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(506) 2223-1327      Published Friday, April 17, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 75     E-mail us
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Perhaps the last chance this year for a great and sunny weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is posed for another magnificent weekend, perhaps the last before the arrival of the rainy season and an unlikely run of three great days in a row.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts intense sun all over the country with the chance of a few isolated afternoon showers, mainly in the mountains.

While residents of Denver, Colorado, brace  themselves for yet another sloppy spring storm,
the weather experts here are issuing warnings about sunburn. Frontier Airlines, which has a direct San José-Denver flight already is issuing traveler warnings.

The winds from the north are what is keeping the storm clouds from building. The air is dry, as it has been for a week. Costa Ricans are complaining about the temperature, which approaches 36 C. or about 98 F. in some parts of the Pacific and Caribbean coast.

Santa Ana has its onion festival this weekend for expats who seek an excuse to travel.

Lawmakers want to hear details of Golfito scandal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legislators acted Thursday to hear from those law enforcement officials who let 320 kilos of cocaine slip through their fingers last month.

The Comisión Permanente Especial de Narcotráfico approved a motion to call Janina del Vecchio, the security minister;  Francisco Dall’Anese, the nation's chief prosecutor; Jorge Rojas, the director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, and Mauricio Boraschi, head of the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas. All but Boraschi were directly involved in the case.

The packages of drugs, seized from a fastboat several days before, were the target of robbers early March 28. The drugs, worth here about $1.6 million, were being guarded by two Fuerza Pública officers at the Golfito tribunales or courthouse.

Ms. del Vecchio and Dall'Anese have swapped charges and countercharges over who was in charge of the guards and who should have moved the drugs to safer storage in San José.

Lawmakers said they were interested in knowing about the institutional responsibility in the case. Rojas took personal charge of the investigation and said later that some policemen and a guard were involved, but there have been no arrests, and the drugs have not been found.

There have been a number of investigatory raids in the Golfito area and even in San José that suggested investigators were desperate to find leads.

Marvin Rojas Rodríguez, a legislator of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, said that the committee wanted to know who made mistakes.

The Golfito robbers appeared to have had inside knowledge and used a fake telephoned domestic violence complaint to lure away the only operating police patrol in the community at the time of the heist.

Although the Fuerza Pública officers who were confronted by the robbers work in Ms. del Vecchio's ministry, she has said the prosecutors in
Golfito should have asked for more protection if they thought it was needed. Dall'Anese said that his subordinates, including the prosecutor in Golfito, are in the clear.

Another question is why did officials wait several days before asking the air division of the security ministry to fly the drugs to San José. Typically this is done immediately. The stickup happened just hours before the drugs were due to be shipped out. Ms. del Vecchio said that all the aircraft were tied up the day before, but she has declined to give specifics.

She has not been having a run of good luck. A short time later the docks where the Servicio Nacional de Guadacostas is based in Puntarenas caught on fire and a number of boats were destroyed. That happened April 7 during the Semana Santa holidays, and there has been little
information released on the case. Some of the boats that were incinerated belonged to drug smugglers. The coast guard was hoping to have the vessels turned over to the security ministry for use in patrolling the Pacific.

More recently the union of Fuerza Pública officers has filed a complaint against her over the condition of some of the police stations. But the complaint reflects years of deterioration that existed long before she arrived on the scene.

The legislative committee also approved a motion to investigate the trafficking of persons from China to Costa Rica. There has been little official reported on the situation, but Chinese law officers were said to have arrested two persons who were trying to send about 300 young Chinese men here to work as indentured servants. The pretext was that they were joining family members already here.

The committee wants to hear from Dall'Anese, Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister, and Mario Zamora, the immigration director. Early in his term, which started in May 2006, Zamora said he turned down a $2.5 million bribe to facilitate visas for Chinese immigrants.

Stagno has responsibility over the Costa Rican consulate in China that would issue the visas.

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Anti-dengue weekend work
in Sarapiquí and Parrita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The anti-dengue clean up moves to Sarapiquí and Parrita this Sunday as an expected 400 volunteers will be out picking up trash and any kind of receptacles that could hold mosquito larva.

This is the 10th and 11th sweep this season run by Asociación Terra Nostra Terra under the sponsorship of Cervercería Costa Rica, the beer company.

The Sarapiquí sweep will be in Finca Seis Centro, Finca Once and La Victoria Centro, said the association. In the Canton de Parrita the sweep will be in Pueblo Nuevo, Parrita Centro, Sitradique and Los Sueños.

In Sarapiquí the volunteers expect to visit some 1,249 homes. The goal off the program is not only cleanup but education, sponsors noted. In Parrita about 1,175 homes will see volunteers.  The sweeps start at 7 a.m.

