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(506) 223-1327            Published Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 36             E-mail us    
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Surf photo expert hopes work will draw sponsors
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shifi Ettinger has been a driving force behind popularizing the Costa Rican surf scene for the last three years, and she's been traveling with the tour on her own buck.  Ms. Ettinger volunteers her time taking action-packed digital shots that are used to showcase local surf events in almost all Costa Rican newspapers, including a recent front page spread in La Nación. 

Ms. Ettinger said that she's out there for the kids, hoping people take notice and start sponsoring some of them.  Most of the surfers don't have corporate backing and have to pay their own way on the tour, she said.  She added that “Hopefully it helps them surf harder if they get cool shots too.”  The 30-year-old photographer said that she gets a free stay when traveling with the tour, but that she is basically spending her life savings on her true passion.

Her career began in her home country of Israel after she received her first camera at the age of 8.  Since then she shot in New York, Mexico, Panamá, and other countries around the world, she said.  The photographer has upgraded her equipment since her days in Israel and now shoots with a Canon EOS 20D digital camera and 500 millimeter lens, she said.        

Life on the circuit is good, she told a reporter. The beaches are great. The surfers are really amazing, and the Costa Rican people are cool.  In her free time she likes to paint, hit the surf and boogy board.  Ms. Ettinger's favorite beaches to shoot are Playa Hermosa and Playa Negra. She said that she has always been interested in photography and plans to be taking pictures until

Shifi Ettinger, her camera and some of her work

either she can't see or can't click the trigger on a camera.

Ms. Ettinger has a Web site  but said she rarely has time to update it.  The next event in the Circuito Nacional de Surf is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Playa Nosara, Guanacaste.



Be it politics or planning, Esparza residents worry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Esparza and some 2,400 families there believe they are about to feel the heavy hand of Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chávez. But the situation may be more complicated.

The Venezuela president was unhappy with some comments Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez made about dwindling democracy in that country.  So now the residents and workers of the area in the hills above Puntarenas point out that the raw material, aluminum from Venezuela, no longer arrives at CVG Aluminios Nacionales, S. A.

The 400 workers there expected the owner, the Venezuelan government, to shut down the plant in March. Representatives of the workers brought their concerns to Casa Presidencial Monday. However, the reason for the short supply of aluminum might have more to do with Venezuela's development strategy than punishment for Arias's comments.

There also is a suspicion that Chávez will order the aluminum fabrication plant moved to Nicaragua where his friend and fellow socialist Daniel Ortega is now the president.

Bruno Stagno said Monday that he recalled an agreement between Chávez and Ortega last Jan. 11 when Ortega assumed the presidency. The agreement calls for Venezuela's help in setting up two aluminum fabrication plants there, but Stagno said he didn't think at the time the two presidents were talking about the plant in Esparza.
So far Costa Rican officials have been unable to speak with Venezuelan officials, even though Jesús Paredes, vice mininster of Industrias Básicas y Minería, was in the country over the weekend.

Although well known for its oil production, Venezuela also mines bauxite, the material that becomes aluminum, and produces aluminum ingots. In 2004 two thirds or 423,600 metric tons of the country's aluminum production was exported.

But there may be a less political reason for the halt in raw materials to the Esparza plant. The Venezuela Ministerio de Industrias Básicas y Minería said last August that foreign contracts for raw materials like iron or aluminum would not be renewed. Instead, beginning last month the raw materials were to stay in Venezuela to be used by local companies in manufacturing, according to sources in Caracas, which added that the Chávez government wants to process at least 50 percent of its own aluminum this year.

The reason is a development strategy that includes basic raw materials. 

Meanwhile, Stagno said he would continue to try to reach Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuela foreign mininster for an explanation.

Esparza has no fallback position. The aluminium plant is the dominant industry there. and government officials estimate that 2,400 families will be affected at least indirectly.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 36  

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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Pedestrians downtown struggle with wind gusts that reached 55 kph (34 mph) Monday. And more is in store for today with gusts perhaps up to 60 to 65 kph or around 40 mph. Most of the country felt the wind with some rain in the northern zone and in the Caribbean. Temperatures continue chilly.


Golf tourney in Tamarindo
raises $20,000-plus for schools


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The seventh annual Have a Heart golf tournament in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, raised more than $20,000 for schools in the area, and the donations keep coming in, said organizers.

The St. Valentine's Day tournament is played at the Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course, where 96 participants teed off this year for a chance to win one of many prizes.  Some of the winners went home with numerous rounds of golf, night stays, and gift certificates at restaurants, hotels and golf courses around Guanacaste, said organizers.

