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These stories were published first Monday, Feb. 18, 2002
Jo Stuart
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Polluted animal runoff is now being turned into electricity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Feed lots and lounging areas for dairy farms are major sources for pollution. The runoff from the animal wastes finds its way to nearby streams and rivers.

With the hope of reducing such contamination, not only cows but pigs, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería has set up a biodigester on a dairy farm that produces cheese in San Pedro de Coronado.

The biodigester costs 160,000 colons (less than $500), and this one is being financed by the Chinese Fund, as are six more that will be going into operation soon.

The reasons for this demonstration project is to cut down the contamination that is flowing into the Río Virilla, according to Juan José Castro Retana of the agricultural and livestock ministry. The producers who use the biodigester will be rewarded with the production of methane gas as the animal matter decomposes.

This gas will be used to produce power via internal combustion engines and generators. In addition, the fully decomposed material is an excellent humus to be used as fertilizer because it maintains and concentrates the nutrients from the original material, said the ministry. Plus any insects or pathogenic materials are destroyed, they said.

The biodigester is a sealed tank that maintains optimum conditions for the anaerobic 

fementation of the animal wastes. Because the material decomposes without the presence of outside oxygen, the methane is produced. About 60 percent of the gas produced is burnable methane, and 50 percent is a carbon dioxide combination, which is not toxic.

Those interested in the project can contact the ministry at 229-4023.

Police stop abduction
of young schoolgirl

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man forced a 10-year-old schoolgirl into his car Friday in San Jerónimo de Moravia, but police managed to corner the man and free the girl because neighbors called police.

The girl left school about 1:30 p.m. and began walking home.  The suspect who is believed to be a stranger to the girl grabbed her and put her in his car. Police said they assumed the man was going to rape the girl.

Motor patrols took only a few minutes to locate the car while it was in Moravia. The girl did not appear to be harmed physically, police said.

A spokesman for Ministerio de Seguridad Pública said that police have increased patrols in the area of schools now that the new year has begun.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Costa Rica has signed a decree that makes sure that residents and tourists can have access to the Gulf of Papagayo concession beaches and roads. The president, Miguel Angel Rodríguez, conducted a ceremony for the signing along with Walter Niehaus, minister of tourism, on Friday.

Costa Rican citizens and, by extension, foreign residents and tourists are guaranteed access to beaches immediately adjacent to the sea. But this decree states that the concessionaires involved in the massive Papagayo project also allow the citizens access to the private roads that are being constructed, said a release from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The private roads are connected to the public right-of-ways, the release said, and the decree eliminates any question as to the rights of citizens to approach the beaches and other scenic points. The decree will take effect after being published in the Diario Oficial la Gaceta, the official journal of government proceedings.

Visitors to the gulf projects also will be able to take advantage of a series of parking areas that are being constructed to provide easy entry by citizens, according to Niehaus. Some consideration also is being given to the use of electric vehicles on the project grounds to eliminate air pollution from internal combustion engines, the announcement said.

Papagayo is in northern Guanacaste and the site of a gigantic, long-running private-public developmental project.

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A.M. Costa Rica photo
An uncharacteristic  mid-afternoon lull in the action at the Denuncia section of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Criminal complaints
taken 24 hours a day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police investigators want you to know that they are open 24 hours a day to take your complaints. But there is a reluctance by foreigners and tourists to report criminal activity.

A case in point is the stretch of Avenida 1 between Calle 7 and Calle 9 where three to four muggers are working weekend evenings without hardly any interference by local police. As many as 25 North Americans, residents, tourists and business owners, have been victims of the muggers, some with serious physical results from the choke holds the crooks favor.

But A.M. Costa Rica has a better list of victims than does the Judicial Investigating Organization. Hardly any North American has filed a complaint. Police agencies run on statistics, so investigators in San José have a distorted idea of what is going on in the streets if complaints are not filed.

