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These stories were published Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 9
Jo Stuart
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U.S. victim helps agents grab suspects in serial rapes here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men abducted and gang raped a 23-year-old female tourist from the United States last week, but thanks to the information provided by the woman, agents arrested four men Tuesday.

The woman met the men at the conclusion of the Christmas Festejos Populares in Zapote, and they pretended to be friendly. Instead, agents said Wednesday that the men were members of a dangerous band of criminals who preyed on young women. They raped them, took their belongings, made them take money from automatic tellers and then threatened them if they reported the incidents to police.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that other women have 

been treated in the same manner but failed to file police complaints because they were intimidated by the threats. The spokesperson urged them to come forward.

The four men came into police hands in a raid by the Sección de Delitos Sexuales, Familia y Contra la Vida. The men, ages 18 to 25, are neighbors in Curridabat. They were ordered to jail for two months while the allegations against them are investigated.

At the conclusion of the crime, the gang who preyed on women would boldly drive a victim to her home and emphasize that they knew where she lived. They then would take her to an isolated spot where she would be set free, said agents.

The sex crimes unit may be reached at 295-3315,  295-3316 or  295-3317.

Tourists report no delays with Caribbean buses 
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though officials say that repair to roads and bridges damaged by weekend floods on the Caribbean slope could cost in excess of $4 million, access to the prime tourist areas there seem to be back to normal.

Most damages are not on the main highway, so bus services are continuing as normal. Luis Murillo, a bus ticket seller at the Estación del Caribe, said Wednesday, "There isn't a problem with transport to most areas. The only problem is if people want to travel to the border of Panamá.  The bus only goes to Paraiso Sixaola which is within five kms. of the border." That’s about three miles.

Pacheco has a bad day: BLOW

Sixaola was one of the hardest hit communities when record rains forced the Río Sixaola out of its banks. The town was flooded up to the rooftops.

Bo Mora from San Diego, Calif., said that "The water receded back Tuesday morning. We were on a bus to Cahuita on Monday, but we had to spend the night in Limón because the bus couldn’t make it all the way. By the time we got to Cahuita there were only puddles left." He was interviewed at the Caribbean bus station when he returned to San José Wednesday.

Several  tourists were not even aware of the flooding in Limón. Matt Ufgauden from Holland said he just traveled from Managua and was off to Puerto Viejo. "I haven't heard anything about flooding," he said. "The guy at the register didn't say anything about it when I bought my ticket. I hope it all works out OK. "

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Two tourists, John Collins and Bo Mora, discuss their advertures on the Caribbean slope.
Many tourists were caught in the storm Sunday and Monday morning and had to make improvised arrangements because they could not continue on their tours.

Jeffry Campbell from Limón said he was travelling to Puerto de Limón. 

"My brother is a fisherman, and he lost one of his boats," he said. "I think the area that is worst affected is Cieneguita."  Campbell was travelling to the port to catch a boat to the Cayman Islands.  He worked there helping with the cleanup operation after Hurricane Ivan hit Sept. 14. 

"I know that a lot of help is needed here, and a lot of work needs to be done but I need to earn a living," he said when passing through San José.

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Local gaming site fails
to arrange football matchup

By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff, a casino and sports gambling Web site based in San José, announced Wednesday that its offer to host a "true" national championship game had been declined. The gambling website put up $50 million towards the Bodog Bowl, which would have pit the best two teams in college football against one another.

Bodog made its offer immediately after the Orange Bowl Jan. 4, stating that the two best teams in the country had not played each other and, therefore, a true national champion could not be crowned. 

The problem began a month before the bowl season began, when three teams finished with undefeated records. Auburn University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Southern California had all finished in the top three, and each school had a reasonable case to play in the national title game. Only USC and Oklahoma were chosen, however. 

After Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and USC dominated Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, there was a legitimate debate regarding the identity of the true national champ. Bodog offered each school $15 million to compete in the Bodog Bowl and an additional $15 million to the winning team. Some $5 million more would have been given to the National College Athletic Association Minorities Opportunities and Interests Committee.

The schools would have required the national association’s permission to participate in the game, but the association never responded to the company’s offer. had set a deadline of Jan. 11 on its offer. Wednesday morning after receiving a response from USC, the company withdrew the offer.

Calvin Ayre, CEO of, regretfully withdrew the offer, stating that "We have received a massive outpouring of support from people all across the United States and abroad, and we were looking forward to the opportunity of hosting this matchup for the fans of the game."

Tech summit INSIGHT
will beginning Feb. 24

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The second information and communication technologies summit in Costa Rica will be held next month.  The event, INSIGHT 2005, will be held at the Hotel Real Intercontinental and will run for two days, beginning Feb. 24.

