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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 14       E-mail us
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Bull fatally injures rider at fiesta in Santa Cruz
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bull rider has died after being gored by the animal he had just dismounted.

Dead is Willy Cubillo, a well-known participant in the amateur bull fights that take place at various fiestas in the county all year. The incident happened Tuesday at a fiesta in Santa Cruz.

Cubillo died Wednesday in the Hospital de Nicoya.

Cubillo was riding the bull in the Santa Cruz arena in the style of western rodeos. He hung on with both hands to a rope tied around the animal's chest. When he dismounted near the fence of the arena, the bull turned his head and impaled Cubillo with a horn. The animal lifted the man into the air and then let him collapse to the ground near the fence.

Spectators and other participants managed to pull the man under the fence, but the damage had been done to his stomach and other internal organs.
The entire episode was taped and later shown on national television. Repretel's Channel 6 included the footage within a larger segment that contained a number of shots of bulls mauling informal bullfighters.

Strictly speaking, Cubillo was not a torero improvisado, as they are called, because he was mounted on the animal and entered the ring on the creature's back from a holding pen.  However, there were many others on foot in the ring keeping out of the way of the bull. Typically after a bull rider is thrown off or dismounts, those in the ring continue to challenge the bull and sometimes are run over by the creatures.

This practice has been the subject of criticism by letterwriters in A.M. Costa Rica Tuesday and Wednesday. The best known event where humans bait bulls is the Christmas fiesta in Zapote. But lesser events are held all the time. Cubillo has been interviewed on his hobby several times on television, the latest being a year ago.


Here is some of the jewelry investigators confiscated at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Bender as part of a murder investigation.
jewels recovered
Ministerio Público photo

Slain millionaire had earlier run-in with local police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

John Felix Bender may have led a secluded life at his private wildlife refuge in La Florida de Barú de Pérez Zeledón, but that did not keep him out of the eye of the local police.

A Sala III case shows that Fuerza Pública officers from the local station intercepted Bender and his wife, Ann, as they drove in Quebradas de Pérez Zeledón and carried them off to their offices on a trumped up immigration allegation. That was April 30, 2001, and the men's aim seemed to be to facilitate service of a U.S. legal document on Bender.

Four men faced criminal action for what was called privation of liberty. One man was convicted, but three were absolved in the subsequent criminal case.  But in 2008, a new trial was ordered for those who had been absolved.

Bender, a multi-millionaire and a U.S. citizen, died last week from a single gunshot wound to the head, and investigators are holding his wife, also a U.S. 
citizen, who is hospitalized in Hospital CIMA.
Agents claim there were inconsistencies in the death scene that led them to characterize the case as a murder.

In an action possibly unrelated to the murder, agents have confiscated boxes of jewels and jewelry from the palatial home that is on the 5,000-acre reserve. Agents are claiming that the jewels are in the country illegally and that no import taxes have been paid. They are claiming informally that Bender and perhaps his wife, a couple worth perhaps $600 million, were engaged in the trafficking of jewels. No supporting evidence has been made public, but agents carried away the jewelry and now have released photos.

When the men intercepted the Bender vehicle in 2001 they were not dressed in police uniforms and were in a private vehicle. Bender's lawyers argued that the immigration status of the couple should not have been the concern of the Fuerza Pública because it was a matter for the immigration police. It appears that Bender was freed after his wife returned home and produced identity documents.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 14

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Our readers' opinions
In addition to Haiti, think
about the ponzi victims


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Today, when the focus is on the plight of those less fortunate than us, try and remember the old adage that "Charity begins at home."

Many persons in this country and others are living close to the poverty line, not because of a natural disaster but because of the callousness of the Costa Rican government.

I am referring to the Villalobos Brothers and Savings Unlimited run by Louis Milanes which have been in the courts since 2002.

In the case of "The Brothers," Osvaldo Villalobos was convicted and sentenced to jail. The moneys confiscated at that time were to be distributed to the victims in accordance with the court awards as published by A.M. Costa Rica on May 18th, 2007. The lawyers representing the Brothers and the lawyers representing the victims negotiated a settlement of 38.6% of the court awards to be distributed last summer (2009). However the judge in charge of this recused herself in August, 2009. No reason given. Since then nothing has been reported or happened. If an agreement was reached by both parties, why is it not being honored?

