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(506) 223-1327                   Published Thursday, April 5, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 68              E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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dancing bunnies
This is  a time of rebirth and renewal regardless of personal religious philosophies.

In the north, spring is well under way. Here in Costa Rica, the vegetation awaits the start of the rains to burst into a circus of colors.

We at A.M. Costa Rica extend our wishes to you for a great holiday season, be it Passover, Easter or a more personal observance.

We'll be back early Monday to continue to keep you informed. Meanwhile, please stay safe.

Fish appear to be dying in lakes inside Parque la Sabana

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Yeinner Marchena Chinchilla, 10, surveys dead fish
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fish are dying at the lakes in Parque la Sabana, and no one seems to know why.

Dani Cubillo Díaz,  a neighbor, said he noticed the die-off about three weeks ago. He tries to fish at the park on weekends. At first some fish floating belly up appears at the outlet to the lakes. Now the dead fish have appeared near shore all over among floating debris.

Fishing is popular there even by children with hand lines. Some, like Cubillo, eat their catch. But they wonder now if this is a good idea. Officials probably will not study the problem until Monday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 68

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fake classified ad
A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob Mora
Classified ad included a yellow highlight

Vacationers were tricked
out of their Jacó cabins

By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Have you heard about the Grinch who stole Easter?

At least four Costa Rican families are out of a place to stay in Jacó for the week because an ad that appeared March 27 in La Nación was a fake and a scam.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday that agents expect more complaints beyond the four already filed.

The scam was a simple one. Those who responded to the ad for a vacation cabin were told to deposit up to 200,000 colons (some $384) in a national bank account. They would be able to pick up the keys to their seaside retreat at a local pizza store, they were told.

In a strange twist, on the day the victims were to leave the Central Valley for Jacó they received a call from someone saying he was a police investigator. The man told the victims that during a raid their names were found on a list of victims who had been cheated out of a vacation cabin. The man provided identification and a telephone number. But the number turned out to be a gas station.

Week represents first real test
for new tourism police unit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This week, the first major holiday, is the biggest challenge yet for the new Policía de Turismo.

The force was formed shortly before Christmas, and Semana Santa  brings a deployment of forces all over the country, according to Kathia Chavarría, chief of the special unit. She has been on the road all week meeting with officers.

In Limón the tourist police will have 12 officers, some in Limón Centro and others in Guápiles, Siquirres and Puerto Viejo.

In the Provincia de Puntarenas, 14 officers will be on duty, some in Manuel Antonio, Jacó, Herradura and at the control station at the Río Tarcoles where tourists stop to view the crocodiles sunning themselves on the beach below. This is a hot spot for theft of luggage.

In Guanacaste some 39 officers are working at places like Playa Panamá, Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo-Langosta-Guacas; Playa Grande-Brasilito-Flamingo, Coco-Cruce-Jocotal and Potrero-Brasilito, said Ms. Chavarría. There also will be officers at Daniel Oduber airport and at the Puente de Amistad over the Río Tempisque.

In San José the bulk of the force of 12 officers is deployed to bus stations like Coca Cola and the municipal parks, she said.
Some 12 officers are in Alajuela, including at Juan Santamaría airport and along the highways leaving the airport. San Carlos also will have some officers, she said.

Cartago has four officers who are traveling between the Orosi Valley and the Cartago ruins.

Officers at the beach resorts will work in shifts 24 hours a day, said Ms. Chavarría, but in San José officers are on the job from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The tourism police work in conjunction with other police forces and are primarily a preventative unit.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 68

Up a tree about where to stay in northern Costa Rica?
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

About 10 years ago, Carlos, José, and Osvaldo Morales del Castillo, noticed that land in Costa Rica was fast being converted for agricultural and housing use.  The local animals were losing their habitat.  So the trio decided to save some animal habitat by converting it into a combination unique tree house hotel with an animal and nature preserve.  Some 78 acres in Santa Clara de San Carlos were chosen, and they began construction around 2002.