The event has been organized by the Promotora de Comercio Exterior with the collaboration of the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior. The summit is being held to improve business relations between technological companies and to attract potential investors to Costa Rica. The event is also offering training, workshops and lectures to help smaller companies develop
business strategies. 

Software companies, international technological corporations, banking and finance, product suppliers, services, consultants, programmers and government authorities will be present. Components Intel de Costa Rica, Microsoft and Cisco Systems are sponsoring the event. 

Participants from 12 different regions are expected to attend. Among them: The United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panamá, Cuba, Argentina, Spain, and the Central America neighbors.  Registration for the event should be before Jan. 30.

Campaign to protect
children wins praise

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The publicity campaign to create an awareness of the exploitation of youngsters has been commended by the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. The campaign was an effort with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

In a letter addressed to Rodrigo Fonseca, the minister of Turismo, the president of the Patronato, Rosalia Gil Fernández, said that the campaign is of great importance. " I want to take this opportunity to recognize the Institute for its educational campaign against commercial child exploitation," said Minister Gil.

"We are creating a consciousness so that there is zero tolerance in Costa Rica," Fonseca said.  "Costa Rica does not want to be associated with sex tourism in any way.  The tourism industry is aware of this and has also signed an ethics code."

"Of course we want many tourists to come here and enjoy the different regions of our country. But more than that, we want a healthy tourist who comes here and enjoys the riches of our country, who feels good with our people and with our culture. People who come here with other intentions are not welcome here."

The campaign was created specifically to warn children of the dangers of talking to strangers cost about $40,000.  The campaign was run in regional and national newspapers and magazines. It was also extended to the Juan Santamaría International Airport and Daniel Oduber International Airport.  Posters were displayed and leaflets and badges were handed out to arriving tourists. 

U.S. photo exhibit postponed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The exhibit, "Capturing Light," originally scheduled to debut this month at Museo Calderón Guardia, has been postponed by U.S. authorities.

The exhibit, which was coordinated by the U.S. Embassy, included photography taken by U.S. photographers. 

A new inauguration date for the exhibition has not been announced yet, but the museum still plans to host the display in the future. 

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Nicaraguan dogfight not good for Costa Rica either
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The political battle being waged in Nicaragua today is important to Costa Rica even if the dispute does not turn into open warfare.

Instability anywhere in Central America is bad for business and tourism here. In addition, an undetermined number of expats here and in the north are looking toward Nicaragua as a kind of 1950s Costa Rica where they may settle.

An analysis of the news

An alliance between convicted money launderer Arnoldo Alemán and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega does not seem to portent a government friendly to expats or capitalism in general.

Nicaragua is a poor country, and one of the reasons is Alemán and his family, who seem to have skimmed off much of the cream. International agencies already are balking about sending more money into the beautiful but underdeveloped land.

Alemán and Ortega, both ex-presidents, are united against President Enrique Bolaños, whose political capital appears to be exhausted. Once Bolaños has been shelved, the two strong leaders will turn on each other to create more political havoc.

Alemán’s Partido Liberal Constitutionalista and Ortega’s Frente Sandinista del Liberación Nacional have good reasons to eliminate Bolaños. Alemán would like his 

20-year jail sentence annulled. Ortega wants to consolidate his power in the national assembly. Their plan is to change the form of government to a parliamentary one where the power rests in the national assembly. A presidency would be eliminated or reduced to a ceremonial role.

More discord in Nicaragua means more displaced Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. Locals blame the large influx of Nicaraguans now for fewer jobs, rising crime rates and strained social services.

Discord in the north also would disrupt transportation and communication.

Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco has had a good working relationship with President Bolaños. The pair launched a joint tourism effort making use of the Liberia international airport.

Relations with Alemán, the predecessor of Bolaños, were often tense, particularly with Costa Rican expectations of navigation rights on the San Juan River.

Bolaños has threaten to bring in foreign troops from the Organization of American States to enforce his democratic prerogatives. Nicaragua has a military, too. and it is not sympathetic to Bolaños.

A shooting war north of Costa Rica will bring back memories of the 1978-79 overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship and the 1980s contra war against the Sandinista regime. Costa Rica just finished cleaning up all the anti-personnel mines left on its northern frontier.

Taxi drivers sandbag Pacheco as he tours flooded area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Protesting taxi drivers blocked the way of President Abel Pacheco Wednesday, and the chief executive cut short a visit to the flood-stricken Caribbean slope.

Pacheco ran into the unhappy taxi drivers after he inspected a damaged bridge in Cariari de Guápiles. However, he said that he had completed his goals. He said he was unhappy that small groups would be able to block much-needed aid to the region.

