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(506) 2223-1327             Published Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 13        E-mail us
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Add a few balloons, some happy revelers and a small boat becomes a parade float. Scene is from 2009 Mardi Gras.
mardi Gras file photo
File photo

Sometimes a meaningful life here is a big party
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hardly any guidebooks mention the problem, but boredom is a major threat to expats who seek a successful life in Costa Rica.

There are only so many times a new arrival can rave over a Pacific sunset. There are only so many times that a successful trip to the local market is a personal victory.

As more and more North Americans and Europeans seek lives in Costa Rica, the problem of boredom becomes more evident. They are dropped into a new culture, frequently without the language skills to even know what is taking place. The routine of daily life is a challenge, and sometimes these new arrivals are fresh fodder for scamsters, crooked lawyers and others.

In some of the Gringo bars of San José bored expats can be seen sipping warm beer and watching a thrilling encounter of Australian rules football on the television.

The lesson, of course, is that people who come to Costa Rica bring their life with them. If they were bored in Phoenix, they probably will be bored in Montezuma or Tamarindo.

Costa Rica laws prohibit most new arrivals from holding a regular job. That cuts off many expats from the daily routine of life here.

So it is left to the individual to adjust his or her life in their own way to create new options and experiences. For some, the answer is a Costa Rica-related discussion list. There are several, including Costa Rica Living on Yahoo that provides an electronic meeting ground for expats and expat wannabes. Sometimes the topics are repetitive. Sometimes plain silly. But there is a lot of information doled out each day to the thousands who subscribe to this and other groups.

For others face-to-face sessions at the local coffee shop or bar are preferred. Each major city has a place where expats go for morning coffee. Then there are the service clubs and veteran organizations.

Entertainment to counter the repetition of daily life has not been addressed well by developers. This has been an oversight, but the situation represents an opportunity to the sharp business person.

A minor example is Sneaky Pete's Diner across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Pavas. In expat circles the diner is getting more notice than the Haitian earthquake because the operator promises and delivers typical American food, like cheese fries.

A number of developers have put in millions in condos, home sites and subdivision infrastructure 
two photos of mardi gras
2009 file photo
Parade entrants are creative, sometimes marine.

without a thought to entertainment. That aspect  has been left to develop by itself except in the fewcases where developments are associated with golf courses or marinas.

Then there are the folks in Esterillos Oeste who are creating their own entertainment. They have scheduled the second annual Mardi Gras for Feb. 13. The parade starts at Barrilito Bar at noon and ends at the beach. Said the organizers:

"The sirena, king and queen, and grand marshal will be presiding over the festival.  Parade will include floats, decorated cars, trucks, bicycles, horses, motorcycles, and music.  They will be throwing beads, candy, and toys to the crowd.  Vendors will be set up along the beach, selling hot dogs, t-shirts, face painting, and we will also have an area set up with children's games. The entry fee for a vehicle in the parade is $4 or 2,000 colons. Vendors fee will be $10 or 5,000 colons. Only licensed food vendors can set up a booth.  For more information see Web site."
http://playa-esterillos.info/Blog/

This is an event that sprung from the minds of expats in the central Pacific beach community. There was no government sponsorship, just a desire to have fun and organize as a local group. The idea also may have been prompted in part by a statue found on the local beach. Organizers can be reached at 2778-7371.

Those involved really made an effort last year with low-cost parade floats and even a car sporting a shark face.

Other expats delve into such areas as horseback competition, local social clubs, gardening, volunteer English teaching and even just Costa Rican and regional tourism. Church work and music provide other options. Some long-time expats are members of the American Colony Committee that puts on a reception to new ambassadors and stages the famous July 4 picnic each year.

Most of the online resources that address the issue of retirement boredom conclude that the secret of overcoming this threat is living a meaningful life. Of course, if your avocation is the Mardi Gras, there is the fringe benefit of a heckuva party, not to mention riding around in a car with a shark face.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 13

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Our readers' opinions
U.S. not free of practices
hurtful to its animals


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In regards to Otton Garcia's letter to the editor on Tuesday regarding the treatment of animals in Costa Rica, I'd like to ask him if he and all of the members of his group are vegetarians? And, do they understand how factory farms operate in the U.S. Using his reasoning, people should boycott the U.S. until factory farm practices are abolished.
Jeffrey H Vogel
Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Escazú

Bull fighting here is better
then where animal dies


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Wow just read Otton Garcia's post about the shabby inhumane treatment of bulls in Costa Rica. Well all I can say is ask the bulls in Spain, Mexico and other places where they would prefer to be.

