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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Friday, March 2, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 45                            Email us
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Even the trees are cooperating as exhibitors get their stands into place for the opening tonight. This is in Parque Jardín de Paz. From Calle 9.

Almost ready
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Hundreds of exhibits await visitors to TransitArte
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New business owner Margarita Aragón is preparing her stand inside a long white tent on the sidewalk along Calle 19 at Parque Nacional. Her business sign, Metamorforseando, is hanging, and her allotted space is covered in blue material with blue butterflies that represent the famed Costa Rican morpho.

She is one of the business owners who have the opportunity to show their products to thousands of potential customers. Ms. Aragón sells organic beauty and hygiene products such as natural oils, creams and deodorants. Her opening day secret: Business debuts at a three-day summer festival in the heart of San José. Ms. Aragón is one of more than a 100 vendors who are participating in the ninth annual Festival TransitArte El Arte Está En La Calle. The event kicks off today at 6 p.m. and ends Sunday evening.

The festival this year is dedicated to Ciudad Cádiz, Spain, for the bicentennial anniversary for the foundation of the Courts of Cádiz, and the Constitution of 1812, according to the festival Web site. The Constitution of 1812 was Spain's first. It is nicknamed La Pepa because it was established on the day of Saint Joseph. Pepe is the diminutive of San José. There is no correlation between the saint's day and the name of the Costa Rican capital.

Like most of the Central American countries Costa Rica was once ruled by Spain and became independent in 1821.

San José is now the host of this festival that brings national and international cultural and artistic experiences through food, dance, workshops, art, literature, a fashion show, and vendors.

The Festival TransitArte takes over various different public spaces in downtown San José including certain parks and streets. The following are some of the locations where the festival activities will take place:

Parque Morazán is the place to enjoy concerts, exhibitions and art installations. This is the location where one of two big stages are located.

The little plaza of the Orden de Malta is a small space on the northwest side of Parque Morazán where an exhibit will promote animal welfare. There will also be pet adoptions available.

Parque Jardín de Paz is the location for a food court with all the vendors for a gastronomical experience. There will also be a stamp exhibit by the Museo de Filatelia de Correos de Costa Rica.

Parque España has a literary theme with the Sistema de Bibliotecas Municipales. Books of all types will be on display and will be available for purchase. There will also be small concerts, readings, and a fashion show in this area. The small boutique, Eñe, across from the park is celebrating its
Morpho owner
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Margaret Aragón and Fernando Blanco, owners of the family business Metamorforseando, prepare their display.

Food for the fair
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Cooks get a head start at Parque Jardín de Paz.

sixth anniversary Saturday with a fashion show featuring only Costa Rican designers.

The Paseo de Las Damas and Calle 15 is in the hands of the Comité Cantonal de Deportes de San José. This is the sports area where participants will exhibit their skills along these streets. Different types of sports from gymnastics to boxing to more urban sports like skateboarding will be featured. The British Embassy has also taken space on these streets for a photography exhibit Juegos Londres 2012- Un viaje por el deporte. This is to promote the Olympic games in London this year.

Parque Nacional is the host of Mercado de la Artesanía y la Expresión or “Artisan and Expression Fair” where more than 100 vendors will participate. This is also the location of one of the two giant stages.

The full program is available online. Those interested in times and the line-up can either show up at one of the parks because the schedules for that location are posted or they can visit the official Festival TransitArte blog

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Shooting sparks new protests
by native groups in Panamá

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Trouble is breaking out in Panamá again with the potential of more blockades on major highways.

The Panamá News reported Thursday night that four native protesters were hit with birdshot while they were in front of the legislature. Talks between native representatives and the government has been suspended, and there are roadblocks on the Pan-American Highway, said the newspaper.

Blockades were reported in western Panamá at Vigui, San Felix and Hornocitos, said the Panamá News. That was the area where the Ngöbe and Buglé peoples set up roadblocks and clashed with police.

Some Costa Rican travelers and expats were caught in the blockades early last month, and some could not move for several days.

The protests in Panamá stemmed from legislation that would allow hydro projects in the watersheds of the reservation. The government there had agreed to review the legislation.

