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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 27           E-mail us
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Readers respond with many ideas to reduce crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers responded vigorously to present suggestions on changes in the Costa Rican system that would reduce crime and enhance punishment. They were responding to an article Monday.

Some ideas were pretty draconian, like instituting chain gangs or poisoning cocaine as it passed through the country. Others were more in keeping with the Costa Rican traditions:

"True or not, the idea of the 'neighborhood watch' might be the best answer for CR.  This can happen without blathering politicians who are, in fact, clueless about crime and how to fight it."

Some reported their own personal crime wave:

"My wife and I lived on the beach in Puntarenas and we were robbed over 15 times on our property and inside our home, We were hit at 1 p.m. Jan. 8th when the earth quake hit, and it took the O.I.J until 11 p.m. that night to drive five miles to our house. My neighbor, five house up the street was robbed while sleeping and also hit 22 times in one month."

A number of readers questioned the competence of
the police and the reliability of the courts:

"After talking with several of my local police, some have the mentality that it is futile and disheartening to arrest someone, only to have them released before they finish their paperwork. 'Why risk your life for little pay and no sense of accomplishment?' Punishment needs to be enforced, as well as the existing laws."

Other readers urged victims to make a report:

"I think the solution has to be with the people. How many of us have had something stolen from us or we were attacked and we never reported the crime. Most Costa Ricans do not report any robbery of a cell phone or break-in unless the value of object is more than $200 or $300. They say that the police will not investigate anything less. So we all have to report all crime that occurs."

The responses ranged from the constructive to the cynical. A number of readers spoke with authority, suggesting that they have law enforcement of judicial experience. Some letters were anonymous, but most included the name of the sender. A.M. Costa Rica will begin publishing the anti-crime ideas today HERE!

Short courses will try to ignite entrepreneurial spirit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can entrepreneurship be taught?

The Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica thinks so, and has scheduled two workshops for those thinking of starting their own business.

The short course entitled el espíritu emprendedor or the entreprenurial spirit is 13 weeks Tuesdays and Saturdays, starting Feb. 22. A shorter course is Mondays for six week in which students will seek
to improve the ideas they already have. It begins Feb. 21.

The courses are being taught by professors in the university's Escuela de Administración de Empresas.

A third course is designed for women to provide basic skills in evaluating a business opportunity. It runs for four Tuesdays starting Feb. 22. The university is one of the major public higher education institutions in Costa Rica.

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Our readers' opinions on crime
Neighborhood watch program
better than police leadership

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As one expat told me in November "the new cops are yesterday's gang members."
True or not, the idea of the neighborhood watch might be the best answer for Costa Rica.  This can happen without blathering politicians who are, in fact, clueless about crime and how to fight it.
No doubt Costa Rica will cry that jails are expensive projects for a juvenile that kills an adult and can't get a longer prison term than eight years!  This can easily be remedied by using one of the many available islands as a premade jail: just give the boys tents and let them soak up the sunshine like an Arizona sheriff does with his overachievers.  Let the tiger sharks serve as low-cost guards.
I still laugh when I think of the two motorcycle cops that pulled our car over in Gringo gulch, and the Costa Rican "Sergeant Friday" and his sidekick asked us if we had drugs or weapons.  They didn't seem interested in our high blood pressure or cholesterol drugs.  I really felt cheated.  After all, the youngest person in the car was about 57 years of age and all of us were retired cops or feds.
The ideas that will work best to combat crime in Costa Rica will be those ideas that do NOT rely upon the police or the irrelevant court system — or the usual empty words from the "leadership."
Personally I like the idea of expat communities banding together and buying camera surveillance systems that can cover whole neighborhoods.  Then, after Julio and his pals are caught on film, the video gets sent to YouTube so prospective home buyers and tourists can see what is REALLY waiting for them. The real estate firms here in the U.S. just love to use ancient crime statistics to lure naive boomers to a new place where they can get robbed.
Jim Harrison
Charlottesville, Virginia

Law enforcement is critical
for a number of situations

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How many times does the judges here let the prisoner go and or do not follow the laws on the books. Case in point in the paper today. The Judge on the shark finning she did nothing to enforce said laws.  I would like to see President Laura Chinchilla have a committee to over see the judges and that they are following the laws. To see if they are compromised  by nepotism and or mafias being threaten.

Be proactive in Sting operations. Knowing certain areas are prone to car thievery, rock throwing on the autopistas, drug sales around the Del Rey and red zone and muggings. However, there needs to be jail space available, and lock them up. Post bond to get out and or hold them.