Suzye Lawson, who organizes the event with her husband Barry, said the main purpose of the tournament is to raise money for schools in the Tamarindo area.  The recipient schools are the Colegio Villarreal, Colegio Tecnico and La Garita Viejo grade school.  Organizers do not directly donate money but have schools fill out a wish list of necessities instead.  Mrs. Lawson said that they have supplied things like book cases, tables, chairs, fans, windows, kitchen supplies, as well as redone a library and painted an entire school.  

This year's champion team consisted of Dave Nebel, Janne Nebel, Diane Leanall, and Nancy Bridges.  Winners of the closest to the pin awards went to Kei Peterson for the women and Tony DiMaggio in the men's category.  The longest drives of the day belonged to Debra Yale and Ronnie Peterson.

The Lawson's always inaugurate the annual event with a cocktail party at their Villa Alegre Bed & Breakfast on the Beach.  The couple also raises money for the schools by hosting classical music concerts at the bed and breakfast throughout the month of August.

Deforestation happening outside park

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deforestation in Manuel Antonio is taking place outside the well-known park there, said Matthew Cook, president of The Fund for Costa Rica.  He said that developers and owners are changing land use on secondary growth tropical forest, which is illegal in Costa Rica.  A.M. Costa Rica said Monday that there was deforestation and logging withint the boundaries of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio.
 
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 36  





With a little care and some washing of the skin, you, too, can enjoy juicy, ripe Costa Rican melons. We did!

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking

Dole blames Costa Rican packer for traces of salmonella
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A major international food distributer recently found the presence of salmonella in Costa Rican cantaloupes.  The company, Dole Food Co., Inc., announced the recall of cantaloupes in the eastern United States and Quebec, Canada, due to positive results of tests for salmonella on produce that was shipped to those areas.

Cantaloupes that were packed Jan. 25, 26 and 27 by an independent, third-party grower in Costa Rica have tested positive for salmonella, said the company release.  Although no illnesses have been reported, Dole decided to recall all cantaloupes imported from Costa Rica that were packed by the unnamed grower.  Because the grower has not been named, it is currently unknown if fruit from the same farm is circulating the Costa Rican markets.

There are plenty of cantaloupes in the local markets now. One dealer said that from January to April is the best time for the melons. Melons can be had for 300 colons each, about 58 cents.

None of the fruit and vegetable vendors in San José who were contacted Monday knew anything about the recall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment, said the health center's Web site. However, in some persons the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness, said the health center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal, said the Web site.  Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods may become contaminated. Food may also become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an infected food handler, who forgot to wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom, said the Web site.

Approximately 6,104 cartons of cantaloupes were distributed to wholesalers in regions of the eastern United States and Quebec between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, 2007, said Dole.  The cantaloupes have a light green color skin on the exterior, with orange flesh.  The cantaloupes were distributed for sale in bulk in cardboard cartons, with nine, 12 or 15 cantaloupes to a carton. The recalled cartons are dark brown with "Dole Cantaloupes" in red

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Adonay Loaiciga Solís, 36, hadn't heard of the melon recall and doesn't look worried. He has avocados, tangerines, oranges and mangos on sale, too.

lettering, the release said. The fruit have a 13-digit number on a white tag pasted to the carton and the 10th digit is a 2.

The recall is a result of a random test by the company. Consumers who have uneaten cantaloupe purchased in the eastern United States or Quebec, on or after Feb. 5, 2007, may contact their retail store to see if the product is the recalled brand.  More information is available by contacting the company's consumer center at (800) 232-8888.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that treating municipal water supplies is a highly effective prevention measure.  The Costa Rican government is currently working on eliminating the raw sewage flow out of San José, a problem that results in the presence of human feces in many rivers and waterways surrounding the city. The centers also said that lizards and turtles are carriers of  salmonella and should not be handled by children.

The recall is the second this month. ConAgra said last week that Peter Pan and Great Valley peanut butter are being recalled as a precautionary measure because salmonella had been linked statistically to the products. Some of the suspect jars have been seen in Costa Rica. They carry a product code on the lid that starts with 2111.


U.S. is well on the road to facism, says documentary film to be shown here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The documentary at the next Speakers Forum says that U.S. citizens are not legally required to pay their federal income taxes, the Federal Reserve is actually privately owned, and personal freedoms are diminishing at an alarming rate.

The film, “America: Freedom to Fascism,” was written produced and directed by Aaron Russo, producer of “The Rose” and “Trading Places.”  Russo's films have been nominated for six academy awards and he is the recipient of three Golden Globes.

According to the documentary, there is no income tax law, and the truth has been evaded, kept quiet, and covered-up. 
The movie also claims that former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson warned against private banks printing or coining money.  Organizers said that the movie also shows how citizens without national identity cards will be banned from traveling by air or on Amtrak, opening a bank account or entering federal buildings. 

