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(506) 223-1327            Published Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 39             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Villalobos witness arrested in court as he testifies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted at 5:11 p.m.)
The prosecutor has detained a witness in the Oswaldo Villalobos trial and said he had lied on the stand. This happened Friday morning in the middle of the trial.

The man is Guillermo Angulo, the one-time manager of Ofinter S.A..

Angulo testified for about two and a half hours in the trial Friday morning and then faced questions from prosecutor Walter Espinosa. The prosecutor acted after he became convinced that the man had not told the truth. Angulo was led away from the witness stand by guards. Questioning centered on the relationship of Oswaldo Villalobos with the money exchange house.
This is by far the most dramatic development in the trial that is already three weeks old. Oswaldo Villalobos is on trial for fraud, money laundering and illegal banking stemmed from the activities of the so-called Brothers investment scheme that paid up to 3 percent monthly interest for years, mostly to North Americans.

The business collapsed in October 2002 when Luis Enrique Villalobos chose to become a fugitive from justice. Business had been impaired by a police raid July 4, 2002. Oswaldo ran the Ofinter S.A. money exchange that had an office adjacent to Luis Enrique's office. The prosecutor claims the business was a ponzi scheme.

Check the newspaper Moday for more on the story. Earlier story is HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Some 73 new patrol vehicles and 100 motorcycles stand ready for use by Fuerza Pública officers. Some $2 million of the cost was covered by the government of Taiwan. The vehicles will be distributed throughout the country. Police have been handicapped for years by lack of transportation.

Dundee Ranch owner rips police after his acquittal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Narvin Lichfield, who was acquitted this week by the Tribunal Penal de Alajuela for crimes of compulsion and the deprivation of liberty, said in an e-mail that police stood by and watched youths sexually assault each other after the raid on his former children's center.

Lichfield had been accused of committing the crimes at the Dundee Ranch, his former youth rehabilitation center in Orotina.  At the facility, Lichfield, his wife, and other employees worked with nearly 200 troubled children, mostly U.S. citizens and other foreigners. 

Costa Rican officials raided the campus of Dundee Ranch Academy May, 20, 2003, to investigate alleged cases of child abuse, and in the process, jailed him for some 30 hours. He said in his e-mail message that the jailing was illegal.

The e-mail said that during the raid the judge in authority, Gabriela Saborio, told the prosecutor his diligence was excessive because of the lack of evidence.  The prosecutor ignored the order of the judge and preceded to forcibly separate the students from their parents and guardians, said the e-mail. The judge later said she felt like this was a modern-day "witch-hunt" by the media and by her overzealous subordinate local prosecutor, said the e-mail.

Parents and staff were held at gunpoint while the Costa Rican prosecutor told the students that school rules no longer applied.  Police and officials then
stood by and watched as the students rioted, destroyed property, assaulted each other sexually and committed other crimes, said the e-mail.  One parent had a gun held to her head and was ordered to hang up the phone as she attempted to call the U.S. Embassy for help, said the e-mail. At least eight students fled the property. Police simply left the school in shambles, said Lichfield.

When members of the Dirección de Migración y Extranjeria inspected the camp in 2003, they found that 100 of the 193 children did not have appropriate migration papers.

Investigators raided the Dundee Ranch mostly on the criminal complaint of Susan Flowers, whose daughter, Nicole, 15, was being held at the ranch. Both are U.S. citizens as are most of those at the ranch.

Ms. Flowers does not have custody, and the child was sent to the ranch by her father, who was in the United States.

According to its Web site, the Academy at Dundee Ranch program consisted of behavior modification, a series of highly motivational emotional growth seminars, a progressive academic curriculum and a structured daily schedule that includes daily personal development courses.

At one point, Mrs. Flowers, with the help of then-director of Casa Alianza Bruce Harris brought a constitutional case against the academy. The Sala IV rejected the complaint and sent it to family court.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 39

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Text message spam irks
residents of Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Gallo Mas Gallo store has been bombarding Guanacaste residents with text messages this week, and residents are wondering just where the company got their private cell phone numbers.

Nancy Bridges, a Tamarindo resident, said that after receiving up to seven messages a day she finally took it upon herself to find out exactly what was going on.  To help with the language barrier, Mrs. Bridges had a Costa Rican call up Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the government phone service monopoly, to see if there was anything she could do to stop the message.