Traffic fines are way out of line. Transit cops are making a bundle. People give bribery money, 20,000 to 30,000 colons, instead of a 300,000-colon ticket.

There is street crime, government crime, political crime, extortion crime. I would focus on the government and including what goes on at the ports of entry and all the extortion there. Then the street crime. Adding more cops with a ninth-grade education and a high call to duty again does not make a police force. More of the same.

Somehow have the street people who sleep on the sidewalks, and constantly beg have intervention by the enforcement  officer. You're not sure what their motive might be,  sometimes assaults and robbery. This not be allowed.  That the many police agencies be combined  and they enforce all laws, i.e. street pedaling, to robbery.

Pawn shops and metal collectors. Accounting of the goods they buy. They become the fences for the everyday ladrone.

Criminals hardly ever see the inside of jail. Make money  and repeat business.  This is my added wish list. Fairy dust!

Dwayne Egelund
La Uruca

Organize the chain gangs
to clean up the country

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With regard to No. 6 in your article of today's A.M. Costa Rica, one idea that immediately comes to mind is with regard to the shortage of prisons particularly when reading that  ". . . prisoners hang around all day with nothing to do."  How about instituting the old fashioned chain gang to get those prisoners out to clean the streets and gutters of debris.  Of course, the prisoners would have to be monitored and be identified as prisoners, but it surely would give them a workout and benefit this lovely country as well.  Maybe they would even begin to have a little pride in their work after seeing that their contribution in cleaning up this country makes a difference.  Hard work and manual labor never hurts
Ann Boyd
Canoas de Alajuela

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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Have you seen these stories?
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 27
Latigo K-9

Jaco condos

An air view of Manzanillo shows clearly that many residences are within the prohibited 50-meter maritime zone and many more are within the restricted 150-meter zone.
Manzanillo air view
Servicio Periodistico photo

Caribbean residents carry their complaints to Washington
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of the Talamanca region of Limón province have gone to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights to complain about what most Costa Ricans believe is a good thing.

They are unhappy that the government has turned about 88 percent of their area into reserves and protected areas, thereby limiting them to what they can do. The residents are demanding that the Costa Rican government respect their rights. The commission is part of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Many of the residents of the area are native Costa Ricans, Afro-Caribeños and poor farmers. The group was organized by Dennis Clark, president of the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Manzanillo. Clark said that the government has limited growth and potential projects by freezing much of the land area.

He said the Costa Rican government has taken unilateral decisions without consulting the residents. Talamanca is in last place for development according to the Instituto Estadisticas y Censos de Costa Rica. There is extreme poverty.
The commission will hold a hearing on the situation within 30 days, Clark reported.

His organization notes that some of the property there is within the limits of the Parque Nacional de Cahuita although they have been owned by private parties long before the park was formed.

The group also is unhappy with the situation along the Caribbean coast where many residents do not have ownership of their properties. A law that would have allowed some residents to prove ownership was ruled unconstitutional.

The problem stems from the Ley de Zona Maritimo-Terrestre which says that nothing may be built in the first 50 meters from the high tide line. Many homes in Manzanillo and Cahuita are in this zone.

Many more are in the next 150 meters above high tide that is supposed to be available for construction only by municipal concession.

Without ownership, even though the homes may have been in the family for a 100 years, residents cannot obtain loans for new construction or improvements.

Defensoría says it has not dug deeply into abduction case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes says it is confident that  the Sala VI constitutional court will approve a request for habeas corpus in the Tina Atwell case that will allow her to be reunited with her daughter and remain in Costa Rica.

In a news release Thursday, the Defensoría noted that it had been working with Ms. Atwell as an adviser in judicial actions since December and recently placed its own action in favor of the woman and child in the Sala IV constitutional court.

However, Ahmed Tabash, who is in charge of the Defensoría press office also said that the agency had not talked to the U.S. judge involved in the case nor to the husband who is in Missouri.

"I can tell you no because our action is presented within the national jurisprudence and there we have resorted to the legal actions that our nation permits us in relation to the case at hand," he said when asked if the agency had sought more information.

This is another one of those cases in which a U.S. mother brought a child to Costa Rica and is staying here even though a U.S. court has granted the father custody.

Costa Rican officials seem to accept without question the claims by the woman that they have been abused. In the case of Ms. Atwell, the Defensoría said that she was a victim of family violence and fled from the United States to safeguard her physical and psychological integrity and the lives of both.

