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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Feb. 20, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 36          E-mail us    
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Fishing and tour boats in Pacific get once over
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A weekend sweep of the South Pacific brought law enforcement officials on board fishing and tourist boats. But the weekend generally showed that fishermen and tour operators alike are respecting the environmental laws of the land, coast guard officials said. 

After what officials labeled as an intense operation, coast guard officers sent five boats to port out of the 17 they checked.  All of them – most of which were fishermen – were complying with environmental regulations but had other technical problems.  

The four-day patrol covered the Gulfo Dulce, Drake Bay, and most of the Southern Pacific Coast including the Isla del Caño, Parque Nacional Marino Ballena and Dominical, officers with the Servicio Nacional de Guarda Costas said.  The idea behind the patrol was to protect the marine biodiversity as well as guarantee the security of tourists and fishermen who frequent the coastal waters, officers said. 

The majority of the 17 boats were commercial sardine, shrimp and tuna fishermen, the coast guard said.  All of the vessels were complying with environmental regulations that caused a bit of a stir when they went into effect.  

One of the rules stated that shrimp nets had to be equipped with a trap door escape for turtles.  These would allow turtles to swim free of shrimp nets while still holding the shrimp.  Turtles, which breath air, would otherwise become trapped in the net and drown.  The United States cut off the importation of Costa Rican jumbo shrimp for a time because fishermen here were refusing to use the turtle-friendly nets. 

Coast guard officials here say that the use of the nets not only preserves the environment in Costa Rica, it has an economic benefit as well.  Besides turtles, the escape devices release several small species of young fish which would otherwise be harvested before they reached adulthood.  The early death of these species was costing the country money in exports, the coast guard said. 
The coast guard was also worried about  dolphin and whales.  These animals have tourist appeal and from time to time, the boats of gawking tourists get too close, the coast guard said.  Approximately two months ago, lawmakers passed a new rule governing the conduct of these tourist expeditions and officers wanted to confirm that the tourist boats were complying with the new regulations, said Edwin Lezama, biologist in charge of the Departamento Ambiental del Guardacostas de Golfito.

Costa Rican maritime regulations say that any captain carrying tourists must have a license issued by the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura.  Anyone taking tourists into environmentally protected waters must do so with a license issued by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

Coast guard officials also checked sport-fishing boats and private yachts.  They were all environmentally friendly as well, officials said.  Jefrey Orozco, an immigration official in Paso Canoas attributes this to the constant patrols in the area.

Although none of the tourist boats had broken any of the new environmental laws and all the tourists had their documents in order, some of the boats were not complying with seaworthiness regulations and coast guard officers made them return to port, officers said. 

Four of the five boats were tour-related, the other was a sport fishing vessel, officers said.  None of the five were carrying the required sailing permit or seaworthiness certification, said Freiner Lara of the Capitanía de Puerto Golfito.    

The importance of complying with safety regulations cannot be emphasized enough, especially since tourism plays such an important economic role in the country, he said.  If one of the boats were to sink, it could be a disaster for the tourism industry, Lara said. 
  
Coast Guard officials worked with the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería in Paso Canoas as well as the Capitanía de Puerto Golfito in the operation. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 36


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Our readers' opinions
Another reader says
raise level of education


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I feel I have to respond to Kris Winter’s analysis of crime and how to reduce/prevent it in Costa Rica. While not actually living in CR, I have traveled extensively throughout the country since the early 90’s. My experience is one of very little crime and, not unlike Kris, I love the country and the people.
 
The position postulated by Kris is American-style crime deterrent. It emulates one of the most violent countries in the world. Death penalty, concealed carry permits and chain gangs do not work in the U.S.A, why do you believe these deterrents would work in C.R.?
 
Instead of agreeing that there is only “power in strength and not in weakness,” lets agree that crime is directly correlated to poverty and education level. We can now concentrate on raising the level of both which will reduce crime and thereby increase the number of positive comments expressed by tourists and others. This in turn will protect Kris’ investment, which I suspect is the real motivator for analysis in the first place.
 
Devry Armitage
City of Toronto,

Live like a big bass
and forget the crime


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I appreciate your crime stories. Anybody who reads Spanish can read a local newspaper, Diario Extra, everyday and read 15 such stories a day.  I have lived here 18 years and want to know what all the fuss is about.  There has always been a lot of crime here. That this comes as a surprise to anyone is curious.  All one has to do is go to any party or bar or church and hear all the stories they want.  Given, crime is a little worse than it was 18 years ago, but even back then it was bad.  The only good thing is that the murder rate is low — but the amount of crime in other categories is extremely high and badly underreported, especially by the foreign language press.
  
