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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, March 21, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 56          E-mail us
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Thousands show their support for victims in Japan
Erik Madrigal and orgami
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Erik Madrigal teaches origami to visitors

Crowd supporting tsunami victims
overwhelms San José location

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans who came to show their support for disaster-struck Japan overwhelmed the Centro Nacional de la Cultura Sunday.

Perhaps the largest number ever to visit an event there filled the interior of the centro, which is the former national liquor factory just east of Parque España. By noon, those operating sales booths within the facility were making dashes to renew their supplies. By 2 p.m. there was a line of visitors Perhaps 200 yards long patiently awaiting their turn outside.

Informal estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 persons.

Despite the somber reason for the gathering, the mood was upbeat. Erik Madrigal of Santa Ana was teaching an enthusiastic group the art of origami.
long line to enter
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Hundreds waited patiently to enter the culture center for the event.

For some reason imperial storm troopers patrolled the crowded paths pausing for photographs with visitors. Hundreds sat in the amphitheater when the  Orquesta Sinfónica de Desamparados played.

Cruz Roja volunteers encouraged donations. The money will be sent to Japan.

The event was put on by the Asociación Japonesa en Costa Rica and the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. Clearly neither organization expected the massive turnout.

Some of those who attended came for the gallo pinto celebration in Paseo Colón where the Maggi food company served about 10,000 free plates of the Costa Rican traditional dish.
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Lionel Valerín in his running gear

Long-time runner dons
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Special to A.M. Costa Rica

One of the well-known characters among racing participants is Lionel Valerín, who is frequently running not only in the Central Valley but also in other countries. What makes him unusual is that he wears an Indian headdress and face paint with a doll on his back papoose fashion.

Sunday he was in Tibás for an 11.5-kilometer race, one of many sponsored by the Lion’s Club San Juan del Murciélago, to raise funds for the program “La Vista Primero,” which provides vision exams and cataract operations to people who cannot afford these services. Several hundred persons participated.

Valerín also carries a small bow, as in bow and arrow.  He said he has been running community races for 16 years. He said he wears the Indian costume because he “respects the Indians.” On the headdress Jesus is painted in bright letters and on his tunic is the message: Corro por Jesus (I run for Jesus).

Valerín relaxed after the race, posing for photos with admirers and chatting in English. He said that he runs 11 marathons each year, dressed in his costume. He runs nine marathons in Costa Rica, one in Panama, and one in Berlin, Germany.

The next full marathon is Sunday in the vicinity of Parque la Sabana and Rohrmoser.

High-tide alert for Pacific
runs through Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The full moon may be beautiful particularly since it is at its closet point to the earth in 13 years, but weather officials are warning bathers, those who live near the Pacific and those operating small boats.

Tonight is supposed to the time with the closest proximity to the moon and the highest tides. The warning continues through Friday for all of the Pacific coast. The north Pacific coast is expected to get the highest tides.

Because there also is the possibility of stronger rip tides, bathers also are being warned. Some low-lying areas are likely to be inundated. That frequently happens in parts of Puntarenas Centro.

The national emergency commission issued a warning as well as the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. The alert also covered the Isla del Coco in the Pacific.

Orotina-Atenas stretch
finally reopened to traffic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a month of repairs, the Autopista del Sol opened Saturday. Thousands of Costa Ricans took advantage of the reopened Orotina-Atenas stretch.

There is more work to be done, but stabilization of some slopes and repair of the spot at Kilometer 47 when the roadbed collapsed have been completed.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes announced the opening at a press conference Friday. Technically it is the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad that is in charge of the highways. This route is special because the work is the responsibility of the concession holder.

Drug delivery to prison
alleged in arrest of five

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five persons who were ostensibly carrying food to prisoners in the La Reform penitentiary were detained Sunday on allegations that they also were delivering marijuana.

The five, residents of Alajuelita, were the subject of a tip by a confidential informant, said the Fuerza Pública. Officers set up a roadblock on the Alajuelita-Bello Horzonte road to snare the vehicle containing the five persons.

The only woman in the group was reported to have been carrying 182 grams of marijuana on her person. She was searched by a female officer, police said. Some 20 grams were found under the floor mat of the vehicle, they added.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 56
Latigo K-9

$340 million in road projects seen helping economy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government announced $340 million in road projects Friday and said that it also was seeking more housing construction and a stabilization of the dollar-color exchange rate.

Casa Presidencial said that approval had been received from the Contraloría General de la República to resume construction on the San Carlos highway. The estimated $140 million is included in the national budget. This is the highway that the government of Taiwan was building for the country.

The project was put in limbo in June 2007 when then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez dumped Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic of China, which choose to build a soccer stadium instead.

Casa Presidencial also said that it expected to publish two offers for bids on road projects being financed by foreign resources. They are the Chilamate Vueta de Kooper highway and widening of the Cañas-Liberia highway. Total costs will be about $200 million, said Casa Presidencial.
The announcement came just as the business chamber said that a survey said that 55 percent of the business operators do not think that the government is taking steps to reactivate the economy. The chamber, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said last week that an index of economic activity had declined for 11 straight months.

