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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 9     Email us
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Barricaded home
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Terrible teens

Not every day do two teens decided to barricade themselves in a home and take pot shots at the police. That happened Wednesday in Tirrases when the duo realized they were the subjects of arrest warrants for robbery. They also were wanted for questioning in a murder case. Eventually the pair surrendered after more than 70 officers surrounded the home and ordered neighbors out of their homes. 

Our story is HERE!

Massive police turnout at Palmares civic festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly 1,200 Fuerza Pública officers have been assigned to security at the Festejos Cívicos de Palmares that is underway in that community.

Already the police coverage has paid off with 77 arrests, 42 of which were for drugs, said Wálter Navarro Romero, a vice minister of security.  Some 20 of the arrests were for crack cocaine, he said.

Police officials have had extensive practice in providing security for festival goers because many have just finished a similar assignment at the Zapote festival grounds in San José.

Some 234 officers were on duty to make the initial arrests, Navarro said, adding that up to 400 officers will be assigned at one time to the big events at the festival. There are concerts, a carnival and a tope or horse parade. Some 30 mounted officers will be on duty for the horse parade.

Police are also on duty in the community of Palmares itself at parks, bus stops, access routes, among others, officials said. These officers are in addition to the many that the Policía de Tránsito has on duty. Traffic police are running checkpoints along the principal routes to Palmares. They said Tuesday that they were using a new radar device 
with a camera to catch speeders. They also said they were operating on the San José-Caldera highway because motorists use that to reach Palmares.

Traffic police always make a large haul of drunk drivers each year because the festival contains beer gardens and hard drinks also are served. Many firms provide tranportation from the Central Valley and elsewhere.

Last year, police detained 301 persons on the festival grounds and confiscated two firearms and 417 doses of marijuana. They already confiscated a firearm this year.

The festival runs through Jan. 23.

The community's Asociación Civica Palmareña that runs the festival said that it has its own security personnel working on the grounds, too. Even if someone has a permit to carry a firearm, such weapons are forbidden at the festival, as are alcoholic beverages from outside the grounds and glass bottles, said the association.

There are security cameras watching the crowds.

Many expats prefer to visit the festival during the day to avoid the crush of the mostly youthful evening crowd.

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Australian diplomat plans
to hold a meeting here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Australian diplomat John McCarthy will visit Costa Rica today to meet with Enrique Castillo, foreign minister, at Casa Amarilla.

His visit is to confirm the new relationship between both countries, according to a press release from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto. Australia has given $20 million to Costa Rica for security and to fight organized crime.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia is important in the support of Costa Rica for preservation of peace, protection of human rights, absence of a military, protection of the environment and fight against climate change, the ministry said.

Driver's arrest follows
fatal wreck of bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hours after a bus transporting workers flipped off the road Wednesday in a deadly wreck, the driver of the vehicle was detained by judicial police.

Following the crash the driver fled from the scene, apparently because he feared retaliation from the other passengers in the bus after the accident, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported. The accident occurred Wednesday at 5 a.m. when the driver, who was taking the workers to jobs at a sugar plant in Guanacaste, lost control of the vehicle. The 70 or so passengers were headed to Belen de Carrillo.

One man, 33 years old and a Nicaraguan national identified by the last name Ortega, apparently died on the scene of the crash. According to the Cruz Roja four other passengers were transported to the Hospital de Liberia in delicate condition. One of those patients, who had the last name of Mena, died on the way, police report. The driver was detained with several injuries due to the crash as well.

The Consejo de Transporte Público said later in the day that the bus operated by Transportes Analimauri S.A. Did not have legal permission to carry the workers. The agency identified the workplace as the CATSA firm, which stands for Central Azucarera Tempisque, S.A. The main offices are in Liberia.

Questions have been raised about the legality of the transport operation.

Quality of onion harvest
a priority with ministry

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Onion growers in Llano Grande in Cartago are preparing for their big onion harvest in February. But overall they are reporting that this year's harvest in that region is slightly delayed than in other more typical seasons due to the low amounts of daylight that plagued the end of 2011.

On a visit with farmers and onion growers this week, Xinia Chaves Quirós, vice minister of Agricultura, promoted a plan to help local farmers by enforcing strict importation standards of agricultural products that may undermine the market for homegrown ones. The ministry officials will also monitor export quantities to make sure national needs are met first.

According to a report by the National Production Council, onions are indispensable in Tico cuisine. After rice and beans, and perhaps Imperial, the onion may be the No. 3 favorite Tico item to ingest. On average more than 3,080 tons of onions are consumed each month in Costa Rica, according to the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

Onions in Costa Rica are served pickled, fried, breaded, boiled, baked and raw, which helps to maintain the vegetables essential healthy components. The onion also reportedly has healing properties in combating diabetes, promoting respiratory function and fighting fungus and bacteria. Their oils can also be used internally or externally for therapeutic purposes, the Ministry reports.