The native leadership says they were not consulted and that a prior agreement forbids such use.

The native groups and the Panamá central government appeared to have reached an accord, but Ricardo Martinelli, the country's president, has been promoting a referendum to see if the public wants to put hydro projects on native land.

Eric Jackson, The Panamá News editor, said that he thought there might be protests in Bocas del Toro, too. He said there were other native groups joining in. Bocas is just south of Sixaola, Costa Rica, on the Caribbean coast.

When the protests broke out in the first week of February, Costa Rica closed its border with Panamá to anyone except citizens of that country and permanent residents.

The native protesters who were shot were not injured seriously. It appeared that the birdshot was fired from a distance, said Jackson.

Security minster seeking
action against bus stickups

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister has ordered the Fuerza Pública to take action to prevent more armed robberies of bus passengers. There were three such robberies in the last week, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The minister, Mario Zamora Cordero, asked the director general of the police agency to coordinate more closely with bus companies, said the ministry. Many drivers have taken ministry courses to avoid bloodshed during such events.

One robbery was on a TUASA bus from Alajuela to San José, said the ministry. A second stickup this week was in La Uruca, and the most recent was on a bus operated by  Transportes Rápidos Heredianos. The last one was Wednesday, and 15 persons were held up by gunmen, said the ministry.

Atenas suspects jailed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four men who are suspects in an Atenas home invasion have been jailed for three months investigation. A homeowner said that the men came into his home and took personal articles, small appliances and a vehicle.

Fuerza Pública officers stopped two suspects in Atenas and two more at the San Rafael de Alajuela toll station.

Limón offices searched

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents conducted a search of the municipal building in the central canton of Limón Thursday. The Poder Judicial said that they were seeking evidence in a case that appears to do with excessive payments to employees.

The agents took files, accounting books, four computers and other evidence, said the Poder Judicial.

Find out what the papers
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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!
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Fire fighters have nearly encircled stubborn blaze at Chirripó
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The wind-fanned brush blaze at the Parque Nacional  Chirripó is nearly encircled, but the fire fighters are exhausted from working in the rough terrain. So environmental ministry officials successfully asked the national emergency commission to declare an enhanced alert.

The blaze is in an area known as San Miguel in the Área de Conservación La Amistad. Fire fighters from a handful of agencies have been on the job since Monday. The enhanced state of emergency will allow officials to tap resources and bring in more fire fighters from other locations in the country, they said.

The state of emergency involves the cantons of Perez Zeledón, Coto Brus, Buenos Aires, Osa and Golfito.

Firemen Thursday had nearly completed a fire break of some 10 kilometers, about six miles, around the smoldering blaze. The location is about 2,600 meters or about 8,500 feet above sea level, so fire fighters are working in rarified, smoke-filled air.

There are at least 150 fire fighters on the job with the expectation that the number would grow to at least 200 today.

Fire fighters come from the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaiones, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and neighbors of the fire zone. The Ministerio de Ambiente has special fire teams for the parks and conservation areas.

A summary by the Cuerpo de Bomberos said that the fire fighters had to hike more than two hours to reach the blaze.

The fire break is about three meters wide, nearly 10 feet. Fire fighters are using chain saws, brush hooks and shovels to clear the fire break, officials said. They have to carry the water.

At about 120 hectares, nearly 300 acres, the fire is the largest, but there are others in the country. So far this year,
Chirripo fire fighters
Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica photo
Fire fighters face rough terrain as they seek out hot spots.

fire fighters have faced 27 blazes, said the Comisión Nacional
de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The current blaze cannot be attacked from the air because of the strong winds, said the emergency commission.

The park is north and east of San Isidro de El General in the Talamanca mountains.  Chirripó peak is the tallest mountain in Costa Rica.

Those close friends are sure there when you need them
Costa Rica has many groups and organizations one can join.  I know there are a variety of interest groups for Costa Ricans and expats who speak Spanish, some mainly for English-speaking members and others that include both. 

