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(506) 2223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 63        E-mail us
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Mangrove
destruction

Farmers are torching trees in the sensitive Puntarenas mangroves to get more land to cultivate. And that is just one of the many problems affecting this important natural resource, says the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, the nation's environmental police.

See story HERE!

mangrove destruction
Tribunal Ambinetal Administrativo photo



Arias idea to dump Uruguayan military formalized
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez, apparently without outside encouragement, has urged the new leftist president of Uruguay to disband the military there.

Arias wrote a letter, a copy of which was provided by Casa Presidencial.

The president since March 1 is José Alberto Mujica Cordano, a former Tupamaro guerilla who served nearly 20 years in jail for his military activities against the government. The Tupamaros were inspired by the Cuban revolution.

Arias urged the new president to follow the example of Costa Rica and that of Panamá and Haiti, all countries without military. Uruguay has an army, a navy and an air force.

Arias said that in the greater part of the world and in Latin America the military has been a source of human rights violations. In addition, the military represents a prohibitive cost for the national economies, Arias said.

"Uruguay does not need a military," Arias wrote. "Its internal security can be in charge of the police force, and its national security gets nothing from a military apparatus that never will be more powerful than that of its neighbors, which also are democratic countries."

In the current circumstances being indefensible is the best position of national security for citizens than a military that is weaker than its neighbors, Arias said.

Uruguay is bordered on the south by Argentina, which invaded British territory in 1982 and launched a disastrous war against the First World military.

Arias cited the example of Costa Rica as the first country in history to abolish its army and declare peace with the world. The country does not have to fear a coup from the military because it does not exist, Arias said.

Arias anticipated his letter when he gave an earlier interview to television reporters in South America. The newspaper La Republica in the capital Montevideo published a news story Saturday that said the idea was roundly rejected in that country.

Sen. Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, another former Tupamaro, told the newspaper that Costa
Mujica and defense minister
Fuerza Aérea Uruguaya photo
President José Mujica is pictured with his defense minister, José Castellá, at the 97th anniversary of Uruguay's air force last March 17.

Rica does not have a military but that it has a national guard that is like an army.  He meant the Fuerza Pública. He said he wondered who put Arias up to making the suggestion.

Another senator called the suggestion by Arias a clear intrusion into the internal matters of the country.

Uruguay has had an army since 1811, and the armed forces are specified in the country's constitution. Its military serves in a number of United Nations peace-keeping operations and were on duty when an earthquake ravaged Haiti Jan. 12. The military also participated in providing humanitarian aid to Haiti.

Fernández also pointed to the unusual circumstances that allowed José Figueres Ferrer to abolish the military after taking power in 1948.  Figueres had just won a war against the regular military and Communist rebels. Although he later said his actions stemmed from high motives, at the time he was concerned that members of his revolutionary junta might oust him by using the military.

Uruguay has thousands in its armed forces.

Arias took a key role in negotiating the return of ousted Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya after he was ousted by the military there last June 28. Despite having strong international backing, Arias was unsuccessful, and a new president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, took office in January.

Some sources in Costa Rica suggest that Arias. a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is trying to enhance his credentials to win a high post in the United Nations when his term ends May 8.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 63

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Joint worship services
are planned in Escazú


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Escazú Christian Fellowship and members of the International Baptist Church will share two services for Easter.

Friday at noon both groups will hold a joint worship service at the church reliving the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus Christ.

Sunday the two congregations will celebrate the resurrection of Christ at a 7:30 a.m. service.

The Escazú Christian Fellowship says it is an interdenominational, international congregation. It usually meets in the Baptist church. The church is about a mile west of Multiplaza on the Autopista del Sol.


Harpy eagle and friends
can give cell phone alerts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ringtones that emit animal sounds have been around for awhile. But now the center for Biological Diversity has just launched an all-Spanish Web site with the same ringtones.

The center said that cell phone users can personalize their device with the calls of jaguar, a Puerto Rican coquí guajón, a Mexican gray wolf, a harpy eagle, a Mexican spotted owl and 26 other endangered wildlife species.

The free site is HERE!  It includes instructions in Spanish on how to download the sounds.

The center has nearly 100 animal ringtones on its English language site HERE!

The Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity says it is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


Policemen faces claim
he extorted from drivers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators said that a Fuerza Pública officer in Siquirres has been extorting money from motorcyclists .

The police officer was detained Tuesday morning, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents said that they believe the officer would use any violation of the traffic laws to extort the money. He would threaten to call the Policía del Tránsito.  The instant fines ranged from 10,000 to 60,000 colons, said agents. That's about $19 to $115.

Investigators said they had four complaints.


