A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Friday, May 21, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 100
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Making history
the hard way

Arthur Kanev, handcuffs covered by a jacket, becomes the first U.S. citizen to be extradited to Costa Rica. He faces charges he exploited young women in Quepos from 1996 to 1999. He had been a fugitive.


Divinity, obesity and those creepy-crawlies
I thought about the U.S. congresswoman who said that the prisoners at Guantanamo had gained 20 pounds since being there. She was using this as evidence that they were being well treated. Well, in this day and age of dieting, gaining 20 pounds is not necessarily a sign of good health or good treatment. Undereating is now considered the secret to a long and healthy life. Also, maybe the prisoners are being fed lots of starches and carbohydrates. They aren’t healthy, either. Maybe they have gained weight because they are not getting any exercise. They have nothing to do but eat and sit around all day. What is their cholesterol now?

Then I thought about the American soldier who was a prisoner during the Gulf War. He said that he was fed only one meal a day and lost 23 pounds in his 15 days of captivity. He didn’t say if he was overweight when he was captured. How is his cholesterol now? I can just hear some doctors planning the new diet that will replace the South Beach Diet. The One Meal a Day Diet - lose 20 pounds your first 15 days. " 

I was also thinking about the sad fact of the increase in obesity here in Costa Rica. When I visited here in the late 80’s, I don’t think I saw one really fat person, at least not in San José or the places I visited. Today, I notice them more and more. I have decided that it is not affluence that brings obesity ("you can’t be too rich or too thin" goes the saying). It is the importation of some of the trappings of the "developed world." Things like fast food restaurants, TVs, cars. One can argue that all of these take money. Not necessarily. It may only mean that what money there is being spent differently. 

Now, before you start writing that scathing letter telling me I should be ashamed of myself for treating some very serious matters so frivolously, let me say that I am doing what I can not to think any more about the horrors that have been unleashed in that Pandora’s Box that is Iraq. It is the elephant in my living room I am trying not to think about it. So I am staying in my kitchen cooking, and thinking of the absurdities of our times. 

My gnocchi turned out just fine with the local spinach. But I had two egg whites left over. I could have just put them in the refrigerator, but no, I had to check out my littlest cook book entitled, "The Good Egg" which has 200 recipes for leftover whites or yolks. I decided upon divinity fudge. I almost rejected the

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

idea because it called for two and a half cups of sugar. I never cook anything that calls for two and a half cups of sugar! But I pressed on. 

Well, the sugar, water and corn syrup were merrily boiling when I decided to check out my old "Joy of Cooking." The first bit of advice was "Pick a dry day." I looked out the open door to my balcony. The rain had stopped but the thunder was threatening more. This is the rainy season. 

The sugar mixture bubbled merrily. Taking a lesson from George Bush, I stayed the course. I beat the egg whites and when the syrup was ready, slowly poured it into the whites as I kept beating. Soon I realized that it was ballooning much too much for the bowl and had to transfer it to another bowl. That’s when I thought I had invented a new super glue. The white foam was sticking to everything. 

When I thought it was ready. I dropped it by spoonsful onto wax paper. We used to make sea foam fudge, which is a variation of divinity. But when we dropped the lumps on wax paper they stayed nice little lumps. These spread out into flat coins. A little voice kept saying, "cut and run, Jo." But I stayed the course and got out more wax paper for a few more. The recipe is supposed to make 50 pieces. That’s when I checked what more advice the Rombauers had. It was, "This candy does not keep well." Why didn’t "The Good Egg" tell me that? I decided to walk away from the problem for a bit, hoping the candy would firm up.

When I checked them again, my large white coins looked like they had jimmies on them. They weren’t jimmies, they were little black ants. Those that weren’t swarming were stuck. Talk about insurgents! Where do these ants come from so suddenly? That decided it. 

The "candies" went into the trash and the bowl of the remaining mixture is in the sink under running water. I still have an incredible mess to clean up. Next time I will just beat those two egg whites and have a low fat, low carbohydrate omelet. 

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Rain may continue
through Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional now says the rain drenching much of the country probably will not clear up until Saturday.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued a warning for the entire country because a low pressure system continues to hang on.

Some 220 monitoring sites have been manned with particular attention being paid to areas where slides can be dangerous. The commission singled out Orosi and Tapezco as such sites.