Snake attacks police officer
near Nicaraguan border

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A decorated Fuerza Pública officer ran into a deadly fer-de-lance snake while he was searching for a marijuana plantation near the border with Nicaragua in Los Chiles Thursday.

The officer, identified as Wilford Roblero Hernández, was struck several times, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The fer-de-lance, known as a terciopelo in Spanish, is an aggressive, highly venomous pit viper.

Roblero Hernández has worked as a police officer for six years and was awarded a prize last year for his work by the U.N. Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization. He also is known as the moderator of a local radio show on police work.

He was taken to a local clinic where he was prepared for transportation to the hospital in Ciudad Quesada, San Carlos, officials said.

Our readers' opinions
Wealthy people pay little,
and workers pick up cost

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I think Sally has some of it right.  Anything at all that has to do with banking should be extremely private and guarded. 

But since so many wealthy people have decided that they do not want to pay taxes we now have a problem.  Legislature in the U.S. has been customized to cater to the wealthy so that they can make maximum profits and pay little import and or duty taxes on products that they now have made in Chinese prisons.  It's as if they want it all. 

First of all they have managed to influence everyone in Washington to rally to their needs.  In doing so, they have managed to run the ball around the end and amass a fortune.  They are so greedy with their profits that they refuse to pay at least some taxes.  All tax dollars are needed and especially from the wealthy. 

The lower and middle class are once again stuck with the task of bailing out the big boys on wall street, AIG, and every dam bank in the nation. 

Its time to pound the wealthy into the ground and give the blue collar workers a break.  Am i dreaming or what?

As for regulating the drugs?  That will never happen.  You cannot let people on the streets have or purchase freely any  amount of opium-based drug or cocaine.  They will find a way to abuse this in a heartbeat, too.  The need for drugs and guns are a horrible disease that we must find a solution to and real quick. 

I'm like Sally. I don't have all the facts, but i do know that what i see is horrible.  The decisions our president makes will be much better than those made by either President Bush.  President Bush Sr. managed to prop up a dictator in Panamá, then turn and hide his head in the sand, then invade the country and create one of the worst atrocities ever in Panama's history with a mass grave that is still trying to be resolved. 

His son alike who fell in love with the Iraqi war, to the point that all other problems were ignored until we have what you now see as a recession.

 I tip my hat to Obama for his latest effort to mend fences with Fidel despite the fact that Fidel has imprisoned and killed many innocent people, but the urgent need for help in that country takes priority so I will bite my tongue and tell my Cuban neighbors to please let the wounds heal so we can do something good for the island of Cuba.

Bruce Simpson
Hone Creek

Social cost of drug war
is 2.4 million jailed youth

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Clearly, Ms. Sally O'Boyle's opinions are full of insight and plain facts.
The "war on drugs" has been a disastrous and tragic replication of Prohibition, only with much deeper and far ranging consequences.
The political cowardice and exploitation of popular fear and ignorance has not only cost countless lives, but has created the most shameful and monstrous American gulag the world has ever known.  It is no exaggeration to say in size, duration, and draconian purpose, these eclipse even those of World War II.  The only differences are state-sponsored executions and deliberate starvation.
With 2.4 million American youths incarcerated [most non-violent drug offenders] one must ask when rational thought will displace inhumane notions of justice and outright stupidity.
Could all of the actors and architects of this failing approach to drug usage/trafficking have failed to read history?
Do they give a damn about the destruction of youthful lives & potential?
H. Franz 
Santa Ana and Las Vegas, Nevada
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 75

Teatro Nacional
Theater roof will be returned to original red color
teatro window
Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes photo
Cupola shows the signs of disrepair
Teatro Nacional roof will get a restoration makeover
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The job will not be the most visible restoration project in San José, but the culture ministry is giving the go ahead for a major restoration of the cupola of the Teatro Nacional.

This is the section on the roof of the theater that is 26.8 meters (88 feet) square and 18.15 meters (60 feet) high.

This is more than a roof. The cupola contains all the machinery used to change and manage the scenery inside the theater. And the job is more than just repair.

Experts have been examining the downtown structure for a year. The restoration will begin in a few weeks.

Officials blame the pigeons and the acid their waste creates for corroding the metal of the roof. In addition there is bug damage to the wood and leaks. The frames of oval windows in the cupola are rotting.
Workmen first will use high-pressure hoses to rid the roof of the green metal paint put on in 1997. Then they will attack the rusting metal and make replacement parts for the wood.

There also are some decorative elements that need to be restored.

Finally the restored roof will get a red paint job to bring it back to its original color.

