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These stories were published Tuesday, April 16, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 74
Jo Stuart
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Two protests,
no traffic
at Assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When deputies at the National Assembly came to convene about 4 p.m. Monday, they sure couldn’t drive down Avenida Principal between the Bella Vista Fortress and the assembly complex.

At least 20 18-wheelers carrying agricultural equipment blocked the way as the rice growers made their point that they want a rice corporation created by the legislature.

The tractor-trailers were parked side by side in the middle of the street. Some rice farmers waved banners, but others just crashed into hammocks rigged under the truck bodies.

But that wasn’t the only demonstration. The teachers still are there, off and on for nearly a week, protesting a proposal that would put some of the educational financing under the control of the municipalities. All the money now 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Teachers on the left and rice growers on the right mingle at their joint protest Monday. But the growers brought heavy equipment.
comes from the central government. The teachers had banners Monday that protested the proposed "Municipal combo," a reference to the failed attempts by the government two years ago to privatize utilities.

Meanwhile, a ship laden with U.S. rice 

was finally being unloaded in the Caldera harbor. The ship with 26,000 tons of rice languished at anchor while Costa Rica moved to jack up the importation duties on rice to favor local growers.

Some accord now seems to have been reached.

If there are crabs, it must be change of season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The crabs are out heralding the official beginning of the rainy season, or as the Tourism Institute likes to call it, the green season.

All along the Pacific Coast, at least from Domincalito to Manuel Antonio to the Nicoya Peninsula beaches of Sámara and Nosara legions of pink, red and purple land crabs are falling all over themselves.

The little critters seem to await the first heavy rainfall to make an appearance each year, but a report from Nosara said that even a couple of light rains will do it.

"They are in the beer cases, under the bar, in the bathrooms, they are everywhere." said Patty Yaniz of the Gilded Iguana Hotel and Restaurant. "I believe that rainy season is now official, at least according to the crabs, it is."

There is not much tradition associated with the crabs. There is no legend that if a crab sees its shadow there will be four more weeks of dry season. The North American groundhogs seem to have a monopoly on that.

Sámara, some 40 kms. (24 miles) south of Nosara also reported crabs galore.

On the mainland at Manuel Antonio Robbie Felix of the Hotel California said "the entire rain forest was alive with the little ‘mountain crabs’" when she went for a hike Monday morning.

The crabs spend most of their life on land but accumulate at the coast to mate. Scientists have counted upwards of 10,000 crabs per hectare (2.47 acres).

". . . from here to Jacó they are just running in the road, getting squished under the tires of the car until the sound drives you nuts! The whole highway starts to look like soup," said Ms. Felix.

The squished crabs leave a pink, slippery residue. Unlike some of their cousins, this land crab variety knows no kitchen glory. People generally do not eat the critters even though some are as big as a stretched out hand.

They see and react to the approach of humans, sometimes making the vegetation shake, rattle and roll. At the beach they dig holes and seem to await a moon-driven tide. The crabs sometimes are associated with an increase in the mosquito population because the water in the bottom of the holes can help the bugs breed. They seem to be vegetarians, and they get into everything because they forage.

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Star shows estimated location of the early morning earthquake Monday off the northern coast of Costa Rica.

Moderate quake hits
off northwestern coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake took place early Monday off the Pacific coast of the northern Nicoya Peninsula. The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center placed the event at 50 miles (80 kms) southwest of Riva, Nicaragua.

The center said the depth of the quake was about 33 kms (about 20 miles). The quake took place at 4:14a.m. local time, and there were no reports of consequences.

The exact location was 10.94 degrees north latitude and 86.38 degrees west longitude.

Venezuelan committee
will set up dialogue

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez Frias says a government advisory committee, meeting today  here, will prepare for a national dialogue on the problems facing the oil-rich nation.

A day after his return to power following Friday's failed coup, President Chavez said he will invite people from a broad spectrum of Venezuelan society to speak out on the issues.

The coup attempt followed a general strike in support of dissident workers at the state-run oil company, who walked off the job to demand the resignation of Chavez-appointed board members. Chavez critics say the Petroleos de Venezuela board was put into place to give the president more control over the oil industry. Chavez says he has now accepted the resignations of the board members he appointed.

Venezuela is the world's fourth leading oil exporter and PDVSA's disrupted operations created turmoil in global oil markets. Venezuela pumps more than 2.4 million barrels daily, shipping nearly one million barrels to the United States.

