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(506) 223-1327            Published Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 2             E-mail us    
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Suicides continued normal trend during holidays
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 40 persons died violent deaths over the Christmas and New Year's holidays in Costa Rica, and 11 of those deaths are being treated as suicides.

The statistics came from the Judicial Investigating Organization, which showed that the Grim Reaper does not take a holiday. The period was from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.

As expected traffic accidents took 16 lives. Eight of the victims were pedestrians who were struck by vehicles.

Deaths from suicides ranged from an 18-year-old man in Pérez Zeledón and a 19-year-old woman in Limón to an 80-year-old man in Guápiles. The most notable was that of Fernando Berrocal Sotela, a 31-year-old visitor from the United States. Berrocal hung himself New Year's Day on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The death made news because he was the youngest son of Fernando Berrocal Soto, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.
A study of the nation's suicide rates shows that the 11 deaths were slightly lower than what would been expected over nine days.

Common wisdom says that depressed persons are more likely to kill themselves during holidays or on birthdays because their state of mind is so out of sync with the high spirits of those around them.

But a number of studies in the United States, including one by the Mayo Clinic that covered a 35-year stretch, showed no correlation between suicide deaths and holidays.

The World Health Organization says that Costa Rica's annual suicide  rate is 9.7 per 100,000 for men and 2.1 per 100,000 for women.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos estimates Costa Rica's population now at 4.4 million. So Costa Rica should expect 427 male suicides and 92 females suicides during the year.

For the nine days for which the Judicial Investigating Organization provided statistics, the anticipated number of suicides was about 12 or 13.


Five fishermen spend more than a month at sea when engine fails
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five Costa Rican fisherman turned up alive Sunday after having gone missing in the Pacific Ocean more than a month ago. Their fishing ship, the Pisces III, had last been seen Nov. 23 off the coast of Costa Rica near Playa del Coco, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The government report said that the captain, Gregorio Collado Taylor, and crew members Minier Manuel Taylor Guzmán, Róder Andrés Quintero Dávila, Beiry Gregorio Taylor Guzmán, and Kevin de Jesús Reyes Avilés were found 100 miles off the coast of El Salvador by sailors on a Polish ship.  

The survivors, whose boat was in the midst of sinking during the rescue, first ran into trouble when one of the engine components failed while in Costa Rican waters.  The ship without power drifted north along ocean currents.

The Costa Rican Guardacostas, notified that the boat was off course, sent out an unsuccessful search Nov. 23, said the ministry report. For the following five weeks, the fisherman survived off the rice and beans they had on board, fish and turtles that they were able to catch, and a minimal supply of fresh water, said the report.

Ministerio de Gobernacón, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano 
Five fishermen back home

Two days after being rescued by the crew of the Polish ship, the fisherman were delivered to a Guardacostas patrol boat and then to Golfito.

The Cruz Roja took them to a hospital for a checkup. 

The survivors were said to have suffered no serious injuries, and although exhausted from some sleepless nights, were found in relatively good health, the ministry said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 2  

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Chili showdown planned
for Atenas this Jan. 14


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Kay's Gringo Postres is hosting a chili cook-off in Atenas to raise money for a local orphanage.

The cook-off, which is to begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 14,  will pit the chili recipies of 15 contestants against one another for the chance to win one of three prizes.  Votes by those attending the event will determine first, second, and third place. 

The only rule for what is being called The New Year's Chili Cook-Off is that there is an entrance fee of 3,000 colons for contestants and 1,000 colons for taste testers.  All of the proceeds will be donated to the Hogar Vida orphanage, located in Atenas, to help with the essential services of the facility, said organizers. 

Hogar Vida is dedicated to providing orphans with a home until they can be adopted by families or come of age to be on their own.

Kay and Tom Costello, founders of Kay's Gringo Postres, have also been helping out the Hogar Vida ophanage by selling bookmarks and placemats made by the orphans. 

The couple moved here three years ago from South Dakota where Mrs. Costello worked in a casino and her husband, a former rancher, worked in real estate.

Mrs. Costello said she decided to open the bakery not long after having made her first cherry pie two years ago for a holiday celebration.  People at holiday gatherings liked her home cooking so much that they suggested she open a restaurant, and so she did, said Mrs. Costello.  The first time restaurant owner said that the business is doing well, serving a steady breakfast and lunch to a mix of local and foreign guests. 

Deadline for contestants to enter the chili cook-off is Jan. 12.  More information about the event is available at Kay's Gringo Postres, which can be reached at 373-3629. 

