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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, April 15, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 75             E-mail us
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Drilling team seeking to tap secrets of Cocos plate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The team of scientists who are leaving here Sunday on a special ship hope to drill as deep as possible, perhaps as deep as 2 kilometers (6,560 feet), into the Coco tectonic plate that is beneath the sea.

The French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique outlined the goals of the mission this week. Four of the 31 international scientists taking part in the mission are French. The drilling boat now is in Puntarenas to change crews.

The holy grail for geological scientists would be to drill 4 to 5 kilometers (2.5 to 3.1 miles) to reach the earth's mantle. The research center explained that the scientists who will be aboard the JOIDES Resolution are planning to drill as deeply as they can.

The site of the drilling is expected to be 900 kilometers, about 560 miles, off Costa Rica's Pacific coast. The 143-meter (469-foot) vessel is specially designed to remain stationary in the ocean while its drill penetrates the sea floor.

Costa Rican residents know the Cocos plate well. Interaction with the Caribbean plate is the principal cause of earthquakes here, and the Cocos pushing under the Caribbean plate also is credited with the creating of Costa Rica's mountains and volcanoes. The Cocos plate also tussles with the Panamá micro plate to the south.

The French research center noted that the departure of the mission coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first drilling of the ocean crust in April 1961 in the Atlantic.

The center explained in a summary of the mission:

Oceanic crust is formed along mid-ocean ridges by the cooling of magma produced by the partial melting of mantle rocks. If the magma reaches the surface of the ocean floor, it cools rapidly, forming the basalts that make up the vast majority of the upper oceanic crust.  However, if the magma crystallizes more slowly at depth, the rock that is formed is called gabbro. The oceanic crust is therefore made up of a surface layer of basalt underlain by deeper gabbro.
The mission is part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which has operations all over the world. The interest in the area off Costa Rica can be explained by the title of the mission: Superfast Spreading Rate Crust 4. This is the fourth cruise to the location identified as Hole 1256D where the drilling crew will attempt to locate and then deepen an existing penetration into the crust. The hole reached 1,500 meters (about 4,900 feet) during a 2005 expedition. The scientists hope to go deep enough to reach the gabbro rock.

The term "super fast spreading" describes the mid-ocean ridge at which the drilling will take place. Fast-spreading ridges are more uniform and homogeneous than the crust formed at slow- spreading mid-ocean ridges, such as those in the Atlantic, the French center said. Around 20 percent of existing mid-ocean ridges have fast spreading rates greater than 8 centimeters (3.1 inches) a year, it added. They have generated nearly half of today's oceanic crust, making up 30 percent of the earth's surface, the center added..

The crust of the Cocos plate, formed 15 million years ago, is expanding at 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) a year, which is faster that any existing active ridge, the center said.

The samples collected will enable geologists to test models for the formation of these rocks and to characterize their cooling process, as well as the role of hydrothermal circulation at such depths, said the French summary.

The formation of oceanic crust, which covers around 70 percent of the Earth's surface, is a key process in the dynamics of the planet, which this drilling project should help scientists understand better, it added.

The effort is more than pure science. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional said that scientists are trying to learn more about the process that creates large earthquakes in these subduction zones where one plate is forced under another. Some 80 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or larger take place in the Pacific Rim of which Costa Rica is a part, the observatory noted.

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Palm Sunday
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This was the scene April 5, 2009, when the faithful walked in procession on Palm Sunday.

Consider today as a part
of the 2011 Semana Santa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Semana Santa already is well underway as those who were lucky enough to get off work today are probably headed to a beach somewhere.

The pace of life in Costa Rica has slowed. The central government and the courts will have just essential services available next week. Still the police forces will be on the prowl, and the Defensoría de los Habitantes will remain open in its central office in Barrio México to receive complaints Monday through Wednesday.

The reception center for the Judicial Investigating Organization will be open 24-hours a day to receive reports of crimes.

The religious aspects of the holiday swing into high gear Sunday as Catholic faithful celebrate Palm Sunday, signifying the triumphal arrival of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem.

There will be a highly photogenic procession in San José at 9:30 a.m. Sunday from the La Merced Church to the Catedral Metropolitana. Elsewhere in the country there will be similar events.

The Escazú Christian Fellowship will be more low-keyed with a 5 p.m. Sunday service followed by what is being called a soup and bread fellowship meal at the International Baptist Church in Guachepelín.

Although a new law allows the sale of alcohol during election periods when such drinks used to be prohibited, the dry law still is in effect for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Fuerza Pública officers will begin closing off alcohol sections in stores and supermarkets Wednesday night. They will place seals on refrigerators and liquor cabinets in restaurants, and they will place seals on the doors of businesses that sell mostly beer and alcohol.

