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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Jan. 14, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 10           E-mail us
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Scientists counted more than 3,000 quakes in 2010
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 3,000 earthquakes took place in and around Costa Rica in 2010. Most were too small to be felt, and the nation avoided any serious quake damage.

That is the report from the Red Sismológica Nacional, which is based at the Universidad de Costa Rica. It is one of the two major academic organizations that study earthquakes and volcanoes.

The Red reported it registered 111 quakes in 2010 that were felt by the population. Just 58 of these were the result of subduction of the Coco tectonic plate under the Caribe plate. There were 14 quakes with a magnitude of from 5.0 to 5.9. The two largest quakes were at Zarcero and 25 kilometers off the coast of Quepos. There was no serious damage from either.

The bulk of the felt quakes clustered around three points: the tip of the Nicoya peninsula, south of Golfito at the Panamá border and east of San José and Cartago in the vicinity of Volcán Irazú and Volcán Turrialba.

January was the big month for quakes, and there were more than 30 felt quakes reported. Between Jan. 23 and 25, there were 60 quakes in the extreme southwest of the country and in adjacent Panamá. Most were not strong enough to be felt by humans. That area in the vicinity of the Burica peninsula is where the Coco and Nazca tectonic plates interact with the Panamá Block. The area is intensely active.

Some earthquakes are related to volcanic activity,
Small quake map
Red dots mark the estimated epicenters of earthquakes registered by the Red Sismológica Nacional in 2010. For a larger image, please click HERE!

  and Volcán Tenorio showed increased activity with a 3.4 quake July 6 that was felt in Bijagua de Upala and the vicinity in northern Costa Rica. The quake spawned at least 24 mini-quakes.

Volcán Arenal was more notable for its eruptions and pyroclastic flows than for quakes. Volcán Poás also had a series of strong eruptions beneath the lake in its crater in May.

The Irazú and Turrialba volcanoes hosted dozens of smaller quakes, but acid rain and gas emissions from Turrialba were studied more.

Turrialba represents a threat to farms, pastures and homes within a five-kilometer radius of the main crater, said the Red Nacional. It estimated that a major eruption would affect up to 1.5 million persons.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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Our readers' opinions
Tilarán residents make plea
for final fix for highway

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We had the wonderful opportunity to travel around Guanacaste and Alejuela provinces over the holiday season with visiting friends and relatives.  We have lived close to Tilarán for the last two years and have been visiting Costa Rica for a number of years, so we’ve seen marked improvements in the roads here.  In the last couple of days, we also had the occasion to speak to friends who traveled south of San José over the holidays to the mountain areas inland of Dominical.  In our travels and theirs, we were pleasantly surprised at the state of the roads.  In some cases, they rivaled the condition of American roads.

The one exception was the section of Ruta 142, the Lake Arenal road, between the dam near La Fortuna and Canas.  We have read several rants about the condition of this road, but this is a current observation of the state of the road in hopes that someone in authority will be able to provide a lasting solution to a chronic problem. Repeated temporary fixes will never provide the lasting results found elsewhere in Costa Rica.

A few years ago there was a major washout that isolated the north section of the lake community from Tilarán, which is the county seat and major commerce hub of the area.  A bailey bridge was installed, and a permanent fix was in place about a year later.  That section of road was never repaved.  Recently, a similar landslide occurred between Nuevo Arenal and the dam.  This section was paved but is extremely uneven and dangerous.  The rest of the road is pockmarked with too many potholes to count, and a high number of these are so deep that serious damage is possible to a car whose driver misses sight of one, especially at night or in rainy weather.  The result is the necessity of weaving all over the road at about 20 kph to avoid them.

One might say that this is commonplace when you consider the history of Costa Rican roads, but I think great improvements have been made except on this road.  Yes, there are annual repairs but there are so many holes, it is easy to see the root cause of this particular problem: application of only 2 to 3 cms of asphalt over an inadequate base.  Several sections of the road have been marked with white paint so you won’t drive on the part because it has washed out beneath and is unsupported.

Two days ago, we came across a motorcycle accident where the driver was unable to avoid one of these potholes and his passenger was injured so badly she was taken away by ambulance.  This is only one minor example of the cost to life, health, and property that has resulted from the chronic condition of this road. 

