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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, March 1, 2011, in  Vol. 11, No. 42          E-mail us
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Peace Corps celebrating its 50th birthday today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jack Kennedy got it wrong. He said at his inaugural: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Many feel that in the case of the U.S. Peace Corps the volunteers were the persons who benefited far more than those they sought to help. More than 200,000 volunteers served in 139 countries, the Peace Corp is quick to note.

Kennedy's idea has evolved into a $400 million a year federal program, but the benefit to the United States has been to enhance the international outlook of its citizens.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the executive order that Kennedy issued to create the Peace Corps in the early days of his administration. He did not come up with the idea, but he promoted the concept in his presidential campaign.

U.S. Embassy officials will be marking the day with a special ceremony tonight. Attending will be Anne S. Andrew, the U.S. ambassador; Steve Dorsey, director of the Peace Corps in Costa Rica and, Marta Blanco, who is director of the Costa Rica Multilingüe program.

The Peace Corps has survived to become an independent government agency despite early harsh criticism, personnel problems, assorted crimes, claims it was a haven for draft dodgers, the expected opposition from some other nations and terrorists threats. Still, even critic Richard Nixon helped the Peace Corps grow and conservative Ronald Reagan embraced it.

The Peace Corps itself maintains a list of notables who have been volunteers. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd was a volunteer in Africa. Josh Friedman served in San Vito from 1964 to 1966. He won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on hunger in Africa in 1985 while at Newsday on Long Island, New York. He now is director of international programs, Columbia School of Journalism.

A.M. Costa Rica columnist Jo Stuart has written about her friends Bonnie and Arnold Hano, who were Peace Corps volunteers in Costa Rica in the
Kennedy greets volunteers
U.S. National Archives photo
President John Kennedy greets Peace Corps Volunteers Aug. 28, 1961, before they were deployed to Africa.

early 90s even though they were in their 60s and more or less retired.

Many former volunteers never really left. Their heart remained in their host country, and they returned quickly, going into business, opening restaurants and becoming involved in international development, family and even religion.

Those who did return to Stateside life generally talk of how their volunteer experiences changed them. Returning volunteers also had a chance to earn academic degrees with Peace Corps programs, and many did.

In Costa Rica now volunteers are mainly working with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia helping children at risk, in rural community development and with micro enterprise development.

Current volunteers post comments and essays on an Internet site called Peace Corps Journals. Several of the postings from Costa Rica were done Monday, so the information is current and provides a glimpse into the lives of volunteers, their problems, their successes, their illnesses and even their romances.

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Our readers' opinions
Professional drivers fail
to dim lights at night

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
In my many years of driving and the many countries that I have driven in, I believe that Costa Rica is the worst.
I classify professional drivers as, police, taxi, truck/delivery and bus drivers. These so called professionals in Costa Rica suck, they are all headlight rude among other things. Why do they need four high beams and two sets of ultra bright fog lights for when the drive is at night and will not dim them if you flash your lights at them.
I also think the police need to set up a sting operation in Caldera and watch several of the bars where the professional truck drivers suck up 10 beers and several shots of whiskey before jumping back in the big rig for a night drive to San Jose.
Bill Walkling

Northern border crossing
is true mess and inefficient

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a tourist who has crossed the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua for at least the last five years I cannot believe the amount of money that is wasted with the amount of large [18 wheelers] that sit and sit for miles and miles on both sides of the borders. 
As a country that is mostly a transit country between South America and North America, it seems to me that a better way of moving these trucks would produce a lot more income for Costa Rica. But, maybe that would include the fact that the border personal would have to WORK for the whole time that they are on shift.

We have loved being and traveling around Costa Rica but things like the very poor way that a trading border
is processed, the way a blind eye is turned to the way police ask and get bribes from visitors that are caught in speed traps, and the watching of the locals that travel on bus or private car spending a lot of there travel time littering the highways by throwing anything that they have there out on to the highway.
Maybe A.M. Costa Rica should send a reporter to the border and spend at least a couple of days watching how this border works [or better to say how it does not really work].
It would be very interesting to see what a publication of any caliber would have to say about what is going on at that border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Dick Low
Key West, Florida

A little tip goes long way
in assuring good service

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Tips get excellent results in Costa Rica from everyone.