The TreeHouses Hotel, having exclusively tree houses, is unique in Costa Rica as far as the owners know.  They researched how tree houses are built around the world.  For one of the tree houses, they installed steel braces without damaging a large tree that grows in the middle of it.  The other tree houses are anchored by steel braces to a tree.  They brace each of the tree houses in such a manner as to allow them to sway with the wind, but so that they will sway in only one direction, to maintain safety and integrity of construction.  The tree houses have been available to rent since 2003.

The owners planted 6,000 native fruit trees, to accommodate the animals in the area, including the cecropia tree, whose circular leaves feed the sloths.  On the property is a sloth with babies, armadillos, howler monkeys (who live around the waterfall), kinkajous (honeybear), lapas (macaws), parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, butterflies, and motmot birds, which live underground, just to name a few.

The trails are for walking or driving.  Anyone with a four-wheel drive car can travel the entire trails, for sure.  Walking all the way from the front of the property to the end of the property took a reporter about three hours round-trip, going all the way to the River Vieja, stopping on the way to see the waterfall and natural pools.  The natural waterfall is finished off with rocks and concrete, leaving the bottom of the pool natural. This flows into another natural pool, which flows into another, and then another.  There are two change rooms with a bathroom and a balcony with chairs above the waterfall.  At the end of the trail is the River Vieja, which is like a paradise scene from a movie.  There are river otters and fish, and a very nice large beach and covered rest area.  All along all the trails are several rest stations, one having an outdoor grill.

Travelers can’t miss the TreeHouses Hotel sign in Santa
tree house cabin
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
This guest unit surrounds a growing tree.

Clara, Florencia de San Carlos, which is off the main highway between the very popular tourist area of La Fortuna and the town of Florencia de San Carlos.  One of the tree houses is visible from the main road.  Plus there is a map on the hotel Web page.

Right now there are three tree houses, with many more planned to be built.  The tree houses are made from the wood of the trees on the land, are built up high on a platform, have an air-conditioner, a bed downstairs and 2 beds in the loft, a refrigerator, coffee-maker, and a hot-water shower. 

Two of the tree houses have a walk-around balcony, and one has a balcony only in the front, but the price is the same:  November 1st - May 29th, $75 per night for 2 people, plus tax.  The rate is $10 less per night in the other months of the year.

Recent book becomes an excuse to start complaining
I have been reading Nora Ephron’s latest book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck.”  Her book is a series of complaints about the changes wrought by aging.  I am past ranting against aging but not past complaining, and she has put me in the mood.

My telephone was cut off early last week because, ICE said, I had not paid my bill for two months.  Actually, my bank had not paid my bill, since it was being paid automatically.  After almost two years they discovered a discrepancy between what the bank and ICE have as my cedula number.  The fact that my bank and ICE occupy the same building and ICE is the telephone company didn’t seem to help them communicate.  My upstairs neighbor also had his phone cut off for nonpayment.  So we both dutifully paid what we owed, and an hour later he had his phone back on.

 Not so mine.  After two days I inquired about it (I was really getting to hate the recorded woman who kept telling me I couldn’t use my phone until I paid up — Once I even yelled back at her, “I have paid up you stupid person!”  Or words to that effect, but they had no effect.)  More visits to ICE resulted in being told that there was a glitch in the computer that handled turning on phones with my prefix.  I told them about my neighbor whose phone has the same prefix.  A shrug told me I could draw my own conclusion. 

After going through a quiet weekend during which the phone never rang once, I decided perhaps it was finally time to get a cell phone.  With the help of my friend James, I bought a nice phone and then got it connected through the same company that turned off my land phone.  And now, after a lesson from James in how to operate these incredibly complicated and intimidating little bits of electronic, I am back in communicado with the world.

 Even during Semana Santa I am a news and political junkie and, of course, have my opinions about both.
Colony Collapse Disorder is the label being given to the mysterious disappearance of bees in the United States.  Some are dying by the thousands, others just disappearing.  This is a grave situation because bees are vital for giving us honey and for pollinating so many
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

plants and trees that are essential to our health, not to mention the devastating effect it must have on the social order of bee communities. 