The job is being financed by grants from the government of Spain and Germany with additional funds from the local firm Holcim Costa Rica S.A.

The cost is about 107 million colons or about $190,000.

The theater, built in 1897, is the architectural crown jewel of Costa Rica. It also is home to hundreds of pigeons.

Officials did not say how they would handle that problem.

Tiny fly can cause a whole lot of trouble long after a bite
More than 20 years ago I was staying in a very nice hotel in Mexico City after having returned from a few days in Acapulco.  I awoke in the middle of the night on fire with itching and burning around my waist.  I jumped out of bed and discovered what seemed like a dozen red dots circling my waist like a belt. 

Frantically, I called the front desk and declared my bed was full of bedbugs.  After denying their hotel had any such thing, a person from housekeeping came up and we went through my room, tearing my bed apart and examining even the walls.  No bugs, no mosquitoes, nothing.  As I recall, they kindly put me in another room.  It was some time later that I realized that I had probably been bitten by sand flies that were on the beach in Acapulco. 

I haven’t thought about bedbugs or sand flies.  I seldom get to the beach, and I think of bed bugs as having disappeared with Victorian slums and TB (although TB is making a comeback).   Then just recently I read about the bedbugs making their re-appearance in the beds of hospitals, nursing homes and even hotels in the States and probably elsewhere.  So far they do not seem to be a problem in Costa Rica. However, it is a different story with sand flies.

Many tropical and subtropical beaches have those almost invisible pests, also known as biting midges.  The bites of some of them can carry a number of diseases, including the potentially devastating leishmaniasis. 

I knew nothing about this until recently. A dear friend, after months of costly doctors’ visits, antibiotics and pain in Spain and the United States, was finally diagnosed with leishmaniasis panamensis. The two festering wounds she had were the result of the bite (and saliva) from a type of sand fly. In spite of the name, she was bitten when she was on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  Leishmaniasis panamensis is called papalomoyo in Costa Rica, but it has other names in other locales where it exists, such as the Mediterranean, the Middle East, other Latin American countries and Asia, as well as southern Texas.

The problem is you don’t know right away that you have been bitten, and if you are traveling (as she was), the medical professions in more temperate countries often haven’t a clue and are prone to treat the sores that can erupt with antibiotics, which don’t help.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Sand flies also bite animals that dwell in the jungles and vicinity of beaches.  The animals then become hosts of the disease, and the sand fly that bites them is the carrier.

Hosts can be dogs, rodents, foxes, sloths and marsupials, as well as humans.   More humans are at risk because of the many environmental changes that are taking place around and near beaches, including deforestation and the increase of human populations who now live in the former habitats of animals. 

In Costa Rica the BriBri Indians, as well as people who visit their villages and the beaches nearby are now more at risk. The flies are most apt to appear between dusk and dawn.

Leishmaniasis is not contagious and there is no vaccine.  The best way to protect yourself is to use insect repellent.  Not everyone has a severe reaction, but if the small bite you see after visiting the beach begins to bother you, you should see a doctor.  If you are in Costa Rica, most doctors will immediately know what to do. Or go to a farmacia.  I heard of another friend who was bitten some time ago.  When she noticed that her red spot had become painful, she went to a local farmacia and was given some salve, which she said took care of the matter.  Local pharmacists are very helpful.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. has called a summit meeting to deal with the growing problem of bedbugs, these little suckers don’t carry disease or leave long term aftereffects.  But they seem to be yet another unexpected consequence of travel.   Bedbugs are now finding resting places not just in mattresses, but in laptops, stuffed animals, book bindings, and who knows where else?  Sand flies so far are sticking to the warm beaches and surrounding areas.

It does seem sometimes as if a cyclical view of history makes more sense than a linear one.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 75

School children cheer Barack Obama as he walks under tight security with Felipe Calderón in Mexico City.
Obama with Calderón in México
White House photo by Pete Souza

Obama, Calderón discuss guns, drugs and trade in México
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón have pledged to work together to fight drug trafficking, border violence, environmental dangers and other shared challenges. The two leaders met at the country's presidential residence.

Emerging from a 90-minute meeting, Obama and Calderón announced a flurry of understandings, proposals, and pledges on a wide range of issues.

Obama said he has great admiration for Mexico's leaders in their fierce and prolonged battle against drug traffickers. "But I will not pretend that this is Mexico's responsibility alone. The demand for drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business. This war is being waged with guns purchased, not here, but in the United States," he said.

Obama said he wants the U.S. Congress to ratify a treaty limiting U.S. gun exports to the Americas and continue funding for a program that would provide Mexico with military helicopters to assist in the drug war.

