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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 4     Email us
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Many more women may have defective implants
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of Costa Rica's leading plastic surgeons said Wednesday that the use of low-grade breast implants by physicians without specialized training may mean that there are many more women in Costa Rica with potentially defective devices than health official estimates.

A government health official calculated Tuesday that there were more than 400 women in Costa Rica who had received faulty French breast implants. The calculation was based on records maintained by the national distributor of the implants made by Poly Implant Prostheses, public hospitals and some private clinics.

The implants, known as PIPs, have been known to rupture easily, and many were made with low-grade silicone that can cause infection or inflammation. The PIP implants were approved by foreign and local health officials until the Ministerio de Salud revoked the approval in the middle of last year.

But Alberto Arguello, president of the country's association of reconstructive and plastic surgeons, said Wednesday other practitioners, posing as plastic surgeons, may have inserted the sub-par implants. While health officials claimed to have tracked the number of PIPs used in the country, some may have been purchased off the books.

“No licensed plastic surgeon would dare go and buy something in the black market,” Arguello said. “But I can't say the same about non-plastic surgeons.”  His organization is titled in Spanish the Asociación Costarricense de Cirugía Plástica Estética y Reconstructiva.

Arguello said many general physicians pose as plastic surgeons and perform operations in the country. And most of them are not trying to hide this fact either. They use prominent billboards or 
signs usually proclaiming buzzwords that are not recognized medical specialties and may amount to little more than a beauty parlor with cutting tools.

Arguello said the only way to be sure a physician is a trained plastic or reconstructive surgeon is to refer to a list of associated doctors on the association's Web site,

The association's Web site warns that the internet, yellow pages, newspapers, television and radio can be filled with offers by doctors with dubious skills.
It warns that advertisements labeled as “exclusive” offers or “fabulous” deals should be scrutinized. Reports indicate that many such ads have appeared publicizing cheap breast implant surgeries.

As an example similar to breast implants, Arguello pointed out that Botox distributors will not sell to non-approved practitioners. But yet, he said, many unapproved establishments somehow manage to get their hands on some substance that substitutes as the name-brand material to fill the syringe.

“They say they have Botox, but they don't have the real one,” Arguello said. “Frankly, I don't know what the heck they inject.”

Choosing a qualified surgeon may not have prevented a patient from receiving faulty implants because they were approved in the country for two years. But having picked a specialist could  facilitate removal or replacement of the implant, something Arguello said is recommended for anyone who has the PIP implant.

So far the Costa Rica government has not announced the same policy as Venezuela and France, which have committed to help with replacing PIPs for their citizens. But Costa Rican news sources reported late Wednesday that at least one public institution, Hospital San Juan de Dios, would be evaluating replacement surgeries for the approximately 130 patients who received implants. 

Palmares prepared to host its annual carnival-fiesta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first Costa Rican party of the year is the much anticipated Fiesta Palmares, that begins Wednesday and runs until Jan. 23. Every year Palmares hosts the celebrations to kick-off the new year.

The 12-day celebration will provide music, food, tope, a bull run, a fireworks show, and other popular festivities. The event is similar to the big summer state fairs that sweep across the United States during the months of June through September.

The Fiestas Palmares celebrated its 25th year last year and organizers expect this year to be bigger.
And to help the festivities become memorable the organizer, the Asociación Civica Palmareña, has hired a slew of international musicians. The reggaeton superstars Don Omar and Plan B will perform Jan. 15 for the first Full Móvil international concert. Pepe Aguilar, the famed Mexican singer-songwriter of mariachi and ranchera, will perform Jan. 14, as part of the Festival Ranchero Palmares 2012. Other events are the Carnival Kölbi Jan. 20, and the Festival Infantil 2012 Jan. 17 for the kiddies.

Traffic police will set up their usual checkpoints, and many Central Valley residents will use special buses instead of struggling with festival traffic.

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Christian group and Habitat
will build a house in Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central America Mission Projects, better known as C.A.M.P., and Habitat for Humanity have partnered to build a concrete house for a Costa Rican family. The organization begins the mission Monday in Heredia.

The mission project has set up three different groups to come into Costa Rica to complete the work. Each volunteer is assigned to a group based on the current stage of the project. For example, painters are not coming until the final group, since painting won’t be necessary until the house is constructed.

Dan Whitlock, president of Central America Mission Projects, said the organization has the shifts set up so the house can be built in three weeks time. The Christian-based organization has mobilized 45 volunteers of many ages for this trip. The organization has brought more than 1,000 volunteers to Central America since its founding in 2005.

