A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 16          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

It's just another Mickey Mouse rumor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A false rumor that the Walt Disney Co. plans to construct a major resort on the Pacific coast is getting new life, thanks to telephone solicitors for real estate deals.

A study by a local consultant shows no evidence that Jacó or Quepos will join ranks with the likes of Los Angeles, Calif., Orlando, Fla.,  Paris, France, Tokyo, Japan, or Hong Kong, the five population centers where Disney has theme parks and resorts.

The rumor has been so persistent that a local real estate firm contracted the consultant, Garland M. Baker, to investigate. The company later agreed to make the report public.

Persons who have invested or are considering investing in Costa Rican land say that the Disney theme has worked its way into the sales pitches of telephone salesman in the United States. One man who bought property said he was told that the Disney announcement would appear in the Jan. 6  issue of USA Today. He has been watching that newspaper since.

Baker's report said that Costa Rica does not have the infrastructure or the population to accommodate a major theme park. The country has about 4 million persons and about 1.5 million tourists a year. Hong Kong Disneyland, the newest location, hosted a million visitors in the first two months after its opening Sept. 12.

Baker said he consulted Walt Disney’s last four years of annual reports, Edgar Online’s extensive research and disclosure data base encompassing required corporate report filings, Merrill Lynch’s and Charles Schwab’s research databases and stock rumor research data bases.

"Costa Rica does not have the infrastructure or traffic to sustain a multi-million or multi-billion dollar investment on the part of The Walt Disney Company and its stockholders," Baker concluded.

However, a more modest theme park already is in the works.  A local landowner has announced plans to open a simulated African

landscape near Liberia.  The operation is  
called Africa Mia. The master plan calls for a 100-hectare (247-acre) tract housing only herbivores – including endangered species — to minimize the stress on the environment and animals.

The Africa Mia project is considerably less ambitious than the $3.6 billion Disney and the Government of Hong Kong invested in the attraction there.

Baker's study also notes that the term eco-Disney has worked its way into the local language:   ". . . such crass exploitation of the eco-tourism label occurs that we have heard European visitors refer to Costa Rica as eco-Disney," he said.

Other theme parks around the world also are using the term eco-Disney to refer to themselves but have no connection to the Walt Disney Co., he said, adding, "in conclusion, eco-Disney is a phrase used by many to describe a pseudo-ecology or ecotourism project or environment and is not a project of the Walt Disney Co. in Costa Rica or elsewhere." 

Baker is the same person who does articles on real estate and governmental issues for A.M. Costa Rica. His bibliography is HERE.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 16

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Women customers also
enjoy eating at Hooters

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am a two-time visitor to Costa Rica (and will be back down in two weeks) and also a reader of A.M. Costa Rica and had a good chuckle about your review of Costa Rica’s first Hooters restaurant.

There are two things that I wish to comment on.

First the name.  While the word “Hoot” in English does refer to the sound an owl makes and also a slang reference to having a good time (We had a “hoot” at the party last night.), the word “Hooters” is a slang term for a woman’s breasts.  I am not sure of the origin of the word but it appears to have originated in England, perhaps it is some Cockney slang.

Secondly, in the second paragraph of the review your reporter wrote:

“Many of the male patrons Wednesday night had their girlfriends in tow which tends to defeat the purpose of going there in the first place.”

In the US it is not uncommon for people on dates and/or families (even with children) to go to Hooters. The idea that it is some kind of “men's only” hangout (at least in the US) is untrue.

Mark Swain
Dayton, Ohio

Here's a little trick
to get by revisión

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been meaning to write but you see I have been spending all my free time hanging out, getting to know each and every person who works at the RETEVE.

I have been trying to get my car to pass since July of last year, and while this may not seem so strange to some of you, it is strange to me because my husband is, in fact, a mechanic, and a very good one at that. But somehow being a woman gets me no respect at the RETEVE. I can't even get the attention of the jefe there to explain to him that my car isn't supposed to have the third brake light that all cars made after 1996 have because my car is a 1986 or the fact that no, my window tint in the back window is not too dark because it is not tinted at all!

