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(506) 2223-1327                 Published Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 26                   Email us
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Most stranded Ticos have returned or soon will
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The last groups of Costa Ricans who became trapped in the native blockade in western Panamá are expected to return today. Meanwhile, traffic is flowing on the Interamericana highway after government forces broke the blockade Sunday. One person died and dozens suffered injuries, according to reports received in Costa Rica from the scene.

Some of the Costa Ricans spent up to five days stranded in Panamá, and some said on arrival that they felt like hostages or kidnap victims.

In all, 270 Costa Ricans were stranded on 12 public buses that were caught in the blockade, according to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here. That number does not include truckers or individuals in private vehicles. Also unknown is if any U.S., Canadian or tourists from other countries were stranded. Costa Rican officials estimated that about 300 trucks were caught in the blockade and that about 100 had crossed into Costa Rica by Sunday night.

Costa Rican officials established what they called an air bridge to bring citizens from Veraguas east of the blockade to David, Panama, which was west of the blockade. From David, Costa Ricans flew to Tobias Bolaños airport in a security ministry craft and also Nature Air planes. Others crossed the border at Paso Canoas by land. They received expedited processing at the border, officials said.

There is growing criticism here on the methods used by the Martinelli administration to break the blockade. The Federación Indígena Estudiantil de Costa Rica already has called for a demonstration at the Embassy of Panamá.

The group identified the dead individual in Panamá as a leader of the protest and a student at the  Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí. He was  Jerónimo Montezuma and died after violent repression in the morning hours, said the student group. Panamá officials said the cause of death was unknown.
Panama map
A.M. Costa Rica/Nepenthes graphic
Map shows key points relating to blockade. Costa Rica is to the left.

There also were police actions in Ojo de Agua,
Viguí, San Lorenzo, Bocas del Toro, Santiago, Colon, Chepo, David, according to reports from the scene. The foreign ministry warned Costa Ricans and residents Friday against traveling to Panamá.

The native peoples are the Ngäbe and the Buglé, who live on a reservation, which is called a comarca in Panamá. They oppose a hydro project and also mining on their lands.

The blockade was mainly trees and rocks. Some police officers suffered injuries from thrown rocks.

Ricardo Martinelli, Panama's president, said Sunday that the government never promised to stop building hydro projects as protesters claimed. He said to do so would cost the country $200 million a year to generate energy through other means, according to his press office.

Martinelli met with his ministers Sunday.  Juan Manuel Urriola, secretary of Energía, said electric rates would go up 30 percent if the country had to use petroleum-fired generators.

The protest was not unexpected. Martinelli changed environmental rules in August that native groups said eliminated their participation and consultations over the hydro projects. There are several planned for various watersheds in western Panamá. The Ngäbe and Bugle are most concerned by the Barro Blanco Project on the  Rio Tabasará. Natives in Panamá believe that in addition to displacing some of their number, the hydro projects will disrupt their traditional lifestyles.

What is the number of my true love's house?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The complexities of the Costa Rica address system will test the skills of postal workers next week. Tuesday, Feb. 14, is St. Valentine's Day, the traditional time to express love and affection.

Correos de Costa Rica will help Romeos by providing a 1,000-colon Valentine's Day card or what it calls a telegram, which it says is simple and economical to express those sentiments of love.

Correos promises to deliver the card Feb. 14. But there is one little problem: The lack of clear addresses in Costa Rica.

For delivery of the Valentines Day telegram to be
successful, Correos said, the sender must give complete directions, including the number of the house, the number of the street and the number of the avenue, it says, adding don't forget the postal code.
Indeed, Urban dwellers have house numbers and everyone has a postal code, although hardly anyone knows it. And even experienced taxi drivers are thrown by addresses given in calle and avenida because they are used to “150 meters east of the old pharmacy that is not a pharmacy any longer and hasn't been since World War II.”

The five-digit postal code gives the province, the canton and the district. The postal service has an extensive written and video description of the postal codes on its Web site.

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Our readers' opinions
Article was pro-war rant
favoring the warmongers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Protests over possible Iran-U.S. war planned here [which appeared Friday].