I implore someone in authority to please inspect this road, especially between Tilarán and the Arenal dam, so they can order a lasting repair.  I asked a couple of friends why the road is never repaired properly and they both said that the contractors have no incentive to make a proper repair because they want the repair contract again the following year.  Please someone tell me this is no longer true and the government will not allow this practice to continue.  This is the only road we have seen that is a disgrace and a dangerous embarrassment to our wonderful country.  Can someone please get it fixed for good?
John Erkan and Rita Pfeifer
DDT use urged to eliminate
mosquitoes and malaria

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your posting on malaria prompted such a visceral reaction that I felt compelled to respond.  I cannot begin to express my astonishment at the TOTAL disregard of  the World health Organization to the scientific and humanitarian communities.   $175 million for more NETS and research when the answer is staring us in the face.

A small excerpt from this very long and detailed analysis with much supporting documentation  (see:

The Wall Street Journal Endorses Use of DDT.

The Wall Street Journal endorses using DDT on its editorial opinion page (8/16/07) stating: "Opponents of DDT are only ensuring more misery and death." Great. We have been stating this for years. It is good to know that this respected publication has finally come around to agreeing with us. Use it to stop deaths from malaria In African countries

Wake up and smell the excrement that the U.N. and its affiliated organizations are shoveling.  (Global Warming included) Millions of lives can easily and cheaply be saved starting tomorrow.

Dr. Bill Wilden
Gifford, Washington
(Wilden is a dentist with a master's in public health)

No fan of Amnet cable
changes his TV provider

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Since the beginning of the year/since the U.S. networks returned from their monthly blackout period, Amnet has been incapable of keeping ABC/CBS/NBC on the air consistently, and from time to time their results have been even more questionable than usual, like when CBS disappeared and TWO channels were carrying the ABC signal simultaneously instead!

The network signals have changed channels from time to time as well, and now the stations are coming out of obviously low budget studios in South Florida, (i. e., a badly lit, chubby guy in a loud Hawaiian shirt doing the weather with a parrot puppet on his arm), instead of first rate studios in Denver.

The good news is that 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for those of us who appreciate good television. Cable Tica is now available in Manuel Antonio and elsewhere in the country, and their service seems to be far superior to Amnet's. The cost is ¢13,000, $25.79 at today's exchange rate for 66 channels. Like Amnet, Cable Tica also offers Internet service.

Here is what Cable Tica offers in addition to what Amnet carries here in Manuel Antonio: ESPN, TNT and CNN International in English. (Finally an alternative to the Nancy Grace channel and FOX News!).

For those with small people in the house, you can have Discovery Kids, Animal Planet and Cartoon Network in English. And CNBC in English is alive and well and on the air.

 Best of all, at least for me, the representative who hand delivered the contract to my home guarantees that the U.S. networks will NOT disappear every month. ¡Ojala! Unfortunately he could not guarantee that there would be less soccer programming.

We have finally been blessed with an alternative to the lousy/getting lousier service that Amnet has been providing for far too long. Amnet doesn't deserve your money any more. Cable Tica's main office can be reached at 2210-1450.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

Article on taxation called
incorrect on two points

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article "Intrusive tax form and more woes for U.S. expats" contains expensive tax misinformation.

Specifically, living on a tourist visa here does not disqualify anyone from taking advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

For U.S. citizens living overseas, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (Form 2555) allows you to exclude up to $91,500 ($183,000 married) of foreign earned income from taxation. To qualify for the exclusion, you must either (a) be outside the United States for 330 days during a 12-month period, -OR- (b) establish a bona fide residence in a foreign country. Neither the physical presence test nor the foreign residence test require legal foreign residency. The physical presence test can qualify tourists with U.S. residences, or no residence what-so-ever, so long as they stay out of the U.S. for all but a few weeks per year.

The income must be earned income, but it is foreign source so long as it is earned while you are physically present outside the United States. So even income paid by a U.S. company qualifies as foreign earned income if you telecommute from outside the United States.

The second piece of expensive misinformation is that foreign expats must still pay Social Security taxes. FICA payroll taxes (social security/medicare/etc) are owed only by self-employed individuals and individuals working for U.S. companies. Individuals working for foreign companies do not owe any FICA payroll taxes. An expat would be smart to create a foreign company and avoid self-employment status (but beware of controlled foreign corporation tax rules).

Expatriates who are married to a foreign citizen must have their spouse elect to be treated as a U.S. resident for tax purposes in order to file together and exclude $183,000. I strongly recommend avoiding doing so. As a non-resident alien without the election, your spouse owes no taxes to the United States on foreign income and assets. This means that your spouse can earn dividends, and capital gains on investments and real estate, without paying any U.S. taxes, and can earn his/her own salary greatly exceeding $91,500 without any U.S. tax consequences. Your spouse can transfer to you up to $100,000 in assets every tax year without triggering U.S. gift tax, allowing you to report up to $191,500 per year married filing separately tax free. Unearned income can be shielded from taxation by putting them in your spouse's name (transfers of existing assets allowed up to $133,000 per year without triggering gift tax). (Note also most amounts are adjusted up every year for inflation).