Ms. Atwell is seeking refugee status for herself and her child. That is being considered by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

The case is in the news now because the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia has taken the child to a shelter until the legal situation is clarified. A Costa Rican judge already has ruled that the child should be returned to the father, Roy Koyama, in Green County, Missouri, under terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Costa Rica signed that treaty, but judges and others seem to want to try such cases here, usually without input from the father.

That was the situation with Chere Lyn Tomayko, who was granted refugee status in 2008 that allowed her to stay here even though the United States wanted her to answer for the 1997 abduction of her daughter Alexandria. In an unprecedented move, the security minister, Janina Del Vecchio, granted refugee status to Ms. Tomayko, based largely on the mother's claim that her former boyfriend in Texas abused her. The original judge in the case disputed that characterization in an A.M. Costa Rica interview. No official here ever talked to that judge either.

The Defensoría also is arguing on technical grounds that there should be no return of the child while the refugee status is being considered. Costa Rica has an obligation to
protect her because she is a victim of violence, said the Defensoría.

Both Ms. Atwell and Koyama have Web pages where they present their sides of the story. On her Facebook page, Ms. Atwell accuses Koyama of being a drug addict as well as being violent. The headline on the page is "Keep Emily safe in Costa Rica." There are many messages of support.

In her last posting Monday, Ms. Atwell said, mentioning her husband, Henner Chaverría,:

"Emily has been sleeping away from our home, and in a foster care for seven nights and going on eight days now. Praying that God will bring back home to us very soon. Henner and I can tell the strain growing in her as the days go bye. She is extra needy, just wanting to be held lots when we are there for our visits. Not wanting to leave with out us at the end. Expressing this in the words she has, no quiere bye, bye or by asking for multiple one last hugs or kisses from Henner and myself. It is harder then words can express to have to say, hasta manana, cosita. Please continue to pray for her comfort in this, and that we will be bringing her home very soon. God Bless."

Koyama's Web page is titled "Bring Emily Koyama home to the U.S."

"I am now fighting for my daughter in the jurisdiction of Costa Rica where they take the woman's word over the man's almost every time," said Koyama. "I pray they see the light when I appear in their court with all legal documents to discount all allegations against me, all translated into Spanish to make it easier for them to understand my case and the crime committed against my family."

Koyama also said that there is a federal warrant outstanding against Ms. Atwell. Both are seeking donations. At one point Koyama said he purchased tickets for his daughter and a representative of the Patronato to fly to Missouri. Court actions prevented that trip.

The Defensoría also intervened in the immigration case saying that the two refugee applications should be considered together and that returning the child to her father in the United States would be another form of violence against the mother.

The two Web pages make conflicting statements. For example, Ms. Atwell said she filed for no-contact orders against Koyama. He said he returned home to find Ms., Atwell and the baby gone Feb. 2, 2009, without explanation.

Compounding the situation is that Ms. Atwell was married to a Costa Rican when she met Koyama.

She also has said she was unaware of the Green County court action where she lost custody.

One of the main purposes of the Hague Convention is to make sure that the authority to resolve a child custody case rests with the judge in the initial jurisdiction.  Although Koyama has a lawyer here and has visited here, he does not live here.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 27

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A little razzel dazzel with the bus did not fool the police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police thought they were dealing with another drug shipment at the border with Panamá Monday morning.

Someone off-loaded merchandise from a northbound bus before it reached Costa Rica, and the merchandise was taken into Costa Rica by smaller vehicles in an informal manner, that is without reporting the load to customs.

The merchandise turned out to be 640 baseball-type caps and 560 purple shirts. All had markings of an anti-cancer foundation in Costa Rica.

Smugglers tried to put the merchandise back on the bus at its first stop in Costa Rica, but police intervened. The man who appeared to be in charge of the load was a Panamanian citizen, police said.
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Here are some of the shirts and caps

Underground pollution hurting Yucatan tourism, study says

By the United Nations University news service

Pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, personal hygiene products, chemical run-off. These and other pollutants are contaminating the giant aquifers under Mexico's Riviera Maya district, a popular tourism location on the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula, according to a recent study.     

The report came from the United Nations University and its Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health.    

The area's highly permeable geology is characterized by numerous cenotes or sinkholes that provide access to groundwater cave systems, making the aquifers very susceptible to contamination. While the level of pollution is not yet considered to be a health threat, the problem will almost certainly worsen, particularly since the district's population is predicted to increase by tenfold in the next two decades.