From the title it appeared that this article was going to be about protest against a war against Iran, but you turned it into a pro-war rant.

You managed to quote all the warmongers in the U.S government itching to kill more people including more American soldiers.

But you said nothing about Iran’s right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes nor nothing about that Iran has opened up the country to the International Atomic Energy Agency and they have found no evidence that Iran is making a bomb nor nothing about both Panetta [Leon Panetta, the U.S. secretary of Defense] and the Mossad have agreed that Iran is not making a bomb.

Now the warmongers, without any evidence whatsoever, claim that “Iran is trying to penetrate and engage in the Western Hemisphere.”

And now that the U.S. has Iran surrounded, imposed sanctions, is trying to destroy their central bank, had EU impose oil sanctions, killing Iranian scientist, and running CIA operations to disrupt Iran any way they can, you quote the warmonger who says “Iranian officials are ‘now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States.'”

And this is a complete lie “Iran is developing or has developed a nuclear weapon and makes no secret of the desire of officials there to use it on nearby Israel.”

And where is your source for this fear mongering quote? “Some reports this week said that Iran also is developing a medium range missile that could hit New York and major European cities.”

“Ahmadinejad is reckless”??? He has done everything but bent over backwards to try to please the U.S. He last state was that he was ready to come to the negotiating table at any time, but it is the U.S. who refuses.

So when the killing starts, you can congratulate yourself for doing your part.

You do not understand the nature of the U.S. policymakers. They want Iran and its oil. It has nothing at all to with the allege making a nuclear weapon. That is just the present excuse. Even if Iran totally gave up their nuclear program, it would not make a bit of different. The U.S. will find another excuse.
Terry T. Pascher
San Jose

Countries without armies
do not go to war

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here we go again.  The neocons and the military industrial complex are firing up the American public once again.  More money is made for them during war then any other time.  We are hearing the same jargon we heard to lead up to the Iraq war.  Weapons of mass destruction threatening the U.S.   The term "sleeper cells" is being used once again.  We are concerned that Iran has counter intelligence groups in Latin America.   Gee, I guess they learned that from our tactics all over the world.   For some reason the U.S. thinks they are the only country that can go into other countries illegally and kill people they want too.  If someone else does it, it is terrorism.
There is no law being broken by Iran continuing their process of nuclear technology in their own country.  We, the U.S., who have 1000's of nuclear weapons are getting ready to go to war with someone that is not even breaking the law.  The American public has a short memory and the military, CIA, Pentagon and multinationals know that.  So we are given the same scenario over and over and the people get scared, and off to war once again, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people and our young people going over to fight these useless wars.  Fear seems to be the most driving factor to get the people behind these senseless wars.  As George Bush once said, "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, won't get fooled again".  Of course we all know he couldn't even get that saying right.

The U.S. and other countries could learn something from Costa Rica.  Countries without armies don't go to war.

Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Cartel will retrieve
that four tons of cocaine

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The stealing of 215 guns is just a minor setback or problem for the government. Of course, it was a inside job, as most of all the others.
Now, for the real problem.  Do you in your wildest imagination think the drug cartel will sit back and see 4 tons of cocaine be disposed of.  I, personally, think you are going to see a bloody war zone attack by the cartel to retrieve their property (4 tons of pure cocaine).  Sure a pound here and there but not 4 tons.  Lets see if I'm right.  I will wait and see.

G. Lee

President's tax proposals
will not make things better

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It never ceases to amaze me how politicians like Laura Chinchilla think they can take $500,000,000 out of the economy from the top 20 percent and give it to the government and things will get better. For every job created in the governmental sector there will be two to three lost in the private sector. When $500,000,000 is taken out of the pockets of private citizens it means less goods bought and less people hired.
Robert Woodrow