That other option is stick lances in the bulls neck muscles to tire them out so the brave matador can then play with them and then drive a sword into their hearts, watch them die as the crowd screams with delight, then drag em out, cut their tails and ears off for lucky charms and then butcher them up.

I don't know but I think the Costa Rican bulls actually live Pura Vida lives in comparison.
Rolf Hanson
Monteverde

Cultural aspects change
slowly with education

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to a letter today by Otton Garcia decrying the treatment of the bulls as witnessed at the Palmares fiesta.  Mr. Garcia has the right to be saddened by our rodeo rituals.  Indeed, this cultural aspect of Costa Rican society is not a chamber of commerce moment. 

As a veterinarian, in the United States and in Costa Rica, I can not help but share compassion for animal suffering.  Yet this letter contains a faint odor of arrogance and hypocrisy.  Animal abuse is everywhere, in every country and culture.  I would urge Mr. Garcia to look over his privacy fence in Miami at his neighbor's un-neutered pit bull, scarred from fighting, and ask himself if he is equally outraged.  Or before he buys his next Lexus if he is going to consider the Japanese cultural hunting of whales. 

For many in "first world countries" is is easy to look at another culture and take issue with what they do not fully understand.  These things change slowly, over time, and, believe me, the Costa Rican view of animal welfare is changing for the better.  Education and example drive these generational changes, not economic threats and arrogance.  I applaud Mr. Otton for bringing up a touchy subject but hope he can see it through a more global eye.  After he is done peeking at the neighbor's dog.
Carl Wells, DVM
Nosara and Austin, Texas

How about comparisons
with cheaper places in U.S.?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Calculated cost of living favors being in Costa Rica

This is the third time in a year that someone has compared the cost of living in Costa Rica to some of the most expensive places to live in the entire U.S.A. It's good to see that Costa Rica is still more affordable than San Francisco,
NYC and Boston. 

There are coastal places you can live in the U.S.A. for half the price of any of them.  Maybe the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo can use the slogan "Costa Rica - still a bargain for a few people".

I guess in the future if Ticos want to own property or a home near the ocean they can always move to the U.S.A. to get a deal.
Brett Swindell
Hampton Roads, Virginia

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

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 13

   
Check out the printed version of the Top Story news feed and see what  you  missed.
Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountain behind.
Elegantly built to your specifications. Delivered and set up at your home in Costa Rica.

10 fewer murders in 2009 credited to governmental policies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister is crediting governmental policies for the slight drop in murders in 2009. Last year there were 472 killings compared to 482 in 2008.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio, issued the report Tuesday. She also cited the results of a recent public opinion poll that said citizen concerns about personal security have dropped to 35 percent from 45 percent. The question asked was what is the principal problem of the country.

Murders are considered a good gauge of crime because usually they are reported. Most Costa Rican crime statistics are suspect because many citizens just do not report such events because they believe nothing will happen. There is at least one case where an expat wife is seeking to have her husband's suicide declared a murder because he was shot two times. But such cases are unusual.

According to Ms. del Vecchio the murder rate dropped in 2009 to 10.3 per every 100,000 inhabitants from 11 per every 100,000 in 2008.

The murders seem to be taking place in locations other than San José and Limón. In December 2008 there were 31 murders in San José compared to 16 reported in 2009, she said. In Limón, there were three murders during the last six months of 2009 compared to eight in the same period a year earlier, she said.

Puntarenas also showed a decline from 69 murders in 2008 to 45 in 2009, the minister reported.  She did not say where the murders have increased.
The minister also said that 517 policemen were under investigation in 2009. Some 282 of these were suspended without pay, she said. Most of these cases are of police corruption, including officers being involved with drug and burglary gangs. Most of these cases never rise to the level of a criminal allegation, although officers do lose their jobs.