It makes one wonder what has happened to the confiscated moneys and property held in trust for the past 7+ years by the Costa Rican government. Even at today's low interest rates, the sum must have grown considerably.

Milanes is another travesty of justice. [He] has been living in relative luxury since his arrest, reported in A.M. Costa Rica in June 2008. His lawyers were to have negotiated a "settlement" with the victims who have filed criminal charges against him to avoid a trial and prison time.

So far, after over a year, Milanes is still free, and victims are still unpaid. Apparently he has not even met any of the criteria set for his freedom.

I know that the above cannot compare with the devastation happening in Haiti, but many persons' lives were just as ruined by the Brothers and Milanes. Most were left with nothing except perhaps a meager pension as their life savings were wiped out. They lost everything: Their homes, their dignity and in some cases their lives out of despondency.

The Costa Rican government is an intricate maze, but surely justice should prevail! and be their chief goal. That is all we ask. Costa Rica has risen to the call from Haiti. Are we just a voice in the wilderness? Help us to achieve justice and closure.
Jim Irwin
Representative of 15 Canadians


Bull baiting defenders
transfer the responsibility


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
It seems to me that some of your readers are using the old ploy called "transfer of responsibility." In other words, if someone gets attention for acts that are not acceptable to a majority of people, they point fingers at others rather than admit that what they are doing is not right.
 
Costa Rica needs to deal with this situation internally rather than say "well other countries are doing worse." Other countries commit genocide. Does that mean that one can condone this type of behavior for all. Your readers and responders need to examine themselves and determine why they would condone such treatment of any living creature.
 
I applaud Mr. Garcia. It is time for someone to say enough is enough, regardless of where it takes place.
Gary Mathews
San José

Bemoaning the boredom
leaves him frankly insulted

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Sometimes, not always, a meaningful life is an inside job.  60 percent of the lead article on Wednesday was yet another call for others, government etc., to insure that we are happy and not bored.  I am frankly insulted by your staff extolling the horrible state of boredom which pervades the expat community.  It does not exist for my family, friends, acquaintances or me here in Costa Rica, not all of whom are expats, so I may be biased. I would suggest that those bored brought the boredom with them and thought a geographical change would cure their malady.  I personally love it here, and if I didn't, I'd move elsewhere instead of bemoaning my fate. Happy, Joyous and Free in Costa Rica,
Bob Furlong
Sabanilla, Montes de Oca

Florida reasonable choice
along southwest coast


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Swindell's letter, in Wednesday's edition has hit the nail on the head. Some confused Costa Rican homeowners are twisting the facts with regard to the cost of living there vs. the U.S.  Like Mr. Irwin's long diatribe on Tuesday about "The Calculated Cost of Living"  where he compares vague, meaningless percentages. Señor, ¿porque no numeros?  Afraid they would reveal what the real story is? However, most readers of A.M. Costa Rica are more perceptive.
 
Mr. Swindell is one, his insightful commentary asks "why not compare the majority of coastal areas of the U.S. instead of the most costly ones?"   —  like where Irwin lives?   I live in a very reasonable and picturesque area on the southwest coast of Florida.  We have many oceanfront beaches, offshore barrier islands and nature preserves. This area is similar to the rest of the SW coast with the exclusion of Boca Grande, Sanibel Island and Naples, where the millionaires are being kicked out — by the billionaires. Why compare such areas to Costa Rica as far as living costs go?
 
Having no mortgage or car payments, I can live easily here on $200 to $300 a month less than it'd cost me in Dominical, Jacó, Playa Hermosa, Escazú or Sámara.  I now, have talked to many realtors, rentistas and pensionados all over the country, and know what it takes.  Unless you want to live like St Francis of Assisi, cooped up in a dingy apartment in San José with no car and making the rounds of the Gringo friendly bars "hablando solamente Inglés." No me gusta !
 