Our reader's opinion

Minnesota family had
a great visit to country


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My family and I just returned from a three-week trip throughout Costa Rica — from Osa, to Arenal, Monteverde and Santa Elena to Poas and Sarapiquí to Punta Mona, Manzanillo and finally Turrialba and Pejibaye.  A spectacular three weeks in a wonderful country with incredible people. 

We have made many new friends, return with many extraordinary memories and a deep commitment to return as soon as we can.  At every point of confusion or need for help, Ticos stepped up to volunteer not only advice but also rides, food, conversation and exchanges of names, addresses and e-mails to stay in contact. 

My daughter had spent the last five months down there, in San José and also in Pejibaye, in a junior semester abroad program with the American Colleges of the Midwest exchange program.  When that program ended we flew down to meet her and then travel by public transportation — buses, taxis, Interbus, small plane, new Tico friends' cars, etc.  Her "host" families in San José and Pejibaye welcomed us like long-lost relatives, and we enjoyed emotional gatherings with them at each point.

Before leaving, I depended on the A.M. Costa Rica news digest to help keep me informed.  Now I will continue to depend on it to keep my heart connected to this wonderful country and people.

Dave Gagne
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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

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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.

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Real estate agents and services

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 2   








The Cordillera Volcánica Central north of San José is where five rivers are born.


Heredia water company pays off ranchers to protect sources
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia S.A. has successfully developed a project which pays landowners to maintain their properties to slow water runoff.

The project, called PROCUENCAS, is designed to protect and rehabilitate the land along the upper reaches of rivers that provide water to Heredia by paying landowners for their participation. While the concept of environmental protection as a public service is not new, this project, active since 2000, now has 808 hectares (1,997 acres) under contract.

Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia is the principal water supplier for the immediate Heredia area. The firm draws water from a variety of wells and surface sources on the upper reaches of the rios Ciruelas, Segundo, Bermúdez, Tibás, Pará, and las Vueltas, all tributaries of the Río Virilla. Incentives for expanded agricultural production in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in marginal cattle pasture well up onto the slopes of Volcan Barva. Erosion and rapid runoff from pasture affected water quality and reduced dry-season flow.

PROCUENCAS gets its money from a surcharge on water usage, originally 1.9 colons per cubic meter, now 3.8 colons. With a small phone survey, Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia determined that the extra charge for watershed protection has overwhelming public support. In the case of an unmetered residential customer, the added amount is only 46 colons per month, less than 8 U.S. cents.

The original payment structure was targeted at deforested land which could be put to better use reforested for watershed protection. The headwaters of these streams are protected in the Area de Conservación Cordillera Volcánica Central with the target area for PROCUENCAS the highest deforested areas.

The cost of discontinuing low-intensity cattle grazing was estimated at about $158 per hectare. A complicated formula was then devised to calculate additional value added in terms of oxygen production, etc. In the end, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos approved the 1.9-colon rate, ignoring the formula. This allowed a

A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
The Río Para at low water near the source

payment for services of 23,000 colons per hectare, then about $68.

With the revenue from the higher tariff approved later, the payment could be increased. Presently it is 47.720 colons, about $92 per hectare. This is to conserve existing forest (which can’t be cut anyway) or allow natural regeneration to second-growth.

A cultural adversion on the part of the farmers to brush (charral) complicates the system. Apparently, allowing pasture to follow a pattern of natural succession is somehow considered abandonment and failure, though the natural forest would be fine for purposes of watershed protection. So subsidies for reforestation were introduced. They are almost $1,000 per year for five years, including saplings provided by Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia.

Contracts are for 10 years. With 808 hectares currently in the program, total expenditures for 2006 were about 39 million colons, or $75,000. With a target area of more than 5,000 hectares, plenty of growth is possible.


Water outage due to pump failure shows fragility of system
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Most of the second week of December saw water rationing in San Isidro de Heredia. Residents were restricted to about four hours of daytime water supply. According to Laura Rodríguez, director of communications and media relations for Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia S.A., the cause was a breakdown at the Santa Elena well.

“There are only three cranes in the country so it’s not something you fix from one day to the next,” she said of the device needed to extract a submerged pump.

The utility provides water service for the municipalities of Heredia central, San Rafael, and San Isidro. It claims to serve 51,700 customers, with about 36,500 in Heredia, 11,000 in San Rafael, and 4,000 in San Isidro, as of August 2006. As this is significantly more than the number of households found for each in the 2000 census, the number of businesses served must be substantial. The utility also supplies electricity in a similar area.
Empresa de Servicios Públicos is rather efficiently run for a government agency, as anyone who has let their electricty bill lapse can attest. It has about 20 wells in operation, concentrated in the immediate Heredia area. There are also surface intakes on a variety of streams above the towns.
That 7.5 percent of customers can suffer outages due to the failure of one pump suggests weaknesses in connections.