But those are just the simple leves that I am supposed to ignore. It is the great emssions test that my car can't pass. I don't understand how some of these cars that I see smoking along with no lights and mufflers hanging to the ground pass, but now I may have a clearer understanding.

As far as Hooters, I am a female and I LOVE Hooters food. They simply said their food wasn't good a couple of years ago to get out of a lawsuit which required them to hire men. Yikes, that is a scarry thought. They have fantastic snow crab legs, oysters, and their wings are excellent. In the States my husband and I go all the time. It is not sexist. It may have been at one time, but not only have I seen many women eating there, I, in fact, have met some waitresses there that have become very good friends to me, not my husband.

The place is a pun, and it is a fun place to go. Of course Costa Rican women go there with their boyfriends. Costa Rican women are sexy, and they know it, so why would an out-of-date dressed waitress be a threat to them. They know they hold their men in the palm of their hand. It is a good thing, American women can learn a lot from them. I know this because I see them at the RETEVE.
They come three in the car flirting with the men who work there. Today one was literally writhing to music in the back seat while her friends, in mini skirts and some small piece of fabric for a top flirted with the jefe. They couldn't pass because their horn wouldn't work. Well, guess what? It worked. They passed. Maybe it was because everyone else was so irritated that someone else honked, and the jefe who was simply distracted by the writhing beauty in the backseat didn't realize it wasn't her horn. BUT THEY PASSED.

So I am going to go eat at Hooters and soak myself in my misery that I cannot pass RETEVE because I don't have two more pretty friends, but at least I will leave happy.

Lisa Thompson

'Is anyone at home,'
reader asks of embassy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I recently had the audacity to call the U.S. Embassy with a simple question: “Is it true that if my passport will expire in three months or less I cannot travel internationally?” I had heard that the limit was now six months.

The voice that responded was, of course, a recorded voice. In view of their short daily working hours, their four-day work week, and 20 holidays per year (at last count), embassy employees have no time to answer questions. The recorded voice gave me a list of menus, which led to other menus. I waited patiently for mention of the word /passport/. Eventually I was told to press another button for the answer to my question. Allelluyah!

A different recorded voice then told me that my menu selection was invalid. “O” for operator did nothing. Trapped in a quagmire of dead-end menus, I hung-up.

Being that telephone communication was impossible, I sent an e-mail explaining that their voice mail system was not working. They did not respond. In view of their short daily working hours, their four-day work week, and their 20 holidays per year (at last count), embassy employees have no time to answer e-mails.

About two weeks later, my son called the U.S. Embassy with a simple question. You guessed it! Their voice mail system DID NOT WORK! A recorded voice told him that he had entered an invalid number.

In case of an emergency, be sure to notify the embassy in-person and at least two weeks in advance.
John Wood
Professional Directory
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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 16

The ups and downs of lavishing time on your 'horse'
El ojo del amo engorda el caballo.

“The eye of the master fattens the horse.” This dicho has multiple applications, but the most common has to do with when someone starts a small business and is eager to see it grow. The meaning here being that if you want to fatten up the horse – in this case your little  negocio – you have to keep a devoted eye on it.

Recently we were down at Manuel Antonio. On one of those hot, lazy afternoons that are so common in that part of the world, we decided to take a leisurely walk around the beautiful grounds of a friend’s  hotel. I noticed what looked like a good start on some kind of business next door, but there was nobody at work on the construction site. I asked our friend about this and she told me that the project  belonged to a Canadian. He had started construction and soon thereafter took off for Canada. Almost immediately his workers took off, too. Without the watchful eye of the owner – presumably the one with the most interest in the project’s success – work had come to a complete standstill.

What makes this situation particularly bad is the fact that squatters could move in at any time, take over the premises and make things infinitely more difficult for the owner. It’s undoubtedly a burden to be at one’s business all the time, but successful business owners often appear to lavish as much attention on their enterprise as they might on a lover.