The chamber also said that 51 percent of the respondents to the survey said they would not be making capital investments.

Casa Presidencial said that it was asking the legislature to approve a proposal for housing construction bonds for citizens and several technical changes that would reduce the cost of borrowing for housing.

The central government also noted that the Banco Central was seeking to stabilize the dollar-colon exchange rate and seeking ways to stimulate the demand for dollars.

The country has been flooded with dollars from abroad and this has affected the exchange rate that has fallen about 80 colons to the dollar in the last year. The current rate to buy colons is 494.5 per U.S. dollar.

Expats in quiet Atenas rattled by home invasion there
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats in Atenas are considering their options after three gunmen broke into a home last week, tied up the occupants and ransacked the place.

The expat husband said a gunman held a weapon to his head for over an hour as he was tied up on the floor.

The family was unharmed physically, but the incident, not a typical one for Atenas, has generated discussions about home protection.

Many homes in Atenas lack the steel bars and portones that are typical of homes elsewhere in the Central Valley.
A.M. Costa Rica has reported that because of the crackdown by police in the core city crooks and robbers are looking for easy pickings in the outlying areas. Although there have been similar crimes in Atenas, this may be the first home invasion of an expat's dwelling.

Criminals typically break into the home late at night or when the home may be open for guests. Usually they have checked out the area intently and may have local help. There has been a sharp increase in such crimes along the central Pacific coast and even in the Nicoya Peninsula. There have been murders. Still, places like Escazú, Santa Ana, Moravia, San Pedro and Curridabat are more frequent targets because of their proximity to Pavas where most of the criminal gangs are headquartered.

Ms. Tomayko manipulated media, ambassador said in cable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

By manipulating the Costa Rican media and playing to Costa Rica's self-image as a protector of human
rights, Chere Lyn Tomayko and her team of supporters were able to persuade Janina Del Vecchio, the security minister, to confer refugee status even before the Supreme Court had issued its ruling on Ms. Tomayko's extradition.

That is a summary of a diplomatic cable sent by Ambassador Peter Cianchette about the much publicized child abduction case.

"Sadly, although Tomayko has avoided returning to the U.S. to answer for her crime, she remains a fugitive with outstanding international arrest warrants against her.  She has thus effectively made herself a 'prisoner for life' in Costa Rica," he said in the cable Aug. 8, 2008. The cable is among those released by Wikileaks.

Cianchette was outlining to the State Department the circumstances of the case where the security minister acted to prevent the extradition of Ms. Tomayko, a U.S. citizen facing an indictment for international child abduction.

Ms. Tomayko came to Costa Rica in 1997 from Texas 
with a daughter. The U.S. Embassy did not orchestrate her arrest until the girl turned 18.

Ms. Tomayko claimed in the press that she had been the victim of domestic violence, something her daughter's father denied.

"Local media helped by painting the extradition request as a callous move which would "separate an abused mother from her children," said the ambassador.  "To all the parties  involved, Tomayko repeated her unsubstantiated allegations of domestic violence suffered at the hands of [Roger] Cyprian and her fear that she and her daughter would be in danger if they were returned to the  U.S."

In a note, the ambassador's cable said that expat media, meaning A.M. Costa Rica, had blamed the embassy for foot dragging in the case and that it had protected Ms. Tomako since 2002. Cianchette, who was not in Costa Rica during most of the case, claimed this was not true. However, he did not give any evidence.

The ambassador said the decision to grant refugee status to Ms. Tomayko was purely a political one and that it might have negative consequences. However, there have been no obvious consequences.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 56

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The country is on the verge of going soccer happy with the inaugural game at the new soccer stadium eight days away. The Costa Rican national team will play Argentina March 29. This is the stadium built by the
People's Republic for $85 million. The street vendor who is selling shirts and flags also offers those with the colors of Argentina, blue and white, but there are few takers.

Long search for missing tot has grim end in Ciudad Colón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A mother faces an allegation that she took her 3 year old from the care of his grandmother and then killed him.

This was the outcome Friday of a case in which police and others were seeking the child.

The woman was reported to have psychiatric problems. The family has a long list of judicial cases where the woman sought protection from the father and the father sought protection from the mother, said the Poder Judicial.

It was March 9 when the mother appears to have taken the child from the home of the grandmother where he had been staying temporarily. That was in Guararí de Heredia. The Judicial Investigating Organization identified her as Ericka Madrigal Soto.  The child was identified as Juan Manuel Barquero.

A few days later, the mother was located wandering in a disoriented state in Puntarenas. She said that someone had stolen the child from her in Ciudad Colón. That is where the search was centered. Eventually investigators located an informant who said the woman was seen entering a wooded area with the child and emerged alone.
child's body
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Agents and forensic experts prepare to remove the body of Juan Manuel Barquero.

