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These stories were published Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 24
Jo Stuart
About us
Is a visitor wandering around the newsroom?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

First there was the burglar.

Then there was the fire, and three months later the big snake.

Now the San José offices of A.M. Costa Rica are playing host to a genuine specter.

Three staffers already have seen the apparition, including two who did so at the same time in the bright daylight of Wednesday. Others have heard it.

Reports of ghosts and such are not uncommon, particularly during slow news periods. Both Teletica, Channel 7, and Repretel, Channel 6, devoted substantial air time last week to report on a house where chairs moved and someone or something opened and shut a briefcase.

Teletica even sent video cameramen to stay up all night and catch a ghost on tape. The ghost declined the 15 minutes of fame.

A month ago, an A.M. Costa Rica executive spotted a man dressed in white who entered a hallway door and went into her office. The problem was the hallway door was locked and the office has only one exit. Naturally there was no one in the office when she checked a few seconds later.

Wednesday a reporter and an editor were in an adjacent office discussing a news story when the editor noticed a flash of white and an image moving quickly in the main aisle of the newsroom. "What was that," he asked.

"I was hoping you wouldn’t say that because I saw it, too," replied the reporter, who had a better look. Doors on either end of the newsroom were locked and the two individuals were the only persons present in the offices at that time.

Valiant newspaper staff checks out the latest spook sighting.

Both agreed that the image moved quickly from north to south, although the reporter described the visitation as being dark.

Two other employees remembered hearing someone enter the noisy steel door of the main office and walk across the newsroom floor about four months ago. Again, no one. 

As buildings go, the offices of A.M. Costa Rica are noisy even when spooks are not present. The roof is steel, and wind creates a racket.

By contrast, the apparition is quiet. Deadly quiet, employees suspect.

The best guess is that some lost soul is totally unhappy being surrounded by journalists.

Legend Carlos Santana will play one night in San José in April
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guitarist Carlos Santana announced Wednesday that he will play a one night show at Estadio Saprissa in San José April 6. The singer will play in Costa Rica during a tour through several Caribbean nations.

Santana will be touring to promote his new album, due out in the spring. According to the 

official Santana Web site, the tour will visit Puerto Rico, Panama, El Salvador, and México. 

Santana, a native to México, first entered the music charts in the late 60s with hits like "Oye Como Va" and "Black Magic Woman." 

Santana was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and won the album of the year award at the Grammy’s in 1999. 

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Water shortage forces
Santa Rosa Park to close

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parque Nacional Santa Rosa has closed due to a water shortage. The park, in Guanacaste, is currently closed because it can not handle the daily load of water needed for consumption by visitors. 

According to a statement released Wednesday by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the park’s three water wells have dried up. 

Workers from the Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados and the Sistema Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento are planning to research the problem at the park. For the past several years, the park’s water levels have been in decline, the statement said.

The assistant director of the Área de Conservación, Fernando Gutiérrez, said that the closing is temporary and that as soon as the problem is solved, the park will reopen.

Visiting U.S. artist
plans exhibition at hotel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff.

The American artist Jane Goldman will be holding an open air exhibition at the Hotel Punta Islita, Guanacaste.  Her compositions will be on display for four days from Friday until next Tuesday.  Ms. Goldman was born in Dallas, Texas, and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in fine arts. 

Ms. Goldman has been invited to Costa Rica by the Centro Cultural Costarriense Norteamericano. She will create a large ceramic installation during her stay. Her inspiration will be the typical butterflies that are found in Guanacaste.  She will be working with five other local artists.  Ms. Goldman is enthusiastic about being given the opportunity to work with Costa Rican artists, the center said. 

Her work is featured at Logan International Airport, Boston, Mass., one of the most important airports on the east coast of the United States.  Her compositions at the airport feature marine life from the area.

During her stay in Costa Rica, Ms. Goldman will also have an exhibition at the Galeria Sophia Wanamaker of the Centro Cultural in Los Yoses.

Tourist bus loses
brakes and drops

By the A.M Costa Rica staff

A bus carrying 23 Canadian tourists ended up in a small precipice after its brakes failed. Seven Canadians were injured in the incident that occured in San Juan de Lajas en Alfaro Ruiz. 

The bus had left the Hotel El Tucano located near the thermal pools of San Carlos and was on its way to Playa Tambor.  Juan Maria Montero, the driver of the bus, said that he managed to stop the bus from tipping over and falling down a larger precipice. Montero said that he realized there were no breaks when he was beginning to go around a curve and just had time to control the bus before it hit a tree. 

The injured were identifed as Bruce Lennon, Marlon Godman, Shamji Arman, Anne Mike, Patricia Shaw and Harold Rameli.  They were transferred to the Hospital de San Carlos by the Cruz Roja of Zarcero where they were treated for minor injuries. 

German legislative group
starts visit here today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A delegation from the German Federal Parliament is expected to arrive today in Costa Rica for a four-day visit.

The delegation is made up of members of the legislative body who call themselves the group of friends for Central America.