The minister noted that her budget has nearly doubled for 2010, while police are receiving higher pay, more days off.
Óscar Arias Sánchez promised in his election campaign four years ago to add 5,000 policemen to the Fuerza Pública. He has met that goal. However, he was criticized when he named Ms. del Vecchio to the minister's job because she had no experience in this area.

In her announcement she credited the Arias administration for passing a witness and victim protection act, a citizen security bill, a law against organized crime and an anti-terrorism measure. She also cited the new immigration law that takes effect March 1. These measures have had no effect yet, but she said that the administration's actions provided the foundation for future action.

The security ministry only supervises the Fuerza Pública, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacoastas and the tourism and immigration forces.

Criminal investigations are the domain of the Judicial Investigating Organization, which is an arm of the courts.

The security ministry had been critical of the courts when judges free suspects with multiple prior violations. In addition the country is suffering a shortage of prison space which causes some judges to be reluctant to jail suspects.


Tall, red column at Parque de la Paz is supposed to represent peace, harmony
new art work
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new work of art, a 17-meter sculpture, has been inaugurated at the Parque de la Paz in Desamparados. The red metal work is nearly 56 feet tall and carries the name Columna arboriforme. The work is supposed to be a celebration of peace, union and harmony by artist José Sancho.

The artist is on record saying that he conceived this idea 32 years ago and developed plans for the metal tower only two years ago. He donated the work to the state. The work contains seven rectangular sections stacked one on top the other. These represent the seven provinces of Costa Rica, the artist has said.

He also said the work is red to contrast with the green of the vegetation in the park. The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes also contributed to the work.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 13


Cash donations for Haiti reported to be about $436,000

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The Cruz Roja said Tuesday that it has received 10 tons of donations for earthquake victims in Haiti. The rescue agency also has collected 244 million colons, about $436,000, it said.

Most of the money donated came through state bank accounts that the Cruz Roja maintains. Miguel Carmona, president of the Cruz Roja here, said that the money will go to the International Federation of Red Cross Societies, which will channel the cash to Haiti.

The Guías y Scout de Costa Rica are about to embark on a collection campaign for the Haitian people.

In Haiti the Costa Rican rescue workers resumed their efforts in collapsed structures after having been ordered to stay in their quarters at the international airport Monday due to the insecurity sweeping the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

Walter Fonseca, head of the rescue team, said that one problem is the crowds of people who congregate around every emergency vehicle seeking food. Consequently security has been increased for these vehicular trips, he said.  The Costa Ricans spent the day exploring collapsed buildings in conjunction with rescue workers from Puerto Rico, the national emergency commission said.
A 2,000-strong unit of U.S. Marines began moving ashore west of Port-au-Prince at dawn Tuesday to help deliver relief to victims of last week's earthquake.  Some U.S. troops landed by helicopter at the presidential palace, where crowds of Haitians cheered as the troops began distributing aid.  A range of U.S. military efforts are now underway, including airdrops of supplies and the expected arrival of the huge hospital ship the USNS Comfort on Wednesday.

With medical teams and mobile facilities from several countries already in place in Haiti, the deputy commander of the U.S. military effort there, Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, says American priorities have shifted to delivering vehicles to distribute aid, machinery to produce clean water and equipment to clear rubble and begin reconstruction.  He said the U.S. troops are also working with Haitian authorities to re-establish normal production and distribution of water, fuel and other key supplies.

At the same time, Allyn says the military units must continue to transport food, water and other critical items that are needed immediately.  "The delivery of capability here in Haiti is a balancing act that requires troops on the ground to distribute humanitarian assistance, the supplies for them to distribute and the mobility necessary for them to be able to reach the communities that are most stricken," he said.

Allyn says U.N. and Haitian forces continue to have lead responsibility for security, which he says has been mostly good in very difficult circumstances. "We are watching for signs of instability.  At present, there are pockets in areas of Haiti and the U.N. security forces are working with the Haitian national police to address those pockets
Costa Ricans in haiti
Cruz Roja photo
Costa Rican rescue workers tackle a demolished structure in Haiti seeking survivors.


as they arise.  And they have been able to effectively deal with them, and we are confident they will continue to do so," he said.

Among those helping distribute and secure the aid are about 1,000 soldiers from one of the U.S. Army's premier combat units, the 82nd Airborne Division.  In all, Allyn says within the next few days there will be about 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Haiti, with another 5,000 on the ships supporting the effort. 

