine supply that we can count on. We've got to get more and better anti-viral drugs. And we've got to have every single link in our public health system as strong as it can be so we can detect this problem and do the things at the local community level that we need to do to save lives," Gerberding said.

Gerberding identified vaccine production and modernization as well as the U.S. health system’s capability to withstand a surge in care requirements to be the biggest challenges facing the United States in the event of a flu pandemic.

Countries that have reported cases of bird flu include Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Turkey, Croatia, Romania and Greece. 

Human illnesses and deaths from bird flu have occurred in China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.  In all but one case, the path of infection from sick birds to humans has been readily identified, with poultry workers, farmers, people who have slaughtered chickens and children who have been playing in yards with infected chickens among the most frequently reported cases.

All U.S. land border entry points now have biometric devices in use
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U. S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, an automated entry-exit program created by the Department of Homeland Security, has completed installation of biometric entry capabilities at all ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders, the department said in a Friday press release.

“US-VISIT is making America safer by enhancing our border management system with next-generation technologies and processes to address the emerging threats, challenges, and opportunities of our 21st century world,” Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said in the press release.
The program compares biometric data such as digital and inkless fingerscans and digital photos, as well as biographical information collected by the Department of State, against U.S. terrorist and criminal watch lists to identify and intercept criminals and violators who try to enter the United States.

Congress required that US-VISIT install biometric entry capabilities at the 50 busiest land border ports by December 31, 2004, and at the remaining land border ports by December 31, 2005.

According to the department, biometrics have enabled US-VISIT to intercept more than 970 people with histories of criminal or immigration violations at U.S. ports of entry.

Bolivia's Evo Morales is off to Caracas to confer with Hugo Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia —  President-elect Evo Morales is slated to arrive today in Venezuela for talks with President Hugo Chávez.

Although officials have not released details of the meetings in Caracas, analysts say the two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral relations, as well as regional and international issues.

The two men, along with Cuban President Fidel Castro,
are united by their leftist ideologies and staunch opposition to U.S. influence in the region. Morales has vowed to reverse a U.S.-backed campaign to eradicate coca, the main ingredient in cocaine. Bolivia is the world's third-largest producer of coca, a popular medicinal plant used by the country's Indians.

Morales' visit to Caracas is the first stop on a global tour that will also take the newly elected socialist to countries around the globe, including Spain, France, Belgium, South Africa, China and Brazil. He takes office Jan. 22.

Jo Stuart
About us

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