A man in southern Costa Rica, Gerado Picado Mora, already has died in this round of heavy rains. The 41-year-old man was trying to cross the Río Agujas in Puerto Jiménez when he was carried away by the current, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. His body was found Thursday morning.

The emergency commission said that traffic was blocked between Quepos and Dominical because the Río Savegre overflowed its banks. The Interamerican Highway, Route 2, was also blocked. This was at Empalme where a landslide took place, the commission said.

Crews from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte were working to open the routes.

Another slide has blocked Route 142 from La Fortuna de San Carlos to Tilirán along the northeast shore of Lake Arenal. The slide is some 10 kms. (6 miles) southeast of the Arenal dam.

A pedestrian bridge in Caracol in Ciudad Neily also has been swept away, said the commission. That bridge is over the Río La Vaca.

The commission said that the areas of highest concern through the end of the week are the central and North Pacific sectors and the Caribbean slope.

The commission said that residents can help themselves by clearing the gutters and downspouts on their houses and also removing trash from drainage grates.

Taxi driver rams
car with bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the taxi driver saw another taxi but without an acquaintance at the wheel, he rammed the second vehicle. When Fuerza Pública officers arrived they found the driver of the second cab in the trunk and tied up.

This took place late Wednesday in Purral de Goicoechea. The victim was Guillermo Benavides Herrera, said police. He reported that he had been robbed while he was working in Carmen de Goicoechea by men who flagged him down for a ride.

Police managed to capture a suspect, a 14-year-old boy. Two men escaped.

Pizza bandits took
motorcycle a day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have detained the fourth and final suspect believed to be part of a ring of bandits who preyed on Pizza Hut deliverymen and their customers.

Investigators believe that the bandits followed the motorcycle deliverymen when they left the various pizza outlets. They would wait until the pizza was being delivered, pull up and take the motorcycle, any money and even money of the persons buying the pizza.

At one point Pizza Hut reported that it was losing a motorcycle a day.

The Judicial Investigating Organization reported that its agents were able to recover five of the motorcycles when they made arrests. The four men are all residents of Escazú.

Their last names and ages are: Carmona, 18; Obando, 22, Corrales, 28, and Mena, 32, agents said.

Anti-corruption act
OK’d in first reading

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legislators have approved on first reading a measure to fight corruption by public servants. The measure calls for prison terms as penalties for illicit enrichment, self dealing and other traditional ways government workers take money.

The measure has been in the Asamblea Nacional since August 1999 and, if passed on second reading, would bring the country in line with the Interamerican Convention against Corruption that the country has accepted.

Woman is kidnap victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Express kidnappers abducted a woman in Ciudadela López Mateos and held here for 1 million colons ($2,300) ransom, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The woman was liberated about 4 a.m. Thursday. She was identified as Miriam Villalobos.

Agents said that the abductors were four men with South American accents. Express kidnappings take place when the abductors settle for a small ransom quickly.

Radioactive canister
turns up undamaged

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small radioactive canister, taken by burglars earlier in the week, showed up in the patio of the home of an engineer in Siquirres, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The engineer, one of the men whose office had been burglarized, found the canister in the patio early Thursday.

Agents said that the device, used to check the welds and integrity of petroleum transmission pipes, had not been tampered with. However, the device went to the Ministerio de Salud for a complete check.

Investigators had launched an all-out publicity campaign when they found out that the device had been stolen. They wanted to alert the thieves and middlemen of the danger contained in the canister.

Saprissa wins honors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected Deportivo Saprissa defeated the Club Sport Herediano 2-1 in an encounter in San Juan de Tibás. This was the 2004 national championship game.

The game was played in a downpour that also dampened rowdy activities after the match. 
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Former Quepos man bought back to face trial here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Arthur Kanev, a 56-year-old former dentist, stepped off an American Airlines plane Thursday and into history as the first U.S. citizen to be extradited to Costa Rica.

Kanev, a former Quepos resident, faces charges here for his actions up until 1999 involving underage girls in the Pacific beach community.

A former companion and housemate, Curtis Baker, also a U.S. citizen and a veterinarian, got 24 years in prison for supplying drugs to minors. However Baker beat additional charges of corrupting the woman because the judges concluded that they already were corrupted.

Nevertheless, Kanev faces charges of violating drug laws, providing drugs to minors, corruption of minors, rape and carnal knowledge, according to a spokesperson for the Poder Judicial.