The study's findings "clearly underline the need for monitoring systems to pinpoint where these aquifer pollutants are coming from," said Chris Metcalfe, a senior research fellow. "Prevention and mitigation measures are needed to ensure that expanding development does not damage the marine environment and human health and, in turn, the region's tourism-based economy," he added.

The study, part of the university's Caribbean Coastal Pollution Project, was conducted with the cooperation of Amigos de Sian Ka'an, a local nongovernmental organization.

Among the groundwater pollutants found by the study were illicit drugs, cocaine and its post-digestion form, benzoylecgonine, chemicals from pharmaceuticals, including painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and personal care products, deodorants, perfume, toothpaste, hand-sanitizing lotion, etc., caffeine, and nicotine.

The study points to pit latrines, septic tanks and leaking sewer lines as the likeliest sources of these pollutants,
United Nations University and Institute for Water, Environment
and Health/ Hanneke van Lavieren
One of the cenotes in the study area

noting only one-third of the area is served by municipal wastewater treatment systems.

Pesticide applications, such as on golf courses, and run-off from highways are other paved surfaces are also sources of groundwater contamination.

The researchers note that the district has "a general lack of expertise and equipment for monitoring or tracking sources of pollution" and that there are "few administrative links between those responsible for water and coastal management and the labs that generate the data".

Among the countermeasures recommended by the study are the installation of impermeable liners beneath golf courses and other turf-covered areas to restrict the leaching of contaminants, nutrients and pathogens; lined and impermeable drainage canals, retention ponds and treatment systems; measures to minimize aquifer contamination from hard surface runoff; adequate wastewater treatment infrastructure; a halt to injections of treated sewage into saltwater below the freshwater aquifer; implementation of an integrated approach to coastal zone management; and protection of all remaining mangroves, which serve to buffer coastal areas from pollution.

Without integrated approaches to protecting and managing the aquifer, the study warns, "the tourism-based economy of the Maya Riviera region will not be sustainable over the medium to long term."

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The right eye may have problems

Rescuers seeking a home
for boxer street veteran

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Life is tough if you are a stray dog in Latin America. Puppies routinely are dumped in rural areas to fend for themselves.

Old dogs also are dumped. Not every dog sees a vet or gets the right shots.

Every once in awhile, a sad tale comes along. In this case, a white boxer demonstrates a history that brings tears to the eyes.

Animal rescuers found the animal living off of bits of pastry and bread near a panadería in Coronado.  His neck has scars from the chains that held him, probably as he faithfully performed watchdog duties. Now he was a ward of the street.

He has an infection that needs veterinary attention. He can't see very well. The right eye may display a doggie cataract. And those who rescued him say he does not answer to a name. He may be deaf.

They are looking for a family that would take in this hard-to-place pup and give him the care and love he needs. More information is available at  8894-8238.

Geithner tells Brazil both
face economic challenge

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says Brazil and the United States face an economic challenge from nations that sustain undervalued currencies.

During a one-day visit to the South American nation, Geithner did not mention China by name but the U.S. has said that China's currency is substantially undervalued.  Geithner said both Brazil and the U.S. need a balanced global economy to allow for more robust growth. 

U.S. has been working on persuading China to let its currency, the yuan, appreciate.

Geithner is in Brazil to strengthen bilateral relations and lay the groundwork for President Barack Obama's visit there next month.

The secretary was to meet with President Dilma Rousseff and other top officials.

Fire sweeps Rio warehouse
where Carnival floats are

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A massive fire has swept through a warehouse district in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where costumes and floats used in the city's famed Carnival are made and stored.

An official for the organizers of the annual festivities said the fire Monday was a tremendous loss.  Most of the Carnival groups were nearly ready for the parades that are set to begin next month.

A large plume of black smoke was seen above the Sambadrome, where the parade takes place.  There were no immediate reports of injuries.
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President Laura Chinchilla places the sash of office on Johnny Araya, the re-elected San José mayor. Both sought the presidency, but Ms. Chinchilla prevailed in an assembly of the Partido Liberación Nacional. He was sworn in Monday.

Coronado neighbors retaliate
against robbery suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in San Rafael de Coronado witnessed a robbery and then took off after two suspects.

The residents beat the suspects so badly they had to be hospitalized in Hospital Calderón Guardia.

According to the Judicial Investigating Organization, two men jumped from a microbus Sunday night and began to rob two cousins who were from the area. One of the cousins was believed to have suffered a knife wound.

Enraged residents came at the suspects with boards and other implements and knocked them to the ground and continued to inflict damage.

The suspects were identified as two brothers with the last name of Mayorga. One of the suspects suffered a knife wound, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

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