The culprit well was drilled in February 2002 near the Santa Cruz school, about a kilometer east of San Isidro, at a cost of 22 million colons (then about $64,000). The well has a capacity of 40 to 50 liters per second and a depth of 245 meters.

The Lomas del Zurquí housing development nearby has its own well, but will be dependent on Empresa de Servicios Públicos for water when the subdivision outgrows its own small system, adding another 500 to 800 unmetered users to the firm's network. There are also two small intakes on the headwaters of the Río Pará above San Josecito that were presumably the source of the available water during the pump outage.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 2         






Fuerza Pública patrol foils robbery of three U.S. tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two bandits, one with a gun and the other with a knife, attempted to stick up three U.S. tourists Saturday night in San Jose's Barrio Amón.

But a witness to the robbery quickly notified police, and Fuerza Pública officers on patrol nearby were able to detain two suspects. They were identified by the last names of Benavides Barboza, whose age is 19, and a 22-year-old man with the last names of Navarrete Ortiz.

The three U.S. citizens were identified by the last names of Kimberly, Whitlock and Jenkins. They were on foot when the robbers, also on foot, approached them. The crime happened on Avenida 7 in the vicinity of Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry.
The section of street is well traveled by tourists who go from their hotels to several popular eating spots or just go out for a stroll.

In the same neighborhood Dec. 20 two men attempted to hold up a brother and sister, but the man, a Marine and Iraqi war veteran, managed to fend off the assailants.

Investigators have not yet determined if the two men who were detained are suspected as being those who tried to rob the brother and sister Dec. 20.

The area north of Parque Morazán along Avenida 7, Avenida 9 and Calle 7 is a prime spot for robbers because a number of North American and European tourists frequent the many hotels there. And they often walk at night to the downtown or restaurants nearby.


Unity will host an introduction to Kabbalah this Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Kabbalah information session, open to persons interested in learning about the philosophy's practices and living traditions, is being hosted by Unity Costa Rica Sunday.

The guest speaker for the event, entitled “Intuitive Kabbalah,” is Soizic Aureli, a psychosynthesis
counsellor who has been working with the practice for 25 years, said Unity.

Aureli's Web site describes Kabbalah as a Judeo Christian
esoteric living tradition which is supposed to present a unique way of understanding all aspects of oneself.  It also says that it is based on a map of consciousness called the Tree of Life, which consists of 10 spheres called Sephirot and 22 Paths, that the Tarot is reportedly based on.

The information session will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Unity Costa Rica in Piedades de Santa Ana, which is 350 meters south of the Shang Hai restaurant.  There is also a workshop that is set to begin on Feb. 11.

More information is available from info@unitycostarica.org


Venezuelan prison violence leaves 16 inmates dead and 13 more injured
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuelan authorities say at least 16 prisoners were killed when rival gangs fought for control of a crowded prison.

They say at least 13 other inmates were injured before the riot was brought under control at Uribana prison, west of
the capital of Caracas.

Authorities said Tuesday the violence started early Monday when the gangs fought for control of two cell blocks.

Riots, murders and other violence are common in Venezuela's overcrowded prisons.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 2        


Surf tournament returns to Jacó beach this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jacó beach is set to host the first Costa Rican surf competition of 2007 this Saturday and Sunday.

All 12 surf categories will be competing in Copa Mango this weekend, begining at 7 a.m. each morning in front of the Copacabana hotel.  The hotel is also hosting a welcoming party for surfers and fans Friday night begining at 9 p.m.

This event is worth 500 points towards the overall championship in the Circuito Nacional de Surf.  Competitors have an opportunity to sign up for the event at the Mango Surf & Skate shop in downtown Jacó. 
The ongoing Miss Surf Costa Rica competition will be held before the final ceremonies Sunday.  Winners of this event are automatically qualified for April's final competition, when judges will crown this year's overall winner.  Contestants looking to enter can contact Water Star Models at 643-1574.

The 2006/2007 Costa Rican Circuito Nacional de Surf has already hosted three similar weekends in beaches along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, attracting as many as 135 competitors. 

Most recently, Jairo Pérez, the young surfer from the Cantón de Garabito, stole the show by winning both the boys and junior categories at Playa Tamarindo.



Sporting Event Needs Assistance
FlagMag.com Flag Football magazine will be hosting an International Flag Football Tournament, Jan. 26-29th in Santa Ana. Men and women teams from Canada, U.S.A., Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras and Panamá will take part. We are seeking host families and volunteers for the event. Anyone interested, please contact
Jim Zimolka at 506-336-3437 or e-mail at JimZimolka@Flagmag.com



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