An arrest warrant was issued in February 2002 for Kanev when he failed to show up for the trial at which his housemate was convicted.

Both men were detained in 1999 when agents raided their house and seized photos that include some of the young women. Kanev will face his trial during the last week of August, said the judicial spokesperson.

The arrival Thursday had political overtones. First, Ricardo Toledo, the minister of the Presidencia announced the arrival date earlier this week during the inauguration of a regional meeting stemming from the Second World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

At Juan Santamaría Airport were Rosalía Gil, the director of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, and Ana Elena Chacón, a vice minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Although Kanev fled a trial here, he was nabbed in Florida last July when a neighbor of his mother saw him on a popular television show about fugitives. The arrest was made in Pompano Beach, Fla., where his mother lives.

Costa Rica has become vigorous in enforcing laws against exploitation of persons under the age of 18. The government is particularly sensitive to suggestions that foreign tourists come here to exploit local youngsters.

In the case of Kanev and Curtis the evidence suggests that the young women visited them willingly and repeatedly. However, that does not provide a defense under Costa Rican law.

The United States and Costa Rica have had an extradition treaty for years, but this is the first time a U.S. citizen has been brought here.

U.S. takes steps to reach more trafficking victims
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON. D.C. — In the three years since the United States enacted legislation to intensify the fight against human trafficking and ensure support for victims, only a small portion of victims in the nation have come forward to receive federal assistance available to them, U.S. government officials report. 

Now, in an effort to help more victims rebuild their lives in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services is enhancing the capacity of local communities to recognize and assist victims.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 made human trafficking a federal crime. It also established the basic responsibilities of five cabinet-level departments in combating forced labor and assisting the victims of sexual or other exploitation to receive help in rebuilding lives. 

Health and Human Services has several responsibilities assigned by the trafficking act. It awards grants to nongovernmental organizations  to provide assistance to victims. The agency also certifies victims, a regulatory step that ensures victims have access to a range of federally funded benefits programs while they cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.

"The sense of the act was clear— we want to afford victims the chance to rebuild their lives while staying here in the United States," said Steven Wagner, director of the trafficking in persons program at Health and Human Services.

The U.S. government estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 trafficking victims enter the United States each year. However, only 500 victims have been found in the United States since the act was passed. Most of these 500 victims, all of whom have been certified to receive assistance, were identified and liberated in the course of federal criminal investigations.

"We have seen what a pure law enforcement model of identifying victims could yield. While it was a good start, we need to find more victims, more rapidly and this is our major project now at HHS," Wagner said.

This year Health and Human Services has developed a national, multi-lingual hotline to report victimization and expanded the public information available on how to identify and assist victims. In addition, as part of its Rescue & Restore Campaign, the agency and other federal government representatives are working intensively with local civic leaders and organizations in three cities to develop new ideas on how public-private, federal and local partnerships can reach more victims. 

Wagner predicts that successful models emerging from the federal government's intensive work with local populations in Atlanta, Phoenix and Philadelphia can be adapted to rural and urban communities throughout the 50 states.

"At the community level, I believe we are now at a stage that domestic violence was 25-30 years ago in the United States. We have a problem that very few American adults are aware of," Wagner said. 

Honduran president says he wants full probe of deadly jail fire
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras —President Ricardo Maduro has pledged an exhaustive investigation of a fire that swept through a local prison, killing 104 inmates. 

Maduro says he cut short a European tour to investigate the deadly blaze Monday in San Pedro Sula northwest of here. The fire was said to have started when an electrical short circuit ignited bedding and other materials. 

Honduran officials say the fire spread rapidly through a cellblock housing members of a gang known as Mara Salvatrucha. They say the blaze consumed a large part of the facility by the time firefighters arrived. 

Survivors say guards refused to open cell doors. A prison spokesman said many inmates tried to attack the firefighters, and guards fired into the air to prevent a mass escape.  The Honduran government is giving each victim's family about $500 for funeral expenses. 

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Country called a shining example
Costa Rica wins U.N. praise for success with hi-tech
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A new report by the United Nations has singled out Costa Rica for its successful strategy in attracting foreign direct investment to the Central American nation.

The report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean  said that in less than 20 years, Costa Rica changed its export basket of bananas and coffee to more high-technology manufactured exports. As a result of this policy, high-technology exports went from 3.3 percent to 28.1 percent of total Costa Rican exports from 1995 to 2001, the commission said.