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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Two teens surrender

after shootout standoff

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

“Whatcha gonna do when they come for you,” asks the Bob Marley song “Bad Boys.”

In the case of two teen robbery suspects, the answer Wednesday was to hole up in a home and take shots at the police.

The pair, 16 and 19 are suspects in robberies, and they are also suspects in a murder investigation. The home is in  Miravalles de Tirrases where some 70 Fuerza Pública officers, most of them members of tactical squads, cordoned off the area and shooed away neighbors.

No one was reported injured in the shooting. And a judicial police negotiator was able to talk the pair into surrendering after about four hours of the standoff. They were detained about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Tirrases is in the Cantón de Curridabat east of the San José central canton.
suspect captured
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
One of the sought teens is led to a waiting car

Employees fear some want to privatize national printing agency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employees at the state's printing facility, the Imprenta Nacional, are worried that they may be targeted for unemployment by the central government.

The national government is seeking ways to reduce the red ink, and Imprenta workers are known for creating job actions and a strike.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, which represents the employees, reported Wednesday that certain officials in the central government want to close the printing operation.

The imprenta Nacional is 176 years old, and it handles many of the governments printing needs, including producing the La Gaceta official daily newspaper and the bulletin of the Poder Judicial. When workers went on strike in November, government officials quickly beefed up the online version of
the publication and produced it for a time without the striking workers.

The central government is strongly digital, and this time of publication via the Internet is much less expensive than putting information on paper with ink.

Tuesday dozens of employees attended a meeting in the dining room of the La Uruca facility to hear union and government representatives discuss the future of the operation.

Union representatives fear the central government is seeking to put the printing service into private hands, and Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the public employees union, has promised to fight to keep this from happening.

At any one time, the printing facility might have more than 100 jobs in progress, including design work. There are more than 150 employees. The printing agency is under the control of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

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Constitutional court throws out hefty fine for speeding
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has thrown out another traffic fine, this one related to fixed traffic signals.

The fine was 75 percent of the base salary of an auxiliar administrativo 1 for such acts as ignoring a speed limit sign or other signs to control traffic.

The new base salary is 360,600 colons or about $714.77, so the fine would have been about $536.

Five of the seven magistrates who voted on the case Wednesday thought that such a fine was disproportionate, a reason similar  to the suspension of other fines in the newest
 traffic law. The other cases involved the use of seat belts and vehicle inspections.

The Sala IV decision said that the fine would revert to that  which was on the books before the hefty fine was imposed. That's just 5,000 colons or about $10.

The case came to the high court in April on the appeal of a citizen, identified in the decision as Guillermo Roldan Vargas.

The court suspended the speeding fines in October.

The legislature continues to study the new traffic law in which many of the fines are of similar amounts. They have been called draconian.

Offices of the Registro Nacional are being flooded with citizens this week because the agency was closed until Monday. Parents were at the Registro in search of a certification of their residence, a requirement for enrolling children in school. Others were seeking proof of their property ownership so they could qualify for a small deduction in municipal tax. This office is on Paseo Colón in San José.

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Ahmadinejad rips capitalism
in Cuban university speech

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized capitalism as a system in decay in a speech in Cuba, his latest stop on a Latin American tour.

Ahmadinejad said Wednesday capitalism is a dead-end street and said when capitalists lack logic they resort to using weapons to kill and destroy. He made the remarks during a speech at the University of Havana, where he was also awarded an honorary degree.

The Iranian leader did not discuss his country's controversial nuclear program or the bombing Wednesday that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran. Iranian officials have blamed the attack on Israel and the United States.

The visit comes as international pressure is mounting on Tehran over its nuclear program for which it is facing growing sanctions.

President Ahmadinejad's visit to Cuba is part of a four-nation Latin America tour that has already taken him to Venezuela and Nicaragua, where he attended the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega.

Later Wednesday he was expected to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro as well as with Fidel Castro before heading to Ecuador.

In recent years, the Iranian president has courted leftist, populist and anti-American Latin American leaders, particularly the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Protesters march to mark
10 years of Guantanamo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A coalition of human rights groups is marking the 10th anniversary of the first detainees being jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by demonstrating in front of the White House and calling on President Barack Obama to close the controversial facility.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in a cold rain along Pennsylvania Avenue.

They were led by protesters in black hoods and orange jump suits, representing the 171 detainees still held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Tom Parker, with Amnesty International, said “Guantanamo has been open 10 years too long. It is not keeping anybody safe. It is only open really now because of domestic politics.  It serves no real useful purpose. It is a stain on America’s reputation.”

Of the nearly 780 detainees brought to Guantanamo over the past decade, about 600 have been released.

Opponents of the facility say the vast majority of the remaining prisoners are not a national security threat to the United States.

Protester Dan Burgevin has been living shackled, in a cage, across from the White House.

“We continue this abominable program that jails people with no charge and keeps them away from their families and people that they love," said Burgevin. "I mean we just have to ask ourselves as Americans, would we want to be treated that way?”