I am lucky to belong to a great group of women. It is a very small group – five members.  We used to be six, but Judith moved back to the States to be with her family (read grandchildren) after she retired.  Now we are two Gringas from the States and three Ticas.  Sandy and I are the Gringas.  She, Silvia and Tania live in Escazú, Anabel lives on the east side of town. I, of course am smack in the middle and am lucky because Anabel always gives me a ride.

We have dubbed our little group Perros Calientes because years ago when Anabel, Sandy and I were enjoying an elegant lunch at Le Chandelier, we all admitted that besides French food, we also loved a really good hot dog. Tania and Silvia, fellow hot dog lovers, who, like Anabel are bilingual, joined our ranks, and we began meeting once a month to enjoy hot dogs and home cooked Southern baked beans and all the trimmings.  Our hostess is always Sandy partly because she makes the best recipe for beans and hot dogs and has an ample dining room with a view.  We all contribute a dish or drinks, and once a year we have a Thanksgiving lunch to give thanks for our friendship. Sandy also can make a southern style Thanksgiving that is worth waiting a year for. 

Our conversations are as satisfying as our menus.  They cover everything from a few choice jokes to critiquing the latest movies to politics.  I am always surprised at how much about U.S. politics our Tica contingency knows. (I recently heard an interview with a Republican voter living in Michigan who wasn’t sure where Mitt Romney has been living the past 20 or so years.

Most of what I know about Costa Rican politics is what I read in A.M. Costa Rica.  I have periodically subscribed to the weekend editions of La Nación, but too often someone would make off with my Sunday paper before I got to it, so I gave up.

We all don’t agree politically, but we do agree that the decision of President Chinchilla and Guatemalan President 
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Pérez to pursue a dialogue on the legal status of marijuana is brave and wise in the face of the resistance of the United States to any thought of legalizing the plant. They are facing a powerful opponent, and that is probably why people in other countries know more about American politics than many of
the voters in the States do.  Politics fascinate me, and only in the United States does the contest to become leader last for so long and, therefore, offer so many opportunities for pitfalls, or pratfalls and recovery.

But back to Perros Calientes.  I haven’t been well lately, and just as we were leaving after our Thanksgiving lunch barely before the afternoon traffic would get really bad, I had a light headed spell before I got in the car and had to sit for a bit to recover my equilibrium.  Everyone was solicitous and patient and brought me water.  When Anabel and I got to Sabana, we faced horrific traffic, and I realized that I had detained us long enough to make it very difficult for her to return to work in due time.  She never once complained.  When we arrived at my apartment, I was about to get out of the car when Silvia suddenly appeared at the passenger door. I was stunned. 

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“We followed you to make sure you got home okay,” she replied, and helped me out of the car to my door.  Later I learned (only by asking) that it took Anabel two hours to get across town. Silvia and Tania had to go back to Escazú.   I felt terrible and wrote to all three to apologize.  Not a word of complaint from anyone, just concern about how I was feeling.  I can’t honestly say that I would be as gracious. I am not a Tica yet (to paraphrase Annie Oakley), but I am hoping that my Perros Calientes friends continue to have a good influence on me.

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Leatherback tracks
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science graphic
Map tracks show that there are two major and distinct populations of leatherback turtles.
Satellite study disclosed danger zones for leatherback turtles
By the  University of Maryland news service

The majestic leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle in the world, growing to more than 6 feet in length. It is also one of the most threatened. A major new study of migration patterns has identified high-use areas, potential danger zones, in the Pacific Ocean for this critically endangered species. This new understanding could help inform decisions about fishing practices to help reduce further deaths of this fragile species, said researchers.

“The study shows that leatherbacks can be found throughout the Pacific Ocean and identifies high-use areas that are of particular importance to their survival,” said lead author Helen Bailey of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “This information on their movements is essential for identifying hot spots and assessing where limiting fishing at particular times of year may be effective for protecting leatherbacks.”

Leatherbacks are the widest-ranging marine turtle species and are known to migrate across entire ocean basins. Female leatherbacks lay their eggs on tropical nesting beaches, but then migrate to foraging areas to feed on jellyfish. These long-distance migrations are likely to increase the risk that these animals may be caught in fishing gear, undermining conservation efforts to protect turtles on their nesting beaches. Interaction with fisheries is believed to be a major cause of death, which is of particular concern in the eastern Pacific Ocean, where the number of leatherback turtles has dropped by more than 90 percent since 1980.