After having my rental SUV broken into for the second time and getting ripped off on my last lot sale by a crooked local attorney, I decided to remain in the U.S. and just visit whenever I felt like instead.   To those who moved to Costa Rica and bought a home, buena suerte! Just had to address an obvious misrepresentation.
Joe Furlong
Cape Haze, Florida 

Happiness not the same
as true satisfaction


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Satisfied expats live meaningful lives and encounter happy events on their path to satisfaction. Expats dissatisfied with Costa Rica living result in many returning home after a year or two.

Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson recently questioned a New York Times travel article written by Nicholas Kristof, regarding Costa Rica being the happiest nation on earth. In a New York Times opinion article, the authors reveal that the measures used to declare Costa Rica as the happiest nation are better suited to naming Costa Rica a most-satisfied nation. The authors later write, “let’s not lose sight of the fact that economic development is overwhelmingly the strongest explanator of which countries top the happiness tables.”

I agree that developed nations rank highest in happiness with their endless buying that trigger repeated events of happiness, at the expense of devouring the earth’s resources. However, these happy events seem unsatisfying — never enough.  Happiness can be defined as “a pleasurable or exciting experience:" “Linda was happy after the amusement park ride.”

Satisfaction can be defined as “the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or task; "the chef tasted the sauce with great satisfaction." Satisfaction is more durable, last longer, whereas happiness seems according to the moment.

Traditionally, Costa Ricans experience deep ties to the land and the family. They walk a lot, which may be the least efficient travel method but is most satisfying as you earned your arrival. Earning your way satisfies. Whereas gifts or winnings bring happiness, they are often not satisfying events. Catching a fish brings satisfaction: your effort paid off. Receiving a fish as a gift may make you happy, but probably not satisfied.

Production brings satisfaction. I authored "Costa Rica Now" and experienced tremendous satisfaction from holding the hard copy in hand and knowing the book and my consulting services will help other to avoid the mistakes I have made and witnessed over my many years here. For me, writing and helping others bring meaning to life. Books originate from life experience: Therefore, one could say you are what you write: and you are whom you help.

Children bring satisfaction. There is nothing easy or short term about raising children. There are happy moments (and sad), but it is the reflection of their growth and the effort parents put into teaching that give satisfaction to parenting and meaning to life. Fatherhood has been the title of my self-definition, the most meaningful part of my life.

Rather than unbridled materialism and competing with the Jones to see who has the biggest television or most expensive car to compliment their socially isolated life, I prefer living with the Gracias and watching real life challenges of raising and educating children (not shuffling them off to daycare) and participating in community events.

Expats who integrate with the community, help others, work within a team by owning a business or by participating in a group effort in service seem to lead the most meaningful lives. Those who come here to abuse gambling, sex, drinking and drugs and exploit the land through shoddy developments may find short-term happiness but rarely find the satisfaction that brings meaning to life.
Phil Baker
Author of "Phil Baker’s Costa Rica Now"
Heredia

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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 14

   
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.

Seven-year restoration of historic church finally ends
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The culture ministry, the Municipalidad de San José and Roman Catholic Church officials are calling the restoration

La Merced church
A.M. Costa Rica ohoto
At night the newly whitened and floodlighted walls of the church are a beacon.
work finished on the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced.

This is the church that towers over the east side of the park by the same name at the west send of Avenida 2 near Hospital San Juan de Dios.

Renovation has been going on for more than seven years. The interior was pretty well finished in September 2006 when A.M. Costa Rica ran its first feature story. The interior work remaining at the time was restoration of the 14 figures of the Stations of the Cross and reconstruction of the church's pipe organ. Specialists were brought in to repair the termite-ridden organ.

What remained and what now is completed were exterior repairs and work on the grounds and walls. The church is more than 100 years old.

Officials will gather tonight at the church to talk about the extensive repairs and plans for future conservation.

The church plays a role in religious activities centered on the Catedral Metropolitana a few blocks to the east. For example, several processions each year start at La Merced and end up at the cathedral. However, due to population shifts, La Merced does not have the parishioner base it once did.

