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$340 million loan signed to pay for many road jobs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government signed a deal Monday to borrow $340 million from a development bank to make major improvements in roadways, including the construction of 3.8 kilometers as the first phase of the much-awaited Circunvalación Norte and overpasses at the congested traffic circles in the Circunvalación Sur.

The money also will go to improve the safety on Ruta 32, the San José-Limón highway that has been affected by dangerous slides.

The money also will go toward constructing an access road to the new container port in Moín and the construction of a new grain port in Caldera.

In fact, the projects that will be paid for by the loan are a wish list of motorists.

Included is the Chilamate-Vuelta Kooper highway that will give speedy travel across the northern zone.

The money is coming from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The amount in colons is 175 billion.
As part of the projects, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad will build tunnels and install anti-slide measures on Ruta 32. The highway also is called the Carretera Braulio Carrillo because it goes through that national park. The entire road was opened in 1987, but recently the high cliffs have begun to slide into the roadway, sometimes with tragic results. The highway already has the Zurqui Tunnel north of San José. Some 11,000 vehicles a day pass over this highway, according to the Consejo.

Also part of the plan is the construction of four lanes on the San Carlos highway and work on the Interamericana Norte.

The 3.8 kilometer stretch of the Circunvalación Norte will include a four-lane highway designed for 90 kilometers per hour. That's about 56 miles per hour. The stretch will be from the Juan Pablo Segundo bridge in La Uruca to the Pozuelo intersection.

The entire project envisions a ring of a four-lane highway around the metro area. However, the new section will have a wide center island for future addition of two more lanes, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Hey, Buddy! Can you spare 594.2 billion colons?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Is it possible that personal finances in Costa Rica mirror that of the central government? Is it possible that Costa Ricans owe $1.2 billion on their credit cards.

That is the report from the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. The ministry said Monday that as of Jan. 31, the total debt on credit cards in the country was 594.2 billion colons. That is $1.2 billion at the current rate of exchange.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos said Monday that it estimated the country's population at
4,301,712 persons. That means a credit card debt of $276 for every man, woman and child.

And, said the ministry, the number of credit cards is growing, up 2.4 percent from the last time the ministry did a study. There are 1.5 million credit cards in circulation.

There also is about 4.1 percent of the credit card debt in arrears by at least 90 days, according to the study. That is down slightly from the previous year.

The study does not count the many credit cards held by expats that are issued by foreign banks and credit firms.

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Our readers' opinions
Outspoken environmentalist
does not deserve attacks

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As someone who has enormous respect for Carol Meeds' environmental knowledge, I still must disagree with her letter to A.M. Costa Rica in which she asserted the government's proposed confiscations and demolitions of many properties  inside the maritime zone in Puerto Viejo de Limón and Cahuita are being carried out with the best interests of the region's environment and natural resources in mind.
Like many other people, I have little doubt that politicians in San José are doing the bidding of a variety of large, international, corporate interests, from a variety of industries, who have been salivating for years to gain control of the wide array of natural resources and beauty that are el Caribe Sur.
That said, Ms. Meeds has often been the target of some pretty nasty attacks, primarily by expats who've moved to the Caribbean coast in recent years, because she points out that many of the things they themselves are doing also do a great deal of damage to the varied ecosystems that exist in the region.
There is a certain irony in these people attacking Ms. Meeds for her likely erroneous take on what is motivating the government to so brazenly assault entire communities, when they themselves are doing more than their share of environmental damage while proclaiming their love of all things green and pura vida.
Ms. Meeds may be wrong on what is happening with the current confiscation and demolition debate, but she has a long and credible history of correctly pointing the small, but still damaging effects of individual people's misuse and mismanagement of the natural beauty and resources that surround them.
The fact that she is mistaken about the motivation behind the government's current proposals does not negate that reality. Nor should it be license for people to launch the kinds of ad hominem, personal, and ugly attacks she has been subjected to because she dares to speak her mind on other issues and realities confronting the rapidly changing southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Michael Cook
Gloucester, Massachusetts,
and Playa Cocles

Milanes and Villalobos:
a study in contrasts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It's been many years since Milanes was captured. He has received the best treatment by the courts, and since then the Costa Rican and American victims have received nothing but bills from their lawyers. The victims who live here deserve better. Some of Milanes assets were just recently frozen, as were the assets of Villalobos many years ago. Enrique Villalobos' brother was even put in jail, and Enrique would be there too if it weren't for his foresight. He'd understood how the judicial police and the court system works.

Milanes knows even better. Milanes has been able to continue operating his many businesses and make money from them. All that his victims were able to do is to pay lawyers and a trust company for ineffectual services that have cost them dearly, without even knowing it. Milanes' victims can't even get a statement from the trust company charged with selling off assets that have been recovered for the victims benefit.