Adam Selene

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 10
Latigo K-9

Real estate rollover

Tourism institute picks Georgia firm to promote country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo picked 22squared, an Atlanta, Georgia, advertising agency, to market the country in the United States and Canada, the state agency said Thursday.

The company said that the selection came after a five-month courtship in which 30 agencies were considered.

The campaign is in the multi-million dollar range, the company said. A representative of the tourism institute declined to respond immediately to questions about the monetary value of the contract. The contract is for two years, the company said.

The firm said that it would develop and execute an integrated marketing and advertising campaign to promote Costa Rica as the premier travel destination for North America.

The tourism institute said the 52 firms were considered and there were 10 finalists.

22squared has Marriott as a hospitality client. It also represents Baskin Robbins, CBS Sports, Marriott, Toyota and regional clients.

“Our research shows that out of all the tropical destinations visited by North American travelers, Costa Rica has the most intense advocates. From the natural beauty to the progressive view of sustainability, once you visit you fall in love,” said Richard Ward, president and CEO, 22squared, in a press release. “We plan to tap into that intensity to  promote Costa Rica as one of the best travel destinations on earth.”
22squared logo

22squared said it will work with the tourism institute to develop an integrated campaign that includes social and digital media, media buying and planning, and creative. The objective of the 24-month campaign will be to raise awareness in the United States and Canada of Costa Rica’s wide range of tourist offerings, with a focus on cultural and natural heritage, ecological diversity, and adventure and educational opportunities, it said. Particular emphasis will be given to the key feeder markets of California, Florida, New York, Texas, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, the company added.

The firm said it was the fifth largest independent advertising agency.

A year ago 22squared won Baskin Robbins ice cream company as a client and said that work began with an animated television campaign that capitalized on the brand’s core equities – flavor and fun – and continued through the fall with a social media campaign that included promotions and applications on the company’s Facebook fan page.
22squared has a second office in Florida and employes 268 persons.

Luxury 'Disney Wonder' to dock today in Puntarenas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The "Disney Wonder," a luxury liner, docks in Puntarenas today with 1,800 passengers, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said Thursday.

This is the first time that a boat from the family-oriented Disney Cruise Line has visited Costa Rica, the institute said.

The 85,000-ton "Disney Wonder" left Florida Jan. 6 and traveled through the Panamá Canal. It will end its 15-night voyage in Los Angeles, according to the company's schedule.

The institute credited the firm Agencia Naviera Scan, for arranging the visit.

"Disney Wonder" has a sister ship, the "Disney Magic." Both were launched in 1999 in the tradition of the luxury
Disney Wonder
Disney Cruise Line photo
This is the 'Disney Wonder' that will dock today.

trans-Atlantic steamers of the mid-20th century.

The "Wonder" has 873 staterooms and can handle 2,700 passengers, the institute said.

Visits by such ships are good for Costa Rican tourism because passengers participate in a number of shore activities.

Where are all the rock 'n' roll mystery cult goddesses?
A book review published in A. M. Costa Rica Tuesday from the wire service has had me baffled and amused.   The book, “The Secret History of Rock ‘n Roll,” is by Christopher Knowles.  His thesis is that rock ‘n' roll can be traced back to the fertility mystery cults of the ancient religions of the Middle East.  I have no quarrel with that.  But when the reviewer talks in terms of “fertility gods,” I have a problem.  I kept wondering where are the women?  Where is Demeter and what about Janice Joplin and all of the other divas of rock ‘n' roll?  Women are barely mentioned in the review, yet they were a large part of the fertility mystery cults, if not the subject. And they certainly have had a part in rock ‘n' roll.

Most of the fertility mystery cults were related to goddesses since it was women who were associated with pregnancy and birth as well as the fertility of crops. Demeter, the Greek goddess of fertility was the subject of the Eleusinian mysteries, the most ancient and long lasting of the mystery cults, the rituals of which remain a secret to this day. 

It took further reading of other reviews for me to get a clearer understanding of the author’s connection between the music festivals of the early rock ‘n' roll era and religious cults of the past. Although Knowles compares Elvis to Apollo, the Greek god who represented the cerebral aspects of man, Dionysus, Apollo’s half brother, would be a better model for most rock heroes.  Dionysus was the god of wine, intoxication and ecstasy, who led processions of happily drunken followers, notable among them, women, singing and dancing, along with musicians playing instruments of the day.  Bacchus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysus, is remembered for his wild orgies. Women were part of his entourage, too.