What Mrs. Bridges found out is that the phone company will not stop the spam because it is providing the service in the first place, she said.  Mrs. Bridges suspects that ICE also sold the phone numbers.

The result is that the Bridges family has decided never to shop at the new appliance store that is located in Villa Real. Mrs. Bridges also said that were it possible, if the free trade agreement were already in place, she would immediately switch to another phone service if it were available.

The mother of two said that she is not the only one fed up with the messages, but that almost every cell phone owner she has talked to is annoyed.  Mrs. Bridges said that there is no reason for the store to have her number because she's never even shopped at one of their locations.  “The real issue here is  – How did the store get our cell phone numbers?” she said.

Mrs. Bridges and her husband John moved here four years ago from San Diego, California, to run a real estate development company.  Her final concern about the situation was that the Radiográfica Costarricense S. A., the Internet provider, is also owned by the telephone company: “I wonder how much they make off our e-mail addresses,” she said.

Sámara Art festival has
two-day run his weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

National and international artists as well as theater, dance and musical performers are coming together today and Saturday for the sixth annual Festival Intercultural Alegría in Sámara, Guanacaste.

Organizers said the purpose of the event is to create a cultural space that brings together Costa Rican natives, tourists and foreigners living in the area.  The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes declared the cultural exchange an important event for the area, said organizers. 

The themes for this year's festival are Alegria and Raíces or Happiness and Roots.  The weekend is about understanding and respecting the backgrounds, ways of living and thinking of different cultures, said a release.  The celebration will also feature workshops for children, displays of local products, and expositions of traditional medicine, said the release.

Events will be taking place between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. at Playa Buena Vista, Esterones de Sámara, Guanacaste.  Entrance is 2,000 colons ($4) and there will be a daily raffle for a tourist package and trip aboard an ultra-light airplane.  More information is available on a Web site at www.aica-cr.com

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 39 

Are you considering doing business with a burglar alarm company?

If so, you should contact me first
for my opinion


U.S. drug group says Costa Rica is weak on patent protection
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is a country that denies adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights and denies market access to U.S. firms, according to the U.S. drug manufacturers' trade association.

This was disclosed Thursday by union leaders who are fighting against the free trade treaty with the United States. The union leaders are pushing to continue the current situation where U.S. firms and others cannot enforce their patent rights here.

The union leaders call the various medicines "generic," but, in fact, many are copies of medicines that are protected by patents in the United States and by international conventions.

The drug manufacturers group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, based in Washington, was replying to a request for public comment from the U.S. Trade Representative.

"Strong protection of intellectual property covering our newest innovative products in the United States and outside the United States is an important component of the legal and economic conditions needed to ensure the continued economic vitality of this industrial sector and development of addition innovative products to solve today's disease challenges and disease challenges of the futures," wrote Geralyn S. Ritter, senior vice president of the organization. She said that drug firms invested $42 billion in research in 2006.

The submission urges that Costa Rica be placed on a priority watch list along with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in Latin America.

The manufacturers organization said that even proposed laws in the Costa Rican legislature contain deficiencies that will not solve the problems facing patent holders and said that the government has failed to fulfill its commitments
under international agreements and in anticipated ratification of the Central American Free Trade Treaty.

Costa Rica does not have a system that would prevent a product manufacturer from registering a drug that is protected by a patent owned by another firm, the organization said. It also said that the country's intellectual property registry received more than 1,700 patent filings from 2004 to 2006 and only approved 34.

The organization said the registration process for drugs is one of the slowest and most bureaucratic among the Central American countries. Registration is handled by the Ministerio de Salud.

The union leaders who disclosed the drug manufacturers report were from the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados and Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social. Their point was that if the free trade treaty is approved by the Asamblea Legislativa U.S. drug companies would receive a great economic benefit. The treaty would require Costa Rica to be more vigilant about invasions of existing patents.

In addition the union leaders, including Albino Vargas Barrantes of the public employees union and Luis Chavarria Vega of the Caja union, said they would file a criminal complaint against Mayi Antillón, the leader of the Partido Liberación Nacional in the legislature, if she voted for the treaty. The treaty opponents say she is in conflict of interest because her husband is a lawyer who filed patents for drug companies. She is one of the 38 persons, a bare two-thirds majority, who has said she will vote for the treaty.