Can't the victims file a civil case and be paid for their victimization out of these assets? Milanes is dealing an arrogant hand. He has made many offers like giving the victims 20 cents on the dollar in return for avoiding punishment for his crimes. After he makes these agreements, he doesn't keep them. Nothing has been done. The more Milanes keeps delaying the victims, the more his elderly victims die of old age, and the more his assets can be encumbered and hidden.

What is the secret of Milanes success in comparison to the failure of Villalobos in getting justice? Was it his occupation, and the fields that he has worked in? Maybe that's it. Milanes worked in the gaming business. He owns casinos, all-cash businesses.

Villalobos on the other hand worked in a field like banking and studying religion. Banco Nacional and other banks were his competition, and nobody would accuse Banco Nacional or other banks of unfair practices or in dealings against the public interest, for their own profit. Villalobos' occupation was money changing, and he did it much more efficiently than any of the banks in Costa Rica.

It was rumored that he changed more money and at a lower margin than all other banks in Costa Rica combined. But this couldn't have been his crime. It must have been something else?
Jeremy Straw
San José
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 76
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Strip club mainstay is now the new elegant exercise fad
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The skill of pole dancing has come out of strip clubs and gained elegance as a new exercise fad. What used to be considered seedy has found a place in certain dance studios and have taken over as the new, sexy workout trend.

And, according to some dance studio operators, this is the more popular class. Mariela Alvarado, pole dance instructor and part owner of Provocarte in Escazú, said that at her studio her dancers are really enjoying the course and because of this classes continue to grow. She also said that because of the intense workout that pole dancing provides many women have exchanged their time at the gym for her class.

“The people prefer to do this which is more dynamic than going to the gym and lifting weights,” said Ms. Alvarado.

The benefits of pole dancing include flexibility, stretching, working out all muscles, and everything else that is a result of dance, said Ms. Alvarado.

Besides the physical attributes gained from the intensive workout there are also emotional encouragements, such as self-esteem developed in the sexy exercise.

Sisy Salas, owner and pole dance instructor for Sisy Danza Estudio in San Ramón, said the class is taken by all kinds of women and they are forced to dance in front of a mirror.

She said it was a given that most of these women want to dance for someone. That is why they take her refined exotic dance class. As part of her lesson, she asked her students to bring in a stuffed animal that will represent a person. This will help them learn the mannerisms and attitude needed to sensualize the dance, she said.

Ms. Salas has created a belly dance fusion with the popular strip club dances. She has infused the famous Middle Eastern dance with lap dancing and pole dancing.

Pole dance demo
Sisy Salas photo
Sisy Salas demostrates what she teaches

“I'm trying to innovate the dance,” said Ms. Salas. “It is now more refined and elegant.”

Although dance studios have adopted the taboo dance into their new popular racy class, the pole dance hasn't lost its fervor over a little commercialization. In fact it hasn't faded inside the strip clubs.

At Tango India, an upscale strip club in La Uruca, dancers aren't referred to any school. The club has its own private lessons, an employee said when he thought a reporter was applying for a job.

Law enforcement has diverse reasons for questionnaire raid
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Fuerza Pública official said that a Saturday night lockdown of the Del Rey and its Key Largo dance club was an operation to attack sexual exploitation.

The director of Fundación Rahab, which had volunteers involved in the police action, said the goal was to let the working women know about the Christian organization and to make sure they were treated correctly. She said the action was directed by the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the police task force was assembled by the Dirección General de Migración to look for illegal immigrants.

In all cases, spokesmen at the agencies were visibly nervous that reporters were asking about the role of the non-profit foundation in a police operation.

Saturday night dozens of police officers and a handful of Rahab volunteers in pink shirts and body armor entered the Del Rey at Avenida Primera and Calle 9 and the Key Largo across the street. Women there, including bartenders, were forced to fill out some form of questionnaire and participate in individual interviews with female police officers. The names of the men present were taken down, too.

At the Key Largo about 50 men were detained for three hours in one room while women there were questioned in another. The information comes from expats who were present.

Raúl Rivera Bonilla, regional director for the Fuerza Pública in San José, said the police action was to attack sexual exploitation. He said three men were arrested, but not at the expat watering holes. A similar sweep took place at Parque Central and Parque la Merced at the same time, he said. The arrests took place on public streets, and the men were held because they either were the subject of a warrant or possessed drugs, he said.

Rivera asked a reporter not to mention the presence of Rahab volunteers. After being told that this information already had been published, he said the the foundation collaborates with the Fuerza Pública.

Mariliana Morales, director of Fundación Rahab, sounded surprised when a reporter asked her by telephone about her foundation's involvement in the police action.  She said her foundation's role in the operation was to take advantage of the situation to check on the women who frequent the Del Rey to make sure they are treated correctly. She declined to discuss the questionnaire the women were made to fill out.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored Ms. Morales as a heroine against modern slavery in Washington in 2009.