A few years ago The Economist magazine had an article that related overall crime in a country to the amount of corruption. With Mexico and Nigeria for example having terrible corruption and almost unbearable crime rates and Denmark and Norway with practically zero corruption, having virtually no crime.  There was only one exception, India, with a lot of corruption and low crime, something to do with the Hindu tolerance of corruption but cultural intolerance to violence.
  
The theory to this is if government and church officials can rob the people of tax money and tithe money, why can't the local dirtbag rob a bank or two.  What's good for the goose is good for the gander.  It's logical to me.  Castro stopped crime in Cuba in the early 60's by putting 25,000 corrupt ex-government officials to the firing squad and ending corruption and crime on the spot.  I don't support Castro, but that's the  way he stopped corruption.
  
So all the yelling and screaming for more police and greater punishment isn't going to do anything.  When you stop the MOPT guys from making $100,000 per year each just off bribes, then you have a start to a lower crime rate in the general population.  But when you have an entire cultural mindset that everyone is doing it like you have in Mexico and Nigeria and, yes, in Costa Rica, then the crime rate will keep escalating.
  
To me the articles you report about people who take little or no precaution against crime and are victimized generate no sympathy from any Costa Rican I know of.  They just say "Who is in Barrio Mexico at 11:30 at night?"  A dummy.  "Who gets their house broken into four times in one year?" A dummy.  "Who walks around San Pedro-Sabanilla at night?" A dummy.  "Who walks from the Del Rey Hotel to the Presidente at night?"
  
If you want to live here, you protect yourself.  First and foremost, you don't even live or work around San José and San Pedro and try to never go there and, if so, only in the day.  You protect your house by always having someone there and a burglar alarm service and a bad dog,  all three then you are protected.  You never walk anywhere at night. Period.  You only drive at night under certain circumstances and then only with people and to good areas where you know escape routes.
  
I sympathize with the single person in this country.  Next time you drive at night, look at the cars. They are all full of people. Why? Because car jackers (the 3,000 or so a month that occur and are reported) like to carjack single people.  Less complicated then having to remove a kid from the backseat. 9 percent of these carjackings occur between 5-10 at night. Crime here is endemic, well established and here to stay. Get used to it or leave. This is no place for a retired couple from Idaho who never locked their doors at night.  My family's personal reaction to crime of which we have suffered dozens of incidents is give them what they want, call it a tax and don't even think about again. 

Report it if you want to waste 100 hours of your time for nothing.  Protect yourself. There is nobody here even the $2,000 per year 6th grade-education police force who cares even a whisper about the crime committed against you.  Their family has also had dozens of crimes committed against them.  Paradise and pura vida are certainly words of someone who has spent maybe a month here.  If you are the victim of one crime a year without a bodily injury, consider this a blessing.
  
You have to be that 15-pound bass in the small pond who everybody is trying to catch. That is the only way to live here.
   
Jack Wellingham
Santa Ana
Figueres did right
by his own country


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Like Mike Fekula, I am not sure what Phil Mattingly's point was in his comments about Mr. Figueres. Sure, he took money from the KGB and almost certainly from the CIA or other U.S. government agencies. So what?

This just proves one thing, that he was adaptable, flexible, practical and ultimately true to himself and his country. He was good at "playing both ends again the middle" which is what you have to do to survive as a politician in a small country, both then and now!

The citizens of Costa Rica are correct to hold their former leader in high regard. His ability to juggle two superpowers benefited his country and serves as a good example for current leaders. The problems his son is having at the current time should not reflect poorly on the father.  "Viva Don Pepe"
David N. Cook
Oxnard, California
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 36




The singing chicken is a figment of Tico machismo
Le canta la gallina

“The hen sings here.” Today’s dicho has to do a bit with role-playing. Everyone knows that it is the rooster who sings in the chicken house after fertilizing the eggs or when the sun comes up or sets or just about whenever he feels like it. So, if a man says of his wife, for example, me canta la gallina, it means that in his house the woman is boss.

