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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, March 5, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 46                            Email us
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Girl joins the fun
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The other kinds
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Public employees general strike threat is back on table
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employee union officials will be meeting at Casa Presidencial today, and they will tell central government officials that they have rejected a draft of a proposal that was put together a week ago.

The union leaders met with President Laura Chinchilla then in an effort to head off a proposed general strike.

Public employee union officials now say they are preparing for a general strike.

Presidents of the various unions met Friday to reach this decision. They restated their demand for a 4.16 percent salary hike instead of the across-the-board 5,000-colon increase offered by the president.

They want the president to trash the decree that she issued relating to the 5,000-colon increase.

They also want the president to throw out her proposal for a tax increase because they have said they believe that, despite presidential claims, the increase will hit their employees hard and that the entire package is regressive.

The union leaders also want assurances that the
Chinchilla administration will not seek passage of any new laws that address public employes.

Casa Presidential officials thought they had a deal after they met with union leaders a week ago. The president agreed to consider salary adjustments in the second half of the year but the 5,000-colon increase would stand.

The union leaders in their statement issued through the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza said that the president's tax plan has gained new life in the Asamblea Legislativa and may come up for an initial vote this month.

A general strike would be an economic disaster for the country and for the Chinchilla administration. And the union leaders may not be able to hold together the rank and file over a mere 5,000-colon issue. Among stipulations in the agreement that was rejected was the pledge that the central government would not deduct time spent protesting from the salaries of public officials.

The teachers appear to be committed most to a general strike. However, all types of police officers also are involved as are telecom workers and other public workers for the executive branch.

U.S. citizen held after death of would-be car thief
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man identified as a U.S. citizen confronted a would-be car thief Sunday morning and killed the man with a knife, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The fatal encounter took place in La Fortuna de San Carlos near the local outlet of the Almacen El Colono chain about 10 a.m., said agents.

Fuerza Pública officers detained the U.S. citizen, who was identified as John Penici, 50. He is believed to be the owner of a fast-food restaurant in the community. The dead man was identified by the last names of Mendoza Esquivel, said agents.
Judicial agents said that Mendoza was trying to steal a pickup that belonged the the U.S. citizen.

In the confrontation, Mendoza suffered knife wounds in the chest and back, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. It was not known if the would-be car thief was armed. He was dead at the scene. He was 32.

The confrontation elevated the crime from theft to robbery.

The U.S. citizen originally was reported to be either 40 or 49 years of age.

The U.S. citizen was to be turned over to prosecutors to determine if he would be charged.

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Overnight chill reaches
a record for the year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley is in the grip of a cold wave. Sort of.

The Instituto Meteorological Nacional said that the mercury bottomed out at 13.9 degrees C. Friday morning. The weather experts said this was a record for the year.

Still, the time is not right to rush out and get a snow shovel. The temperature converts to about 57 degrees F.

There were lower temperatures in other years. In 2008 the weather institute registered 13.4 degrees overnight. In 1996 there was a temperature reported of 13.5 C.

The low temperature prompted the weather institute to put out a news bulletin.

A light rain early Monday appears to have kept the local temperature about 5 degrees C. above the record.

High elevations, of course, have colder temperatures, and some of the peaks are no stranger to a light snow once or twice a year.

Two held after police
raid Cahuita pot farm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers of the Policía de Control de Drogas say they have discovered and destroyed a hydroponics marijuana operation in Cauhita. Two men were detained.

Police said they destroyed at least 500 plants of a high-grade species of the plant. The men who were detained were identified by last names and ages of Huertas Avilés, 59, and Huertas Bustos, 27.

U.N. office welcomes
decision on Rios Montt

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.N. human rights office has welcomed the news that a Guatemalan judge rejected the claim that a former dictator is protected under an amnesty law from being tried on genocide charges.

The dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, 85, was in power from 1982 to 1983 when some of the country’s worst civil war atrocities occurred, including the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of native Mayans.

For the past 12 years, Rios Montt served as a congressman and enjoyed immunity from prosecution. However, this immunity was lifted on Jan. 14 when he lost a re-election race last year.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled the amnesty law is invalid because of a 1949 international treaty against genocide that Guatemala signed long before the amnesty was declared.