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Superbowl viewers at Chubb's, a downtown watering hole, are surrounded by televisions and cold beer.
Super Bowl Sunday proves to be a big win for sports bars
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Super Bowl Sunday was a successful event for many sports bars in downtown San José that cater to an expat or tourist crowd.
Four of the better-known sports hot-spots in the area reported elevated business or sell-out crowds. A worker at the Del Rey said all the rooms were full for the weekend and that plenty of non-lodgers filed into the bar from the street to watch the game between New England Patriots and New York Giants. The Super Bowl is regarded as the largest watched sporting event in the United States and the Patriots and the Giants are two of the bigger name teams. The Giants eventually won, 21-17, despite a strong first-half showing by the Patriots.
The Sportsmen's Lodge owner, Bill Alexander, also said his one-charge cover for all you can eat and all you can drink sold out a day before the game. He said 225 people were at the location for the Super Bowl, one of the biggest events at the Sportsmen's apart from Halloween night.
Chubb's sports bar was also packed and had sold out all the
 available seats and tables, though they allowed some people to enter and stand. Chubb's sold seats and tables in the bar for $30 which was deducted from the patron's bar tab at the end of the night. The manager at Chubb's said last year they had to turn away 60 people at the door because so many football fanatics were looking for a proper sports bar to watch the game, so they decided to go with a reservations approach this year.
At Papi's nearby the atmosphere was more calm but the fans were just as die-hard. The bar had no special promotion this year because it has only been open for a few days after closing its doors for a short period. It only re-opened a few days before the Super Bowl. Many bars around the country were planning Super Bowl parties for their U.S. clientele but also for the growing popularity the sport has with Ticos.
One New England Patriots fanatic at Papi's described himself as a true fan and said he used to sneak into the stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, to watch the games. After coming to Costa Rica for 15 years and becoming a pensionado, he noted how popular the game had become with Ticos, though he said from time to time they need help understanding football's often strange and complex rules.

Postal service joins with online vendor to create virtual mall
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The postal service has hooked up with an online vendor to make it easy for residents to set up their own virtual store.

Correos de Costa Rica expects to be the agency that delivers the product.

The virtual store is with, an online operation that sells products and also hosts Web pages for companies and individuals who want to sell items. Among the vendors are the Universidad Estatal a Distancia, which offers books, Tiger Store Heredia which offers items supporting the Club
online vendor

 Sport Herediano soccer team, a firm offering skateboard parts, a canvas bag manufacturer and a cell telephone vendor.

Correos said that would-be vendors who sign up through its Web page will get four months presence on the site for free.

Usually Mall506 charges either $50 or $100 a month to host a virtual store. The prices depend on the services.

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Agents manage to recover some of the stolen Glock pistols
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About a quarter of the 215 pistols stolen from a Policia de Transito temporary government storage facility a week ago were recovered Friday from a house in Alajuelita. They were taken to the national arsenal where officials promised they would be guarded closely.

The successful Friday raid was the second in a series conducted by judicial agents in search of the lot of Glock, 9-mm. handguns heisted by bandits. The recovered 56 guns and 101 clips were found hidden in the walls and roof of a residence in Concepcion de Alajuelita, and one man was taken into custody in relation to the stolen weapons, the judicial police said.

The first round of raids shortly after the guns were stolen Jan. 30, resulted in the discovery of several illegal firearms but none of the stolen government guns. The Judicial Investigating Organization conducted another five raids Saturday, but a spokesperson working for the Organization said he did not have further information and said details would be released Monday.

Officials also suggested that the robbery was likely a sophisticated network of criminals with an existing market connection to distribute such firearms. The stolen government firearms are clearly identified with serial numbers and “MOPT” logo, signifying Ministerio de Obras Publicos y Transportes, which is the mother ministry of the Transit Police. But identifying markings on guns are often destroyed for distribution on the black market.

The guns had been left for a significant time under minimal security conditions, with only the protection of one private security official. The total worth of the equipment stolen was estimated at 83 million colons ($165,000) by officials. Left behind by the thieves were 165 more guns as well as radios,
recovered gun
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Security ministry officer checks out one of the recovered Glock 19s.

bulletproof vests and other police equipment stored in the same facility.

Following the robbery the traffic police director, César Quirós and two other ministry workers were suspended from their posts. At a press conference Friday Vice Minister Rodrigo Rivera, said an internal investigation in the security breach was continuing and didn’t directly answer questions about why the guns were left unprotected for such a long period.