When a guy does not want to go out drinking with his buddies on a Saturday night, they may taunt him by saying le canta la gallina in order to goad him into defying his wife or girlfriend and going bar hopping with the boys. It’s a kind of peer pressure designed to force him to “act like a man” and show her who’s boss.

My father never went out by himself. He was always accompanied by my mother, or one of his kids. Nobody at his club ever said le canta la gallina to him, at least as far as I can remember. But I do know that he endured a bit of ribbing from time to time because he was never by himself.

When I was maybe 5 years old, I remember my father’s friends at the club talking about a woman who lived near by, and what a “looker” she was. I overheard the entire conversation, even though I did not really understand the — shall we say — “subtler” implications of what was being said. I heard the woman’s name, knew who she was, and that was about the extent of my comprehension of the men’s conversation.

The next morning my mother asked me if I’d heard anything about this woman when I was at my father’s club the day before. I answered quite honestly that I heard the woman mentioned, but did not remember what the men were talking about. This seemed to satisfy my mother’s curiosity.

Presently my father came down and, while mother was in the kitchen preparing his breakfast, he asked me, in hushed and hurried tones, if my mother had asked me about what had went on at the club the preceding day. I answered that yes she had questioned me.

“What did you say?” he inquired, a little nervously.

“I said I didn’t remember,” was my honest, if somewhat perplexed, reply.

With a sigh of relief he patted me on the head and told me that now I was one of the guys. I didn’t 

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

 
understand what this was all about, but it gave me the feeling that my father and I had somehow established a secret bond. It was a feeling I liked very much.

In our house the hen never sang. My father was the gallo más gallo, or so he was permitted to believe at least. But it was well understood that my mother was a power to be reckoned with, though it was usually my father who was the enforcer of the rules she laid down for the household. Homework was done before play or television. Bedtime was rigorously observed. And the consumption of alcohol by minors was strictly prohibited (in those halcyon days drugs were yet to make a significant appearance among Costa Rican youth).

Because I was born with a heart problem, chastisements for me were usually less severe, and a stern lecture would often be my only punishment. This, of course, infuriated my siblings who were often assigned additional strenuous chores or were grounded for extended periods of time for infraction of household rules.

Le canta la gallina has to do with an egotistical view of machismo. It plays into the antiquated notion that a man, simply by virtue of his gender, must always be the boss.

But in my view if one person has to be the “boss” in a relationship between two people then that means it’s not a very good relationship. A couple should work together as a team not only in building a solid relationship between them, but in keeping the household together and, if they have children, in raising those children in an environment grounded in mutual respect, understanding and love.

In relations between two people a duet is preferable to a solo performance. 







Local writers provide some interesting references
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the start of the North American summer tourist season, there are a handful of books produced by expats here that would be useful for a traveler.

Christopher Howard has updated his "Guide to Costa Rican Spanish." As the title promises, the emphasis is on the type of language spoken here. Included are  the usual lists of definitions, but with Costa Rican twists. Where else would you learn that the electrified heating device Gringos call a suicide shower is a  thermoduche?

The book is available via Howard's Web site for   $13.95.

Howard also includes a discussion of the word vos, which is used in Costa Rica instead of the traditional second person informal tú. There also is a dictionary of street Spanish, the pachuquísmos that can leave even a good Spanish speaker wondering in informal social situations. For example, to get married is ahorcarse, which could easily be misinterpreted for its dictionary meaning: to hang oneself, used like to get hitched in English.

Also included in the 204-page work are lists of Costa Rican idiomatic expressions, the piropos used to flatter women and the Guanacaste  bombas, unique four-line epigrams shouted or recited in groups.

Howard, who has a master's degree in Spanish, also includes some tips on learning the language and a list of resources. He is known for his earlier book on retirement in Costa Rica as well as tours he runs for potential retirees.

Howard also has produced the second edition of "Living and Investing in the New Nicaragua," which says Nicaragua is the next Costa Rica and offers assistance to anyone thinking about taking the plunge into expatriation, according to a release.

This 342-page guide ($24.95) offers insider tips and advice on moving there, buying property, opening a business, applying for residency, personal safety,
cultural considerations and political forecasts, the release said. This book, too, is available via the company Web site and Amazon.

Another book of high value to the budget traveler is "Costa Rica by Bus," written by Atenas resident John R. Wood.

Wood said that when he arrived in Costa Rica he decided not to own a car, so he  "used the bus system and quickly found that it was inexpensive 
and that I could travel almost anywhere in the country by autobus."