The opponents also said that if the free trade treaty were approved the country would face a demand similar to the $112 million estimated in drug companies losses in sales for just nine months in 2006.

Opponents are planning a big afternoon march Monday to protest the treaty.

Union chiefs are uncharacteristically soft on Chávez, Liberación leader says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Are free trade opponents working with Venezuela in secret?

The Partido Liberación Nacional wants to know. The pro-treaty group says union activists have been unusually reticent about the Venezuela plan to close an aluminum fabrication plant in Esparza. Plus the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados has a link to a Hugo Chávez Web site, TELESUR, on its own Web site.

That was enough for Jorge Méndez, second in command of the party in the Asamblea Nacional, to produce a press release.

He said that Jesús Vásquez, of the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza and Gílbert Díaz of the Sindicato de Educadores Costarricenses said at a press conference Thursday that they respect the sovereign decision of Venezuela to close the plant.
Some 400 persons work at the plant, and government officials say that 2,400 persons are indirectly dependent on it. The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration blames politics for the decision by the plant owner, Venezuela, to close it down. However, A.M. Costa Rica has reported that a decision about reducing aluminum exports from Venezuela was made in August. The plant gets its raw materials from Venezuela.

"The strange moderation of the statements of the union leaders with respect to the act by the government of President Hugo Chávez contrasts with the usual hostility and violent language of the union leaders who flagrantly disrespect the institution of the country by calling for rebellion," said Méndez

He said the Venezuela link on the employee union Web site showed a political-ideological affinity with Caracas. He said the unions should clarify their relationship with the government of Chávez.

Mexican restaurant has the advantage of being close, too
My son is visiting from California and after about three days got a hankering for Mexican food. Hanker is my word. He said that Californians do not “hanker,” they “crave.” We were going to lunch with Sandy, who is from Texas and often hankers after good Mexican food.  Texans do hanker after things, like Mexican food.

 I’m from New York State and grew up with mainly Italian-American food, so I can take Mexican food or leave it.  But, living in San José, I do notice places, and so I mentioned a Mexican restaurant on my bus route. We decided to try it.

Las Mananitas is on Calle 40 between Paseo Colón and Avenida 1.  Coming from downtown you would turn right at the Banco de Costa Rica on Paseo Colón.  Coming from the west you probably have to make an illegal turn. 

On the outside Las Mananitas is very modest looking, but has a big sign. Inside are a couple of dining rooms, each with its own TV, which I could do without.  Since I know little about Mexican food, I let my companions choose from the extensive menu. 

We ended up with chilaquiles a la Mexicana with chicken, tacos al pastor con queso, which the menu said, and “if you haven’t tried them, you should.”  And a tablita de la casa, or sampling plate with shredded beef and chicken, frijoles, guacamole and tacos and corn tortillas and some sauces. 

To begin with there were the usual tortilla chips with three sauces: one a sort of pesto with garlic, another of chopped tomato and the third, slightly hot, with sliced vegetables.

With some extra hot sauce and sliced jalapenos for my companions, we managed to put away most of what was set before us, which was plentiful.  The charcoal cooked tacos al pastor were honestly advertised and worth another try. 

As a noncritic of Mexican food, I found it all very tasty; the two experts agreed it rated a three out of a possible five on their scales.  Our waitress was attentive and obliging.  And the tab, including our beverages, was just 11,000 colons (about $21). 

And so, another discovery, not far from home.

This week I also made some gnocchi verde, and while doing so remembered a comment from Loretta upon reading  my book.  She said that I mentioned gnocchi verdi in it but did not give the recipe. So, here it is.  This recipe is for you, Loretta – and for the others who asked.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Gnocchi Verdi

1 pkg frozen spinach, chopped, cooked, and well drained.
1 cup ricotta cheese              1 egg
3 TB butter                         ¾ cup Parmesan or Romano
¼ cup minced onion              cheese grated
1 slice bacon minced             ¼ tsp. nutmeg
3/4 packet chicken bullion     scant 2/3 cup flour
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion for three or four minutes.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring now and then, four more minutes.  Add chopped spinach and chicken bullion powder and mix well.  The spinach will absorb all of the butter.  Remove spinach mixture to bowl, add ricotta and flour, mixing well with wooden spoon.  Stir in egg and cheese and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly. Add pepper if you like. 