A friend here in San José runs a very successful business, and the other day I went to visit him at his facilities. Everything was humming, but he complained that in the past five years he has not  taken a vacation. Looking around the place, and watching him in action, it was clear why. He was deeply involved in every aspect of the operation. Perhaps it is time for him to delegate some  responsibilities I thought, but it was clearly his devotion to his business pursuit that had fattened up his “horse,” as it were.

There are, however, perhaps other important “horses” in our lives that might benefit from a little attention as well. Take, for  example, a friend, a loved one or our families.

Many years ago, when my father was pursuing his career in the Costa Rican diplomatic service, he kept moving his family all over Latin America as he received postings from one country to another.

To my friends back home it seemed as though we

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

were on some sort of extended vacation, moving from one exciting national capital to the next. But for us kids it was far from the glamorous existence that others may have imagined. It’s no fun, when you’re 12 or 13 years old, to enroll in one school this year and another far away the next. Or to lose new friends just about the time you’ve made them. My new friends in Santiago de Chile, for example, always promised to write after we moved to Buenos Aires. And they did, for a while. But  soon we were forgotten.

One thing kids seem to need while growing up is stability. We often begged our father to move us back to Costa Rica, or at least take a vacation so we could visit our friends and family back home. But he was devoted to his diplomatic career, and would often smile apologetically and say el ojo del amo engorda el caballo.
My father was a very good diplomat and an excellent provider as well, I hasten to add, but his family often had to suffer the consequences of his near total devotion to his job.

This could be one reason why I’m not a very good businessman. I don’t wish to be married to my job the way my father was. I’m not the kind who gives all he has for the sake of a mere entity. I prefer to devote the most of my energies to family and friends. Perhaps I do this to a fault, but those are the “horses” that I like to fatten.

Another way of looking at today’s dicho is similar to the saying in English: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Like many a clichéd expression, this one is totally true. In the eyes of a small boy who  loves it, for example, a scrawny old nag can sometimes be as beautiful as a prancing stallion. It all depends on who is doing the  looking.

Bar owner who languished here in jail after shooting dies in Canada
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roger Crouse, the Playas del Coco bar owner who spent more than a year in jail after he shot an attacker, has died in Canada.

Crouse was 54 when he died Jan. 2. He had battled cancer for three years.

Crouse came to Costa Rica in 1989 and was the owner of  Gaby's Bar Aug. 19, 2001, the date the shooting took place. Crouse said the man, Miguel Antonio Villegas Salguera, then 36, came at him with a knife. Local prosecutors had Crouse jailed near Liberia until he was set free in a trial that ended Aug. 27, 2002.

By then Crouse had suffered a severe loss of business to his bar, lost his limo business and faced threats from the family of the dead man. He eventually sold the bar to Bill Bullock, who used to operate the Park Hotel in San José.

Crouse returned to Canada in 2003 and died at Emmanuel House in Hamilton, Ont., where he had been a resident for a month.

He is survived in Canada by sisters, Sheryl Johnston of Granville Ferry, Ontario, Melinda Town of Nictaux Falls, Ontario, and Mariann McPherson of Edmonton,
Alberta.; brothers, Richard and Brad, both of Hamilton, and Earl of Prince George, B.C.; also several nieces and nephews. A private family graveside service was held at the Nictaux Cemetery.

Crouse maintained his humor while he was in prison and frequently reported in telephone calls to A.M. Costa Rica about his situation and the petty robberies he faced.  He said he believed that the newspaper's interest in the case and the contact by reporters with prosecutors were factors in the outcome of his case.

The arrest mystified expats because the man had threatened Crouse earlier in the evening and had been detained by police. Officers in Playas del Coco released the man a few hours later, and he told them he was going to return to the bar and kill Crouse. An autopsy showed he was drunk and had ingested drugs.