As I said, I have no quarrel with the thesis of the book, (I’ve not had a chance to read it), only with this particular Victorian review of it and of the pagan world.

Most of the so-called “fertility” gods would more accurately be called male virility and sex gods, rather than gods of procreation.  One of the most famous, the Egyptian god Min, does bring to mind some rock ‘n' roll stars.  His statues show him standing with his left hand holding his erect penis (or should I say manhood) and his right arm extended into the sky (however, bent, not straight).  Attitudes about sex in the ancient world were 
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

very different from present day Puritanical attitudes in some cultures.  Christianity and to some degree, Judaism, separated sex from religious ritual.

And now to segue and answer my own question, where are the women?  Many are alive and well in Costa Rica. They gather together in groups, not in cults, to be very active in and for the community and also to celebrate.   Just this month alone, there are three women’s groups meeting; all generated by the mother organization, The Women’s Club of Costa Rica.

First, the biggie, the welcome-to-the-public one: the “Giant Gently Used Book Sale” on Saturday, Jan. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Hotel/Restaurant El Rodeo in San Antonio de Belén.  You can call 2589-2037 for more information.

On the same day, the 22nd, is a meeting of the Professional Women’s Network from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pan American School, also in San Antonio de Belén just 300 meters south of El Rodeo. Three women will talk about women as social entrepreneurs, and their own ventures in that arena.  Call Christina L. Marin at 8334-6122 for details.

Then there is the Women’s Club Book Club luncheon on the 19th.  This is the closest we come to private mystery cults here. We occasionally read them.

Most of these groups used to have their end-of-the-year gatherings in December, but December became so overloaded with Christmas-related activities that one by one they moved to January, which is now overloaded with activities.

And not to be guilty of the same misstep as the wire service reviewer, Democrats Abroad is having its potluck on Saturday, the 22nd also. Both men and women are welcome. Check out A.M. Costa Rica’s calendar page for more information.              

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Page One is HERE!    Page Two is  HERE!    Page Three is HERE! 
Page Five is HERE! 
Page Six is HERE! The sports page is HERE!

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Fishing groups praise Panamá for prohibiting longliners

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After banning commercial purse seining from its waters in July, the Republic of Panamá has taken further steps adding restrictions on long line fishing for the conservation of its marine life and its socio-economic growth.

Commercial longlining ships will now be banned in the waters of the Central American nation from setting its lines which attract unwanted species like billfish, turtles and sharks.

In letters to Panamanian officials, Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation and Chris Fischer founder of OCEARCH, applauded the government for becoming the first of the seven Central America nations to restrict longline gear within its waters. The practice of commercial long lining in the region uses hundreds of baited hooks attached to short lengths of line spaced at intervals to main lines. The longliners target swordfish and tuna, but also hook sharks, turtles and recreational billfish like marlin and sailfish.

Panama’s Executive Decree 486 signed by President Ricardo Martinelli Dec. 28 prohibits longline vessels of over six tons from operating within the nation’s waters.

“This action,” said Ms. Peel, “is the latest in a growing trend that makes Panama one of the most proactive, innovative and committed fishery managers in the world and results from the increasing influence of the collective sportfishing community.

“After prohibiting tuna purse seining in July, the signing of these two agreements acts directly on two of the greatest sources of overfishing of marlin and tuna species while creating appropriate sustainable management plans for billfish and other popular game fish vital to growing sportfishing and tourism in the Central America region," she said.
OCEARCH’s Fischer, who is also on the board of The Billfish Foundation, said “through this decree the Republic of Panamá becomes a global leader in the responsible management of ocean resources and a more established force in the international sportfishing tourism marketplace.”

His organization is a research non-profit based in Washington, D.C.

In Panamá, Ruben Berrocal, national secretary of the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, said the president's decision underscores his commitment to preserving natural resources for future generations and the economic and scientific benefits these measures produce. "Through sustainable marine management efforts and the careful consideration of important advocacy programs to maintain our game fish — such as those supported by The Billfish Foundation — we are committed to ensure that Panamá remains a world-renowned destination where commerce, science and economic productivity can live in harmony.”

The Billfish Foundation, through a 2009 agreement with the Organization of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the Isthmus of Central America, developed a management plan for sportfishing in the seven nation region assisting each nation in developing appropriate national conservation goals to enhance sportfishing tourism. It includes recreational fishing monitoring and data collecting programs using tags and catch reports to gather vital statistics for decision makers to better understand the dynamics of sportfishing as an important economic tool.