Operators of tourist establishments outside the Central Valley usually have creative ways of getting around this prohibition. For the working-class Tico, there are the underground bars in every barrio.

Alcohol again will be on sale Saturday morning, although most supermarkets and retail outlets will be working a short day then.

Thursday and Friday are legal holidays, and workers are expecting to have them off.

Friday and Saturday nights also are the traditional times for the annual Quema de Judas where the apostle who turned in Jesus Christ is denigrated. Effigies are set afire.

The problem is that in San José, Alajuela and Heredia such activities have degenerated into wholesale vandalism in previous years with cars burned and lawlessness.

The Fuerza Pública said it will be reinforcing trouble spots to keep a lid on the young vandals.

The period is not a holiday for the 3,100 officers in the Security ministry or the traffic police, who will be setting up checkpoints, mainly for drunk drivers. Cruz Roja also will be maintaining rest stops on the principal highways.

Immigration police and workers will be busy at both borders because of the increased holiday traffic.

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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, Friday, April 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 75
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Unusual forced prostitution arrest made in Palmar Norte
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 61-year-old central Pacific man has been detained on allegations that he was luring foreign women to Costa Rica and forcing them into prostitution.

The arrest took place Wednesday night when judicial agents raided and searched a location in Palmar Norte in the province of Puntarenas. Agents said they confiscated evidence including clothing.

The raid also confirmed the existence of 12 foreign women, including Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Colombians and Dominicans. Agents said that the women were offered at a night club in the same community, but it was unclear if that is where the raid took place. 

Also unavailable was the name of the detained man.

Agents said the investigation started in February when two Nicaraguan women showed up at Judicial Investigation Organization offices with a consular representative from their embassy. The women said they had been lured to Costa Rica with offers of jobs as domestic employees, agents said. They arrived in San José, and the man took them to Palmar Norte where they were told they had to work as prostitutes in a night club, said agents.

The women managed to escape and sought aid from their consulate.

Prostitution is not prosecuted in Costa Rica, but pimping or running a house of prostitution is. The central Pacific coast, centered at Jacó is home to many foreign prostitutes who seek customers in the tourism market. Unclear is why someone would import unwilling prostitutes when there are so many willing sex workers nearby.
Many night clubs are covers for prostitution on the Pacific
and in San José. These locations are infrequently troubled by the police. Also seeming immune are so-called massage parlors, which are thinly disguised centers of prostitution.

The last time such operations were raided in San José the official concern was not prostitution but failure to provide full access to the disabled.

Gradually foreign criminal gangs, Russian or Colombian, have consolidated the prostitution market and exact tribute from supposedly independent sex workers.

A.M. Costa Rica has documented the existence of a trafficking ring that spans the ocean from the Dominican Republic to Costa Rica. A Dominican prostitute recounted how she was able to obtain a visa there to travel here and how she paid the amount due on a bribe at a back door of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, the immigration agency.

Forced prostitution is a small percentage of human trafficking, although U.S. officials and others who study such issues usually do not make clear the differences. The majority of trafficking in Costa Rica are persons transporting Nicaraguans into the country illegally or transporting Asians and Africans through the country with the goal of reaching the United States. So the case in Palmar Norte is unusual.

Frequently such cases are resolved by a financial settlement with the victims in lieu of criminal action.

Another case of forced prostitution involved two Costa Rican women who were lured to México with the promise of good jobs. They, too, managed to escape, but that case still is unresolved. Officials said that another Costa Rican women was a recruiter here for the Mexican operation.

Hospitality industry is on the trail of a petty scammer
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A petty con man has come to town and is working his scams on owners and residents of backpacker hostels and small hotels.

Hotel and hostel operators are circulating a photo and a description of the man, and a complaint with the Judicial Investigating Organization was supposed to have been made late Thursday.

The man comes to a hotel or hostel as a guest and befriends guests and staff alike. At one hostel in San Pedro the man ended a two-day stay by offering to provide discount rum.
He took $60 from employees and $40 from guests and vanished, the hostel operator, Jonathan Wingate, said. The man has not been seen since. After checking around, Wingate said he learned the man took $500 from a Spanish couple in Alajuela and $100 from an American couple in San Carlos. Wingate expended a lot of effort to obtain what he believes is a correct identification of the man and a photo.

He said interested parties could contact him at his email address, or by telephone,  8740-2592.

He said the man is about five feet tall, clean-shaven and chubby. Wingate said he thinks that the man has a long history of such petty thefts

Seeing red over the problems with those taxi drivers
Some San José taxis should be shipped to Cuba for renovation.  I usually try to determine the condition of a taxi before I flag it down.  Sometimes I lose.  The other day I tried to lower my arm before the very large, very old taxi pulled to the curb.  All I could do was look regretfully at the brand new taxi behind it and hop into the antique.

