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(506) 223-1327         Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 36            E-mail us
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nets in trees
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Whales and sharks swim in dangerous waters high above the heads of visitors in Parque España
These airborne, endangered critters surprise visitors
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bloody sharks hang in the trees. A giant squid is tangled in plastic. And a frightened whale is pinned by a three-pronged harpoon.

It isn't a horror film nor is it the view off the Osa peninsula. It's a display in San Jose's Parque España, between avenidas 5 and 7 just north of the downtown area.

The artistic display of sea creatures and fishing nets hangs in the trees. The sprawling display is part of Festival de Verano, a three-week long program hosted by the Centro Nacional de la Cultura. This  year's theme focuses on the environment and
taking care of marine life, said Tatiana Chavés, a coordinator at the centro.

The display in the park is entitled “Instalación Urbana Submarina” and was created by members of the community. About 25 visitors to the center from children to adults worked with artists to create the piece, said Ms. Chavés. The installation is formed out of various recycled materials and equipment borrowed from fishermen in Puntarenas, said Ms. Chavés. Members of the staff and event coordinators conceived the idea, she said.

The environmental fair at the centro includes various events such as concerts, crafts, art displays, and a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.” The festival continues to March 2. 

Farmers' market loses an appeal to constitutional court on location
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court declined to take sides in a dispute between the Municipalidad de San José and the farmers' market in Zapote.

The court declined to make a ruling on an appeal by a representative of the farmers, according to the Poder Judicial in a statement issued Tuesday.

The municipality is closing down the Sunday feria del agricultor de Zapote that takes place on public land where the annual Zapote carnival also takes place.

Gerardo Tencio Cordero of the Asociación de Ferias del Agricultor del Valle Central carried the case to the constitutional courts and suggested there was some form of unwritten agreement between the
municipality and the farmers. Some 600 producers sell their wares to an estimated 13,000 persons each week. The high court rejected this concept and said it should not interfere in a dispute. If there were a contract, the constitutional court is not the place to resolve the issue, the magistrates said.

The municipality decided Jan. 8 that the fair had to be moved from public roadways. Officials suggested a site some 500 meters away, but residents there objected,

Despite the Sala IV ruling, municipal officials and the producers have reached a temporary accord while a new location is sought:

The feria stays where it has been but the producers have to make a rent payment to the municipality, according to the agreement.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 36

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Girl finds father's note
recounting mom's murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 13-year old girl in Siquirres found a note which said that her mother was dead, officials said Tuesday. Police found the woman, stabbed to death, soon after, said officials.

The note, found in the girl's house, described where to find the body, said officials. The killer stabbed Yamilette Ruiz Chavés, 35, various times and put her body in a plastic bag, said officials. Police found the body of Ms. Ruiz Tuesday afternoon in the Finca La Siquirreña, near a place known as Cable 15. 

Officials said the note was written by the girl's father and that he had argued with Ms. Ruiz over personal issues Monday. The 13-year old girl reported the note to police, and various units worked together in the search, said officials. Police found the body near the father's place of work, added officials. Officers still are searching for the father, they said.

Dealer in woods faces
drug trafficking charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a man charged with shipping cocaine to Europe and the United States, said officials. Authorities said the suspect hid the drugs inside of large shipments of wood.

The Policía de Control de Drogas arrested the man who has the last names of Bermúdez Vargas, in San Carlos Tuesday, they said. Bermúdez, 43, was the president of a wood exportation company called Tuberfrut, said officials.

Costa Rican officials have been investigating the case for a year and a half and working with the International Police Agency and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said officials. 

In November 2006, officials from the Unidad Central Operativa de la Guardia Civil Española, seized a shipment of 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of cocaine bound for Vigo, Spain. Since then, investigators followed the case and collected more evidence, said officials.

Police detained Bermúdez, in his home in Santa Rosa de Pocosol, San Carlos, they said. Authorities reported that the drug shipments seized in Europe, originated in the southern part of Costa Rica.

Piano students perform
at Suzuki festival

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Seven students of the Carol Wunderle's Suzuki Piano Talent Education Program in Rohrmoser gave performances at the recent Suzuki Festival held at the Instituto Biblico de las Asambleas de Dios. Their ages ranged from 4 to 13 years.