I highly recommend personally visiting the closest police station to your house and introducing yourself and bring a nice gift.  Maybe a coffee maker or a box of donuts, cake, pie or some other edible treat.  The nice thing about this culture is that nearly everyone remembers a kindness or generous act and greatly enjoys responding in kind when you need help.

Also tip generously everywhere, you will be remembered.

Every Christmas I give the six garbage men who service my house $10 each when they ask all of the neighbors for a little tip at Christmas.  All year long, if I forget to take my garbage out on garbage day, they ring my door bell, hold the truck and come into my garage and carry everything out to the truck.  If I put 12 bags of lawn clippings or anything else in the street in front of my house, they take it all, no problem.

When the city guys are in the neighborhood filling potholes, I go out and give each of the workers a small tip.  They always fix all of the potholes in front of my house that same day.  If they run out of asphalt, the other potholes get filled some other day, but they never forget my place.

Employee turnover is not as common in Costa Rica.  Costa Ricans often happily work at the same job for decades, I have known the same waiters in my favorite restaurants, some for nearly 20 years.  Tipping generously in Costa Rica is the best investment you can make in Costa Rica and you will always be remembered and get great service.  You don’t have to be a millionaire in Costa Rica to be treated like Donald Trump when you visit your favorite restaurants here.  I never need reservations and everyone always remembers me by name.

If you are lucky enough to be on a date with a nice Costa Rican woman, always leave a nice tip for the waiter.  The worst thing you can do is ask her if the tip is included in the mandatory 10 percent service charge on the check.  Most Costa Ricans routinely leave tips in addition to the nominal 10 percent service charge included in the check.

A little bit goes a long way in Costa Rica, so always leave a generous tip and tip everyone.  I even tip the toll booth operators the 15 colon change, and I always get a big smile.  I call it the 3-cent smile.
Edward Bridges,
20 years in Desampardos

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 42
Latigo K-9

Park visitors found a dry spot under a tree instead of taking advantage of this interesting but wet picnic table.
Picnic table
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Hey! Where did the so-called dry season go this year?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two days of brief rain put San José residents on notice that the dry season isn't always dry. The rain Monday in San José was just three-tenths of a millimeter, about .01 of an inch.  That was half of what fell Sunday, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Elsewhere the rain was heavier. Limón got 43.3 millimeters Monday or about 1.7 inches. Limón always is contrary. When rains come to San José, Limón frequently is dry. Monday was the reverse.

The rain Monday morning in the mountains north of San José was strong enough to cancel plans to close off the vital Ruta 32 so workmen could paint lines. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said that the paint being used needs to be applied when there is not rain to endure.

La Garita saw 12 millimeters, nearly half an inch, Sunday, but none Monday, according to the automatic weather station there. Turrialba had a bit less, some 10.5 millimeters.
The weather institute said that the month of March is characterized by weak winds, and it is the winds that keep the rain away. It predicted more hot weather today with an accumulation of clouds and possible rain in the northern zone and the Caribbean. And this could mean cloudiness and possible rain in the rest of the country, it said.

However, Monday Guanacaste and the Pacific beaches saw no rain, according to the automatic stations.

The highway agency said that workmen would try again today and said the highway would be closed off from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. unless there is wet weather. The 30-kilometer (19-mile) stretch is from the former Zurquí toll station to Quebrada González, the agency said.

The work will last at least through Friday and perhaps longer if the weather doesn't cooperate.

The Consejo is spending 500 million colons on the job, a bit more than $1 million. Officials said that motorists could either wait or take the alternate Ruta 10 through Turrialba.

Drowning death in Jacó prompts a coast guard warning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The drowning death of a 12 year old in Jacó prompted the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas to issue a warning for bathers.

The agency said that swimmers caught in a rip tide should not try to swim against the current but should try to move parallel to the beach and try to get out of the strong flow that way.