Some taxis are so worn that when you sink into the seat you feel like you are falling into the rabbit hole fanny first.  This was one of them. “Donde vamos, mi reina? (“Where are we going, my queen?”) the middle-aged driver asked.  I told him and reached for the support handle above the door. There was none, not even evidence of one having been there. I had to do with the seat belt dangling from the front seat.  Fortunately, I did because after several blocks, my door flew open.  This time I slammed it good.

The last time I climbed into a taxi, I nearly fell into the gutter along the street in doing so.  These gutters are wonderful because they dispose of downpours that would otherwise flood the city, but they are treacherous to pedestrians.

So, almost falling into the cab, I pulled the door behind me — hard.  “Oops, perdone.” I said.  To no avail.  The taxista berated me for the Gringa I was and slamming his fragile door thinking I was in a heavy Gringo car. 

I gave up excusing myself and enjoyed his comical rant.  Taxistas really do hate it when we Gringos slam the doors.

This driver was quiet and very good, although it was difficult for me to judge from my sunken position.  He made it in good time and thus a couple of hundred colons cheaper.  The other day I called for a taxi and after we had gone only about eight blocks, the meter read 960 colons.  I commented that that was pretty high for such a short distance — usually at that point it was still at the basic number of 530.  He became so indignant at my implications that, over my objections, he turned off the meter.  At our destination, and over his objections, I paid
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

what I usually do.  “Por favor,” I said, and he relented.

This taxista was a good driver, no heavy horn blowing and jolting starts and stops.  Lots of experience, like his car, I thought.  At my front door, he turned and said, “I can give you my number in case you need a taxi to go anywhere.  From here to downtown, anywhere you want go.”

Oh dear.

I rummaged into my purse and found my notebook, wrote down his name and number.  Climbing out of the cab with some effort, I closed the door, then had to open it again and slam it hard.  “I think you could use a newer taxi.” I said, as I wished him good night.

Even my experiences in brand new taxis have not been so great lately; not since the new national stadium in Parque la Sabana is up and running.  I experienced my first road rage (and, as my friend Sandy pointed out, I don’t even drive.)  No, but when all access to escaping from the neighborhood hours before a concert is scheduled to begin, and it costs me nearly twice as much as normal to go anywhere, I get irritated.  But in a ladylike way, of course; no hand signals, no swearing.  It would be pointless anyway, since everyone on the detour is having the same problem.

By next week I will calm down and talk about the interesting and, in most cases, excellent suggestions for the qualifications that make a good columnist.  One of the suggestions was that the columnist likes living here, but not be Pollyannish about it.  Pollyanna would not have written this column.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 75

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Daily life of Chinese stadium workers captured in photos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Images of the Chinese workers who built the new national stadium are preserved in a photo exhibition that will hang in the stadium for five years. The exposition was inaugurated this week.

It is by Rándall Campos, who titled the 110 photographic works "Escarlata Marrón," which recalls the scarlet coveralls worn initially by the Chinese laborers and how they eventually turned brown from wear.

The Chinese workers were an oddity for most Costa Ricans because they went about their job aggressively and kept to
 themselves. Costa Ricans joke that the 22 months the Chinese needed to build the $85 million stadium was the same period that the Costa Rican transport ministry needed to fix the Rio Virilla bridge on the Autopista General Cañas. And that is not fixed yet.

The 35,000-seat soccer stadium was built by Anhui Foreign Economic Construction as a gift from the People's Republic of China in exchange for Costa Rica repudiating its diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The inauguration of the exposition was at the stadium. Included are photos of the former stadium that was demolished.

$640,000 project will link municipalities with Registro

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Registro Nacional is setting up a private communication network with itself and 61 municipalities so that local officials have access to the property maps and data contained in the Zapote agency.

The $640,000 project is expected to be in operation in May under the auspices of the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoría Municipal.
This project has been in the planning since 2002, officials said. The project is part of the decentralization effort undertaking by the central government and the modernization of municipal records, officials said.

The Registro, where all property records are kept, already is online and can be reached via the Internet. The new system promises greater security, officials said. The 61 municipalities involved are those that have the bulk of their territory reduced to property maps.

Two men suspected of stealing five tons of autopista metal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In case motorists were wondering what the delay was in construction on the Autopista del Sol around kilometers 46 and 47, they need only look to the junk yard.

Judicial investigators in Orotina said that crooks made off with special metal girders imported from Germany. That was five tons worth 30 million colons, about $60,600.
Agents were able to recover the bulk of the material. Two suspects were detained Thursday, a week after the theft took place.

They are Alajuela residents who were selling the metal to a junk yard in Joaquín de Flores en Heredia, agents said.