The guide includes fares, locations of bus stops, route information and other data designed to get a visitor on the correct bus.

The guide is a paperback ($16.95) or an e-book ($9). Wood also has a Web site with plenty of good travel tips.

Also available as a 295-page paper copy or as an e-book is "At Home In Costa Rica: Adventures in Living the Good Life" The authors are Martin and Robin Rice.

In their words, the book ". . . tells a fascinating tale of the trials and tribulations of learning a new way of life, a new language, making new (and unusual) friends, building two homes, rehabilitating animals, surviving the machinations of an alien institutional bureaucracy, adjusting a first-world pace and needs to those of an emerging country, and much more."

The couple, who are leaving the country soon, live near Santiago de Pursical and arrived in Costa Rica in 2000 and engaged in a number of agricultural pursuits, as Rice says, to defeat boredom.

The paperback ($18.69) and the e-book ($10) are both available via the Rice Web site.

Another book of interest to those who may be considering settling here are "Living Abroad in Costa Rica" by Erin Van Rheenen, a paperback ($17.95).

Another useful account is "Potholes to Paradise: Living in Costa Rica - What You Need to Know" by Canadian Tessa Borner, who runs a bed and breakfast in Grecia. ($13.95). It is a personal guide for the new expat filled with tips.

Most of the above also are available at local English-language bookstores, too.







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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 36




Go home HERE!   Go to second newspage HERE!
Go to third newspage HERE!     


Analysis of the news
Despite what they say, election really was about treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite claims to the contrary, results of the Feb. 5 presidential vote show a nation divided over adoption of the free trade treaty with the United States.

Ottón Solís still maintains an edge in the official vote count, although his percentage is certain to erode as polling places in the final three provinces are subjected to a hand count of votes.

Solís is the presidential candidate who insists that the free trade treaty must be renegotiated with the United States.

His opponent, Óscar Arias Sánchez, supports the treaty.

Citizens vote for many reasons, and the presidential election was far from a litmus test over the free trade treaty. But Solís did serve as the rallying point for diverse interests who —for their own reasons — oppose the free trade treaty.

And the election of 17 deputies from his Partido Acción Ciudadana to the 58-member Asamblea Legislative suggests rough going for the treaty that still needs legislative ratification unless the lame duck assembly approves the measure before the first week in May.

The organization Pro Costa Rica, a group set up to lobby for the free trade treaty, said that 56 percent of the country voted in favor of candidates who backed the free trade treaty. In addition to Arias of Partido Liberación Nacional, the group named Otto Guevara of Movimiento Libertario, Ricardo Toledo of  Partido Unidad Social Cristiana and two other candidates.

The group also cites a statistical study that claims to show only 13 percent of the voters backed Solís because of his trade treaty position. Yet it is clear that Solís supporters misled other opinion pollsters, which is why no one predicted the close race that evolved Feb. 5.

Solís was the hope of the radical left and intelligentsia
at the Universidad de Costa Rica and Universidad Nacional in Heredia. They reject anything having to do with the United States. He was the hope of unionized workers at the national monopolies who want to keep the house of cards together until they are pensioned off. And he was the hope of some farmers and the white collar class who fear major restructuring in the society.

Official election results are now in for the provinces of San José, Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia with only a small percentage of results from the three remaining provinces.  They show Solís with 561,029 votes (41.85 percent) and Arias with 535,657 votes (39.9 percent). Solís won the administrative-educational sector of the country by some 25,000 votes. This is where the free trade treaty has been hashed and rehashed.

The count does not bode well for Solís. In the preliminary vote totals released the early morning after the elections, Solís had a lead of more than 32,000 in the same Central Valley provinces, so his margin has been eroded.

Although Solís pulled slightly ahead of Arias in the Central Valley, preliminary figures show he was devastated in Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón where Arias registered a 41,000 vote lead. These seem to be the leading agricultural areas where —contrary to pre-election opinion — Arias and the trade treaty find the strongest support. But the provinces also are the ones where deeply entrenched Liberación party structures delivered the vote.

How much did the free trade treaty do for an Arias victory there? How much of the margin was due to tradition and party structure? These are questions on which the future of the trade treaty hangs.

A spokesperson for the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said the final hand-count of remaining polling places could be finished this week, although certain objections and challenges still will have to be handled.

If, as expected, Arias emerged as the victor, he still will have a major sales job on his hands to unite the country behind the trade treaty.