Volunteers have worked in El Salvador and Nicaragua, as well as Costa Rica. They have built medical clinics, dental clinics and homes and camps for marginalized communities. Whitlock called Costa Rica his organization's home base.

All volunteers pay their own way or raise funds to make the trip possible.

Plaza de la Cultura, museums
celebrating their 30 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The building that includes the Museos del Banco Central and the Plaza de la Cultura turns 30 this year, and the celebration will be this entire month.

The building was designed by Costa Rican architects Jorge Bertheau, Jorge Borbón, and Edgar Vargas. It was created as a space to hold and promote the country’s archaeological and art collection. In 1983 the space was completed as part of the rescate urbano or “urban rescue.” And now the location is one of the more popular tourist attractions because of its proximity to some of the most famous buildings in San José such as the Teatro Nacional and the Gran Hotel Costa Rica.

The Plaza de la Cultura is a flat street-level surface and below there is the three-level museums of the Banco Central.
Doors are open to the public between 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 5,500 colons for foreigners.

Flights to Cuba booked up
during visit there by pope

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cuba can be thankful for one more blessing to its economy, and that is the visit of the pope.

Within the past week the news of his arrival to the country has sold out all flight from San José to Havana from March 26-29.

A representative from Cubana Airlines said that people have been calling non-stop to try and book flights to the small island in order to get a chance to see Pope Benedict XVI. The airline offers one flight a day from San José that leaves at 10 a.m. A return flight from Cuba arrives at 4:45 p.m.

The roundtrip ticket average price for those now black-out dates is $390. Those interested in flying to see the pope can still get tickets a few days before his visit, an airline spokesperson said.

Find out what the papers
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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 HERE!
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News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Bacteria blamed for cases of dolphin beaching themselves
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A form of neurologically harmful bacteria may be to blame for the majority of beached dolphins washing from the Pacific Ocean onto Costa Rican shores.

A recent sampling of 19 dolphins found dead from being stranded on land show that all of them showed signs of neurological distress and that 15 of them tested positive for the presence of antibodies for the dangerous bacteria brucella. That bacteria can produce disease in the central nervous system causing disorientation and problems with flotation, both which can cause a dolphin to become beached. Furthermore, in eight of the dolphins sampled scientists were able to isolate the actual bacteria, according to new research.

The study was conducted by Edgardo Moreno Robles, a specialist in immunology, cellular microbiology and infectious diseases at the veterinary school of the Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

The results caused him to conclude that the bacteria is highly present in populations of dolphins in Costa Rican and nearby waters and more than likely the cause behind their beaching. Another study that analyzed a bank of dolphin samples in
Florida indicated 35 percent tested positive for the bacterial antibodies.

The presence of the bacteria and the health of the local dolphin population can have consequences that extend further than the dolphin realm. According to the Centro de Investigación en Enfermedades Tropicales the bacteria can affect other aquatic mammals as well. This fact has serious ramifications for the ocean habitat and indirect consequences for the sector of the national economy dependent on marine tourism, the center concluded.

Also, the bacteria can also cause illness in pigs, cows, sheep goats and household pets, affecting their productivity and reproductivity. The ingestion of their untreated products or prolonged contact with an infected animal, its tissues or byproducts can also cause complications and crippling disease in humans, Robles said in a press release. In humans, the bacteria is known to directly cause meningitis, chronic fatigue, encephalitis, fever and abscesses.

The disease most commonly infects veterinarians, butchers, farmers, laboratory workers or consumers of raw goods.

The most common disease directly caused by the bacteria is brucellosis, which is found in the domestic livestock.

New study shows why second infection of dengue is risky
By the University of California at Berkeley news service

One of the most vexing challenges in the battle against dengue virus, the mosquito-borne virus responsible for 50 to 100 million infections every year, is that getting infected once can put people at greater risk for a more severe infection down the road.

Now, for the first time, an international team of researchers that includes experts from the University of California at Berkeley, has pulled apart the mechanism behind changing dengue virus genetics and dynamics of host immunity, and they reported their findings in the Dec. 21 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The virus that causes dengue disease is divided into four closely related types, dengue virus 1, 2, 3 and 4, and those can be further divided into genetic variants or subtypes.

The researchers showed that a person’s prior immune response to one type of dengue virus could influence the interaction with virus subtypes in a subsequent infection. How that interaction plays out could mean the difference between getting a mild fever or going into a fatal circulatory failure from dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome.

The findings have implications for the efforts to combat a disease that has grown dramatically in recent decades, including the development of a first-ever dengue vaccine.

According to the World Health Organization, dengue disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries around the world, and recent estimates say some 3 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk.