Three held after car chase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said they detained two women and a teen with what they said was two kilos of marijuana Tuesday morning in Alajuela Centro. Officers said that the driver of the vehicle tried to evade them and led them on a short chase.  The trio are from Corredores on the border with Panamá, police said

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 63

Santa Ana man prevails over home invaders in fatal struggle
By Manuel Avendaño Arce
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former Cuban soldier confronted home intruders in Santa Ana late Monday and used one of them as a shield with fatal results.

The drama played out in Bosques de Santa Ana at the home of Ricardo Reyes, a 45-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen.

Reyes told investigators that he heard someone breaking into his home while he was in bed. He got up and confronted the three men. One ran off with his television set, a second man began to struggle with the former Cuban soldier and a third began shooting.

The Reyes home was peppered with bullet holes. As the intruder tried to shoot the resident, he accidentally shot his fellow criminal. Then the gunman fled.

The man who was shot later was identified as Felix Esteban Ramírez Naranjo, 25, said the Unidad de Robo de Viviendas of the Judicial Investigating Organization. Ramírez died about 11:30 a.m. at Hospital San Juan de Dios. He suffered a gunshot to the left temple and had been
unconscious since the shooting, attendants said.

Reyes was identified as a former boxer who participates in martial arts. Ramírez was identified as a career criminal who had many run-ins with the law. Reyes suffered an injury to the head where he was hit with a tire iron by one of the intruders. The men used the tire iron to force the locks on the home's gate and door.

Investigators are trying to link the dead man with a ring that has been conducting many home invasions in the Santa Ana area. A judicial police source said that at least one home is broken into each night in the Central Valley area.

Investigators have detained a number of suspects in home invasions in the Santa Ana and Escazú areas, but most of the recent arrests involve cases that still are in process with the courts.

A 16 year old killed a home intruder as the man was struggling with his father over the weekend in San Pedro.

The father was alerted to the crime but did not carry his pistol. But the youth saw what was taking place and gunned down the crook. The youth was questioned by not detained.


traffic stops
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos
Traffic policemen check out a motorcycle driver near Juan Santamaría airport
Police agencies step up the surveillance of roads and drivers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Tránsito, Fuerza Pública officers, the Policía de Turismo and others are conducting intensive checks of motorists all over the country.

They have confiscated knives, guns and even vehicles and handed out citations to persons who have improper paperwork or in at least one case, a fake license.

Drivers are subject to stiff fines unless the Asamblea Legislativa decides to modify the new traffic law when legislators return to work Monday.

Vehicles are being pulled over if officers spot a possible violation or simply randomly. Downtown San José is not being spared even though the bulk of the traffic is toward the beaches and mountains. At least two checkpoints were being staffed in the heart of the city this week.

Typical violations include failing to have a revision tecnica inspection sticker on the vehicle or failing to have a valid registration sticker. At Juan Santamaría airport Tuesday nearly every public bus was being inspected by police who walked through questioning passengers who may appear suspicious.
tourist police
Tourist police check out passengers on a public bus.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 63



illegtal lumbering
xxxxxx
This was represented as illegal lumbering
Illegal fish farming
Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo photos
The Tribunal said this was illegal shrimp farming

Probe of Puntarenas mangrove uncovers many violations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's environmental police last week started an intensive investigation of the Puntarenas mangroves, an important natural resource that extends from the Puntarenas estuary to Chomes.

The agency, the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, said it found a litany of violations, including land invasions by squatters, trees being burned to create more agricultural land and even a large backhoe extracting sand from a watercourse.

The Tribunal pointed out that hundreds of hectares of mangroves are being destroyed each year and that 95 percent of the creatures that live in the Gulf of Nicoya are dependent on this area in some way or another. The current mangroves contain about 2,500 hectares, nearly 6,200 acres.

The mangroves get the outflow from the ríos Aranjuez, Naranjo, Ciruelas, Seco, Guacimal and Lagarto, the Tribunal noted.

Investigators, mainly engineers and biologists, took to the air to see the land from above, and they also conducted studies on the ground. Participants came from the Área de Conservación Pacífico Central of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, the Municipalidad de Puntarenas, the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura and the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario.

What they found was not pretty. There was illegal lumbering, the simple burning of felled trees to clear land for planting, an excessive outflow of sediment from the rivers, illegal sawmills, illegal fish farming, and homes constructed right on the banks of the waterways.

There also are illegal docks and other construction. Sediment smothers living creatures in the mangroves.

In one encounter, investigators came upon a man extracting sand from a waterway with a backhoe. The machine operator fled, but the owner of the land insisted he had a permit. Tribunal investigators doubted him because the operator acted guilty by fleeing.

Various types of sea creature and animals can be found in the mangroves. These include young fish, shrimp, crabs, other shell fish, birds, monkeys raccoons and coati, said the Tribunal.