“Leatherback turtles are long-lived animals that take a long time to reach maturity, so when they are killed in fishing gear, it has a huge impact on the population,” said study coordinator James Spotila of Drexel University. “Their numbers are declining so rapidly it is critical that measures are taken quickly to ensure these animals don’t go extinct.”

Leatherback turtles can travel enormous distances between their
nesting and feeding sites. In the Pacific Ocean there are two populations of leatherback turtles that nest in the eastern and western Pacific. The study used state-of-the art satellite tracking, the largest satellite telemetry data set ever assembled for leatherbacks, to track 135 turtles. Leatherbacks in the eastern Pacific were tagged at the nesting sites in Costa Rica and Mexico. The western Pacific population was tagged at two nesting sites in Indonesia and at foraging grounds off the coast of California. The tracks were combined with oceanographic satellite data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a number of international partner space agencies to provide insights into the long distance migrations.

The study found that the western Pacific population nesting in Indonesia traveled to many different feeding sites in the South China Sea, Indonesian seas, southeastern Australia, and the U.S. West Coast, mainly in highly productive coastal areas.

This wide dispersal allows for a greater likelihood to find food. It also means that the turtles are more vulnerable to being caught unintentionally by fishing gear in coastal and offshore areas.

The eastern Pacific population had a very different migration pattern, traveling from their nesting sites in Mexico and Costa Rica to the southeast Pacific. These turtles migrated south and tended to feed in offshore upwelling areas where their food, almost exclusively jellyfish, may be concentrated. The more limited feeding areas of the east Pacific turtles makes them more vulnerable to any changes that occur to the distribution or abundance of jellyfish in this area. Deaths caused by human activities, such as being caught in fishing gear, also pose a greater risk of causing this population to go extinct because they have a smaller range than the western Pacific leatherbacks.

The study, “Identification of distinct movement patterns in Pacific leatherback turtle populations influenced by ocean conditions,” appears in the March issue of Ecological Applications.

Agents find 1,400 pairs
of counterfeit athletic shoes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a three month investigation judicial agents Thursday raided a warehouse in San Rafael de Oreamuno, province of Cartago, where they said they found 70 cartons of fake tennis shoes.

The presumed crime is infringing on the rights of an author, in this case the rights of an internationally known U.S. athletic shoe manufacturer.

Judicial agents said they had the help of a person who was an expert in telling a brand name athletic shoe from a knockoff. Each carton contained 20 pairs of shoes, agents said. They estimate that there were 1,400 pairs of misbranded shoes.
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
 There is little doubt from where the packages came.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chávez tweets upbeat note
from his Cuban hospital bed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has vowed an October election victory, in his first public comment after surgery in Cuba this week to remove a pelvic lesion.

Wednesday evening, Chávez sent a twitter message to Venezuelans saying, "I send you all my supreme love! We will live and we will win!"

Vice President Elias Jaua says he spoke with President Chávez Wednesday, and described him as recovering, and energetic.

Jaua said Cuban doctors removed a pelvic lesion and the surrounding tissue from President Chávez on Monday.  Test results on the removed tissue are expected in a few days. 

President Chávez' latest health saga has raised concerns about his ability to seek reelection and preside over the government.

The vice president says Chávez is staying in close contact with government officials.  The president has not delegated authority during his absence.

He traveled to Cuba last week to undergo surgery for what he said was likely a cancerous tumor.  Last year, the president had surgery and chemotherapy in Cuba to remove a cancerous growth from his pelvic region.

President Chávez has ruled Venezuela for 13 years and is hoping to be re-elected to another six-year term in October.  His opponent will be 39-year-old Henrique Capriles, the winner of the opposition primary earlier this month.

Senate stops GOP move
to revise Obamacare

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has narrowly defeated a Republican measure that would have reversed a new Obama administration mandate that employers provide free birth control as part of health insurance coverage.  It was an emotional debate on Capitol Hill.

The Senate vote Thursday was a very close 51-48. One Republican voted with most Democrats to kill the amendment, and three Democrats voted with most Republicans against killing the measure, proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican.