It was already known that upon a person’s first infection with dengue virus, the immune system reacts normally by creating antibodies to fight the viral invaders. The problem is that those antibodies can then be confused if confronted later with one of the other three types of dengue virus, and as this new study revealed, even different subtypes within the same virus.

“With the second infection, the antibodies sort of recognize the new type of viruses, but not well enough to clear them from the system,” said study author Molly OhAinle, post-doctoral fellow in infectious diseases at Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “Instead of neutralizing the viruses, the antibodies bind to them in a way that actually helps them invade the immune system’s other cells and spread.”

The study authors noted that this Trojan horse effect has been shown before, but the new research provides an analysis of the interplay between viral genetics and immune response with unprecedented detail.

Putting the puzzle pieces together required Berkeley’s expertise in immunology and virology, the genome analysis and biostatistical capabilities at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the epidemiological and clinical field work at Nicaragua’s national virology laboratory.

Researchers used data from two independent, Nicaragua-based studies headed by Eva Harris, professor of infectious diseases and vaccinology and director of Berkeley’s Center for Global Public Health, and Dr. Angel Balmaseda, director of the national virology laboratory in Nicaragua. One was a hospital-based study that examined children admitted to a
Dengue clinic
University of California at Berkeley/Alejandro Belli
Researchers collect samples from children, monitored by Eva Harris (right), as part of the Sustainable Sciences Institute Pediatric Dengue Cohort Study in Managua, Nicaragua.

Dengue in blood
Centers for Disease Control micrograph
The cluster of dark dots near the center of this photo shows dengue virus particles.

national hospital with dengue between  2005 and 2009. The other was a prospective study that had followed 3,800 children since 2004, with blood samples collected annually.

“We showed for dengue that both the subtype of virus you get infected with and whether your body has antibodies to another type of virus matter,” said Matthew Henn, director of viral genomics at the Broad Institute. “If you get the wrong combination of the two, you are more likely to get severe disease. This study provides a framework we can utilize to eventually predict which specific virus types will proliferate in different human populations. We lacked a good model for this previously.”

Researcher Harris understands this risk on a personal level. She has been studying dengue in Nicaragua for 24 years, and in 1995, became infected with dengue virus type 3. That puts her at greater risk for a severe reaction should she become exposed to another dengue virus type.

While no vaccine yet exists for dengue, Ms. Harris noted that the vaccines currently under development aim to immunize against all types of the virus.

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The maps show the relationship between the borders of the lithosphere plates, the global earthquake hot spots as well as the development of reservoirs, which is concentrated along the active plate boundaries. Example: the largest copper reservoir in the world, Chuquicamata, is located in the Andes.

World' tectonic plates
© Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences

Theory of plate tectonics was first advanced 100 years ago
By the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ

Exactly 100 years ago, on Jan. 6, 1912, Alfred Wegener presented his theory of continental drift to the public for the first time. At a meeting of the Geological Association in Frankfurt's Senckenberg Museum, he revealed his thoughts on the supercontinent Pangaea, which broke apart and whose individual parts now drift across the earth as today's continents. In 1915, he published his book "The Origin of Continents and Oceans." Its third edition in 1922 was translated into the languages of the world and today is considered the foundation of plate tectonics.

Wegener's genius idea did not only find friends, because it had the main disadvantage that it lacked the engine to break apart the supercontinent and move huge continental masses over the Earth's surface. Indeed, only by the seismology of the 1950s and through scientific drilling in the oceans in the 1960s, the foundation for plate tectonics was laid. At the same time, however, Wegener's groundbreaking theory was turned upside down.

Earthquakes are not only terrible natural disasters, they also offer a view inside the Earth. It was the geophysicists Wadati and Benioff, who in 1954 independently discovered the systematic arrangement of earthquakes in the places which we now know as plate boundaries. "More than 90 percent of the global seismic energy is released at the plate boundaries," says Professor Michael Weber, head seismologist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ. "We use these earthquakes for tomographic screening of the earth."

With modern methods of scientific seismology it is even possible to reconstruct how quickly the continents moved. The speed record is held by India, which started to make its way from East Gondwana to Eurasia about 140 million years ago – at a speed of 20 centimeters per year. That's about 8 inches.

The real breakthrough, however, came only when those findings were combined with the research results from the great ocean drilling programs of the 60s. Previously, using magnetic measurements of the ocean floor and topography of the seabed, the mid-ocean ridges had been discovered, as well as a magnetic polarization of the rocks in parallel strips on either side of mid-ocean ridges. Now, the obtained cores showed no piece of the drilled ocean floor was older than 200 million years, and therefore decidedly younger than Wegener had assumed. Continental rocks, in contrast, can achieve an age of more than four billion years.