Egenio Guido, chief of the Denuncia or complaint section for the Judicial Investigating Organization says that many times Fuerza Publica patrolmen do not carry forms and paperwork with them, many ride motorcycles. 

Thatís why some North Americans have complained that the street patrolmen failed to take reports.

Guido said that his office is open 24 hours a day, although he does have to deal with budget problems. At least four intake clerks work from early morning to late evening. The overnight shift where there is plenty of work, too, has but two intake clerks. Four of the 10 employees have some knowledge of English, he said.

At any given time, the nearby waiting room is from half-full to full of Costa Ricans making formal complaints to the agency.  Guido said, however, that victims of street crimes can make a complaint at the local headquarters of the Fuerza Publica if that is more convenient.

Not only is the OIJ office in San José open round the clock, but so are offices in principal cities, Guido said.

To reach the correct office to file a complaint, a visitor after normal business hours would have to use the Avenida 8 entrance that is open and guarded all the time. During business hours, there are at least three entrances for the public to the building, which is the middle of the three buildings in the court complex between Avenida 6 and Avenida 8.
Long hall leads the way from the Avenida 8 entrance to the Denuncia section that is all the way on the other side of the building.

Bush wants to boost
Peace Corps numbers

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D. C. ó President George Bush announced that he is seeking to expand the Peace Corps by doubling its force of volunteers over the next five years to levels it had in the mid 1960s when it was created during the Kennedy Administration.

Bush outlined his initiative Friday to double the size of the Peace Corps and expand the number of countries in which Peace Corps volunteers are active. He also announced that a special Peace Corps assessment team will travel to Afghanistan to evaluate needs and opportunities for Peace Corps volunteers to assist the Afghan people in rebuilding their nation.

More information about the Peace Corps is available on the Internet at www.peacecorps.gov.

Latin trading bloc
meeting in south

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ó Leaders from Mercosur, a South American trading bloc, are meeting today here for a summit expected to focus on Argentina's severe economic crisis.

Participants are also set to discuss ways to boost cooperation within the block, which is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Chile and Bolivia are associate members.

Late Sunday, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso expressed his country's solidarity with Argentina before meeting privately with the Argentine president, Eduardo Duhalde.

Brazilian officials say President Cardoso could offer concessions on trade tariffs to help revive Argentina's battered economy after four years of deep recession. Cardoso has expressed confidence that Argentina has the resources to recover from its crisis.

Last week, Argentine officials traveled to Washington for meetings with the International Monetary Fund. The negotiations were aimed at restarting talks that broke down in December, when the IMF refused to clear a loan payment to Argentina.

Ex-senate leader
arrested in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BELEM, Brazil ó Brazilian police have arrested the country's former senate president on charges of corruption and fraud. 

Jader Barbalho, who also once headed the country's largest political party, was detained Saturday in this Amazonian city after officials in the neighboring state of Tocantins issued a warrant for him. 

Barbalho resigned from his Senate seat in October to avoid a likely impeachment that would have stripped him of the right to run for public office for the next eight years. However, his loss of immunity cleared the way for the charges.

The corruption case involves questionable loans made by the Amazon Development Agency, known as Sudam, which was recently shut down. In one of many possible irregularities, Barbalho's former wife is reported to have received a grant for a frog farm which investigators say was largely abandoned. Police have arrested several other people in the case, including the former head of the agency, Jose Arthur Tourinho.

Royal Family pays
its last respects 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON ó Members of Britain's royal family have paid their last farewell to Princess Margaret, attending her funeral at Windsor Castle.

The 101-year-old Queen Mother, who has been fighting a persistent chest infection, joined the rest of her family and about 400 close friends and staff for the service at Saint George's Chapel. The Queen Mother flew to Windsor by helicopter Thursday from the royal estate at Sandringham in eastern England to be present for the service.

Princess Margaret, 71, chose to break with tradition by having her body cremated after the funeral. 

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