It is located now in what is mainly a commercial district.

The church has been open for most of the time restoration was taking place. By 2006 more than $1 million had been invested in the structure. Much of the money came from Cervercería de Costa Rica, the beer company.

A visit to the church should be during the daytime to take full advantage of the light streaming through the many restored stained glass windows. The interior is supported by four massive wooden posts and 36 steel columns. Each column is hand painted in elaborate detail.


Arson fire sweeps through immigration detention center
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire believed set by those being held there swept through the immigration detention center in Hatillo Wednesday.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública blamed three Nicaraguans who were at the point of being deported.

The ministry said that 30 persons were being housed in the facility, a former police station. These individuals now are being housed at various police stations. Officials said that
four of the six lockups at the center were involved in the blaze. Firemen and the police who responded to the alarm had to make holes in some walls to allow the detainees to escape the flames, the ministry said. There is no estimate of damage yet.

Officials think that those who set the fire did so with the hope they could escape in the confusion. The blaze started in blankets and mattresses.  An investigation is under way. The center was housing Chinese, Colombians, Hondurans, Guatemalans, Somalis, as well as Nicaraguans, officials said.


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Why Wait 3 Months

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 14


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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


strange bug from Ecuador
The University of Texas at Austin/Bejat McCracken
The spike-headed katydid (Panacanthus cuspidatus) is one of the projected 100,000 insect species in Yasuní national park.

Park in Ecuador may be
earth's most diverse spot

By the University of Texas news service

A team of scientists has documented that Yasuní National Park in the core of the Ecuadorian Amazon shatters world records for a wide array of plant and animal groups, from amphibians to trees to insects. The area appears to surpass any calculations of biodiversity in Costa Rica.

The authors also conclude that proposed oil development projects represent the greatest threat to Yasuní and its biodiversity.

"This study demonstrates that Yasuní is the most diverse area in South America, and possibly the world," said Peter English of The University of Texas at Austin. "Amphibians, birds, mammals and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity in Yasuní."

The study is published in the open-access scientific journal PLOS ONE.

"We have so far documented 596 bird species occurring in Yasuní," said English, a bird specialist. "That's incredible diversity to find in just one corner of the Amazon rainforest and rivals any other spot on the planet."

Other specialists joined in to give the first complete picture of the extraordinary diversity found in Yasuní national park.

"The 150 amphibian species documented to date throughout Yasuní is a world record for an area of this size," said Shawn McCracken of Texas State University. "There are more species of frogs and toads within Yasuní than are native to the United States and Canada combined."

The scientists also confirmed that an average upland hectare (2.47 acres) in Yasuní contains more tree species, 655, than are native to the continental United States and Canada combined. The number of tree species rises to more than 1,100 for an area of 25 hectares.

"In just one hectare in Yasuní, there are more tree, shrub and liana (woody vines) species than anywhere else in the world," said Gorky Villa, an Ecuadorian botanist working with both the Smithsonian Institution and Finding Species.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that a single hectare of forest in Yasuní is projected to contain 100,000 insect species. According to entomologist Terry Erwin, that is the highest estimated diversity per unit area in the world for any plant or animal group.

"One of our most important findings about Yasuní is that small areas of forest harbor extremely high numbers of animals and plants," said lead author Margot Bass, president of Finding Species, a non-profit with offices in Maryland and Quito, Ecuador. "Yasuní is probably unmatched by any other park in the world for total numbers of species."

The extraordinary diversity of Yasuní is best exemplified at the 1,600-acre Tiputini Biodiversity Station on the northern edge of the park.

"The Tiputini Biodiversity Station is home to 247 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird species and around 200 mammal species," said Kelly Swing of the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador.

"What makes Yasuní especially important is its potential to sustain this extraordinary biodiversity in the long term," said Matt Finer of Save America's Forests. "For example, the Yasuní region is predicted to maintain wet, rainforest conditions as climate change-induced drought intensifies in the eastern Amazon."