I don’t know who came up with the phrase colony collapse disorder, but it seems an appropriate definition of what is happening in much of the human world.  It even could apply to a sick human body, which is, after all, a colony of cells.  Meanwhile, all over the world, human colonies seem to be collapsing or in disorder.

In the U.S., President Bush and some Republicans repeatedly have made the charge that politicians in Washington should not try to micromanage the war. They should, we are told, leave that to our generals on the ground who are trained to do this work.  It is generally acknowledged that for the past four years the generals on the ground and the secretary of defense have botched the job of managing the war.  It is hard to imagine that Congress could do worse.

And finally, the escalating crime that is threatening not just the people who want to live here peacefully, but the reputation of Costa Rica itself.

Ms Ephron’s complaining resulted in a best seller.  I have a feeling my complaining is just going to result in letters to the editor telling me to stop complaining.

Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available at the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact Jostuart@amcostarica.com.

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From a hotel owner:

'At this time we have a deposit and all looks good!!  Thank you for your help, and I must say your paper is impressive, and I had no idea you had such a circulation around the world.  Received many inquiries for our hotel for that reason.'

She used our classifieds!

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 68

Calderón government targets the powerful drug cartels
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top Mexican official says the new government plans to take action against the country's powerful drug cartels. 

The official, Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, said the goal is to greatly reduce the power of the cartels by the end of the six-year term of President Felipe Calderón. 

Mexico's drug cartels are considered by many experts to be the most powerful, and deadly, in the Americas.  More than 2,000 Mexicans died last year as a result of drug-related violence.  Calderón, installed in office in December, has already sent more than 30,000 federal police and troops to a number of areas, including his home state of Michocan in western Mexico, to root out traffickers who are terrorizing local people there.

Santiago Vasconcelos, who is in charge of combatting organized crime, said the drug cartels' power must be curbed by at least 70 percent by the end of  Calderon's six-year term.
Mexico is an important transit point in the illegal drug trade of the Americas.  Many of the drugs originate in Colombia and pass through Mexico on their way to customers in the United States.  Sharing cross-border intelligence with the United States, Santiago Vasconcelos says, is key to defeating the cartels.
"The principal tool of the fight is cooperation and the interchange of intelligence. The intelligence is the circulatory system of the body of the state," he explained.
The deputy attorney general said he believes the forces dispatched by the Calderón government have already made important strides against the cartel, but he says it is essential that the pressure be maintained.
"It's very important to continue the efforts and continue the application of the law. It's very necessary," he added.
Santiago Vasconcelos concedes that many more Mexicans will die before the illegal drug trade is defeated, but he says the forces of law and order, and ordinary people, must be prepared to pay that price.

Military men linked to bloody rights abuses in Latin America held in U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. law enforcement officials have announced the arrest of three former South American military officers, an Argentine and two Peruvians, who are suspected of war crimes.

The officials say former Argentine military officer Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro was arrested in Virginia, about 75 kilometers west of Washington, D.C.  He is alleged to have been the chief interrogator at a clandestine detention
facility during Argentina's so-called Dirty War in the 1970s and 1980s.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the two other suspects, former Peruvian military officers, are alleged to have been involved in the 1985 killing of 69 people in the Peruvian village of Accomarca.

Telmo Ricardo Hurtado was arrested in Miami, and the other suspect, Juan Manuel Rivera-Rondon, was taken into custody in Baltimore.

Castro continues his criticism of using agricultural crops to produce ethanol
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro has published his second editorial in a week criticizing U.S. President George Bush's bio-fuel policies.

In the state-run newspaper Granma Wednesday, Castro repeated his argument that using agricultural crops to produce ethanol for cars could deprive developing nations of food and condemn millions to hunger and death.
Castro has not appeared in public since temporarily handing power to his brother, Raúl, last July before undergoing intestinal surgery.

Cuban officials have said the 80-year-old leader is recovering, and could soon take a more active role in government.

Cuban media have released photographs and video of the president, however, to put down rumors of his demise.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 68

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