Secondly, it could be shown that the ocean floor is very young in the immediate vicinity of the mid-ocean ridges. With increasing distance from these undersea mountains, the rocks exhibit an increase in age.

Thirdly, the ocean floors below the top layer of sediment are entirely of magmatic origin. "These results could in fact only allow one interpretation. From the interior of the earth, hot, liquid rock rises to these ridges and pushes the ocean floor off to the side", explains Ulrich Harms, who at the GFZ directs the Centre for Scientific Drilling. "Not the continents drift, but entire tectonic plates, which consist of continents, ocean floors, and parts of the upper mantle."

All these findings in the second half of the 60s put Wegener's ingenious discoveries into a correct context and also flipped his  
theory: Not only were his assumptions as to the age of oceans and continents completely reversed, the idea that the continents plow the ocean turns around so that continents and oceans move together as a common upper part of the lithospheric plates. The continents float on top as the lightest rocks, so to speak.

These tectonic plates move, collide, grind past each other or drift apart. All these processes are associated with earthquakes, which can thus be explained as part of the overall process. But what forces the heavy rock inside the earth to rise? The enormous heat inside the earth's core and mantle comes in one part from the formation of Earth, in another from the radioactive decay of elements in the mantle. The heated rock rises and induces the movement expressed on the surface as a displacement of the plates. This process today is known as plate tectonics, which the science magazine "New Scientist" places on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and the theory of relativity.

The classical concept of tectonics as a quasi mechanical process of the movement and collision of rigid plates is now itself in disarray. "Recent findings show plate tectonics as a self-regulating system of interactions, in which all the subsystems of the planet earth are involved,” explains Professor Onno Oncken. He is the director of the department Geodynamics at GFZ.

Oncken notes: "It is not a mechanical system, but rather complex feedback processes." The climate as example: high-altitude mountains have a decisive influence on the climate, of course. But that the climate in turn controls the tectonics is a new discovery: the Andes, for example, are caused by the collision of the Nazca plate with South America. The humid climate of the South Andes leads to the erosion of material that ends up as sediment in the Pacific. The Nazca plate approaching from the west deposits this rock on the South American crust. The arid climate of the Northern and Central Andes, however, gives rise to no sediment, therefore the Nazca plate rasps off the continental crust here. The great increase in friction, in turn, transmits a force that causes the Andean plateau to gain height and width. This in turn enhances the rain shadow on the west side of the Andes and additionally reduces erosion.

The classical notion of folded mountains as a result of a collision also had to be revised: "The Andes, for example, in their present form, exist for about 45 million years, the subduction of the Nazca plate beneath South America has been going on since the Paleozoic, so hundreds of millions of years longer," says Oncken. Similarly, the interplay between the hot, rising rock masses and the Earth's crust is much more complex than originally thought. When a hot rock bubble rises, the poorly heat-conductive lithosphere acts as a boundary layer to the surface like a blanket, which in turn increases the temperature further below. This heat buildup can eventually soften whole continents like a welding torch until they dissolve, as it happened around 140 to 130 million years ago, when Gondwana fell apart first in the East, then in the West.

At that time Africa also separated from South America, but it was exactly the contours of these two continents that sparked Wegener's idea. 

"Wegener's approach was the starting point,” said Oncken. The plate tectonics of the previous century was the revolution in geoscientific perception. Today we see an equally thorough, quiet revolution in the theory of plate tectonics, because we understand our planet increasingly as a complete system."

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Argentina's president said
recovering well after surgery

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials in Argentina say President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is recovering well following three-and-a-half hours of surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid gland.

Government spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro says the president's surgery took place without complications Wednesday, and that she will remain hospitalized for 72 hours.  The procedure took place at a Buenos Aires hospital where her supporters gathered outside.

Doctors are predicting that Ms. Fernández will be able to resume all her duties as president.  The vice president, Amado Boudou, will fill in while the 58-year-old president recovers. 

Ms. Fernández was diagnosed last month, but the government said the cancer showed no signs of spreading, and that with treatment, survival rates are excellent.

President Fernández took office in December 2007.  She was re-elected last October.

Ms. Fernández is the first woman elected president of Argentina.

The Argentine leader is one of several current or former Latin American leaders diagnosed with cancer.  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was treated for lymphatic cancer before she took office in January of last year.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez underwent surgery in Cuba last year to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic area.  Chávez has never said what type of cancer he has. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was diagnosed with cancer in his larynx last October and underwent chemotherapy, which doctors say shrank the tumor by 75 percent.