The general also reports smooth operations at the Port-au-Prince airport, which has been under U.S. control since Friday by agreement with the Haitian government.  The Pentagon says the airport is handling more than 100 flights per day, nearly 10 times what it handles normally. Allyn says he also expects the seaport in the capital to begin at least limited operations during the next few days to enable delivery of supplies by sea.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council backed Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call to increase the overall force levels of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti to support the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts following the Jan. 12 devastating earthquake.

Following his visit on Sunday to the capital, Port-au-Prince, Ban asked the Council for an additional 1,500 police officers and 2,000 troops to augment its 9,000 uniformed personnel already on the ground.

The council approved up to 8,940 troops of all ranks and of a police component of up to 3,711 police.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 13

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Grassland potential high
to store carbon dioxide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says grasslands have vast untapped potential to limit climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. The report says proper land use can also help one billion people who depend on livestock.

The United Nations report says if pastures and rangelands are properly managed, they can be a useful carbon sink — potentially more powerful than forests.  The report says that agricultural lands can help control global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  At the same time, the report also states that these kinds of agriculture practices can increase land productivity which will lead to stronger food security.   

Constance Neely co-authored the report.

"Grasslands represent the majority of the world's agricultural area and they hold an enormous amount of the soil carbon, so we have a fantastic potential to have both better livelihoods and a better natural resource base while mitigating and adapting to climate change," said Ms. Neely.

Grasslands cover around 30 percent of the earth's ice-free land and account for 70 percent of its agricultural land. But land degradation, made worse by high demands for meat and dairy products, affects around 70 percent of pastures.

The report says that by protecting the earth's soil, an estimated 1 billion metric tons of carbon could be stored a year.

And in the process, says Ms. Neely, food could be made more secure and poverty reduced by helping pastoralists sustain their livelihood. She says livestock is one of the key factors blamed for land degradation, but that if properly managed, livestock is good for soil.

"You're taking advantage of three things," she said. "One, is you're getting the hoof action on the soil, so often you're breaking a soil crust which allows the rainfall that does come to actually go into the soil. And you're getting the manure and you're getting the urine as well, which is fertilizing the soil."

The report suggests placing 5 to10 percent of global grazing lands under carbon sequestration management by 2020, which it says could store 184 million metric tons of carbon a year.
 
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 13



Latin American news
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Preventative detention asked
in case of dead millionaire

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A prosecutor in Pérez Zeledón has asked the criminal court there to order four months of preventative detention for Ann Patton, the wife of the dead multi-millionaire.

Ms. Patton remains confined at Hospital CIMA in Escazú where she is believed to be under guard.

She is facing a murder investigation in the death of her husband. Both lived relatively secluded lives on the couple's 5,000-acre Refugio de Vida Silvestre Boracayán in La Floridad de Barú de Peréz Zeledon. The dead man, John Felix Bender, 46, lived with her in a dramatic, five story 8,000-square-foot glass-walled home on the property.

That is where he died with a bullet in his head last week. Police at first thought the death was a suicide, but now they cite certain inconsistencies in the positioning of the body, including the fact that Bender was left-handed and the bullet entered the right side of his head.

Another factor is the discovery of great numbers of jewels at the home. Although they were not searching for jewelry, agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization have confiscated boxes of jewels. The material includes loose stones and fully produced bracelets and watches. The jewels may be unrelated to the murder investigation, but agents said that import taxes may not have been paid on the material.

Bender earned in excess of $600 million with a mathematical approach to Wall Street investing. He ran several arbitrage funds before suffering a stroke in 2000, according to online sources.

Mrs. Bender, who is a Brazilian naturalized as a U.S. citizen, was questioned by a prosecutor at the hospital. She has retained a lawyer.

The Poder Judicial said that the confiscated jewels and jewelry have been placed in the vaults of the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

The Benders have lived here since 2000.  They were awarded permanent residency.

The full story on the case has not yet come out leading to speculation by the Spanish news media. The investigators' point of view is that since Mrs. Bender was one of just two persons in the home when her husband died, she becomes a major suspect. Agents did not explain why they thought that the woman would not know that her husband was left-handed or what evidence they have that the jewels are not the couple's legal possessions.





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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details