Ms. Morales said that Janet González, human trafficking investigator for the Judicial Investigating Organization, was in charge of the law enforcement action. But Ms. González would only speak through the Judicial Investigating Organization's press spokesperson, Marisel Rodriguez Solis.

Ms. Rodriguez said that the reason the men were not allowed to leave the casino bar area was because there would be chaos if some were allowed to leave and other were told to stay. She also said since it was an operativo there was no need for a warrant because there were no searches or recording of names. She said officers only asked for documentation to make sure everyone was legal and not on any criminal or International Police Organization list.

Had the police action been an authorized search a judge would have had to sign off on it, and there would have to be probable cause.

Expats who were at the scene said that police compiled a list of all the men there, too, but the men did not have to fill out a questionnaire.

Ms. Rodríguez said what she called a sting is common in Costa Rica and such raids happen about twice a month at tourist spots. She clearly was at a disadvantage answering questions because she had no first-hand knowledge.

She also added that the Fundación Rahab works closely with the Judicial Investigating Organization. She also could not provide information on the nature of the document the women were made to fill out.

Rahab, which is named after a woman in the Bible, also is supported with grants by the U.S. government via the U.S. Embassy here. The San José-based foundation specializes in providing work skills to former prostitutes.

The information provided reporters Monday was different than that which was reported by the security ministry Sunday night. At that time a spokesperson said that the police action was in support of municipal workers who were checking on the business license of the Del Rey and that was why police officers and agents could enter the establishment and round up the clientele. The spokesperson also said that just one man, a person sought for aggravated robbery, was detained and that 27 persons, mostly women, who could not produce paperwork showing that they are in Costa Rica legally, were ordered to report to the immigration offices.

Del Rey casino

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 76
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bikers from the north
Casa Presidencial photo
Some of the bikers who traveled to the northern limits of the country Sunday
More than 4,000 try out the new highway along Río San Juan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were more than 4,000 persons who participated in a Sunday bike event on the new Juan Rafael Mora Porras, Ruta Nacional 1856, alongside Nicaragua's Río San Juan.

The event was styled as a peace ride to promote the national sovereignty, but it also was a slap at Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, who has been trying to dredge a new mouth for the river.

Luis Liberman Ginsburg, one of the nation's vice presidents, was there to welcome the crowd.
The central government put the highway in to provide an alternate route to traveling on the river that Nicaragua frequently restricts. Nicaragua has complained to the World Court about alleged environmental damage.

Costa Rica has filed its own case against Nicaragua in the World Court in which it says the neighboring county has invaded Costa Rican territory. This was possible, in part, because the northern area along the border had been neglected for years by the central government.

The Nicaraguan situation has generated substantial development of infrastructure along the river. That includes extending power lines and providing piped water.

Extent of eruption Saturday
captured in photographs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Volcano experts are confirming that there was an eruption at Volcán Rincón de la Vieja Saturday afternoon.

They are helped in their investigation by statements from residents and photographs. The eruption also was detected by seismographs as if it were an earthquake.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico released photos Monday. The observatory also released photos from the air of the volcano crater taken on March 6 and again Saturday.

The normally blue lake in the crater has turned gray due to the injection of gas and expelled material, the observatory said.

The eruption was accompanied by what sounded like an explosion, according to residents in some of the nearby towns. The eruption appears to have thrown material from the lake bottom to the north flank of the crater, said the experts.

The trail to the crater has been closed by park rangers, but the national park that surrounds the mountain near Upala is open, official said.
Volcano erupts
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico
de Costa Rica/Greeisyn Yanela Zamora Uragte

Volcán Rincón de la Vieja spouts a white column of vapor in this photo taken from Aguas Claras Saturday about 2 p.m.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. citizen will again hold
the World Bank top job

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The directors of the World Bank have named another American, Jim Yong Kim, to be the president of the global development agency.

Kim is a physician, anthropologist, and president of Dartmouth College. Previously, he ran the United Nations efforts to fight AIDS, created a non-governmental organization to promote health care for impoverished nations, and taught at Harvard University. Kim will serve a five-year term that begins July 1. He will succeed Robert Zoellick, whose term ends in June.

In a note to journalists Monday, Kim said he will seek a new alignment of the bank to reflect a rapidly changing world and seek inclusive growth.

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Kim for the post and congratulated him on taking the job. Obama also said the other candidates from Nigeria and Colombia offered outstanding qualifications and commitment.

Under an informal agreement, a U.S. national has always headed the World Bank, while a European has always headed the International Monetary Fund.

Critics call that agreement outdated and unfair.

This is the first time that there has been formal competition for the World Bank's top job.

The directors passed over Nigeria's respected finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Colombia's former finance minister and development expert, José Antonio Ocampo. Ocampo withdrew his candidacy last Friday.