The lawmakers plan to visit other Central American countries but will start here.

Friday the group will breakfast with President Abel Pacheco and Roberto Tovar, the foreign minister, as well as Rodrigo Castro, minister of Turismo.

The group also will visit several German-oriented schools and organizations as well as agricultural installations.

Four held in robbery probe

By the A.M Costa Rica staff

Four men have been arrested in connection with a series of robberies in Aserrí. Officials from the Fuerza Publica identified the men as Picado Madrigal, Mora Porras, Diaz Fallas and a minor aged 17 years. The arrests were made following a robbery at a local store where a gang took computer equipment and cash from the tills. 

Our readers write

Costa Rica shoots self
in foot, writer says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

BANG !! Did you hear it? Do you smell the gunpowder?

The Costa Rica government has shot itself in the foot again!!!

For such a beautiful country that depends on tourism for at least a quarter of it's income to take away the tax shelter for tourism business is just another example of how the government is trying to find tax dollars anywhere they can. 

I lived in Costa Rica for four years, I love the country and the people, but until the elected officals wake up to the fact that bad news rides a fast horse, Costa Rica will continue to get the short end of the stick. Other Central American countries are more than willing to give tax breaks to anyone that wants to relocate and start a business. 

Dave A. Shade
ex-resident/ pensionado 
Ciudad Colón 
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Carlos Guillermo Rey Franco, a former street merchant, beams proudly as he poses for a photo at the new location of his produce stand.
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Produce vendors find a better place to sell their goods
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some vendors displaced by the municipal crackdown last month have found a better location inside a private structure between calles 6 and 8 on Avenida 6.

The so-called chinameros used to sell from makeshift stalls along some of the principal avenues in the city. The stalls created bottlenecks for traffic and prime hunting grounds for robbers.

The Municipality de San José cracked down in January after several false starts. As part of the deal, municipal officials agreed to provide a marketplace inside the former Registro Civil on Avenida 2. That building now is occupied by the Fuerza Pública which also agreed to the plan. But moving out the police will take some time.

So 45 families of vendors found a new location in a warehouse-like structure with some transparent pieces of roofing to take advantage of the natural light.

The market is open seven days a week, and the place was full of shoppers Wednesday. Several vendors said they were averaging 30,000 to 40,000 colons a day, some $65 to $86, at the new location, more than they had taken in elsewhere.

The market also has private security, sanitary services and frequent visits from the local police. Merchants have earned official business licenses from the municipality, something that was a sticking point when the stalls were on the street. This also means the vendors will pay appropriate taxes.

The market is called the Mercadito El Chinamo and products seem to be at the same price as the farmer’s market or when vendors were on the street.  The products appeared to be first-quality.

Even at mid-afternoon shoppers have a gigantic inventory of Costa Rican products.

Ciudad Colón will host a fair dedicated to the orange and other fruits
By the A.M Costa Rica staff 

The Expo Tourist Fair of the Orange will be held this month in Ciudad Colón. More than 30 farmers from Mora, Puriscal and Santa Ana will be selling their produce of sweet orange, mandarin, lemon, watermelon, papaya, pineapple, mango and cashews.  The fair will run from Thursday, Feb.17 until Sunday Feb. 20.

This is the sixth orange fair which the Minsterio de 

Agricultura and Ganaderia have organized in coordination with the municipality and orange farmers from the south central region. 

The fair will not only have fruit and vegetables for sale, visitors can also participate in cultural events, sports and arts. Traditional dishes will also be available.

The fair will be held at La Plaza Pacacua and will begin at 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.

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Caribbean islands facing drug threat, Transparency says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Narcotics-related corruption and associated arms trafficking, and money laundering and financial crime constitute a "growing threat" to the small island states of the Caribbean, according to a new report published by the independent, anti-corruption group Transparency International.

The report warned that the "urgent nature" of the narcotics threat derives from the fact that about 35 metric tons of cocaine originated from, was destined for, or transited through the Eastern Caribbean in 2002.

The Bahamas was in the top 21 of countries in the world in terms of cocaine interceptions in 2002, and almost half of the cocaine introduced into the United States and 30 percent introduced into Europe comes through the Caribbean corridor, said the report.  In addition to assessing the Bahamas, Transparency International's report examined the "national integrity systems" of Antigua-Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Transparency International says a national integrity system is a system of checks and balances that is unique to each country that either assures or fails to assure citizens of just and honest government.

Three of the countries studied in the report — Antigua-Barbuda, the Bahamas and Dominica — are regarded as major money-laundering territories "whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking."

"It is therefore no exaggeration to suggest," said the report, that "drug trafficking, official corruption, [and] violent intimidation have the potential to threaten the stability of the small, democratic countries of the Eastern Caribbean and to varying degrees have damaged civil society in all of these countries."