Prosecutors alleged that Crouse had killed the man in cold blood due to a falling out among criminals over drugs. They maintained this theory even in the face of testimony from the waitress in the bar and two Canadian patrons who supported the version told by Crouse.

The family of the dead man had sought substantial civil money damages, which were disallowed when Crouse was acquitted by a three-judge panel.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 16

Savings Unlimited investor wants to target assets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than three years ago the bear-like Luis Milanes lumbered the last time out of his Edificio Colón Savings Unlimited office and became a fugitive.

Milanes, known as The Cuban, is still gone but some who gave money to his high-interest operation say the case against some of his associates will be going into court soon. And they want to go after the many assets Milanes left behind.

Milanes was the opposite of his competitor Luis Enrique Villalobos. Villalobos talked religion, sealed his deals with his creditors on a handshake, paid interest in cash, donated to a church, sometimes made a gift of a free Bible and worked out of a low-budget office in Mall San Pedro.

Milanes maintained a swank office with elaborate frosted glass doors. He issued monthly statements. He said he was investing the creditors' money into the expansion of the casinos he operated. He loved playing cards himself and was not shy about introducing heavy investors to a young lady or two.

Investigators raided the Villalobos operation July 4, 2002. But two months later on the weekend of Nov. 22 when Milanes blew town, his office was cleaned out to the paint on the walls. No messy evidence was left behind.

Both men can be found on the Interpol wanted Web site.

There was one other difference. Villalobos creditors rushed to defend their champion. They blamed a crooked government for shutting down the 3-percent-a-month operation.

Milanes creditors didn't say much, although several mounted an expedition and captured José Victor Poo, a close associate, in Panamá. Poo was returned to Costa Rica where he did some prisión preventiva time and then was let out on bond. 

Also jailed at times were José Milanes, the brother of the fugitive, and Enrique Pereira, another associate.  Mércedes Lopéz Blandon also was jailed. She ran a string of beauty parlors for the firm.

Also in jail for a time was Michael Gonzalez, a former employee of Villalobos who was the principal contact
person for investors who wanted to put money into Savings Unlimited.

The casinos operated by Milanes suffered a few reverses shortly after he vanished, and some employees were laid off. But now they are very active enterprises and include the Royal Dutch and casinos in the hotels Radisson and Morazán. They operate in leased space.

Milanes is believed to have had more than 50 corporations here and elsewhere which actually are owners of the casinos, now run profitably by his associates.

These are the enterprises the former Milanes clients want to target.  And one who calls himself an "angry investor" is trying to rally others who lost money. The man is known to A.M. Costa Rica but declines to be named for security reasons.

He says the only way to get substantial amounts of money back is to file both a criminal and a civil case.

He also said the prosecutor is looking for more victims of the Savings Unlimited crash to provide good evidence of their investment and enhance the quality of the case before it is brought to court.

The investor claims that the Radisson's Europa Casino nets more than $1 million a month. 

The investor encouraged others to contact his lawyer, the Gamboa and Associates law firm, in the hopes of getting more complaints against Milanes. He also plans a meeting of investors where more information will be provided.

The  investor says his approach is not some kind of scam. "I'm satisfied, for I know that now is the time for the resolution of this case and my actions in filing these suits is necessary for my [your?] success in recovering the majority of my [your?] SU investment," he wrote. He is placing advertisements to reach others.

The Savings Unlimited creditor list, provided three years ago by a disgruntled employee, shows that the high-yield firm had 2,980 accounts totaling about $160 million and in the names of about 2,600 persons,

The organizers may be contacted HERE.

Two main tourists routes get a quick makeover
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transportation ministry is in the middle of a 700 million colon ($1.4 million) operation to fix two major tourist routes in the country by the middle of February, but the effort may be too little too late. 

The roads in question are some 50 kilometers on the route between Caldera and Atenas and another 80 kilometers between Liberia and the community of  Arizona to the south.  In addition to the new asphalt, the ministry has awarded 22 contracts to private companies to maintain the new roads for the next three years, said Randall Quirós Bustamente, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes. 

