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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, March 27, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 61      E-mail us
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Confiscated drugs usually are under tight security until the packages are airlifted to San José and eventual incineration. This is the haul discovered Monday.
drug boat
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Officials shocked as robbers take confiscated drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The entire judicial and law enforcement apparatus of the country suffered a black eye early Thursday when armed men, as if on cue, showed up at the judicial building in Golfito and took 320 kilos of confiscated cocaine.

The armed men, who arrived in three vehicles, tied up two police officers. A handful of others elsewhere in the building did not hear the activities.

The cocaine was taken from an open boat of Ecuadorian registry that the Servicio Nacional de Guardacoastas captured over the weekend in Parque Nacional Corcovado.

The local press and television quickly termed the event an inside job, and the security minister, Janina del Vecchio, said that the packages of cocaine were due to be flown to the capital later Thursday. She was unable to explain to an interviewer why the cocaine had not been transported earlier, as is the custom.

Jorge Rojas, the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization, went to the scene in southwest Costa Rica personally to head the investigation and to question witnesses.

The Poder Judicial issued a short statement confirming the robbery and then insisted that the law prohibits saying anything else because the case is under investigation.

An extensive search involving more than 300 officers was taking place in the south Pacific area. Roadblocks were set up. Some officers said they thought the drugs would be headed to Panamá. Others thought that the packages were hidden almost immediately in the Golfito area.

Whoever engineered the heist knew that the drugs still were in Golfito and that the judicial building was being guarded by just two men who had only pistols. Officials said that the five gunmen who arrived had submachine guns. But there was no report that shots were fired.

Estimates vary, but the shipment of cocaine
probably is worth about $1.6 million in the Costa Rican market. The value may be four times that if the drugs are moved successfully to the United States. The weight in pounds is 704.

The robbery also may have damaged the country's case against the three men from Ecuador who were detained around the same time that the boat was confiscated. There is no proof now that they were carrying cocaine.

The boat turned up Sunday at Playa Sirena, where members of the Servicio de Parques Nacionales found it. A man with the boat said he was a fisherman who had run out of gasoline for his outboard motor. Sometime later, a second man was located in the vicinity of Playa Salsipuedes by officers of the Fuerza Pública. Later in the week a third man was detained. All three were jailed for six months of preventative detention.

After the coast guard towed the boat to Golfito, dogs of the Unidad Canina de la Fuerza Pública gave the alert Monday that there were drugs hidden in the hull. Investigators used an electric handsaw to cut through planks and reveal the drugs.

Officials suspect that the three sailors had a connection with Costa Rica because food found in the boat had been purchased locally. Still, there is a high probability that those who robbed the drugs are not members of the same gang that was shipping the substance by sea.

Investigators are looking inside the law enforcement establishment for leads as well as among the known drug smugglers in the area.

If investigators find that police or judicial workers had a role in the heist, the news would be an embarrassment to the security minster who has insisted that there is little corruption in law enforcement.

The U.S. Navy has a different opinion. When drug runners are captured at sea, the Navy turns over a small portion of the drug haul to Costa Rican officials to be used as evidence at trial. The remainder stays on the warship for transport stateside.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 61

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant 
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Ph/Fax: 2221-9462, 8841-0007
Classic cars strut their stuff
and engage in speed contests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lovers of antique cars will be showing their pampered autos this weekend at Multiplaza in Escazú, but there also will be events at the Autódromo La Guácima where, among other attractions, there will be races between some of the vehicles. Also planned are races for muscle cars, exotic cars and VWs and Porches.

Among those attending will be Barry Meguiars, the world renowned expert in classic cars. He will be recording segments for the U.S. television show "Speed."

The event is the 8th Convención Centroamericana de Autos Clásicos, which will open tonight at the Hotel Real Intercontinental. The vehicles are being displayed on the third floor of Multiplaza's new parking structure.

Involved are the Club de Autos Antiguos de Costa Rica and the Autoclub Fenix de Heredia.

Saturday at the speedway there will be at least four heats involving the various car categories. Organizers expect about 70 vehicles there. The whole show will have about 140 classic cars, organizers said.

The show runs through Sunday. Organizers said that some of the vehicles on exhibit have been transported into the country via container because they are too valuable to drive on the roads.

Family lumber business
involves protected area


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública said that two families seem to have the lock on lumbering in a protected area.

Officers made arrests this week, but they complained that the operation is highly sophisticated with modern technology.

Cutting of trees in protected areas is illegal.  However, there are vast areas where no officials visit. In rural areas, this is a frequent violation. The difference with the family groups in Guatuso is their degree of sophistication and amount of material being taken.