Arguments attempting to deny the validity of the U.S. Federal income tax are not new and have so far been universally rejected by the courts.

The forum is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in Escazú.  Entrance is 1,000 colons (about $2).  More information is available at 289-6333, 821-4708 or 289-6087 or on the Internet at www.VoiceExpatCR.org


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 36    


Two Costa Rican widows tell how they lost with Villalobos
By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

The first victims of the Villalobos brothers' high-interest investment operation took the stand to give their version of events Monday. Both were Costa Ricans who lost the minimum investment of $10,000. They testified Monday afternoon when a translator was not needed. English- and French-speaking expats will appear over the next few weeks and translators will be provided.

The morning was occupied by the final defense cross-examination of investigators Manuel Roldán and Elisabeth Flores. Lead defense attorney Federico Campos pressed Roldán on a number of questions about the many transactions the investigators had described as “pointless” in a commercial sense and which they considered prime indicators of money laundering.

Roldán ended up at a whiteboard to give a lesson in elementary accounting to say that the activities the Villalobos brothers engaged in at the local bursatil, such as changing dollars to colons and back again quickly, did not qualify as the management of “working capital” as Campos suggested. Indeed, the use of these funds to pay interest is contrary to the concept of working capital, which should not be for anything but day-to-day operations, he said.

Prosecutor Walter Espinoza couldn’t suppress a smirk while Campos struggled to suggest the 36 customer files studied might not be a representative sample of the more than 6,000 investors, even after Roldán had said three times that it wasn’t a sample in the statistical sense, just what investigators had available to analyze.

Apparently those were the files of investors expected the day of the July 4, 2002, raid, and the remainder (along with the main computer server) were in another storage area in the Mall San Pedro that the police did not know about. These were evidently disposed of after the raid.

Judges Manuel Rojas and Juan Carlos Pérez directed a few additional questions at Roldán and Flores to clarify some accounting points. Rojas asked why Ofinter S.A. messenger
Javier Calderón managed to cash checks made out to the
 Mercado de Valores and why the Mercado de Valores didn’t note the persistent activity in accounts owned by Villalobos-controlled companies. Roldán only replied that the banks in question had “poor controls.”

The first witness was Katia Castro, who described being referred to the Villalobos operation by her ex-husband, an American expat, who she said had a substantial amount of money with them. She had sold her house and invested $10,000. Since losing the money, she has had to rent a home, she said, and has never recovered financially. She said Enrique Villalobos “explained absolutely nothing” about the workings of the business.

The second witness, Eugenia Flores, had wanted to invest before 2000 the year she finally did give the firm $10,000, but the Villalobos administrators said they were not accepting money from Costa Ricans up to that time. Mrs. Flores also came to the Villalobos operation via a now-deceased expat husband, and said “everybody at the church” knew about it, referring to the International Baptist Church where Luis Enrique Villalobos was an active member and contributor.

At the Mall San Pedro there were Bibles in the waiting room, which was attractive “if you are a believer.” When it was in the news that there were problems at the brothers' operation, Mrs. Flores said she tried to cash the check she had been given as a guarantee, but was told at the bank that the account had no funds.

Mrs. Flores was reserved with the defense, snapping at Campos when he called her the other witness’s name. She did allow that in the time she was visiting to receive interest, the Mall San Pedro offices were remodeled, and the entrance to the Ofinter exchange house was separate. This is of interest as the defense attempts to separate Oswaldo Villalobos from the main investment operation.

Anyone scheduled as a witness should not be in the courtroom as a spectator beforehand, according to Costa Rican law. One expat was thrown out Monday when he was identified, but spared elimination from the witness list when it became evident he didn’t speak enough Spanish to understand the testimony.


New lodge with outdoor emphasis opens for business in San Rafael de Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Owners of the Out of Bounds Lodge and B&B have opened to the public and now offer tourist packages that include both adventures and accommodations.

The five-bedroom lodge is located in San Rafael, Escazú, and has a great view of the Barva Volcano, said owner Meranda Glesby.  The rooms have been decorated with work by local artists and the building is wheelchair accessible, she said.  Wireless Internet, airport pick up, and air conditioned rooms are some of the available services, said the 29-year-old owner.
Mrs. Glesby and her husband, Matteo Brancacci Soto, also run the Out of Bounds Tourist Center that specializes in designing vacations for outdoor vacationers who want to go mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, surfing, and other activities, said Mrs. Glesby. Services are available in English, Spanish and Italian and packages that include both tours and accommodation are available.   
 
The Out of Bounds Lodge and B&B is one kilometer west from Comercial Paco on the old road to Santa Ana, across from the Taj Mahal restaurant. 

More information is available on a Web site.


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