They are Michelle Beck, 4, of Rohrmoser, José Leonardo Brenes, 7, of Escazú, Antonio Castro, 7, of Escazú,  Couloir Hanson, 8, also Escazú,  Nicole Jop, 8, of Rohrmoser, Stacey Volandi, 9, of Sabana Sur, and Emma Cazzulini, 13, of Heredia.

The next recital by program students will be Thursday at 6:45 p.m. in the Wunderle studio.   The recitals are free to the public.  Those interested in attending may call for directions:  232-3999.

Orchid show scheduled
for this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipality of Desamparados and the Asociación Acosteña de Orquidologia bring the Exposición Nacional de Orquídeas to Desamparados Friday through Sunday.

Plants from all over Costa Rica will be displayed.  Thousands will be available to the public for purchase, including hundreds of hybrid plants in many colors, said an announcement. 

As in previous years, national prizes will be awarded to the best plants in the exhibition.

The general entrance fee is 1,000 colons ($2).  Part of the collected funds is given to help the disadvantaged and various sports teams and musical bands.  Friday and Saturday the exhibition runs from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.  Sunday it is open from  8 a.m. until 6 p.m. The location is in the Palacio Municipal on the north side of Parque Centenario.

Woman poisoning suspect
ordered held by judge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Juzgado Penal de San José has ordered a woman held for three months investigation in the poisoning death of her father.

Agents detained the woman, Giovanna Bjarano Zamora, 33, in her Barrio Cuba home Monday.

The victim in what is being considered a murder investigation was Rodolfo Bejarano Murillo. He died Oct. 10 in Hospital San Juan de Dios. An autopsy report said he was poisoned with insecticide.

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Sala IV asked to give an opinion on telecommunications bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court received an official request Tuesday from opponents of the free trade treaty to study and render an opinion on the Ley General de Telecomunicaciones.

This is the measure that Casa Presidencial has called one of the three major bills that implement the trade treaty with the United States.

Lawmakers frequently seek a constitutional opinion on measures that are nearing final passage. The telecommunications bill already has been passed once in the full Asamblea Legislativa.

The court appeal from the Partido Acción Ciudadana and two independent lawmakers questions the procedure and the substance of the measure.

The request for a constitutional review arrived at the court Tuesday before leaders of Acción Ciudadana and the executive branch arrived at what appears to be another agreement to advance the measures. That was announced in the late afternoon.

Acción Ciudadana has been stung by a campaign maintained by supporters of the trade treaty, and the agreement with the government would require party lawmakers to attend legislative sessions and not try to prevent a quorum.

In exchange the executive branch would back several non-treaty measures supported by Acción Ciudadana.

Similar agreements have suffered the ravages of politics in the past.

The telecommunications bill won passage under a fast-track measure, and the opponents said in the legal brief that a majority of 38 votes were needed. Only 37 voted for the measure.
Opponents also said that there was a violation of democratic principles because there was not a full discussion on the floor of the full legislature.  Opponents are trying to defeat the trade treaty, which voters passed Oct. 7, by attacking and delaying the laws that implement the pact.

Acción Ciudadana has been criticized repeatedly for stall tactics. Among these have been the filing of hundreds of amendments to measures related to the trade treaty. Under legislative rules each amendment must be discussed and subjected to a vote.

Opponents also say that the new law would convert telecommunications, which has been offered as a public service, into merchandise that would operate under the rules of the marketplace. They oppose this concept.

The measure creates a supervising agency for telecommunications and sets up mechanisms for private companies to offer services such as cell telephones. Now that right is the sole property of the government telecommunications monopoly, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

There was no word on when the Sala IV would act on the request, although such matters usually are handled quickly. Lawmakers are facing a Feb. 29 deadline to approve the package of treaty-related laws, although the executive branch said it would seek an extension from other countries that already have approved the pact.