The Foundation has been working with the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while implementing tag and release programs for sportsmen.

Sorry folks, the next holiday is experiencing a slight delay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ticos and residents are facing a long haul to the next big holiday.

Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, is another time when businesses and government offices close and many go to the beach. The country's commercial sector is still trying to recover from a 10- to 12-day Christmas break.

However, Easter this year is a long way off: April 24. It is just one day short of the latest possible time for Easter Sunday. The day is based on the March equinox and the full moon.

So residents here will have to guard their strength because the next long vacation is more than three months away.
By contrast, Easter was April 4 last year.

Although a new voting law abolished rules preventing the 
sale of alcohol around the general elections, the prohibition against selling alcohol on Holy Thursday and Good Friday remains in force.

The Easter season begins this year March 9, which is Ash Wednesday in the Roman Catholic tradition. That day introduces a period of reflection and repentance up until Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Church pageants during the week provide fodder for tourists' cameras.

For those in the tourism industry, Easter marks the transition from the high season to tourism fueled by summer vacations in the United States and Canada. Summer tourism is heavy in students and school teachers, who are not traditionally big spenders.

Easter also usually marks the beginning of the rainy season.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 10

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Saint Gerardo
This is the work that was lifted from the church

Sculpture of saint sought
for return to city church

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An antique representation of Saint Gerardo María Mayela vanished form the city's church of the Inmaculada Concepción in August, and the work has not turned up.

The Judicial Investigating Organization sent out information on the wooden three-dimensional sculpture Thursday and said the work was very valuable. They said information on the stolen object could be phoned in to 2277-0342, 2277-0343 or 2277-0346.

The saint was an Italian miracle worker who died when he was just 29. He is revered as a special protector of women.

Paseo Colón being closed
Sunday for family fun

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José is closing down Paseo Colón Sunday and will continue to do so each Sunday through April 24 to provide a place for festivals and family gatherings.

The municipality has a list of events that will be staged there, including the Fiesta de Gallo Pinto March 20.

Sunday, the first closing, will be from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be dancing, theater and booths set up by the municipality. There also will be booths set up by the recreation division that will provide presentations of various sports. There also will be a way open for bicyclists and skaters.

The municipality has done the same thing in past years, but there seems to be more formal activities planned this year.

Mudslides in Brazil kill
hundreds near Rio

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescue workers in Brazil are struggling to dig through rubble in an effort to find survivors following raging floods and mudslides that have left nearly 400 people dead and hundreds homeless.

Heavy rains triggered the disaster that has left a trail of destruction through the Serrana region near the city of Rio de Janeiro.  Hillsides collapsed after storms dumped the equivalent of a month's rain in the region, and forecasters have warned of more rain in the coming days.

In the town of Teresopolis, at least 161 people were reported killed, with hundreds more left homeless.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 10

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Obsession leads to murder
in central Pacific town

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A horror story of sexual obsession played out with fatal results Wednesday evening in Portalón on the central Pacific coast.

A 45-year-old man termed the stepfather who had been pursuing his 15-year-old stepdaughter finally caught up with her at a bus stop and shot her dead. Then he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

Dead was the schoolgirl who had the last name of Madrigal. She had rebuffed the man repeatedly even as he was living in the same home with her mother. The girl was so tortured by the situation that she tried to commit suicide earlier in the year, friends said. At one point she or someone in her family sought an order of protection from the man but did not follow through.

The girl had traveled from her home to the south in Matapalo where she lived with a grandmother to see her mother. She was conversing with a school friend about 6:30 p.m. at a bus stop when her tormentor, identified by the last name of Umaña, appeared, walked up to her, and, as the witness said, without saying a word pumped bullets into the 15-year-old. 

He returned to the body a minute later and fired at least one more time into the dead girl. The man had a .38-caliber revolver, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Portalón is south of Quepos just off the coastal highway.

Sámara shooting probed
by agents and prosecutors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 24-year-old man died near Sámara Wednesday evening after the man who shot him said he had been threatened with a knife. Judicial agents and prosecutors are trying to find out the facts.

The dead man was identified as Wilberth Araya País. The man who called police to report the crime and surrendered has the last names of Dibango Nezil, said the Poder Judicial. He was being questioned Thursday.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that Dibango reported he encountered Araya acting suspiciously on a farm or finca in the Santo Domingo section of Sámara, which is on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula.

The shooting happened about 6 p.m. The dead man was hit twice in the legs and once in the head, said judicial agents.

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