Earlier, the U.S. State Department urged Venezuelans to take advantage of the opportunity to promote national reconciliation. U.S. officials also welcomed a decision by the Organization of American States to send a fact-finding mission to Venezuela. OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria is heading the delegation.

Even insects facing
woes of urban sprawl

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

European scientists have discovered the world's largest supercolony of ants, stretching from the Italian Riviera along the coastline to northwest Spain. 

The 5,760-kilometer-long (3,456-mile) colony consists of billions of Argentine ants, introduced to Europe accidentally around 1920. The findings are reported in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" journal.  Swiss, French and Danish researchers say the remarkable thing about the supercolony is that the ants cooperate with each other, although they are from different nests with different queens. Normally, ants from different nests fight each other. 

Trio stick up motel

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men held up La Cascada motel in San Francisco de Dos Ríos about 10 p.m. Sunday night by posing as guests and then putting on masks and holding up the employees in the office. They got away with a million colons ($2,580), agents said.
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Former drug dealer
faces new charge

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who had been out of prison for just seven months was again arrested Saturday in a major drug case.

He is Ricardo Fernandez Chavarria, 43, who is facing investigation that he was a supplier of cocaine in Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and San José. Arrested with him was Geraldo Alexis Salas Alvarez, 40, said investigators.

The two men were in a luxury car when they received what agents claim was a five-kilogram (11-pound) package of cocaine in downtown Alajuela. The drug was worth 8 million ($22,800) colons, said agents. They were stopped a few minutes later.

Investigators said they believe that the cocaine originated in Colombia.

Chavarria went to jail in 1992 for dealing drugs and got out just seven months ago, according to agents.

Woman, 18, dies
from mystery shot

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 18-year-old Santa Barbara de Heredia woman died early Sunday when she was shot at a hotel in Jacó.

The case is a mystery because the woman was on a brief vacation with family members. She was with them near the pool when a shot rang out and she crumpled to the ground, said agents. 

She was identified by investigators as Karen Paniaguas Espinoza. Rescue workers took her to a clinic in Jacó where doctors discovered she had suffered a gunshot wound to the body.

Physicians had her carried to Hospital Monseñor Sanabría in Puntarenas where she underwent an operation and died about 3 a.m.

Investigators said they are working under the assumption that the bullet that hit her was a stray shot.

Pope calls cardinals
to sex abuse parley

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II has summoned top U.S. Catholic officials to Rome for an extraordinary meeting to talk about the sex scandals in the U.S. Catholic Church. 

Vatican officials say the meeting will probably take place next week. Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will attend along with at least eight U.S. cardinals. 

The Vatican's meeting request Monday came just days after the scandals dominated talks between the pontiff and top U.S. bishops during a semi-annual conference in Rome. 

Bishop Gregory told a news conference in Rome Saturday that Pope John Paul was "deeply touched" by the pain of the victims of sexual abuse by the American priests. He added that the pope also expressed his backing of the U.S. church. 

The sex scandals have surfaced in many U.S. cities including Boston, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The church has paid millions of dollars in damages to victims and faces many lawsuits. 

The U.S. Catholic Church is accused of covering up misconduct by priests by transferring them from parish to parish after they were linked to sexual misconduct.

Amnesty International
hits U.S. on detentions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — Amnesty International has criticized the United States for its treatment of prisoners held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying it is failing to uphold their basic human rights.

In a strongly worded statement sent to the U.S. government, the human rights group based here says Washington is flouting international law by refusing the detainees access to legal counsel. Amnesty also accuses Washington of holding prisoners under conditions that could amount to cruel and degrading treatment. 

Speaking to reporters Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he has seen the care prisoners get in Cuba and it is the opposite of Amnesty's allegations. 

Amnesty says what it calls the U.S. "pick-and-choose approach" to the Geneva Convention is unacceptable. It urges Washington to ensure that its treatment of the detainees complies with international law and standards. 

Human rights groups have expressed concern that Washington is reserving the right to try the captives on its own terms and is calling them "unlawful combatants" instead of "prisoners of war," a designation that would bring them under the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners of war. 

The United States is holding 300 suspected Taliban and al-Qaida fighters at a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, known as Camp X-ray, following their capture in Afghanistan. 

The al-Qaida organization is blamed for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed more 3,000 people.

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