Most Republican lawmakers and the four Republican presidential candidates say President Barack Obama’s health care law violates religious liberties because it would require employers to cover the cost of contraception as part of their health care insurance plans.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he did not expect to have to defend religious freedom on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“Recent actions by the Obama administration related to the president’s health care law have prompted many of us here and many across the country to stand up in defense of another freedom that is covered in the First Amendment, and that is religious freedom," said McConnell.

The president’s birth control coverage mandate originally exempted churches, but not religious institutions such as colleges and hospitals, from providing birth control to employees.  Facing outrage from some religious organizations, the president quickly offered an accommodation that also would exempt religious institutions.  But most Republicans still think the health care law is an overreach by government.

On the other hand, most Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to turn back the clock on women’s health care rights. 

Blunt attached the amendment to an unrelated transportation bill, which Democrats say Congress should be focusing on to create millions of jobs at a time of high unemployment. 

Occupy zeros in on firms
they say buy politicans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Occupy Wall Street movement is taking its allegations of corporate corruption to the corporations themselves, accusing them of using a special lobbying group to buy off American lawmakers.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company, is among the activists' targets.  Protesters rallied at Pfizer world headquarters in New York this week, alleging it sometimes charges $50 for medications that cost five cents to produce. Pediatrician Steve Auerbach says consumers in Canada and New Zealand pay far less.

“Americans are paying from anywhere between two to four times the price for the same drug from the same drug companies as other industrialized countries," Auerbach said.

A protester carried a briefcase overflowing with play money to illustrate the demonstrators’ contention that big corporations buy off lawmakers to gain unfair political advantage.  The protesters, like Gabriel Johnson, focused on the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“It’s an organization set up by these big corporations to try and get state legislators to vote their way on bills," Johnson alleged.

The organization's Web site says the council is a lobbying group that advances free markets and limited government.

About 200 Occupy demonstrators also protested against Bank of America, alleging that the financial institution profited by knowingly giving mortgages to people who could not afford them.

Then the banks foreclose on people's homes, says Occupy activist Anthony Robledo.

“So they’ve been selling the American dream to a lot of people.  They’re a huge corporation; they have a lot of lobbyists,” Robledo noted.

Occupy Wall Street protesters are also targeting corporations in other cities.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 2, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 45
Real Estate
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Latin America news
Motorist robbed in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Armed men in cars and on two motorcycles intercepted a man in Escazú Wednesday night in what is presumed to have been a robbery.

The man, identified by the last name of Cerdas, is 45. The shooting happened in San Rafael de Escazú at 7:30 p.m..

The motorist was shot in the leg and said that the robbery got a million colons, about $2,000. The man got to Trejos Montealegre and sought help. Rescue workers took him to Hospital San Juan de Dios.

41 February traffic deaths

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More victims of traffic accidents died in the short month of February than in January, according to a press release from the Cruz Roja. That made last month the deadliest month for 2012, so far.

Within the 29 days 41 persons died, read the press release. In total there were 165 victims of traffic accidents. The Cruz Roja calculated for the last month its workers saw an average of six victims a day.

In January 32 people died from traffic accidents.

Another quake in mountains

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake, estimated between 2.7 and 3.1 magnitude took place Thursday night about four kilometers south southwest of Tobosi de El Guarco. That is in the mountains south of San José. This is where there have been multiple quakes over the last month. The time was 6:54 p.m. The Red Sismológica Nacional de Costa Rica at the Universidad de Costa Rica said the quake was felt in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Desamparados Centro, San Miguel de Desamparados, Curridabat, Cartago Centro, Paso Ancho and Escazú.

Minister leaving her post

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Laura Alfaro has resigned as minister of Planificación Nacional y Política Económica, and President Laura Chinchilla has named Roberto Gallardo, the current public relations spokesman, to the job. Taking his spot as minister of Comunicación y Enlace Institucional will be Francisco Chacón, said Casa Presidencial. Chacón was the then-candidate's spokesman during the last election campaign. Ms. Alfaro said she was returning to her professor's job at Harvard University.

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