Benefit dinner here Friday will help youngsters struggling in Uganda
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Foundation for the Hungry International Costa Rica is organizing a dinner Friday to raise money for the hungry in Uganda.

The dinner, “The other face of Africa,” is the result of a trip that Wendy Cruz of Channel 7 Telenoticia, Benjamín Mayorga, a soccer player for Saprissa, Scott Martin, director of the organization in Costa Rica and a cameraman took to the country in June. 

The dinner will benefit the Center for Young Mothers in Kitgum, Uganda.  The Lord's Resistance Army is based in Sudan but kidnaps kids in Uganda and forces them to fight, kill their families and commit other atrocities, but sometimes the kids escape.  There is a steady stream of survivors that make their way back to Uganda, but many times, they have no place to go because either their families are dead or they were forced to kill a family member, so the rest of their
families reject them, Martin said.  This is where the center comes in.  They try to reintegrate these children into society. 

The rest of Uganda lives in extreme poverty, Martin said.  The country has some 1.5 million internally displaced persons living in refugee camps according to the United Nations.  These people live 7,000 to 10,000 to each camp and are almost entirely dependent on the United Nations for food, Martin said.   “There's very little food, no medicine and incredible human misery,” Martin said.  “It was very emotional.”

The dinner costs a minimum of $50 per person as a donation.  It starts at 8 p.m. in the Hotel Corobicí in the Salón Góndola.  The last day to make reservations is today.  Besides the buffet dinner, Mayorga and Ms. Cruz will talk about their experiences in Uganda and a documentary will be presented.  For more information, call 250-3164 or 250-4716 or e-mail fhicostarica@fhi.net.


Husband under restraining order shoots his wife and then himself
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man threatened his wife with a gun to get her to hand over the couple's baby then shot her five times, before turning the gun on himself, said agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The woman, 24-year-old Melba Castillo Estrada, a Nicaraguan, had a restraining order against her husband, 33-year-old Raúl Jirón Reyes, a Costa Rican, agents said.  Ms. Castillo was walking through her town, Las Américas de Upala, Thursday evening with her brother as she carried her 18-month-old baby, agents said. 
Jirón confronted the two and threatened Ms. Castillo with a gun. Her brother took the child and ran for help. A short time later he heard shots, he said. 

When family members and friends found Ms. Castillo, she had been shot twice in the face and three times in the back, agents said.  She was taken to the hospital, agents said. 

One of the bullets hit her seventh vertebra and doctors are doubtful that she will walk again, they said.  

Jirón was found after a search.


Four suspects held in stickup of women waiting at a bus stop in Pavas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Pavas said they busted a band of robbers after the group faltered as members mugged two women who were waiting for the bus Saturday.

The group worked simply, officers said.  They would stop a victim or victims, show a gun as a threat, steal everything, then speed off.  In the case of the two women, a private guard tried to stop the gang and opened fire, officers said.  The robbers returned fire and one of them was wounded in the hand, officers said. 

The guard, Enrique Prada Carmenate, a Nicaraguan, was shot in the arm, police said.  He notified police
and a short time later, officers found a gray Hyundai matching the description that the victims had provided, they said. 

Police chased the robbers towards Heredia and stopped a car with suspects near the Fuerza Pública station in San Isidro, they said.  Officers said they arrested four suspects identified by the last names Hidalgo Corrales, Ulate Salazar, Ramírez Vargas and Calvo Cortés, who suffered a wounded hand.  Inside, the car, officers said they found women's handbags, cash and cell phones, all of which had been reported stolen, officers said. 

Police said they took the two women to the station and the victims identified the four suspects, officers said.    


Turbine explosions force two passenger jets to make emergency landings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two commercial passenger jets experienced trouble in separate incidents when they took off from Costa Rican airports Friday.

A twin-engine American Airlines 737 quickly returned and made a successful emergency landing at Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela about 1 p.m. Friday after the turbine in the right engine experienced explosions and threw out clouds of dark smoke on
takeoff.  There were 139 persons on the aircraft.

Slightly more than four hours later at Daniel Oduber airport near Liberia an Airbus operated by Delta Air Lines experienced the same problem. Shortly after takeoff for Atlanta the left engine experienced small explosions and flames could be seen. That plane, too, returned for a successful emergency landing.

Both aircraft had taken on locally refined jet fuel for the trips.






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