“These roads should last for five years,” said Alejandro Molina Solís, director of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad about the route between Caldera and Atenas. 

According to Quirós, the roads were picked because of their frequent use by tourists.  There was concern during the rainy season that the extremely poor condition of the roads might affect the high tourist season which is now fully under way.  There was no mention of the grumbling by car-owning residents about the double whammy they pay when the axle-busting roads ruin their cars which then spawn hefty mechanical bills in order to pass inspection.

The roads that the ministry paraded before reporters Friday are under construction.  Workers from Meco S.A. said that the plan was to have the road repaved between San Mateo and Atenas within 15 days.  Further down the route, the work is done.  However, it has not been rebuilt, workers simply laid out another four or five centimeters of asphalt over the old road, but, according to Molina, the road will last.  He points to the convex shape of the road and the intermittent drainage ditches along the side as evidence that the road is more sturdy than the potholed one it covers.  That whole project costs 200 million colons, some $401,000.   

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Workers near Atenas take on a big pothole

South of Liberia, the road is in better shape than it was during the rainy season, but it is still a back-jarring ride between that town and Arizona where the work finishes.  The potholes have simply been filled in.  There is no new road.  However, Molina is proud of the road's current state.

“Compared to how it was a month ago, this road is in great shape,” he said.  The ministry spent 500 million colons on the project, just over $1 million.  There was no mention of plans to repave it.   

In particular, both Molina and Quirós were proud of the speed with which the roads were being fixed.  In particular, the 80 kilometers between Liberia and Arizona was nearly impassable in places a month ago after a rainy season spawned by the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record battered the nations roads. 

The condition of the roads is a hot political issue. President Abel Pacheco has invited both Quirós and Molina to Casa Presidencial today for a press conference about the roads.

Meanwhile, cynical Ticos say the government always tries to fix the roads around election time.

Jacó surfer takes the crown in the Panamerican Games junior division
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jacó native Jason Torres became the first Tico to win the Juegos Panamericanos de Surf Saturday when he edged out the competition on his last wave of the day to win the Juniors division. 

At the competition in Punta Rocas, Perú, Torres beat out competitors from the Dominican Republic, the island of Guadalupe, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas,
Brasil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Peru.  

Only fellow Jacó native Lisbeth Vindas placed in the competition as well.  She took fourth in the women's division.  Besides Torres and Ms. Vindas, the rest of the Tico delegation was Federico Pilurzu, Luis Vindas, Diego Naranjo, Juan Carlos Naranjo, Jairo Pérez, Isaac Vega and Andreína Samudio. 


A.M. Costa Rica

Fifth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

Home Calendar Place a 
classified ad
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 16

Victims of Friday's fire begin to rebuild their homes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in León XIII are beginning to rebuild after a fire Friday destroyed at least 50 dwellings in the informal development La Esperanza – one of 50 such settlements in the San José vicinity. 

The construction of the homes is such that some have already been completed.  Residents primarily used corrugated metal and 2 by 4s. 

During the fire, police officers had to be called in to protect the firemen who complained that they couldn't get their trucks into the depths of the areas affected by the fire because the pathways weaving throughout the buildings were too narrow. 

Angry residents attacked the firemen.  Besides protecting the firemen, police also had to look after possessions rescued from the burning homes.  Hundreds of persons, many of them children, were evicted by the flames.

Those who were rescued were taken to the banks of the Río Virilla, where officers could protect them
while paramedics with the Cruz Roja attended to persons who had been burned or inhaled smoke.   A pregnant woman had complications and had to be rushed out of the area, officers said. 

Those who had lost their homes were placed in three temporary shelters, officers said.  Fuerza Pública officers stayed with the shelters, guarding them throughout the night. 

Saturday and Sunday the residents cleared the rubble and began constructions with donated materials. The majority of the residents of the informal subdivision are Nicaraguans, many of them illegal. The location is in Tibás north of San José.