Make pellets about ½ inch diameter and drop in salted boiling water.  When a pellet comes to the surface it is done.  You can serve with tomato sauce, melted garlic butter or in a broth. Serve immediately or put in ovenproof dish, cover with sauce of your choice and pop it into the oven for 10 minutes or so. I have even served them as bocas with a tomato sauce dip. 

And now to digress from food (unless you consider this food for thought).

Downtown this week a youngish man approached me with “Excuse me, ma’am, do you speak English?” in a most ingratiating manner. I turned and saw a familiar long faced fellow, but as I was just entering a taxi I said, “No!” 

What I wanted to say was “Are you still working that scam about being robbed at the Coca Cola and needing money to get back to wherever?  It worked some five years ago on me, but not today.” Beware, he’s back.

Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City:  A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available through the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact Ms. Stuart at jostuart@amcostarica.com

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

DOS VISTAS . . . finally on the market...
Located literally on top of a ridge, a small mountain, the vistas are unequalled anywhere in the area.   Surrounded by mountains and volcanos, the panoramas stretch from the lights of San José and the Central Valley to the smaller towns further north, Sarchi, Naranjo, Atenas, and Palmares. This house and its location is truly one of a kind.
Dos Vistas is located just off of a well-
maintained public road only 10 minutes into the mountains overlooking Grecia.   The property consists of one manzana (almost two acres),  private yet very accessible and convenient.   The property sits on a flyway for birds and flocks of parrots and literally hundreds of other species visit daily.
The home itself is spacious yet comfortable.   It consists of over 1,500 sq. feet, and over 300 sq. feet of tiled terraces.   There are two large bedrooms, each with its own bath.   The large living area, with larger two story cupola, is vaulted and the entire home features hardwood ceilings and gorgeous tiled floors.  The kitchen is framed by custom cabinetry and granite counters. Just off of the kitchen, yet separate from the rest of the home is the pila or washroom. And two steps further is a rustic carport.

The home is surrounded by trees, coffee, grass and many varieties of shrubs. There is more than enough room for additional creativity, perhaps a pool, a jacuzzi, a larger garden, or a gazebo.  
This home is truly one of a kind.   It is not huge. It is comfortable and the location is definitely pure Costa Rican.   Click HERE for additional pictures.

Come to Grecia and view Dos Vistas — before it is gone.  $160,000

randy@cr-home.com     toll free: 1-877-247-3014   local: 444-8716 or 841-5782

A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 39 

Our readers opinions

He hopes for enforcement
of development in Nosara

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Nosara is an obscure little village on the Nicoya Peninsula about 3 kms. From the gorgeous beaches, Guiones, famous for surfing,  Pelada and Nosara.  In the late 1960s, a North American developer started a project called “Beaches of Nosara.” When he reneged on a number of promises to investors, including one to keep  lots of space “forever wild,” he was successfully sued, though much of the damage was irretrievable.

In response to these shenanigans, the pioneers formed the Nosara Civic Association, whose mission, from the get-go, was to protect the beaches and habitat of the “Beaches of Nosara.”  For more than 30 years, now with 250 dues-paying members, the NCA has fought an expensive, uphill battle against environmental predators.  Despite having no police powers and with little help from governmental agencies, the NCA is the prime reason that Nosara is one of the few places in Guanacaste that has not been completely denuded of trees and the natural habitat of animals. Now, however, Nosara is under heavy siege from two strike forces, illegal concessions and aggressive development.

It drives NCA people wild when they read in one of the developer-oriented newspapers that are flourishing in Guanacaste that among Nosara’s blessings is an “absence  of problems pertaining to development of concession lands.”

What are these people smoking?  Don’t they know that Playa Pelada, part of the Ostional Wildlife refuge, is largely occupied by people without legal title to land? That it makes no difference whether it’s the 50 or 200 meter zone, it’s all been ruined. And these spoilers are not just poor people, but improperly maintained concessions are illegally bought and sold by some of the wealthiest Ticos in Nosara, as well as by Gringos and other foreigners.