The demonstration near Guápiles was similar to one in San José Wednesday in which taxi drivers continued 

their protests against Riteve SyC, the vehicle inspection monopoly. Taxi drivers have to have their vehicles inspected twice a year at $22 a visit.

Before running into the taxi drivers, Pacheco had visited a damaged clinic in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and several damaged bridges and a damaged school.

The visits were what Casa Presidencial had planned Tuesday. However, Pacheco came in for criticism by residents elsewhere in the affected area. He did not visit Limón or the hard-hit Sixaola region in extreme southeast Costa Rica. Pacheco himself is from the Province of Limón.

Boneless U.S. beef OK here, but not meat from Canada
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff. 

You still cannot get a prime U.S. T-bone or a choice ribeye. Despite a reduction in the barriers against U.S. beef, meat on the bone still is a no-no, including barbeque favorites.

Meanwhile, no beef can be imported from Canada.

The ban on the importation of beef from Canada to Costa Rica will not be lifted for a considerable amount of time. This is according to Dr. Ligia Quiros from the department of meat inspection at the ministry of agriculture. In the past two months three cases of so-called mad cow disease have been identified in Canada. 

"We still have a total ban on beef from Canada. Costa Rica will only accept beef from the United States if it contains no bone," said Dr. Quiros.  The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia cut off beef importations from the United States Dec. 24, 2003, after a slaughtered cow there tested positive for the ailment.

The purpose of the rule was to protect the health of people and animals in Costa Rica.  The minister of agriculture said at the time that beef exportation represents a large part of the Costa Rican economy and the country could not risk the entry of disease. 

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific name for mad cow disease, affects the nervous system of the animal and can be passed to humans. In May 2003 the Canadian Government identified its first mad cow case. The ministry of agriculture here banned all imports of beef from Canada immediately. 

Dr. José Joaquin Oreamuno Toledo is the director of animal health at the ministry.  He said that Costa Rica will only accept meat that is from animals less that 30 months of age.  Toledo said that inspectors from the ministry are sent to the slaughter houses and packaging factories in the United States. This is to ensure that no meat that may be contaminated with the disease reaches Costa Rica. 

The United States has sent experts to Canada to investigate the outbreaks, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it would be lifting the ban on the importation of Canadian beef. 

"Taking into account the three recent cases in Canada, we will not be lifting the ban on that country," said Oreamuno. 

The United States in early January announced it would reopen its borders to live cattle imports of 30 months or younger from Canada in March. The infected cow discovered in Canada was nearly seven years old, officials said.

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Costa Rica is highly rated as 2004 adventure destination
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

According to new rankings, Costa Rica was one of the hot spots for adventure tourism in 2004. Rankings released by Chicago-based, placed Costa Rica in the top 10 international destinations for that kind of international travel. 

Costa Rica finished ninth overall in the company’s new rankings. Many tourists flocked to Costa Rica in 2004 to surf, mountain climb, scuba dive and hike. The countries diverse climates and terrains offer a multitude of activities for adventure tourists in a very 

small area. The country is also known to be relatively safe compared to its neighbors in Central America, something that travelers keep in mind, said an announcement.

Topping the list was Peru with its Machu Picchu mountain climbing excursions. Egypt, China, Galapagos and India rounded out the rest of the top five. Alaska, Italy, Chile, and France also rated highly. was formed in 1999 and is the leader of online seller of adventure vacations. Their rankings are based on purchases made by their customers. 

Ailing teen will get a California medical checkup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Roberta Felix Foundation will be taking a local 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy to Stanford’s Children’s Hospital in March. The foundation has put together an entire trip for the girl, but the organization still needs help from the community.

The girl, Yudi Andi Zapata, has been receiving treatment in Costa Rica for several years and doctors were convinced that surgery would be needed. Doctors at Stanford’s hospital, however, believe that physical therapy may be able to prevent the need for surgery.

Miss Zapata has never seen cold weather, however, and is in need of warm clothing for her trip to northern California. The foundation is asking locals to rummage through their closets in search of a warm coat, 

sweaters, pants, or warm socks that people might be able to donate. Miss Zapata wears a size 14 in children’s clothing or a size five or seven in women’s. 

The group has also organized a fund-raising event in the Silicon Valley in California, which Miss Zapata will be attending. For the event, the group is looking for a dress that Miss Zapata might be able to wear. Founder Roberta Felix is a former Silcon Valley worker.

The Roberta Felix Foundation was founded in 2001. The non-profit organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life for handicapped children throughout the Pacific coast region of Costa Rica. 

If readers have any donations or if they would like to learn more about the Roberta Felix Foundation, they can look them up on the Internet HERE! 

Jo Stuart
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