Many of the country's water deaths are caused by rip tides, and that may have been what happened to Leonardo Godínez Duarte about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when he was swimming with his family at Playa Jacó. The family is from Tibás.

The hour of the water accident may have prompted another warning from the coast guard agency. Never swim at night,
 the agency said. After the boy was swept away there was no way to find him.

A patrol boat managed to locate the body Sunday morning.

The coast guard also encouraged bathers to do so at beaches where there are lifeguards. Jacó has a lifeguard unit but it is not known if a member was on duty at the time of the accident.

The agency also warned bathers and others against sleeping on the beach at night due to the possibility of a rising tide.

The warnings come at a critical time when Costa Rica is getting ready to accept a flood of spring break university students from the United States and Canada. Most indulge in alcohol and are often tricked by Costa Rica's seemingly peaceful beaches. A university student from Florida already died this year in the central Pacific south of Jacó.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 42

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policemen sworn in
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
New police officers listen to President Laura Chinchilla as she tells them that their profession has never been so  important.

Swearing in new officers is first function at new facility

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 222 new members of the Fuerza Pública took their oath of office Monday in the new police building in Heredia.

President Laura Chinchilla used the occasion to deliver a 1,450-word speech that touched on citizen security and even the expected verdict by the International Court of Justice over the Nicaraguan invasion in northern Costa Rica.

The new police building is 1,200 square meters in La Aurora. That is nearly 13,000 square feet. It has two floors, parking, storage facilities, administrative offices, meeting rooms, dormitories, baths and an elevator. The structure cost 620 million colons about $1.25 million at the current rate of exchange.

Most of what Ms. Chinchilla said she has said before. But
 the length of the speech was unusual. She told the officers that never in the history of the country has their profession been so important. She said the new structure demonstrated the respect for the Fuerza Pública.

The president said she was calling on the international community to observe the fulfillment of the decision by the international court. Costa Rican officials fully expect the court to rule in their favor.

She also said that she was sending more officers north to guard the border.

However, she added that a doctrine that promotes the observance of democratic and social justice principals is the first line of defense.

The Chinchilla administration seeks to put 4,000 more officers on the streets. Officials have hired about 1,000.

Taxi driver directs police to casino robbery suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men who stuck up a Pérez Zeledón casino hailed a taxi as a getaway car. But they were undone when the taxi driver called police as soon as they left the vehicle, said the Poder Judicial.

The men wer identified by the last names of Morales Chacón and Pérez Chía. They are suspects in the Saturday afternoon robbery at the Casino Hotel del Sur.
The Poder Judicial said that two men entered the casino as customers but then one put on a ski mask and pulled a gun. The robbers got away with about 3 million colons or about $6,000.

The suspects were detained in the Pavones area.

Prosecutors were seeking a judge's ruling late Monday to put the men in jail for six months as preventative detention. A ruling will be reported today.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 42

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Two dictators face trial
in case of stolen babies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two former Argentine dictators have gone on trial on charges they presided over a plot to steal babies from political prisoners decades ago.

Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone appeared in a Buenos Aires court Monday for the trial. Six other defendants, mostly military figures, also are facing charges. 

Authorities say that at least 400 babies were stolen during the country's military dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983. Officials say the newborns were taken from jailed dissidents, who were never heard from again. The children were adopted by families friendly to the military government. To date, 102 people born to vanished dissidents have since recovered their true identities.

Videla led the first military government following the 1976 coup and held power until 1981. Last year, he went on trial to face charges stemming from the deaths of more than 30 political prisoners after the coup that unseated President Isabel Perón. Bignone held power from 1982 until 1983, when Argentina returned to democracy.  Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for torture and illegal detentions committed while the country was under military rule.

Their trial is expected to last about one year, with 370 witnesses to testify.

Argentine leftists were abducted, tortured and killed in a government crackdown on dissent during the seven-year dictatorship. Official records say at least 13,000 people disappeared or were killed during the crackdown known as the "Dirty War." Human rights groups put the toll at 30,000.