MINAE [the Ministrio de Ambiente y Energía] and the Municipality of Nicoya, supposedly responsible for control, have been conspiculously absent, if not actually complicit, as this ongoing disaster has enfolded. While things still look dicey from the point of view of maritime zone invasion, things may be looking up in the area of urban land management.

In the last five years, the pace and scope of development has exploded as developers and 22 real estate companies attract investors by advertising about the charm and beauty of a place they are doing their level best to decimate. They often begin their projects without proper permits, or with permits for small deals that somehow morph into huge ones, or, before an inspector arrives at a site, another group of big old Guanacaste trees has already been leveled or an entire hillside has been gouged out like a strip mine.

One operator talks about “a family-friendly destination with a community feel” as he plans an eight-story Godzilla on the top of a hill. Recently, one big company wrote that “folks enjoy the nice lifestyle and comfort zone of a well-planned community regulated more by common sense than by rigid laws and master planning.”  Translate that into a strong preference for “anything  goes.”

Having said all of this, the era of the cowboy mentality may be coming to an end.

El Banco Interamericano Desarrolla (BID), in full consort with the Municipality of Nicoya, is funding the creation of a master plan for responsible, sustained development of the whole peninsula.  On Dec. 18, 2006, after close collaboration with the NCA and Sámara residents, the municipal council of Nicoya issued a ruling to the effect that, from that day forward, any construction would have to be approved by the Gestiones Ambientales (environmental commission).

Then, on Jan. 18, 2007, Elizabeth Fernández Ramírez, chief honcho of Gestiones Ambientales, confirmed, along with Nicoya council president Marco Antonio Mendez, that this ruling will be applied throughout the Canton of Nicoya.

The NCA hopes that this means that local government has finally recognized that past failures to provide prudent oversight were on their way towards killing the golden goose of environmental tourism. The NCA will continue its mission and work for responsible development that responds to the needs of the people, as well as investors, in Nosara and the entire region. The days of eight-story pies in the sky may be ending, but it will require eternal vigilence by individuals and community organizations to insure a new day.

Dr. Edward Kornbluh
(an original NCA member)

He didn’t like “Legends’ comment

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It amazes me that a newspaper “reporter” can make the following assinine comment that appeared in Wednesday’s edition, and that an editor or publisher would let such a foolish statement stand.

“Among others, a raid at Bertrand St. Onge’s condo in Jacó produced some papers and a copy of Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’ album, which perhaps explains the operation the St. Onge group ran to smuggle hashish from Jamaica to Canada.

You are directly implying that every person who has a copy of that very popular CD or album is a drug smuggler. What rubbish,

Keith Woolford
Toronto, Canada

Story misrepresented forest law

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Matthew Cook’s assertion that it is illegal to convert the soil use on properties with second growth forest is a gross misrepresentation of the forestry laws.

Article 19 of the forestry laws states the following:

“In terrains covered by forests it will not be permitted to change the use of the soil or to plant plantations.” (i. e., teak farms.) However, the government or the environmental ministry, (MINAE), can give permits in such areas for the following purposes:

“To build houses, offices, stables, bridges, roads, installations of facilities for recreation/eco-tourism and such activities and to chop down trees for security reasons and scientific purposes.”

Given Mr. Cook’s extreme, antidevelopment agenda, it’s not surprising that he would misrepresent the facts, but I’m surprised and disappointed that the A. M. Costa Rica staff would publish a statement like his without first checking the facts.

Furthermore, before anyone donates another dollar to Mr. Cook’s one man “Fund for Costa Rica,” he should be required to open his books and reveal what percentage of the donations made to him are used for purposes OTHER than his own personal salary and expenses.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tax returns of The Fund for Costa Rica are available for inspection at Guidestar along with those of most U.S. non-profit organizations.

Eight more witnesses
testify at Villalobos trial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eight more Costa Ricans testified in the trial of Oswaldo Villalobos Thursday as the prosecution continued to try to link his Ofinter S.A. money exchange house with the high interest borrowing operation more widely identified with his brother Luis Enrique Villalobos.

Two lawyers testified, as did former employees and customers.