On the positive side, the eight "micro-states" studied in the report "perform relatively better than most countries" in Latin America and elsewhere in the Caribbean region.  The reason for this is because they have free and independent media, effective superior courts, a civil society with "latent anti-corruption potential," and, most recently, have established more "stringent regimes against money laundering and financial crimes," according to the report, entitled "The National Integrity Systems TI Caribbean Composite Study 2004."

Transparency International, based in Berlin, also said the report found that domestic and international concern with financial crimes is the reason why some countries in the Caribbean region have adopted more stringent anti-money-laundering offices.  Consequently, those countries have been removed from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Financial Action Task Force list of non-cooperating countries regarding money laundering.

Transparency International's findings follow U.S. government statements that the primary drug threat to the United States from the Caribbean is the trans-shipment of large amounts of cocaine from South America. 

The Caribbean also plays an important role in drug-related money laundering, with many Caribbean countries having well developed offshore banking systems and bank secrecy laws that facilitate money laundering, said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in its 2003 report called "The Drug Trade in the Caribbean: A Threat Assessment."

In that report, the DEA said that in early 2000, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, an organization of states of the Caribbean Basin established to fight money laundering, estimated that $60 billion in drug trafficking and organized crime proceeds are laundered through the Caribbean every year.

Report says worlds fisheries are in growing crisis
By World Resources Institute features

In 1992, some 30,000 Canadians were suddenly without work when once plentiful stocks of cod off the coast of Newfoundland completely collapsed. The area had been a key source of employment for Canadians and one of the most productive fisheries in the world for hundreds of years.

According to the new report "Fishing for Answers: Making Sense of the Global Fish Crisis," the Canadian debacle was a dramatic warning sign that the world's fisheries face serious issues of ecosystem degradation, overfishing, and increasing consumer demand. The report was written by Yumiko Kura, Carmen Revenga, Eriko Hoshino, and Greg Mock of the World Resources Institute.

"A tide of new technology has swept aside the limits that once kept fishing a mostly coastal and local affair," says "Fishing for Answers" co-author Yumiko Kura, "resulting in a rapid depletion of key stocks and serious disruption and degradation of the marine and freshwater ecosystems they live in — what many have termed a global fisheries crisis."

While fishing is an ancient activity that has long provided food and income for its practitioners, the practice is still an essential component of not only local livelihoods, but also the global economy.

Approximately 1 billion people, many of whom live in developing nations, depend on fish for their main source of animal protein, "Fishing for Answers" maintains. In addition, 35 million people rely on either fishing or aquaculture as a source of income. The global fish catch for 2000 was valued at $81 billion, and the international fish trade was worth $55 billion.

Overfishing — the action of fishing beyond the level at which fish can naturally replenish themselves — was first recognized as a local problem in the early 1900s. After World War II, the report asserts, overfishing became a widespread issue as the capacity and range of commercial fishing vessels increased rapidly.

"Since 1992, overfishing has become one of the major natural resource concerns in the industrialized world, and increasingly in developing nations as well," "Fishing for Answers" reports. "Seventy-five percent of commercially important marine and most inland water fish stocks are either currently being overfished, or are being fished at their biological limit."

The report cites controversial research estimating that the quantity of large, commercially desirable fish such as cod, tuna, swordfish, and salmon has dropped more than 90 percent in the world's oceans since the start of large-scale industrial fishing. While some marine fishery experts quibble over exact figures, they largely agree that key commercial fish stocks have experienced significant decline.

According to "Fishing for Answers," these overfished stocks will only experience more stress as the demand for fish increases rapidly. Over the last 30 years, demand for seafood products has doubled, the report claims, and is anticipated to grow at 1.5 percent per year through 2020. In addition, the number of people employed through fishing has doubled in the last 20 years. The report notes that this unsustainable growth is nearly three times faster than population growth.

"Most people have little idea of what the fisheries crisis is, or what it means to them," said Kura. "From a consumer's point of view - at least in most developed nations — the sad condition of fish stocks is not obvious. There are still plenty of fish available in markets and restaurants, although the types may have changed and the prices may be higher." 

"Fishing for Answers" calls for specific changes to the habits of consumers, fishers, and politicians in order to stem the global fisheries crisis. Through a strong commitment to the sustainable management of marine ecosystems, the report emphasizes, and the education and encouragement of fish consumers to take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries, the world's fisheries can be managed appropriately and more crises like the collapse of the Newfoundland cod population can be averted. 

Conference here will outline ad campaign to protect marine resources
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A conference for Marviva, a non-profit marine protection group, was to be held today at the company’s office in Rohrmoser at 9 a.m. 

The conference, entitled "Our oceans are our future,"  was held to unveil four new television and radio spots that highlight the oceans’ importance to Costa Rica and the local population.

The spots highlight several important subjects, according to Marviva, including tourism, fishing, wildlife diversity and respect for the ocean. Marviva says the spots are designed to show the relation between Ticos and the seas of Costa Rica.

Marviva is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works together with authorities and communities to protect marine resources along the eastern pacific and the Caribbean. Marviva’s Web site is HERE!. 

Jo Stuart
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