Genetically modified papaya
breaking barriers in Japan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rainbow papayas recently went on sale in Japan.

They are the only gene-altered fruit on the market today in Japan, a country with strict laws regarding genetically-modified organisms.

Those laws include a requirement that they be labeled as GMO, a rule that does not exist in the United States.

The papayas arrival in Japan comes as advocates in the United States press the government to require labels on all GMO foods. The Rainbow papaya was released in 1998.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Dennis Gonsalves, who helped develop the new fruit variety, may be its best salesman.

“I’m prejudiced, but I will tell you," Gonsalves says. "This Hawaii-grown papaya is the best in the world. You folks go and taste it.”

But taste was not the reason Gonsalves and colleagues developed it. In the 1990s, a virus ravaged Hawaii’s papaya groves, leaving the industry on the verge of collapse.

So Gonsalves engineered the papaya's genetic makeup to produce a small piece of the virus’s outer shell in its cells, triggering the plant’s immune system. “It’s almost like vaccination,” he says.

And just like vaccinated people, the genetically-engineered plants do not get sick with the virus. Gonsalves says the piece of virus won't harm people because tests showed it breaks down in three seconds in the harsh environment of the human stomach.

“And, virtually, it saved the papaya industry in Hawaii," Gonsalves says. "So now, Rainbow papaya accounts for 80 percent of Hawaii’s papaya.”

But, according to Gonsalves, fighting the virus was only half the battle. They had to convince their biggest customer, Japan, that the fruit was safe to eat.

It took more than a decade of tests before Japanese regulators were satisfied. The last hurdle was labeling.

Japan requires that all genetically-modified products be labeled. That's also the law in the European Union and many other countries, but not in the United States. A campaign called “Just Label It” seeks to change that. Not all Americans are convinced genetically-modified products are safe.

The Rainbow papaya went on sale in Japan a few weeks ago with a label that says it is genetically-modified. Gonsalves hopes his fruit will help answer lingering questions about genetically modified foods.

“Now, instead of lots of speculation, ‘Oh, my gosh, these people aren’t going to eat it because they don’t like this.’ They’re all speculating," he says. "There is no test case. Now there is a test case.”

Gonsalves calls it the Super Bowl of marketing challenges: getting a population that's still widely skeptical of genetic-engineering technology to enjoy a beautiful, delicious papaya with a genetically-modified label on it.
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Elizabeth II will mark
60 years on the throne

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain's Queen Elizabeth marks a major milestone today — 60 years on the throne.

The young Princess Elizabeth found herself the British monarch Feb. 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died after years of poor health.

Elizabeth's coronation was the first such ceremony to be televised with millions watching live on the BBC and millions of others watching films of the event in the United States and Canada hours later.

Elizabeth usually marks the anniversary of her coronation quietly, but a number of events are planned throughout the year.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, and other members of the royal family, plan to visit all the countries where she is head of state, including Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and Belize.

World Health disputes data
on higher malaria deaths

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization disputes a new study that claims nearly twice as many people are dying of malaria than current estimates.  The study, which appears in the British health journal The Lancet, reports 1.24 million people died of malaria in 2010 compared to World Health estimates of 655,000 deaths. 

The World Health Organization says both its estimates of malaria deaths and those of the Lancet study are statistically the same for all groups in all regions, with one exception.  World Health spokesman Gregory Hartl says there’s a notable statistical difference in regard to children over 5 and adults in Africa. 

He says the two groups used different methodologies and different sources of data in arriving at their conclusions.

“The Lancet used in its study verbal autopsies… basically, there is no diagnosis done in laboratory or after death of how a person actually died," said Hartl. "You rely on the verbal record of a friend or relative saying that X person died of fever, for example.  However, we know that there are many different diseases which cause fever.” 

Hartl notes it is believed that most people who survive malaria in the first five years of life have a much higher immunity to this mosquito-borne disease later in life.  Therefore, he adds, in most cases, diseases other than malaria are the most likely causes of death among adults. 