Okonjo-Iweala, who held top level posts at the bank for years, told the French news agency that this selection was not based on merit, but said her participation would help change the process.

Commercial spacecraft
readied for launch April 30

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The only spacecrafts to travel to the International Space Station have been produced by nations, not commercial enterprises.  But that could change if a previously postponed launch takes place at the end of this month, as planned.  The Dragon would be the first commercial craft to ever fly to and dock with the space station.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, said there is a good chance that the Dragon capsule, built by SpaceX, will be launched at the end of this month.

"There's still some more work we need to do, some more software testing that needs to get done, some other activities," said Gerstenmaier. "Everything looks good as we head toward the April 30 launch date, but I would caution us all that there is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done." 

Gerstenmaier made the announcement during a news briefing at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Monday afternoon, a few hours after NASA managers, SpaceX officials and space station partners completed a flight readiness review. 

The California-based company Space Exploration Technologies, commonly known as SpaceX, developed the reusable Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket. NASA is essentially the lead investor in this technology.

Gerstenmaier praised the partnership.

"I was very impressed with the discussion between the NASA teams and the SpaceX teams," he said. "When I hear the discussion back and forth, it's really one team. They're really focused on 'how do we deliver cargo to space station? How do we get ready for this next phase?' And these teams have worked just phenomenally well together."

The main objectives for this flight include a fly-under of the station at a distance of 2.5 kilometers to show that the Dragon's sensors and flight systems are working properly. If everything appears to be in order, the space station crew will use the station's robotic arm to maneuver the spacecraft for a rendezvous.

Elon Musk is the chief executive officer and chief designer at SpaceX. He cautions that the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are still relatively new technologies. Plus, Musk points out, the Dragon needs to meet up with an orbiting lab that is zooming around the Earth every 90 minutes.  

"So you've got to launch up there, you've got to rendezvous and be tracking the space station to within inches really, and this is something that is going 12 times faster than a bullet from an assault rifle, so it's hard," said Musk.

It was in December 2010 that the Dragon spacecraft made history when it became the first commercially made space capsule to ever launch into orbit, circle the world, and successfully re-enter the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA plans to hold another assessment next week to determine if the Dragon is ready to make history once again.

Virus in U.S. is100% fatal
to amphibians, reptiles

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Since the mid 1990s, a type of virus known as a ranavirus has been taking a devastating toll on reptiles and amphibians, especially turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders, in more than 20 states across the U.S.  Hundreds of thousands of these animals have died from the lethal virus and the disease continues to spread.  Scientists are stepping up their efforts to better understand and combat the pathogen.

A few years ago, Scott Farnsworth, a graduate student at Towson University in Maryland, was sent to a wooded park in Maryland to relocate box turtles safely away from a new highway.

Farnsworth and his team tagged 100 turtles with radio transmitters. But then the reptiles started turning up dead. And not just turtles. They began seeing massive die-offs of toads, young frogs called tadpoles and salamanders.  Lab analyses showed the culprit was the ranavirus, a class of viruses that mostly infect cold blooded animals.

“It’s pretty quick. We can go from seeing no outer signs," he explained. "To having complete mortality for all of the ones in the pond within a few days.” 

While amphibians die within hours of infection, box turtles can survive as long as a month. A lab test showed the animal died struggling to breathe.  Ranavirus often infects amphibians during their egg and juvenile stages, leaving them unable to swim.  But it affects only adult turtles. “It could send them on a glide path towards extinction,” said Farnsworth.

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Latin America news
chicken spurs
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
These are the spurs that owners of chickens attach to the birds to make them more lethal.

Police zero in on site
where chickens fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Fuerza Pública officers said they located a chicken-fighting compound in Ciudad Cortés Monday. But officers said they could not enter because the property is private.

Instead they managed to locate 10 injured chickens nearby and confiscated 51 spurs that are used by the bird owners to make their roosters more deadly.

Police did file a complaint with the local courts for animal mistreatment, they said. They also said they filed a compliant with the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal, which has jurisdiction in such matters.

Chicken fighting is a long-time Latin activity. Typically fights are held on Sundays and accompanied by heavy betting and drinking.

Banco Nacional leads
cleanup of new stadium

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Well, someone had to do it. That is why Sunday volunteers associated with Banco Nacional brought their brooms, mops and other cleaning equipment to the Estadio Nacional.

About 200 person participated in the first of three Sunday cleanups, said the bank.

The work Sunday was on the west side of the stadium. There were six groups. The workers included bank employees, customers and friends and family. Among those working Sunday was Paulo Wanchope, the former soccer standout.

Banco Nacional has a special interest because it is handling the finances of the stadium as a form of trust account.

The commission that is in charge of the stadium has not been in office long enough to contract for these services.

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