The treaty was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 but has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The president reiterated his support for reinstating the expired U.S. ban on assault weapons, but acknowledged Congressional resistance makes that unlikely. Instead, he pledged to boost enforcement of existing laws. "Trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal. That is something that we can stop," Obama said.

Calderón has repeatedly urged the United States to crack down on arms shipments south of its border, saying 90 percent of weapons in the hands of drug traffickers

originate in the U.S. That number is disputed by persons in the United States who say traffickers can get weapons from anywhere.

The Mexican leader said the United States and Mexico must combine efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions. He also hailed what he termed the complimentary nature of the two nations' economies, saying that both can be made more competitive through cooperation and integration. To that end, he said he and  Obama discussed ways to improve infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border to facilitate trade.

For years, Mexico has urged Washington to address the status of at least 12 million undocumented workers in the United States, more than half of whom are Mexican. Obama reaffirmed his commitment to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform, an initiative that appears stalled in the U.S. Congress.

"I am committed to fixing our broken immigration system in a way that upholds our traditions as a nation of laws, but also as a nation of immigrants. And I am committed to working with President Calderón to promote the kind of bottom-up economic growth here in Mexico that will allow people to live out their dreams here, and as a consequence will relieve some of the pressure that we have seen along the border," he said.

Overall, Calderon said his meeting with Obama was ground-breaking.

He said it was a historic event and that he is certain it will inaugurate a new era and a new relationship between the two countries.

After an overnight stay in Mexico, President Obama was to depart today for Trinidad and Tobago to attend the Summit of the Americas.

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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Alternative summit opens
with Chávez and his friends

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is hosting Latin American leaders in Venezuela for a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas — a regional trade alliance he created with Cuba. Chávez has said the summit will also include discussions on the creation of a regional currency that has already been named Sucre.

The gathering opened in the Venezuelan city of Cumana Thursday just one day before the Summit of the Americas begins in Trinidad and Tobago.

Leaders from all six member states were scheduled to attend the summit in Venezuela. In addition to Chávez, the meeting will include the presidents of Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as Dominica's prime minister and a representative of Cuba. The presidents of Ecuador and Paraguay will also be there as observers.

Chávez said the officials will aim to reach a common platform ahead of the Summit of the Americas, which will be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders from every Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas nation except Cuba.

In recent statements, Chávez has criticized the exclusion of Cuba from the summit. 

The Venezuelan president and the other allied leaders are strongly opposed to the U.S. blockade against the Communist-led island, and several of them have said they will present their position to Obama in Trinidad.

Venezuela and Cuba created the alliance in 2004 to counter U.S. influence in the region.

Colombian rebels may free
soldier held for 11 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's leftist rebels said they plan to free a military hostage after holding him captive for 11 years, in a move they hope will lead to a hostage exchange with the government.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia said in a statement Thursday that they soon will release Pablo Emilio Moncayo. Rebels captured Moncayo in December 1997 in an attack on a Colombian army communications base in Narino.

In recent months, the rebels have freed seven other hostages, among them police officers, a soldier and two former politicians. The group still is holding hundreds of captives in Colombia's jungles.

The rebels want to swap 22 of their military hostages for about 500 jailed guerrillas.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 75

Latin American news digest
Congressional probe likely
over security intercepts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services

U.S. lawmakers have ordered an investigation into allegations the National Security Agency violated legal restrictions while intercepting some e-mails and phone calls of Americans. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, called the charges serious" Thursday and said congressional hearings on the matter will be held within a month.

The New York Times first reported the allegations, quoting intelligence officials and lawyers who said the National Security Agency overcollected information.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a statement Thursday saying it has taken steps to correct the situation and bring the National Security Agency program into compliance. The department says it works diligently to ensure that surveillance complies with the nation's laws. Details of the violations were not released due to what officials said was the classified nature of the work.

The Bush administration authorized the government to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails to and from the U.S., without obtaining a warrant from a secret security court, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Then-president George Bush signed into law a bill that gave the U.S. government more power to eavesdrop on suspected foreign terrorists and even on expats living in Costa Rica.  The legislation signed in August 2007 lifted a requirement that such surveillance could not begin without advance permission from a court. Bush said in a statement that this change would give U.S. agents dynamic and flexible tools for counterterrorism work.

The law, called the Protect America Act, allows the U.S. National Security Agency to intercept telephone conversations, e-mail and other communications between foreigners that are routed through American equipment. Should a U.S. resident become a target of such an investigation, court approval still will be required, according to the law.

The New York Times revealed in December 2005 that Bush in 2002 authorized the intelligence agency to monitor international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants in an effort to track Al Qaeda.

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