The World Health spokesman says it is important to look more carefully at the sources and the quality of data before arriving at conclusions.  He says the emphasis of malaria work in the future will aim to improve diagnostic testing, surveillance and vital statistic registration. 

These three elements together, he says will improve the veracity and accuracy of the estimates obtained.

“The data on which The Lancet estimates causes that data to be much less sure than what we would believe the data should be, so we would say again that the majority and the great majority of deaths would be in children under 5 and we stand by our estimates," he said.

Despite these disputed claims, Hart says both the World Health and Lancet study agree that global death rates from malaria are falling due to better treatment, prevention and control measures.

The World Health Organization estimates that every year, about 250 million people become infected with malaria.  It says most of the 655,000 deaths are among children under 5 in Africa. 

It says early diagnosis and treatment can prevent these deaths.  World Health says the distribution of hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated bed nets to people at risk of malaria has prevented many people from contracting the deadly disease.

French court upholds
verdict against Scientology

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Paris court has fined the Church of Scientology in France for fraud and handed five of its members fines and suspended sentences.  Scientology critics are calling the decision historic, while the church says it will appeal to France's highest court.

The appeals court ruling confirms a 2009 fraud charge that the Church of Scientology in France pressured its members to pay for books, courses and so-called purification remedies or questionable medical treatments.  It fined the church and its bookshop a total of 600,000 euros or nearly $800,000.

The court also handed suspended sentences and fines to five Scientologists.  That included Alain Rosenberg, the head of the French church, who received a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of nearly $40,000.

The church's spokesman in France was not available for comment.  But a spokeswoman in the United States said the church would appeal to France's highest court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Lawyer Olivier Morice of a national association fighting religious sects in France, hailed the verdict as historic.

Maurice told French radio the verdict paved the way for other legal decisions that may lead to the church's dissolution in France.  He said many European countries had been waiting for the verdict, notably Germany and Belgium, which currently have legal proceedings against the Church of Scientology.

Founded in the United States nearly 60 years ago, the Church of Scientology is legally a religion in the United States, Sweden and Spain.  It has a number of celebrity members, including American actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

But in France, Belgium and Germany, Scientology is considered a sect or cult and viewed with suspicion.

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U.S. gives storage facility
to aid flood-prone Parrita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government has donated to the national emergency commission a storage facility in flood-prone Parrita.

The 256-square meter (2,755.5-square foot), concrete structure was put up by members of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The facility includes a communications center, a conference room and offices, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The United States has donated two other storage facilities in the past. One is in Cañas and the other is in the Canton de Osa, said the commission.

The major flood source in the area is the Río Parrita that can innundate much of the community when the rains are heavy. The emergency commission has invested millions of dollar to protect the area.

Memorial service Sunday
for Jay C. Fernandes, 85

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A memorial service for Jay C. Fernandes, 85, will be held in the Jardines del Recuerdo in Heredia Sunday at  2 p.m. He died Jan. 27 after surgery.

Fernandes was a well-known businessman here and served as president of the  Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce in 1981 and 1983.

He grew up in Nutley, New Jersey, and received an engineering degree from Columbia University in New York City.

Fernandes, a World War II Navy veteran, came to Costa Rica in 1978 to operate Permatex de Centro America, S.A., a subsidiary of the Loctite Corp. in the United States.

Fernandes retired in Costa Rica in 1982 and served as the country director of the International Executive Service Corps, a private effort that sends experienced U.S. businessmen to other countries. Fernandes also became a macadamia nut farmer.

He served on the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center Board of Directors from 1985 to 1990 and was a member of the American Colony Committee for 25 years.  He was a member of Republicans Abroad. He is survived by his wife, Grace Woodman, and children Jay C. and Linda Fernandes II, Mark and Donna Fernandes, Lisa and George Marvinsmith,  grandchildren and nephews.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Women’s Club of Costa Rica.

Quake hits off Tortuguero

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 3.2 magnitude earthquake took place in the Caribbean about 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) east southeast of Tortuguero Friday at 9:32 p.m., said the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

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