A key to this growth was the 1998 opening of the Intel Corp.'s microprocessor plant near the Costa Rican capital of San José, which formed the "heart of the incipient electronic cluster" in the country.

Intel, with headquarters in California, said it chose to locate a plant in Costa Rica because of the country's 95 percent literacy rate, the "helpful environment" for investors, a sophisticated infrastructure (power grid and telecommunications system), and Costa Rica's access to seaports and two international airports. Another reason for picking Costa Rica, Intel said, was because Latin America is one of the world's "fastest-growing markets for high-tech goods."

The economic commission said Costa Rica has become a shining example of how economies can "advance toward better conditions using an assembly-based approach, upgrading from natural resources to clothing, and again from clothing to electronics." 

The commission said Costa Rica gained market share for each of its 10 main exports, six of which are among the strongest performers in world trade. The case of Costa Rica stands out as exceptional, thanks to the country's "clarity about its strategic objectives, the application of suitable national policy instruments, and the presence of solid institutions," the commission said in the report, entitled "Foreign Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean 2003."

Report says investments
dropped 20 percent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A new United Nations report says foreign direct investment in Latin America and the Caribbean dropped by 20 percent last year to $36.5 billion. 

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, made its assessment in a report released Wednesday. 

The report said the region is the only one in the world to have experienced a drop in foreign investment. The report also said the fall was due mainly to a drop in investment in Brazil and Mexico. 

But it also said South America's Mercosur trade bloc, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, has experienced the sharpest declines in recent years. 

The report, however, said that in Latin America and the Caribbean, foreign investment has modernized industry and improved many services. 

Other conclusions from the report are that foreign direct investment has transformed Latin America, modernizing manufacturing sectors and improving many of its services and part of its infrastructure. The study mentioned Brazil's much improved telecommunications network, Argentina's financial services, and Chile's airport services and highway networks.

The United States is the main investor in the region, followed by Spain, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, the report said.

The report is available online HERE!

Brazil arrests 11 in scheme to export animal parts
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BRASILIA, Brazil — A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation of wildlife smuggling has helped Brazilian authorities break up a criminal network illegally trafficking tribal handicrafts made from protected species, according to the service.

Brazilian Federal Police announced the arrest last week of 11 individuals linked to an international trafficking scheme and the seizure of 1,000 wildlife items. The arrests mark the culmination of an investigation that began when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified the Brazilian government that tribal handicrafts decorated with feathers and other wildlife parts were being smuggled to the United States and to other countries from Brazil.

Prior to the May 14 arrests in Brazil, assistance from Brazilian authorities helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document the wildlife trafficking activities of a Florida businessman who has now been sent to jail for 40 months. Ten of the businessman's largest customers were also charged and have paid nearly $40,000 in fines.

The businessman is Milan Hrabovsky, the owner of two Florida businesses specializing in the sale of 

tribal art. Hrabovsky used contacts in Brazil to smuggle headdresses, masks, and other items, which he then sold over the Internet and at markets and craft fairs. 

Information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the Florida businessman's contacts in Brazil prompted Brazilian authorities to launch their own investigation, the service said.

Brazilian law generally prohibits the commercial exploitation and export of that country's native animals. Species involved in the two cases, which included red and green macaws, blue and gold macaws, scarlet macaws, and jaguars, are also safeguarded under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Those arrested here in Brazil were employed by the National Indian Foundation, a government agency that is set up to defend the interests and rights of Indian peoples in Brazil. 

The handicraft trafficking scheme capitalized on laws that allow Indians in Brazil to hunt animals and sell products for their own sustenance to gain access to such materials as macaw feathers and monkey and jaguar teeth. 

Pacific storm season will be about average, U.S. agency says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that four to five tropical cyclones will sweep across the central Pacific Ocean during the 2004 season, a typical year. The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

The fact that the El Niño weather pattern is quiet this year will help keep the number of storms down in 2004. A press release says the years when El 
Niño forms in the equatorial waters of the Pacific 

produce a higher number of storms. El Niño is an increase in water temperature that has major effects on the world’s weather.

The agency has devoted thousands of hours of work and ever more sophisticated technologies to its efforts to improve the accuracy of storm predictions in order to better protect public safety. The agency also urged residents in storm-prone regions to remain prepared for the strike of serious storms by keeping stocks of supplies and developing emergency plans. 

Jo Stuart
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