Wednesday, the former Brazilian president began his first session of radiation therapy.  The outpatient sessions are expected to take place Monday through Friday for up to seven weeks.

Tijuana drug gang leader
takes a plea in U.S. court

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Once-powerful Mexican drug lord Benjamin Arellano Felix has pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to charges of racketeering and conspiracy to launder money.

Arellano Felix entered the plea Wednesday in San Diego, California. As part of the 17-page agreement, Arellano Felix admitted smuggling tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. and conspiring to launder millions of dollars.  The deal also calls for him to forfeit $100 million in profits.  He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when sentenced April 2. 

Arellano Felix headed the Tijuana, Mexico-based cartel bearing his name. Mexican authorities say he led the cartel with some of his brothers from the 1980s until his arrest in Mexico in 2002. Arellano Felix was extradited to the United States in April of last year. 

He is one of the highest-profile cartel members extradited to the U.S. under the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

Article cites gap in reporting
births of Latin youngsters

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

About 10 percent of children under the age of 5 in Latin America and the Caribbean are not registered, which infringes their ability to exercise their social, economic, civil and cultural rights, said a joint report last week.

An article titled "A rights-based approach to birth registration in Latin America and the Caribbean," which is included in the latest issue of the publication Challenges, said that in total there are 6.5 million children without birth certificates in the region.

The article said that universal registration means registering all children born in a country's territory, regardless of ethnic origin, gender, economic position, geographic origin or migration status, or their parents' nationality.

According to the article, one of the main barriers to overcome in order to make progress in this area is the requirements that the parents must meet. For example, the mother might be required to go with the father when registering the child, or the parents might have to submit their own birth certificates or proof that they reside in a certain city or country.

The article included in the bulletin states that non-fulfillment of the right to identity and universal registration does the most harm to children in the poorest, most marginalized population segments in the region, such as indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, migrants and families living in rural, remote or border areas.

The publication said that "unfortunately, a birth certificate is still one of the main requirements for access to school, health and other social services." It adds that "in many countries, unregistered children have access to primary school but do not receive a certification of completion and so cannot go on to secondary school."

Challenges is a joint publication produced by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the U. N.s Children's Fund which records the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on childhood and adolescence.

The proportion of under-5s registered in Latin America and the Caribbean went from 82 percent in 2006 to 90 percent in 2010, approaching the regional goal of complete coverage by 2015. However, the rising regional average masks wide gaps between states, provinces, municipalities and socio-economic groups within the countries, said the report.

While Chile and Cuba may be able to achieve universal birth registration very shortly, in 2010 almost 30 percent of all children in Haiti, 24 percent in Brazil and 19 percent in Nicaragua were not registered.

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Fugitive detained at hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers caught up with a murder fugitive after a group of individuals in Puntarenas beat him up and sent him to the hospital.

The Poder Judicial said that the man, identified by the last names of Valverde Godínez, was detained in Hospital Monseñor Sanabria Tuesday.

He is a suspect in the murders and dismemberments of Greivin Gerardo Grant García and Juan José Calero Noguera in September 2010. Valverde  is believed to have fled the country for a time.

Terminal opens next week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The $35 million passenger terminal at Liberia's Daniel Oduber airport will open a week from today, the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes said Wednesday.

The announcement case at a press conference at the Dirección General de Aviación Civil in La Uruca.

The structure was supposed to be open in April, but the contractor, Coriport, was so far behind schedule that it faces fines as outlined in the contract.

The terminal is set up to handle 1,500 passengers at the same time.

Robbers hijack bus, workers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of restaurant workers heading home for the night saw their evening take a turn for the worse when armed assailants boarded their small bus, robbed them of their possession and then later used the bus to rob a fast-food establishment.

The small bus was carrying workers from a fast-food restaurant Wednesday at 1 a.m. when five robbers intercepted the vehicle with firearms, according to a report by the Judicial Investigating Organization. One of the attackers struck the driver and forced him into the back with the passengers.

The hijackers took control of the vehicle and one drove for 40 minutes until reaching a coffee plantation in Poás where the criminals dumped four of the victims, the law enforcement agency reported. The hijackers then transported the other two workers 50 meters farther before leaving them on the side of the road. All the cell phones of the workers were stolen as well.

Then, officials report, the group in the stolen bus drove to a fast food establishment in Plaza Ferias in Alajuela, where the security guard removed the chain to let the bus enter the premises, without realizing the assailants were inside, said judicial agents. Then one of the employees inside of the restaurant came out to meet the bus, and the five assailants exited, hit the guard and entered the building where they took 2 million colons, agents said.

The bus was found abandoned in Barrio de San José in Alajuela.

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