With that information Friday agents were able to locate  the small body.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 56

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Obama in Brazil praises
its thriving democracy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nearing the end of his two day stay in Brazil, President Barack Obama has spoken about values he says connect the people of the hemisphere's two largest democracies, and people striving for change around the world.

After spending the first day of his visit focused on expanding U.S.-Brazil economic and trade ties, the president and his family spent time seeing some key sights in Rio de Janeiro.

But one of those stops, a visit to the large favela or slum known as City of God, also buttressed a key message — that inclusion of people from all levels of society and all races strengthens democracy and furthers development and economic progress.

Obama, his wife Michelle, and his daughters watched drum and martial arts performances, kicked soccer balls with neighborhood children, and posed for photographs.

The visit there carried over to Obama's address at Rio's municipal theatre in which he said hope is returning “to places where fear once prevailed" and hailed Brazil's success in lifting millions from poverty through new security and social programs.

Brazil he said has gone from dictatorship to a thriving democracy and in so doing has inspired the world.

"For so long, Brazil was a nation brimming with potential but held back by politics, both at home and abroad.  For so long, you were called a country of the future, told to wait for a better day that was always just around the corner.  Meus amigos, that day has finally come.  And this is a country of the future no more.  The people of Brazil should know that the future has arrived and it is time to seize it," he said.

Obama said the U.S. and Brazil had similar histories, as former colonies that welcomed waves of immigrants, eventually cleansing “the stain of slavery," with similar struggles for equality for people of all races and backgrounds.

Referring to what he called the unfolding struggle by people for rights in the Middle East and North Africa, the president said that despite differences of opinion, Americans and Brazilians also share common aspirations.

"We all seek to be free.  We all seek to be heard.  We all yearn to live without fear or discrimination.  We all yearn to choose how we are governed and we all want to shape our own destiny.  These are not American ideals, or Brazilian ideals, or Western ideals.  These are universal rights, and we must support them everywhere," he said.

Obama also joked about his home town of Chicago losing out to Rio de Janeiro in the competition to host the 2016 Olympic Games, and received loud applause when he said he intends to return to see the games.

The president receiving continuous updates on allied military operations in Libya to enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

He had a secure conference call with his National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, and General Carter Ham, who heads the U.S. Africa Command.

White House officials say Libya came up in broad terms during discussions President Obama had on Saturday with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, focusing on shared concerns for the Libyan people.  

Before departing Brazil, the president, his wife and their daughters were to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, an icon of Rio and for Brazil, atop Corcovado Mountain towering above the city. 

Next stop is Chile, where Obama is to meet with President Sebastian Pinera.

The two presidents will also discuss cooperation on disaster response, something Chile has developed expertise in because of frequent earthquakes, and last year's tsunamis, and Chile's role in judicial and police training in Latin America.
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After presidential voting
Haitians have a long wait

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti held an election Sunday but it might be sometime in April when the results are known.

Voters came out early Sunday. After widespread allegations of fraud in the first round, officials were hoping this second and hopefully final round vote would run smoothly. International donors are waiting for a legitimate government to which they could release billions of dollars in aid to rebuild the country. But there were some sporadic problems in downtown Port-au-Prince.

At 6 a.m., early voters at the Lycee Marie Jean polling station in downtown Port-au-Prince began to trickle in. Haitians had been urged to turn out en masse to decide which of two candidates will lead the country as it struggles to rebuild after the earthquake of over a year ago. 

Polling station supervisor Jeanty Williams was pleased with how smoothly voting was going.

"So far everything is OK.  We opened at 6 a.m.  And as you can see the people are voting. They are coming and going, but it is a little slow."

The race for president pits former first lady Mirlande Managat against musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly.  Also on the ballot are senators and deputies in 76 run-off legislative races.

Roseline Beljane said she left her house at 5 in the morning to vote.  She had to wait more than an hour because there was no ink used to mark voter's fingers after they vote.

When asked for whom she voted for, she smiled coyly and as she was walking away said: "For the person who is working for the country . . .  Wyclef."  She was referring to Wyclef Jean, the rapper who launched a candidacy for president last year. His candidacy was disqualified by the national election committee.  He has been at the side of band mate and friend Michel Martelly for much of his campaign.

But things rarely go as planned in Haiti. At the front gate, security guards had blocked it off and were not letting anymore voters in. The electoral committee had ordered the polling station closed because some voting materials had never arrived. The polling station supervisor, flanked by security guards, walked out to speak to the crowd. 

But angry voters like Joseph Sinal were uninterested in his explanation.

"I am here. I have an electoral card and they would not let me vote. They say they are missing materials, but I am here to vote for Michel Martelly. That is it," said one voter.

Voting was also halted at the Lycee Jeune Fils polling station just a few blocks away because of missing materials. 

An election committee spokesperson said an emergency meeting had been called to discuss the problem. They also said voting was going smoothly in other parts of the city and across the country. A few hours later both polling stations were reopened. 

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