The Fuerza Pública said its officers intercepted and confiscated 30,000 cubic inches of wood over eight days. They said the families even have constructed rough dwellings in the forest for their lumbering camps.

During rainy season, the groups transport their stolen wood via the local rivers. The Río Frio and the Río Celeste are nearby. Now they are using trucks, police said.

Three persons were detained this week, and police estimated that the value of the confiscated wood was about 45 million colons, about $80,100.

Cocaine trade for seniors
seems to be a new trend


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Senior citizens or those nearly so seem to be becoming involved in smuggling cocaine.

Until now, the typical cocaine smuggler was a U.S. or European male or female in their 20s and 30s. There were some Costa Ricans and other Latins, too.

But within the last month, U.S. citizens in their 50s and 60s have been caught with suspected cocaine on their person or in their luggage.

Observers are not sure if this is just a fluke or if there is an economic reason for the change in profiles.

Despite the nationalities, Europe is a prime destination for smugglers because cocaine sells for a 50 percent premium there.

The Policía de Control de Drogas intercepts two or three persons a week who are seeking to carry cocaine and, in a few cases, heroin. There is no way of knowing how many get through.

There also is the suggestion that some of the drug couriers are sacrificed to draw attention away form other couriers. Some of the airport arrests are the result of anonymous telephone tips.

Driver's license department
will have extended hours


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The driver's license bureau in La Uruca will be open two hours more each day next week and the week of April 13 to compensate for the office being closed all of Semana Santa, the agency said Thursday.

Departamento de Licencias del Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes will open at 8 a.m., but the closing will be at 6 p.m., the agency said.

The working hours of regional offices will not change, the agency said.

JetBlue makes first flight
and tourism officials cheer


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The discount airline JetBlue began service to Juan Santamaría airport from Orlando, Florida, Thursday, and tourism officials were there to meet the first plane. The aircraft makes a morning flight to Costa Rica and makes an afternoon return trip to Florida.

This is the company's first service to Latin America.

Pope Benedict plans trip
to Jordan and Holy Land


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Vatican Thursday officially confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 8 to 15. He will first travel to Jordan and then on to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. 

This will be Pope Benedict's first visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and it will be watched carefully. Many are hoping the pontiff will use the opportunity to help ease Roman Catholic relations with Muslims and Jews, which often have been strained since the start of this papacy four years ago.

Pope Benedict is expected to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian territories President Mahmoud Abbas. This is the third papal visit in modern times to the land where Jesus lived. Pope Paul VI visited the region in 1964 and John Paul II in 2000.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 61


The world stops on its axis for a time Saturday evening
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The workers on the Imperial beer production line are on overtime, and the traffic police are tuning up their tow trucks.

The reason is the big soccer game Saturday at 5 p.m. when Costa Rica faces struggling México in Mexico City.

At stake is advancement toward a berth at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Six teams remain alive in the bracket that contains Costa Rica. Three of them will go to South Africa. The fourth place team will have to defeat a contender from another bracket to go.

Costa Rica and the United States are in first place, each with one win. Costa Rica defeated Honduras, 2-0, and the United States defeated México.

Trinidad and Tobago and the team from El Salvador are in second place, thanks to their 2-2 tie.

The United States plays El Salvador Saturday, the same day Costa Rica is in the Estadio Azteca.
Trinidad and Tobago faces Honduras Saturday, too.

Then the teams have six days to get ready for another qualifier. Costa Rica hosts El Salvador Wednesday at 8 p.m. the U.S. team hosts Trinidad and Tobago the same day in Nashville, Tennessee, and México travels to San Pedro Sula to face Honduras.

In Costa Rica Saturday and Wednesday the world will stand still. Stores will be empty. Taxis will not run. But the bars and private homes will be full. It's Superbowl Tico style.

And with a new drunk-driving law in place, the Policía de Tránsito expects to do a land office business, particularly if Costa Rica wins. And the Fuerza Pública will be on alert for excesses in public places.

México will be doing without the services of team captain  Rafael Marquez Saturday because of his behavior during the U.S. game. He is suspended for two games. The Mexican team is having a bad run. It has not won in four games and suffered three loses.

Costa Rica has won eight straight qualifying contests.


Agreement on spheres is highlight of twin festivals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are two big festivals starting today in the southern zone, and the Municipalidad de Osa will take advantage of the events to sign an agreement with the Museo Nacional to provide more protection for the stone spheres found in the canton.

In fact, the stone spheres are all over, even though the museum has a goal of bringing them back to the southern zone where pre-Columbian native Costa Ricans created them.