Ten years ago, and just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the first detainees were flown into Guantanamo.

Images of shackled prisoners in orange jumpsuits captured in the War on Terror led to human rights groups questioning the interrogation techniques being used there.

Some analysts that support Guantanamo refer to those held there as “hybrid warriors” and say detention of the enemy during wartime is part of a broader effort to win the conflict.

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Cully Stimson:

“You detain people not to punish them," said Stimson. "You detain people lawfully under the law of armed conflict to prevent them from taking up arms against you. You don’t want to rearm the enemy while you are trying to defeat the enemy.”

Still, former detainees say their time spent in Guantanamo represents a dark page in the modern history of humanity.

Moazzam Begg spent two years in Guantanamo. “And this is an anniversary of tragedy, of pain, of torment, of families ripped apart," said Begg.

President Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo detention center, but Congress has blocked efforts to move the prisoners.

Health officials embark
on Haitian cholera campaign

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Health officials in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the United States are calling for international support to end the cholera epidemic that has killed thousands of people in Haiti since the devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation two years ago.

There have been half a million cholera cases and 7,000 deaths in Haiti since the outbreak began in October 2010.  More than 200 new cases are being reported every day.  That's prompting public health officials to launch a campaign not just to control cholera but to eliminate it from Hispaniola, the Caribbean island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. The continuing outbreak there is one of the worst cholera epidemics the world has seen in decades.

Health experts say that beyond life-saving interventions such as cholera clinics, chlorine pills and oral rehydration salts, there is a dire need to rebuild Haiti's infrastructure  — especially water and sewer systems. Most remain in ruins from the earthquake two years ago.

Holloway suspect admits
murder of woman in Perú

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Dutch man suspected in the disappearance of an American woman in Aruba has pleaded guilty to the killing of a woman in Peru.

The man, Joran Van der Sloot, 24, admitted to a court Wednesday that he killed college student Stephany Flores in 2010.

Van der Sloot told a panel of three judges that he was sorry and felt very bad. He earlier told police he got angry and strangled Ms. Flores in his Lima hotel room after he caught her looking up information about him on his laptop when the case of a missing U.S. woman came up.

Lawyers for Van der Sloot argued that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress' caused by inquiries into his possible ties to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway on the Caribbean island of Aruba.

Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year prison term for the slaying, but he likely will get less because of the plea. Judges are expected to sentence Van der Sloot Friday.

Van der Sloot has been at the center of an investigation into Holloway's death.

He was taken into custody in 2005 and later released following Holloway's disappearance. The U.S. high school student from the southern state of Alabama vanished while celebrating her graduation. Van der Sloot admits to spending time with Ms. Holloway, but has not taken responsibility for her disappearance and presumed death

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New Jamaican leader
wants to unseat Queen

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Jamaica's new prime minister says she plans to cut ties with the British monarchy and make the country a republic. As Queen Elizabeth II prepares to celebrate 60 years on the throne, questions are being raised over the relevance of the monarchy to Britain's former colonies. But some analysts say the royal family remains popular across the Commonwealth.

Jamaica is celebrating 50 years of independence from Britain. At her inaugural address, newly elected Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the anniversary provides an opportunity for Jamaica.

"As we celebrate our achievements as an independent nation we need to complete the circle of independence," said Ms. Miller. "In this regard we will initiate the process of our detachment from the monarchy, to become a republic with our own indigenous president as head of state."

Analysts say many Jamaicans see little point in retaining the Queen as head of state. It gives them no automatic right to British citizenship. There is lingering anger over Britain's role in the slave trade.

Richard Fitzwilliams, an expert on the monarchy, says the Jamaican prime minister's announcement was met with surprise in Britain.

"The republican movement in the Caribbean, one thinks of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, there are precedents for it," he said. "Equally Jamaica has a history of being very pro-monarchy. I suspect that this is something to do with the political infighting there. I would be surprised if it was actually put to the people, that you would be definitely sure that you would get a vote for a republic."

Along with Britain, Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of 16 other nations, known as realms. Her role is purely ceremonial.

She is also head of the Commonwealth, an organization that rose from the ashes of Britain's Empire. Most of its 53 member countries are former colonies like Uganda, where the Queen visited in 2007.

Fitzwilliams says last year's wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton, gave the monarchy's image a boost.

"The British royal family is the world's most high profile," he said. "I do think that in the Commonwealth, where the Queen is head of 16 realms, the monarchy is undoubtedly at one of its peaks when it comes to popularity."

But questions are being raised over the Commonwealth's relevance.

"It must become proactive. There is a need to revitalize the Commonwealth countries," said Ajit Prakash, an Indian human rights activist and former chief justice of the Delhi High Court. "The regime today has not really been able to stop human rights violations in several countries which are members of the Commonwealth."

To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, members of the royal family will tour Commonwealth countries later this year. Prince Harry will visit Jamaica. By then, the country could be well on its way to abandoning his grandmother as its head of state.

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