This ruling appears to open the door to striking down amnesty for anyone accused of genocide related to the country’s 36-year civil war, in which around 200,000 people are believed to have been killed,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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!
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 5, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 46
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The other kind of a great Costa Rican fishing adventure
By Lee Swidler*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

If you read any literature on fishing in Costa Rica, you are probably reading about offshore bill fishing, or at the least, ocean fishing.  That’s because fishing in Costa Rica is almost synonymous with sport fishing.  Of course there are plenty of other fish out there beside the sailfish and marlin to go after, but I get sea sick!   So I have found other opportunities for wetting the line. And since I have been fly fishing for most of my adult life, I am catching these new to me types of fish, on a fly.

A few months ago, a very dear old friend with whom I have fished when we lived in Colorado, contacted me about fly fishing in Costa Rica.  He was coming down with his brother and wanted me to take them on an adventure.  Mike and Rob were staying in Playa Potrero, and I live in Jacó, so we made arrangements to meet in Upala, a small agricultural town on the northern edge of Costa Rica.  Upala has many local rivers that eventually flow into Lake Nicaragua. The rivers flow south to north.  We would fish the Rio Niño.

They didn’t get lost, and we all linked up around noon at some local cabinas where I had made arrangements.  The plan was to eat lunch, relax, catch up on each other’s lives, have dinner and get ready for an early start the next day.

At 4:30 a.m. I was up making coffee to take with us, and by 5, we were on the road.  At riverside, we met up with my friend and local boatman Gilberto, who owns a nice 15-foot open panga with a small outboard.  It’s a good thing Gilberto knows the river like his backyard, as we were constantly moving from one side to the other to avoid submerged logs and fallen trees.  It was not quite sun up, the jungle sounds  were overwhelming, and I had two guys from a world away, just soaking it up. And we hadn’t even begun fishing yet!  That is one of the extras about fly fishing down here. It gets you out there.  We weren’t going to run into any tours.

We motored up river for about an hour, which would equal to around five hours of float time for fishing.  Once Gilberto turned us around, he cut the engine and grabbed an oar, which he used to paddle and steer us for the float downstream.  Since Mike was an experienced fly fisherman, we set him up quickly, and he was ready to go.  Rob, on the other hand, was not a fly fisherman, and had brought a light spinning rod set-up. My plan was to rig him up with a casting bubble, a clear plastic bob that floats, to give his line some weight. Attached to that with about a foot of small clear line was a floating fly.  Basically, the set-up allows a spin fisherman to fish with a fly.  We were fishing for a local river fish called machaca.  And these fish have very sharp teeth, so between the very end of the fly leader and the fly we add some stainless steel braided cable, so the fish do not bite through the line.  We were ready to go.

The best fly for these omnivorous fish are bass poppers, floating balsa wood imitations of baby frogs and other attractors.  For years I was having friends and clients purchase them to bring down to me until about six months ago I decided I could do it myself. After all, balsa wood grows in my back yard.  

I began slowly shaping my first bug.  I still had my old fly tying kit from Colorado, which though moldy from lack of use, still had a few boxes of hooks which were the perfect size. I needed enamel paint, but didn’t want to invest in a pint for my first popper. What if it didn’t work?  So I bought some inexpensive nail polish and went to work. I cut up some rubber bands for legs and used some super glue.  The results were not bad for a first try.  Good enough that I had a friend in the States send me a box of plastic model paints, feathers, and rubber strands, to make a real go of it.   Mike and Rob
big fish
A.M. Costa Rica/Lee Swidler
Rob’s big machaca

popper kit
A.M. Costa Rica/Lee Swidler
The kit to make poppers

would be the first time my creations would be put to the test.
So for the first fly of the day, I tied on the old store-bought poppers!  I just really wanted them to catch fish, and I knew what worked for sure, so I went with it.  Hey, we had five hours to fish. My bugs would get a chance! 

And, yes, they did catch fish!  Then I tied on my creation.  It was a little bigger bug than what they had been using.  I told them, bigger bug, bigger fish.  And then the action really got going.  My poppers worked.  They each caught fish well over seven pounds, a good size on small tackle.