The paper concludes with a number of science-based policy recommendations. One key recommendation is a moratorium on new oil exploration or development projects within the park, particularly in the remote and relatively intact — but oil rich — northeast corner that contains oil blocks 31 and ITT.

The Ecuadorian government is promoting a revolutionary plan, known as the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, which would leave the park's largest oil reserves in the ITT block permanently under the ground. A lack of funding commitments, however, now threatens the proposal.

"The Yasuní-ITT Initiative urgently needs international funders to step up and make it a success, or else more drilling in the core of Yasuní may become a tragic reality," concluded Finer.




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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 14

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Election campaign takes
several strange turns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The election campaign is beginning to look like something written and produced by Monty Python, the British humor group.

The strangest aspect is a new commercial for the candidacy of Luis Fishman. He is the candidate who is seeking votes with the claim that he is the best of a bad lot. (El menos malo es el mejor).

The new commercial consists of a chorus of obviously pregnant young women and two grown men, one wearing a bib and the other in a diaper carrying a baby bottle. Even stranger, the commercial appears to be a copy of Whoopi Goldberg's "Sister Act" where the chorus is a group of nuns.  A local television news show played the commercial and a clip from the movie back-to-back Wednesday night, and the scenes are nearly identical, except for the words. The tunes are very similar.

Meanwhile, Laura Chinchilla, the front runner and candidate for the Partido Liberación Nacional, says she is bringing criminal charges for defamation against her nearest competitor, Otto Guevara of Movimiento Libertario. His party published a notice questioning where Ms. Chinchilla got the money to own a house in the posh Villareal section high on a hill above Santa Ana.

Ms. Chinchilla took a television crew on a tour through the two-bedroom home Wednesday and said she is paying on two mortgages. Despite the number of bedrooms, the home is very upscale. Guevara calls her criminal complaint a smokescreen. He has been criticized for receiving money from places that have not been identified clearly.

Then there is the announcement from the Partido Acción Ciudadana that has run out of money for campaigning.  Political parties get a lot of public financing, but Francisco Molina, the Acción Ciudadana campaign chief, said that banks were unjustified in holding up the money that should be coming to the party. The money he seeks is now represented by 1 billion colons in bonds that are issued in anticipation of the public funds.

He said the only criteria used by the banks are the public opinion polls. The amount of money each party gets depends on the number of votes it received.

Various polls give Ottón Solís, the presidential candidate of Acción Ciudadana, about 10 percent of the vote.

Ms. Chinchilla appears to have from 38.7 to 44 percent, depending on the polling firm. She needs 40 percent to win on the first round. Guevara is in second place with from 18.3 to 30.4 percent of the vote, based on three polls.

Fishman of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana has from 3.7 to 10 percent, the polls report. There still is a significant bloc of undecided voters.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 14


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Another strong earthquake
rattles stricken Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A strong earthquake has again struck Haiti, shaking buildings and causing panic as international efforts to help those affected by last week's devastating quake continued.

There have been no reports of injuries from the magnitude 6.1 quake Wednesday.

The United States is sending more ships to Haiti to help with recovery from last week's 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which killed an estimated 200,000 people.

This will include a vessel designed to clear debris blocking the main port in the capital, Port-au-Prince.  The debris has prevented larger ships with food and other vital supplies from making deliveries. 

Some damaged buildings in the Haitian capital have been ransacked by people searching for supplies as they await more relief.  American troops have been providing security for food and water deliveries.  About 3,500 additional U.N. security personnel are also being sent to Haiti to help prevent looting.

The World Food Program says it will try to get fresh aid to as many people as possible Wednesday.  But officials say relief efforts have been hampered by blocked roads, bureaucratic confusion and the collapse of local authority. 

Survivors have been living in makeshift camps on streets littered with debris and decomposing bodies.  Doctors are struggling to treat thousands of injured with limited resources. 

Search and rescue teams from several countries have freed 90 people buried under collapsed buildings, including an elderly woman on Tuesday who was trapped under rubble for a full week.

Officials estimate the earthquake affected an estimated three million -- about a third of Haiti's population.

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