The stacks of metal were supposedly under the eye of a guard at the site.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 75

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Rights group urges trial
for ex-dictator Duvalier

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A human rights group is urging Haiti to prosecute former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to the fullest extent of the law, saying such a trial would be a chance to make history.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch Thursday released a 47-page report, calling on Haiti to try Duvalier for what it calls grave violations of human rights.

Human Rights Watch counsel Reed Brody also called on the international community to support Haiti's justice system, to make sure Duvalier gets a fair trial.

Known as "Baby Doc," Duvalier took power in 1971 at the age of 19 following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957 and was accused of brutality.

Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti between 1971 and 1986, when he was ousted in a popular uprising.

Human rights groups have long accused the younger Duvalier of human rights abuses, including the torture and killings of thousands of people.  He also is alleged to have stolen millions of dollars in public funds.

Duvalier made a surprise return to Haiti in January after 25 years in exile.  He has already been charged with corruption, embezzlement and other abuses of power.

Human Rights Watch says Duvalier also could be held liable under Haitian law as an accomplice for any crimes carried out by those under his command.

Last month, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on Haitian authorities to pursue all legal and judicial avenues in Duvalier's case.

Daughter seeks an autopsy
for Chile's deposed Allende

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The family of late Chilean President Salvador Allende has asked for his remains to be exhumed as part of an ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death in 1973.

Allende's daughter, Sen. Isabel Allende, met with an investigating judge this week and asked him to proceed with the probe. 

At issue is whether the elected president was killed or committed suicide during the September 1973 coup that brought military dictator Augusto Pinochet to power.  A Marxist, Allende is reported to have committed suicide as the coup occurred.

President Allende was found dead in the presidential palace as soldiers supporting the coup closed in and warplanes bombed the building. 

Allende took power in 1970 after being elected with only 36 percent of the vote.  During his tenure in office, Chile experienced severe shortages of consumer goods, food and manufactured products, and domestic production fell.  Inflation climbed to 1,000 percent per year, and mass protests erupted due to the country's economic problems.

Following the 1973 coup, Gen. Pinochet held power until 1990.  He died in December 2006, leaving incomplete many court cases that had charged him with human rights violations.  More than 3,000 people disappeared or were killed during his 17-year rule.

Colombia will extradite
to Venezuela, not to U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia has confirmed it will extradite a suspected drug lord to Venezuela instead of the United States to face charges.

The United States had been seeking the extradition of Walid Makled, who is on its most wanted list for allegedly shipping large amounts of cocaine into the U.S.

Colombian officials say Venezuela requested Makled's extradition first.  They say he is facing charges of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering in Venezuela.

Makled was arrested last year in Colombia near the Venezuelan border.
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President making a visit
to the Caribbean coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla is visiting Limón today, in part to appear at the Feria Limón Emprende, which is being held at the Moín dock through Sunday.

Ms. Chinchilla is expected to visit about 5 p.m as part of a full day of inaugurations, press conferences in an effort to push her plans for development in the province. She will overnight on the Caribbean coast and visit Bribri, Talamanca, Saturday morning.

Some 15 food vendors and 26 handicraft artists are participating in the fair where 500 persons are expected each day.

The fair is part of the Limón Ciudad-Puerto project that seeks to improve the area's infrastructure and the employment. The title of the fair can be translated as Limón in action.

Ms. Chinchilla begins her day with a 9 a.m. visit to the Escuela Beverly. She also will visit Pacuara High School and then help inaugurate a new set of judicial offices and then a new facility for the Instituto Nacional de Seguros in Limón Centro. In the afternoon she will visit the Limón prison and then speak with employees of the state-run petroleum refinery.

Monetary Fund and Bank
warn against complacency

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank stressed the need for continued cooperation among world economies, saying the global financial system remains vulnerable to further shocks.  The warning comes as the world lending institutions prepare for its annual spring meeting in Washington. 

The world economy has weathered the worst of the economic downturn, but the Monetary Fund says the global financial system is not out of the woods just yet.

Thursday, the Monetary Fund managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned member countries to guard against complacency. "Certainly the recovery is getting stronger, but everybody can understand that it's not the recovery we want," Strauss-Kahn said.

The Monetary Fund says uneven growth poses the biggest risks, with advanced countries growing too slowly and developing economies growing too fast.

"The main challenges for emerging market economies have certainly to do with the risk of over-heating, and in low income countries, the question of food and fuel prices is coming back with the risk of having something as important and strong and difficult as we had in 2008," the maanging director said.

Despite projections of four-and-a-half percent growth in the global economy, the Monetary Fund says it's been a jobless recovery.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick says the disconnect helped fuel popular revolts, resulting in greater instability.

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