Another arrest in México
linked to murdered agent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's military has arrested the alleged regional head of the Zetas drug cartel in connection with the recent murder of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent.

Navy officials say Sergio "El Toto" Mora was detained, along with five other men, during a raid Sunday in the northern state of Coahuila.

Authorities say Mora was directly in charge of Julian Zapata Espinoza, who was arrested last week for allegedly carrying out the killing of agent Jaime Zapata.

Another agent, Victor Avila, Jr., was shot twice in the leg during the attack earlier in February in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  The men were shot when they stopped at what appeared to be a military checkpoint, possibly set up by drug traffickers.  The Mexican military said it had no checkpoints in the area.

Attacks on U.S. law enforcement personnel in Mexico are rare, despite increasing U.S. contributions to Mexico's fight against drug traffickers.   The last high-profile attack there was in 1985, when a Drug Enforcement Administration officer was captured, tortured and killed while on an assignment.

Mexican military forces have been engaged in a brutal struggle against violent drug cartels.  At least 34,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006 and began cracking down on the cartels.

Rains sweep away homes
in Bolivian neighborhoods

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Bolivia say mudslides triggered by heavy rains have swept away at least 400 homes in the La Paz area, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Officials say residents evacuated affected neighborhoods on Saturday after a rain-soaked hill began sliding and cracks appeared in the streets.  The disaster is being described as the worst to ever hit the city.

There have been no immediate reports of fatalities.

Authorities say landslides are likely to continue as more waterlogged hillsides give way.

The La Niña weather phenomenon has been blamed for the severe weather
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Last U.S. World War I vet
dies in West Virginia at 110

By the American Forces Press Service

Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran, died Sunday at his West Virginia home. He was 110.

Buckles, at 16, enlisted in the Army on Aug. 14, 1917, after lying to several recruiters about his age.

"I was just 16 and didn't look a day older. I confess to you that I lied to more than one recruiter. I gave them my solemn word that I was 18, but I'd left my birth certificate back home in the family Bible. They'd take one look at me and laugh and tell me to go home before my mother noticed I was gone," Buckles wrote in 2009.

Buckles tried the Marines and Navy, but both turned him away. An Army recruiter, however, accepted his story.

"Somehow I got the idea that telling an even bigger whopper was the way to go. So I told the next recruiter that I was 21 and darned if he didn't sign me up on the spot!" he wrote.

Buckles earned the rank of corporal and traveled England and France serving as an ambulance driver. After the Armistice in 1918, Buckles escorted prisoners of war back to Germany. He was discharged in 1920.

In 1942 Buckles worked as a civilian for a shipping company in the Philippines, where he was captured in Manila by the Japanese the day after they attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He spent three and a half years in the Los Baños prison camp. He was rescued on February 23, 1945.

Buckles married Audrey Mayo of Pleasanton, Calif., in 1946. The couple moved to his Gap View Farm near Charles Town in January 1954 where Buckles reportedly continued to drive his tractor until he was 106.

Women's Peace League forms group in Belén

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom here has formed an English speaking group in Cariari de San Antonio de Belén.  Members meet to discuss and work on issues concerning peace, non violence and justice at local and international levels.

The Women's League has a group in Heredia which is basically in Spanish but translation can be provided, and a group in San José which works mostly on human rights issues primarily for immigrant and working women and youth at risk.

The Women's League was founded in the Hague in 1915 to examine the causes of war to prevent armed conflicts and has expanded with sections in many countries and an international office in Geneva.  The league has no religious or political leanings and is open to men as well.

For information on the Cariari group readers may call Estilita, 2293-6430.  For the Heredia group, they may  call Mitzi at 2433-7078 or visit

Quake was offshore

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another moderate earthquake took place offshore Costa Rica Monday, this time in the Caribbean. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia estimated the quake at a magnitude of 4.8. The Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica said 4.5. Both agreed the epicenter was about 20 kilometers or about 13 miles east of Limón Centro. The quake took place about 4:09 p.m. The Red Sismológica attributed the quake to movement within the Caribbean tectonic plate..

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