In the 1970s there was a strip of mangrove about four kilometers wide, said the tribunal. That was about 2.5 miles. Now the strip is between 200 and 500 meters, about 650 to 1,650, the agency said. The rest has been hacked away, it added.

José Lino Chaves, Tribunal president, said that Costa Ricans should reflect deeply on what is being done to the coastal habitats. The solution requires action by all the governmental authorities, he said.

squatters
The Tribunal said these homes were of squatters
sand extraction
Here is where the backhoe was extracting sand


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 63

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Earthquake exodus stresses
families in rural Haiti


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Plans for Haiti's recovery from the devastating earthquake are on the agenda at the United Nations donors' conference, today in New York. Among the country's top priorities are the estimated 600,000 people who fled the capital, Port-au-Prince, for the countryside. Many took refuge with friends and family. But the extra mouths to feed are straining their hosts' resources and pushing more people into hunger, according to reports from the scene.

Irene Guerriere's quiet home is worlds away from the destruction in Port-au-Prince. But even in Gonaives, a hundred kilometers north of the epicenter, Ms. Guerriere's family feels the effects of the earthquake. She remembers her first thought when she heard the news.

"My first reaction was, I have to get to Port-au-Prince because my daughter is there," she said. "I have to find out what happened to her."

The woman was relieved to find her daughter Ivena safe with close friends. But the friends had to escape the devastation. So they asked to come to Gonaives.

"I couldn't tell them no because they were the ones who took care of my daughter in Port-au-Prince," she said.

Suddenly, Ms. Guerriere's household swelled from 10 people to 18. There were almost twice as many mouths to feed but no extra food to feed them.

Now, 11 weeks later, Guerriere has run out of grains the family had stored.  She has been forced to sell her livestock to pay for food.

And with no money for seeds, and insects attacking her crops, the next harvest is at risk. 

"I don't have money to buy insecticide and feed the people," said Ms. Guerriere. "The people are more important. I have to feed the people."

All across Haiti, families that struggled, before the earthquake, to feed themselves now find themselves with hungry guests. Charles Edie is chief of agriculture for the Artibonite department, where Ms. Gonaives is located. 

"The people who left Port-au-Prince brought nothing with them but their appetites," said Charles Edie.

Some 60,000 people arrived in Artibonite after the earthquake, swelling the population by 20 percent within days. At first, food aid helped some families ease the burden. But Edie says that stage is coming to an end. 

"The second step is to try to create work so that people who left Port-au-Prince have money so they can survive," he said.

Experts say the newly arrived workers actually could be a boon to rural Haiti. Putting them to work improving food production could help reduce Haiti's food shortages. 

Creating rural jobs is on everyone's to-do list, from the government to the U.N. to aid groups.

But so far, for families like the Guerrieres, the need is urgent and it's now. 

"Sometimes we only eat in the morning," she said. "But we just tell jokes all day. However we have to deal with it, we'll deal with it."

If jobs don't come soon, food could run out for many Haitians. And the humor won't be far behind.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 31, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 63


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El Niño is in later stage
U.N. weather agency says


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The El Niño weather pattern, blamed for this year’s heavy snows in the United States and a long-running drought in Australia, has peaked, but is expected to influence climate patterns worldwide until mid-year before dying out, the United Nations weather agency said Tuesday.

“The most likely outcome by mid-2010 is for the El Niño event to have decayed and near-neutral conditions to be reestablished across the tropical Pacific,” the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement.

El Niño, whose latest cycle started in June 2009, is a seasonal warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that upsets normal weather patterns from the western seaboard of Latin America to East Africa.

For example, since last October, Uganda has been experiencing heavy rains believed to be tied to El Niño. Deadly mudslides killed at least 80 people earlier this month and left an estimated 20,000 households in need of housing and food.

The warmer temperatures associated with El Niño are usually followed by a cooling spell known as La Niña.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the climate phenomenon may have peaked in November or December, but its effects should still be felt through April to June.

The organization cautioned, however, that the period from March to June is a particularly difficult time of the year for forecasting developments in the tropical Pacific region and that it is still possible for El Niño to persist or for the early stages of a La Niña pattern to be present by mid-year.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory that is associated with NASA said last week that a large-scale, sustained weakening of trade winds in the western and central equatorial Pacific during late-January through February has triggered yet another strong, eastward-moving wave of warm water, known as a Kelvin wave.

"Since June 2009, this El Niño has waxed and waned, impacting many global weather events," said Bill Patzert Thursday. "I and many other scientists expect the current El Niño to leave the stage sometime soon. What comes next is not yet clear, but a return to El Niño's dry sibling, La Niña, is certainly a possibility, though by no means a certainty. We'll be monitoring conditions closely over the coming weeks and months." He is an oceanographer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory


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