Our day turned into one they will long remember.  For the full five-hour float, it was non-stop hits, misses, and many, many catches.  Everyone came off the river with a smile, and all the fish lived to be caught another day. 

*Mr. Swidler, a Jacó businessman, is a fly fishing guide. He writes about his adventures on a blog HERE!

belly dancers
A.M. Costa Ricas/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
One of the many presentations by the various belly dancer schools in the Central Valley.
Middle East and its dance comes to the ministry of culture
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Belly dancers filled the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud Saturday and Sunday as hundreds of dancers gathered to perform for the Feria Artes Arabé.

The Middle Eastern music was heard from Parque Morazán where the Transitarte art festival was being held. The Arabic festival was put together by Amar, the Centro Cultural Lebanese, or the Lebanese cultural center. The two events were not connected.

The small festival brought in hundreds of interested spectators to enjoy belly dancing, music, food, and the Middle Eastern
culture. The performances were put on by different dancing schools from the Central Valley area. Amar also included Indian culture as part of the Arabic festival.

There were vendors who sold costumes and accessories for dancing. There were only two main food stands. One sold Middle Eastern food and the other sold Indian food. There was one tent where pastries were sold.

There were also workshops for those interested in the different styles of belly dancing. Many women wore bright colored belly dancing costumes with gold jewelry and extravagant make-up.

There was a 1,500-colon entrance fee, about $3. After that the workshops were free. 

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Fire fighters survey the result of the fire break that was chopped around the blaze.

The break is about three meters or nearly 10 feet wide.
fire break
Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica photo

National park blaze finally encircled as more help arrives
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The situation improved for the nearly 200 fire fighters trying to control the smoky bush blaze in the Parque Nacional Chirripó.

Sunday the fire crews managed to close the gap in a fire break and thereby contained the blaze. Crews are on the fire line overnight to see that the fire does not break out.

At 5:30 p.m. a helicopter from the Guatemalan air force arrived. The craft will be put into service today dumping water on the stubborn blaze. The helicopter also will be used to move crews and equipment.

Fire fighters appealed to the executive branch for more help Friday, and the Guatemalan helicopter was the result. The blaze remains in about 150 hectares in a rugged section of the Talamanca mountains

President Laura Chinchilla and Vanessa Rosales visited the area Saturday. Ms. Rosales is the president of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgo y Atención de Emergencias, which is directing the response to the fire.

Also involved is the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, which is in charge of the park system, and the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the professional fire fighters.

Officials said that there have been 27 forest and brush fires this year and 3,500 field fires. They said this was a record for the country. Firemen still are not certain how the most recent blaze started, but suspicion turns to campers or hunters.

The park blaze was not a spectacular event. Instead, the fire crawled along the ground by igniting the forest litter. Most of the problem was in trying to extinguish hotspots in trunks of fallen trees. Many of the trees are likely to survive.
smoke eaters
Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica photo
Masked firefighter braves smoke and dust.

Firemen faced smoky conditions and found themselves working in the daytime heat and the evening cold because of the park's elevation.

The Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel de Santo Domingo began tackling the Río Tibás, one of the country's most polluted.

Volunteers filled sacks with trash for recycling. The committee also reported what appeared to be two sources of pollution.

river cleaning
Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel de Santo Domingo photo

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

New camel species unearthed
in Panamá Canal excavations

By the University of Florida news service

The discovery of two new extinct camel species by University of Florida scientists sheds new light on the history of the tropics, a region containing more than half the world’s biodiversity and some of its most important ecosystems.

Appearing online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the study is the first published description of a fossil mammal discovered as part of an international project in Panamá. Funded with a grant from the National Science Foundation, University of Florida paleontologists and geologists are working with the Panamá Canal Authority and scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to make the most of a five-year window of excavations during Panamá Canal expansions that began in 2009.

The discovery by Florida Museum of Natural History researchers extends the distribution of mammals to their southernmost point in the ancient tropics of Central America. The tropics contain some of the world’s most important ecosystems, including rain forests that regulate climate systems and serve as a vital source of food and medicine, yet little is known of their history because lush vegetation prevents paleontological excavations.