In San José they may be seen on the lawns of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, the Ministerio de Hacienda and those of many private individuals.

By carrying off the stone spheres residents confounded the hopes of museum experts to find out more about them.

The Saturday event in the park at Palmar Sur will be the part of the IV Festival de las Esferas de Osa.

The museum is trying to create a world-class site there to do justice to the spheres and the cultures that made them perhaps 1,500 to 300 years before Christ.

The sphere festival is just a small part of the Festival Nacional de las Artes in which the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes has invested nearly a half million dollars. Banco Nacional has put in $160,000 as a sponsor, the ministry said.

The ministry promises 1,172 different activities all over the southern zone. A full program at 2221-3806.

The arts festival kicks off tonight in front of the Catholic church in Pérez Zeledón, and runs until April 4. Among other activities, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional will give four concerts in the area: Monday at 7 p.m. at the Catedral de San Isidro de El General, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Assembly of God church at Ciudad Puerto Cortés, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Gimnasio Municipal in  
sphere
Municipalidad de Osa photo
One of the many spheres that are garden decorations in the southern zone.

Golfito and Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Nuestra Señora de Lourdes church in San Vito de Coto Brus.

There also are movies and concerts including one tonight at 9 p.m. in Pérez Zeledón with Humberto Vargas, Escats and Malpaís.

In addition to San Isidro and Palmar Sur, events will take place in Golfito, Laurel, Ciudad Neily, San Vito de Coto Brus, Buenos Aires and Puerto Cortés.


How about that cross-cultural stare for little children?
I was standing waiting for the bus in front of Yamuni department store on Avenida 10 when a man came and stood beside me, beginning a line.  Without thinking, I moved about six inches away.  He had stood too close for my comfort.  As I became conscious of what I had done and why, I recalled the last Book Club session where I met a possible new member — a Tica who teaches English, Spanish and French.

We began talking about languages and how they reflect cultures. We agreed that perhaps “everyone is alike” (something so many people insist) when you take away the differences. But we also agreed that when it comes to behavior and attitude, and even psychology and belief systems, we are quite different.  She brought up the American need for more personal space than the average Tico.  And, I added, the Costa Rican’s greater tolerance for noise.

We also talked about how different languages are. There are languages that do not even have words for some concepts expressed in another language. This can become a problem in teaching a language.  

Once settled in the bus, I remembered something else she had mentioned — that some foreigners don’t use deodorants, thinking they don’t need them.  “But they do,” she said, adding that one noticed it more on places like buses. I took heed being inwardly embarrassed because I am one of those people. 

I stopped thinking about this when a mother and her son, a little boy around 5 years old, boarded. She sat down about three seats in front of me across the aisle and told him to sit on her lap.  He wouldn’t.  He stood in the aisle, pulling on her hand saying, “I want to go back there.” They continued to tug, and the little exchange soon became a routine.  The boy had a tiny smirk on his face that children get when they have decided they are going to win the battle of wills just for the fun of it. 

I, for some reason, flashed upon when my children were little. Sometimes when they started to misbehave, I would give them a look that would send them scurrying to sit  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
down (and up straight) practically with their hands folded.  It was not just a stern look. It was a combination of disgust and disbelief that they would even think of doing what was on their minds. I learned the look from my mother.

Pretty soon I began to feel sorry for this mother and getting annoyed with the back and forth going on just three seats in front of me. So I gave that little boy my “look.”  He stopped moving and stared at me for about two seconds then turned around and hopped onto his mother’s lap and held on to the seat in front.  He didn’t move for the rest of the trip except to take a few surreptitious peeks at me.  I had gone back to my reading, so I couldn’t respond in time to show him I approved of his response.  I was also wondering if my look, which obviously worked cross-culturally, would also work on barking dogs.  
 
We got off at the same stop.  I slowed so he and his mother could get some yards away.  But he continued to look back — I suppose to see if I was chasing him.  I tried to catch his eye when he looked back so I could smile but I didn’t get the chance.

I realize that in most cultures the word for grandmother has a positive interpretation.  Grandmothers are the ones who bring treats and spoil their grandchildren.  Oh, I know there are some wicked witches who are grandmother types (but who can tell under all those warts?).

I continued about my business, which involved walking to the next bus stop, wondering if witches ever felt guilty about the spells they cast — and if there was anything worse than being an old witch with BO — even if she is successful at what she does.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 61


These Guanacaste residents are making a dent in possible breeding places for dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Volunteers again will be going house-to-house in Barrio Chorotega and Las Brisas, Cañas, Sunday morning to help residents clean up in anticipation of the rainy season. Asociación Terra Nuestra and Cervercería de Costa Rica are sponsors. The area always has a lot of dengue patients.

fighting gainst dengue
Asociación Terra Nostra photo


Intelligence chief Blair says violence in México shows government is winning
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The top U.S. intelligence officer says Mexico remains stable despite the recent surge in violence spawned by the illegal drug trade. 

Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, spoke to reporters Thursday. He downplayed the notion that drug violence has brought Mexico to the brink of collapse. Rather, Blair said the escalating violence is a testament to the Mexican government's efforts to pressure the cartels.

". . . Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. The violence we see now is the result of Mexico taking
action against the drug cartels. So it is in fact the result of positive moves, which the Mexican government has taken to break the baneful influence that many of these cartels have had on many aspects of Mexican government and Mexican life," Blair said.

The Obama administration has dispatched some 500 additional federal agents to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the violence from spilling over into the United States.

Blair is a retired U.S. Navy admiral who has been in his job about two months, covered a wide range of topics during a lengthy session with reporters at DNI headquarters just outside Washington.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 61



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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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World Trade chief reports
protectionism is growing


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Trade Organization says governments around the world have slipped into protectionist measures since January, threatening to undercut a global economic recovery.

Pascal Lamy, World Trade Organization director general, said developed and developing economies have raised tariffs on imports and introduced other measures to protect domestic industries. He made the comments in a report Thursday to the organization's 153 members.

Lamy says there is no sign of an imminent global trade war. But the World Trade chief said he fears countries will continue giving in to protectionist pressures as economic conditions worsen, leading to a "strangling" of international trade.

The world's 20 major economies are expected to discuss how to avoid protectionism at a summit in London next month.

Britain's prime minister says he will urge the other big economies to help boost world trade by creating a $100 billion fund for easing a shortage in credit. Gordon Brown was speaking Thursday after talks in Brazil with President Luiz Inacio da Silva.

Also Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world's 20 major economies to provide $1 trillion in aid to developing countries hardest-hit by the global recession.

In a letter to the Group of 20 major economies, Ban said the most vulnerable developing nations need at least $1 trillion to sustain them through the crisis this year and next year.

Ban says he realizes this is a large sum, but says he believes major economies can give the money through existing institutions. He says that by helping poor nations, major economies will boost the global economy and underpin their own growth.

In other developments Thursday, a German study says consumer confidence in Europe's largest economy is likely to fall next month for the first time since last October.

The GFK research group said its German consumer confidence index is expected to fall slightly in April, by 0.1 point to a reading of 2.5. The group blamed the decline on consumer pessimism about Germany's recession and fears of job losses.

Elsewhere, Kuwait's cabinet approved a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package to guarantee bank loans to local businesses and to help investment companies cope with losses. Kuwait's ruling emir is expected to issue a decree to turn the stimulus bill into law.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 61


Latin American news digest
Minister who carried cross
is subject of film opening today

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Christian minister Arthur Blessitt has spent 40 years on an unusual mission, carrying a large cross around the world.  The one-time youth pastor to Hollywood's Sunset Strip returned to Hollywood for the opening of a film that chronicles his travels.

Arthur Blessitt has been called crazy and a nut.  Sometimes the comments come from his admirers who at least respect Blessitt's perseverance.  The Evangelical Christian preacher has walked more than 60,000 kilometers (37,200 miles) with a 3.5-meter cross on his back.  The journey has taken Blessitt through scores of war zones and led to encounters with noted figures, from Pope John Paul II to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. 

Blessitt began his career as a youth minister on Hollywood's Sunset Strip, once a center of the 1960s counterculture.  He ran a Christian coffee house adorned with a large cross, and says he came to understand the power of the symbol.  He began carrying the cross on the streets of Hollywood and felt a calling to take it across the country.

"And so Christmas, 1969, I put the cross on my shoulder and started walking from LA to New York, down to Washington," said Arthur Blessitt. "And that actually began a journey that was to continue.  From the time I made the cross until I finished was a 40-year journey."

Blessitt says he has walked through 315 nations, island groups and territories.  He was arrested two dozen times and passed through scores of war zones.  He surmounted obstacle to get into closed countries, receiving permission to visit North Korea in 1998, bringing sections of a cross in his luggage.  A decade earlier, he took the cross into Saudi Arabia, crossing the border briefly in the middle of the desert from the United Arab Emirates.

Blessitt's unlikely story is told in a film called "The Cross," which is made up of newsreel footage, personal videos and dramatic reenactments.

Blessitt now lives in Colorado.  He returned to Hollywood, the place where his travels started, for the opening of the film at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater Tuesday.

"The Cross" opens today in 200 theaters around the United States. 



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