The bulk of the dwellings are just two or three rooms with corrugated metal roofs and walls.

Officials are now trying to figure out how to run new water lines and electrical services to the homes that are being rebuilt.

The cause of the blaze was believed to be a short circuit in one of the homes that burned.

Nosara dedicates its new library facilities, thanks to years of donations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The library in Nosara finally has some new digs.  The 10-year-old operation has had a couple of homes stuffed in a cramped school room and later in a less-cramped set of rented rooms, but donations by international and local patrons, residents, business owners and visitors allowed the library to expand to its current building near the local clinic.

The new building consists of a lending library for both adults and children, a computer center with five PCs and four Mac Minis, Internet access, a stacks section with textbooks and specialty books and a conference room. It is open from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. weekdays, said Beverly Kitson, director. 

It took six or seven years of donations and an annual fundraiser to collect the money necessary to open the new building, Mrs. Kitson said.  It was needed badly. 

The library's last home was two rented rooms, one of which held the library's 5,000 Spanish-language books and another that acted as the computer center, Mrs. Kitson said.  In those cramped quarters, 3,000 visitors showed up last year even though the library was only open from 1 to 5 p.m.  The new building also
houses a small English-language section, Mrs. Kitson said.  The library has approximately 400 of those
 books.  All of this is available to anyone who pays the one-time membership fee of 500 colons, just over a dollar.   

The new building has been opened since August but the official inauguration was not held until Saturday. Between 110 and 120 persons showed up, Mrs. Kitson said.  

“We wanted to make sure that as many of the contributors could come as possible,” Mrs. Kitson said.  Nosara is popular with North-Americans as well as Europeans, and many of the towns part-time residents and tourists come in January to escape the frigid temperatures in the north. 

In addition to books, the library also holds typing classes.  One problem with the local education system is that it teaches students to use computers but never teaches them to type.  As a result, the computers can actually slow students down who are forced to hunt and peck. 

Mrs. Kitson is planning the library's sixth fundraiser for Feb. 18.  The location has not yet been set but there will be a dinner with flamenco dancing and music followed by a silent auction.  Mrs. Kitson said that in years past, the fundraiser has supported the day-to-day operations for the entire year. 

14-year-old suspect shot dead during robbery in Desamparados
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police are looking into the circumstances that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old Nicaraguan after what is being called an attempted robbery Saturday. 

The youth, 14-year-old Juan Carlos Zamora García, was trying to rob a 36-year-old door-to-door salesman identified by the last names Quesada Cordero in Desamparados, officers said they were told.

Officers said they received a 911 call Saturday  morning that a robbery was happening behind the
school in Sector 10 of Los Guido.  When officers arrived, they found the youth already shot in the left side of the throat, they said.  They arrested Quesada and seized the .32-caliber pistol he was carrying, they said. 

Officers presume that Zamora and two accomplices tried to rob Quesada.  Zamora was shot when Quesada defended himself, they said. 

His two accomplices ran off, officers said.   

Quesada said the two fugitives took a pistol Zamora carried in the robbery.

Mishaps take four lives during weekend: Three in water and one on road
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three adults, including a German citizen, died in the Río Savagre Sunday when they tried to save two children being swept toward a waterfall.

And in Puntarenas, a U.S. citizen died when her rented vehicle collided with the cab of a tractor-trailer.

The water deaths happened near Santa Gerardo de Dota when two children, 11 and 14, got into trouble in the river. Their parents and the owner of a nearby hotel tried to save them. Dead is Carlos M. Ortiz of
San José, his wife and the German national who
 operated the Hotel El Manantiel. The youngsters were later found in good condition.

The hotel operator has not been identified further and the body has not been found, said the Cruz Roja.

The woman who died in the motor vehicle accident near Puntarenas is believed to have been a tourist. She was identified by the last name of Hall. A woman passenger was hospitalized.

The woman appears to have turned her vehicle across the oncoming highway lane where it was hit by the truck.

Jo Stuart
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