The day did not get off to a good start for the prosecution because the first witness, Sandra Alvarado, said she wanted to withdraw her complaint against Oswaldo Villalobos. She said Oswaldo was a great person and never was behind in paying interest. She said she just wanted her money back.

The woman said she had two investments, one of $4,000 in 2001 and one of $3,500 in 2002. This was smaller amounts than the borrowing operation usually accepted but they did so for her. The money she gave was her retirement nest egg, she said.

Gustavo Trigueros of San Rafael Abajo de Desamparadoes said he worked in customer service at the Ofinter S.A. money exchange house for nine months. He said he did not know Oswaldo Villalobos but knew Luis Enrique Villalobos because he was the man who gave him the job interview.

Manuel Arnoldo Segura, a lawyer, has known the Villalobos brothers for years, he said. His major point was that both brothers started the money exchange house.

Escazú resident Victoria Medrano was the second lawyer.  She confirmed that both Oswaldo and Enrique Villalobos were shareholders in Ofinter and said she was an officer of Ofinter for about eight months. At least 45 more witnesses are scheduled before the defense takes over.

The day ended with the prosecution appearing to have linked Luis Enrique Villalobos to the Ofinter S.A. money exchange business but not the reverse for Oswaldo Villalobos. The strategy of the prosecution continues to be obscure to spectators.

Luis Enrique Villalobos continues to be a fugitive. Oswaldo Villalobos faces charges of fraud, money laundering and illegal banking.

Competing appeals filed
in case of Ivannia Mora

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both the prosecution and the defense have filed appeals in the case stemming from the assassination of magazine editor Ivannia Mora.

The prosecutor or fiscal filed a motion for a new trial Feb. 12. The defense filed a motion two days later to have the six suspects absolved of the accusation. The six won their freedom when a panel of judges said that the prosecution had gathered testimony overseas incorrectly.

The appeals are before the Tribunal de Juicio de Goicoechea and may eventually go to the Sala III high criminal court.

The 33-year-old editor was gunned down while in her car at a stop light Dec. 23, 2003, in Curridabat.

The prosecution contends that Eugenio Millot, the operator of a business magazine conspired to have the woman killed because she had been hired away from his Red Castle Publishing Group to work on a competing publication. The five other suspects have the last names of Serna, Cortés, López, Nieves and Martínez

'Strawberries in January'
opens tonight in Escazú

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Little Theatre Group continues its season with the French-Canadian play "Strawberries in January," a contemporary romantic comedy by Québec playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière. The play opens tonight at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte de Escazú. 

Performed in its English-language translation, the play will be presented over three weekends through March 11.   Performances start at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.  Reservations for tickets can be made at the group's Web site (www.littletheatregroup.org) or by calling the box office at 355-1623. 

After its run at the Blanche Brown Theatre, "Strawberries in January" will be remounted at the Eugene O’Neill Theater at the Centro Cultural Norteamericano Costarricence in Barrio Dent April 20, 21, and 22.

"Strawberries in January" is directed by David Allan King of Montreal, with support from the Little Theatre Group and the Office Québec-Amériques pour la Jeunesse.  This is King’s second effort as guest director here. In 2005, he was one of seven directors creating Eve Ensler´s "The Good Body."

"Strawberries in January" is romantic comedy featuring Ron Boston, Ted Hope, Sheila MacCann Morrison, and Sally O´Boyle, all veterans of previous plays.

Tour guides are certified
after training program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican tourist organizations and scientists have been collaborating on a program that produces official nature tour guides.  The program, Guía Naturalista General, just finished training 33 persons who will work in different areas of the country, said the organization.  Graduates receive official accreditation with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo

The idea is to create guides who are better able to meet the expectations and demands of nature tourists, said the release.  Those who attended the fourth generation of the program underwent a training process developed by the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo and the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad.

Norem Rojas, one of the project directors, said the objective is to create guides with a knowledge of nature ethics, cultural elements and safety regulations, as well as a strong understanding of biodiversity.

The program is also sponsored by tourist companies such as Costa Rica Sun Tours, CR Temptations, Green Mountain Tours, Coach Costa Rica, Fincas Naturales, Gray Line, Expediciones Tropicales, and Geo Expediciones.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 39 

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