The Poder Judicial said that the request to the court was filed by the following lawmakers: Olivier Pérez González, Elizabeth Fonseca Corrales, Francisco Molina Gamboa, Patricia Quirós Quirós, Grettel Ortiz Alvarez, José Joaquín Salazar Rojas, Sergio Alfaro Salas, Andrea Morales Díaz, Cenia Villalobos Salas, Rafael E. Madrigal Brenes, Marvin Rojas Rodríguez, Ronald Solís Bolaños, Leda María Zamora Cháves, Alberto Salom Echeverría and José Rosales Obando, all Acción Ciudadana, and Oscar López of the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión and José Merino del Río of Frente Amplio.

Chiquita Brands posts another loss for 2007 operations
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Chiquita Brands International reported a $49 million loss for 2007, an improvement over the $96 million loss posted in 2006, the company said Tuesday.

The firm, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has extensive holdings and contractors in Costa Rica and has produced bananas here since 1871.

Fourth quarter net sales increased 6 percent over the same period in 2006 to $1.2 billion, and the company reported a net loss of $26 million, including a charge of $26 million related to the company's previously announced restructuring plan. 

In 2006 the company reported a net loss of $42 million, including a $25 million accrual related to the settlement of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. 

The company's fourth quarter operating loss of $11 million was on the favorable end of the estimated operating loss range of $10-20 million provided in the company's preliminary selected results released Jan. 28, the company noted.

The firm agreed to pay the fine of $25 million to settle
U.S. Justice Department charges that it paid protection money to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a violent right-wing para-military group. The company also promised to work with U.S. investigators in the matter.

Prosecutors alleged in 2006 that Chiquita paid more than $1.7 million over seven years ending in 2004. They say the money went to leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

"Our results reflect the proactive steps we took throughout the year to position us to transform and grow our business," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer, said Tuesday.  "We have continued to focus on pricing in bananas and recovery in value-added salads to help offset persistent external cost challenges."

"In 2008, we will be focused on maintaining our premium brands, improving North American profitability and completing the restructuring we implemented in October," Aguirre added.  "We also will invest in the development of new value-added products to extend our brands, expand consumption and drive growth in higher-margin distribution channels and profitable geographies.  We believe that these strategies will help us to achieve our vision of becoming the global leader in healthy, fresh and convenient foods."

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Castro's official exit generates mixed reactions in world
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Reaction from around the world to the retirement of Cuban President Fidel Castro has been mixed and cautious.

Fidel Castro's retirement formally ends the rule of the world's longest-serving leader. But it is hardly unexpected. The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen in public for more than a year and a half, and he recently wrote that he would not "cling to power."

For more than four decades, U.S. policy has stood in opposition to Castro's Communist rule. Yet there was no hint of triumphant jubilation in President George Bush's voice as he reacted to news that the long-standing U.S. nemesis is stepping down.

Bush seemed focused on Cuba's road ahead as he spoke during a visit to Rwanda. "I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a period of democratic transition," he said. "The first step, of course, will be for people put in these prisons to be let out." He meant the Cuban dissidents.

The president added that the political transition in Cuba should lead to genuinely free and fair elections.

John Negroponte, U.S. deputy secretary of State, was asked if the end of Fidel Castro's rule would prompt an end to the decades-old U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. Negroponte said he cannot imagine that happening anytime soon.

Elsewhere, a European Union spokesman, John Clancy, is quoted as saying the bloc will encourage a peaceful
transition to pluralistic democracy in Cuba, and is willing to engage with Cuba in constructive dialogue to that end.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Fidel Castro will not be missed, while Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said Castro's departure marks the end of an era that began with freedom and ended with oppression.

But a spokesman for Vietnam's foreign ministry praised Castro as a great friend, comrade, and very close brother,  while the leader of Russia's Communist Party hailed him as a fantastic political leader who hosted high the flag of freedom.

Castro's younger brother, Raúl, temporarily took the reins of power in 2006 when the elder Castro underwent emergency gastrointestinal surgery, and many Cuba-watchers expect Raúl Castro will succeed his brother as president.

Spanish foreign ministry officials are quoted as saying they believe Raul's ascension to power will allow him to undertake reforms on the island. Raúl Castro has spoken of economic liberalization and pursuing a possible thaw in relations with the United States.

Some dissidents in Cuba appear cautiously optimistic about the future. Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, a former Cuban exile, says he has hope that economic and political change can be accomplished without destabilization.

The dissident says that any change in Cuba will be positive, mainly if people understand that democracy comes from diversity.

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