“We’re discovering this fabulous new diversity of animals that lived in Central America that we didn’t even know about before,” said co-author Bruce MacFadden, vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum on the university campus and co-principal investigator on the project. “The family originated about 30 million years ago and they’re found widespread throughout North America, but prior to this discovery, they were unknown south of Mexico.”

Researchers described two species of ancient camels that are also the oldest mammals found in Panamá: Aguascalietia panamáensis and Aguascalientia minuta. Distinguished from each other mainly by their size, the camels belong to an evolutionary branch of the camel family separate from the one that gave rise to modern camels based on different proportions of teeth and elongated jaws.

“Some descriptions say these are crocodile-like camels because they have more elongated snouts than you would expect,” said lead author Aldo Rincon, a geology doctoral student. “They were probably browsers in the forests of the ancient tropics. We can say that because the crowns are really short.”

Rincon discovered the fossils in the Las Cascadas formation, unearthing pieces of a jaw belonging to the same animal over a span of two years, he said.

“When I came back to the museum, I started putting everything together and realized, ‘Oh wow, I have a nearly complete jaw,’ ” Rincon said.

The study shows that despite Central America’s close proximity to South America, there was no connection between continents because mammals in the area 20 million years ago all had North American origins. The Isthmus of Panamá formed about 15 million years later and the fauna crossed to South America 2.5 to 3 million years ago, MacFadden said.

Barry Albright, a professor of earth science at the University of North Florida who studied the early Miocene fauna of the Gulf Coast Plain, said he was surprised by the similarity of the Central American fauna.

Camels belong to a group of even-toed ungulates that includes cattle, goats, sheep, deer, buffalo and pigs. Other fossil mammals discovered in Panamá from the early Miocene have been restricted to those also found in North America at the time. While researchers are sure the ancient camels were herbivores that likely browsed in forests, they are still analyzing seeds and pollen to better understand the environment of the ancient tropics.

“People think of camels as being in the Old World, but their distribution in the past is different than what we know today,” MacFadden said. “The ancestors of llamas originated in North America and then when the land bridge formed about 4 to 5 million years ago, they dispersed into South America and evolved into the llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuña.”

Researchers will continue excavating deposits from the Panamá Canal during construction to widen and straighten the channel and build new locks, expected to continue through 2014.

Chávez and Castro pictured
in discussion at hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela has released photographs of its convalescing president, reportedly taken inside a Cuban hospital.  A smiling Hugo Chávez is seen walking in a couple of the pictures, and in others sitting and chatting with his mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Chávez flew to Cuba last week to undergo surgery for removal of what he said was likely a cancerous tumor in the pelvic region. 

Last year, the 57-year-old Venezuela leader had surgery and chemotherapy in Havana to remove a cancerous growth from the same area.  Chávez later said he was cancer-free.

Chávez has ruled Venezuela for 13 years and is hoping to be re-elected for another six-year term in October.  His opponent will be 39-year-old Henrique Capriles who was chosen as the sole opposition candidate in a primary in February.
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fire trucks
Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica photo
Fire fighters christen one of three new trucks they received Friday. Limón, Ciudad Quesada and Barrio Luján in San José will each get one.

Sala IV freezes any action
on new tobacco measure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the executive branch to freeze action on the new tobacco law because the magistrates have accepted an appeal from 10 lawmakers.

The lawmakers appealed but the legislature passed the measure for the second time before there was formal notification. The Sala IV will determine if there are any constitutional objections in the bill, which generally follows a treaty that Costa Rica has signed.

The measure forbids smoking in all public places and even at outdoor bus stops. There are still fines.

The magistrates also ordered the executive branch to withhold publishing the measure in the official newspaper. Publication is a requirement for a law to go into force.

Palmito being promoted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The community of Tucurrique will host the III Expo Feria Nacional de Palmito y Mini Vegetales from March 16 to 19.

The community is in the canton of Jiménez in the province of Cartago.

The Centro Agrícola Cantona, the organizers, said that the purpose of the event is to promote the consumption of palmito at the national level. There are about 100 palmito producers in the area.

Man held in tot's death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents have detained a 25-year-old man to face an allegation that he killed a 5-year-old girl. Agents said the crime happened in August when several persons fired on a car being driven by the girl's father. This happened in Los Cuadros.                                                    

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