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(506) 2223-1327          Published Monday, May 23, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 100             E-mail us
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Tico beetle has bragging rights at new Texas home
Elephant beetle
San Antonio Zoo photo
Elephant beetle easily fills the palm of a man's hand.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The San Antonio, Texas, Zoo has just acquired a giant Costa Rican beetle for display and a research project.
The zoo said that the elephant beetle (megasoma elephas) arrived from Guanacaste earlier this month. The zoo said the beetle came from the El Bosque Nuevo butterfly farm.

The zoo is involved in a program to repopulate Costa Rica. The elephant beetle has lost significant habitat because of destruction of rainforests in which it lives.

The nocturnal insect is one of the largest insects in the world. Females lay their eggs in rotting wood, and the eggs hatch into larva that lives on organic material. Adults are fond of fruit.

The beetle that is at the San Antonio Zoo is a male, distinctive due to the large and smaller horns that are used for combat. The research and breeding program is supported by the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly Conservatory in the state of Missouri and the Costa Rican government.

The beetle is black but appears to be yellow due to tiny body hairs.



13 year old faces justice in smash and grab crimes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 13 year old who is accused of being one of those window breakers at traffic lights in Hatillo will be in a private juvenile hearing this week.

Authorities suspect the youth broke at least 10 car windows to steal goods inside. The majority of the victims were women driving alone during peak traffic hours.

The Circunvalación has been a hotspot of such
crimes. Traffic is backed up at times, and there are traffic lights. Sometimes drivers were threatened by window breakers with firearms, officials said.

Judicial agents captured the youth Nov. 4 during raids in Hatillo and Pavas. They recovered purses, cell phones, jewels, watches and other items stolen during the robberies.

Some 14 witnesses are expected at the hearing in the Juzgado Penal Juvenil.

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Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica, announces that it will be increasing advertising rates as of June 1. The increases, between 0 and 9 percent, will affect display as well as some classified rates.

Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

The company last raised rates in 2007 and held the line for the benefit of clients during the recent recession.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 100

Costa Rica Expertise
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Pure life update
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Professional Directory
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Judiciary just couldn't hold
Corredores drug suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A drug suspect in Corredores, southern Costa Rica, managed to convert three separate orders that he be jailed into home detention. Then he fled. The man is Panamanian and is accused of selling drugs.

The Poder Judicial outlined the case of a suspect named González Arauz Friday and said that the Tribunal de la Inspección Judicial is opening an investigation:

April 6 a judge in Corredores ordered the man to be jailed for three months while the case was investigated. A defense lawyer appealed, and an appeals panel voided the order April 14 because the judge's decision was not recorded. The same day prosecutors again sought and received an order remanding González to jail for investigation. The next day defense lawyers appealed and the appeals panel overturned the order.

The man was arrested again and the lower court judge again ordered preventative detention because the suspect was considered a flight risk.

April 29 the appeals panel again heard the case at the request of the defense and ordered house arrest. The panel heard that although the man did not have a fixed address, his mother would allow him to stay at her home in Paso Canoas. That town is adjacent to the Panamá line.

May 2 the man was listed as a fugitive.


Our reader's opinion
Why are not thermal units
already in place for trash?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For a long now I have heard the government and the autonomous institutions attached to it scream about several things that are lacking and that must be approved on.

Two of those items are trash and the proliferation of landfills and the lack of sufficient electrical power for growth.

The landfills cause much more than simple eyesores. They poison the water and are a huge source of methane that does more to damage the environment than all the cars in the country.

The lack of electrical power is a problem of not enough money to build new facilities and not enough suitable (legally and logistically) to build the non-polluting hydro stations of any size.

Here in the Zona Sur Pacific I have heard of a company named Balboa Pacific being founded that uses a new commercial application of “thermal conversion.”

Supposedly this company is in negotiations with several of the local municipalities for placement of these machines, and the machines are offered at no cost these entities. If the equipment is certified as non-polluting as I have heard and they have the capability of neutralizing all trash while at the same time emptying the landfills and producing 3-6MW/h of electricity each, why is it that these machines are not already in place?   Why have I heard nothing in the press if the Munis (I think all five in the Judasur) have been approached?

Michael Walcott
southern zone

 
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.
Click a story for the summary




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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 100 
Latigo K-9

First Milanes proposal included Citi letter that was fake
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Savings Unlimited investors today are trying to put the finishing touches on a second conciliation agreement that will keep casino operator Luis Milanes out of jail. What many do not know is that the first proposal was suspected of being rife with fraud and identity theft.

Savings Unlimited, operated by Milanes, was a high-interest investment scheme that collapsed in 2002 when Milanes fled the country.

The initial proposal is relevant because that and the current proposal both offered the downtown Hotel Europa to the estimated 500 victims who chose to pursue a case against Milanes and associates. The second proposal includes a long-term payout to the victims, so it is dependent on Milanes' good faith. How much Milanes had to do with constructing the first proposal, if anything, is not known.

What is known is that the proposal identified Pedro Borges Fiol as executive director of the Savings Unlimited Recovery Fund, and he invited contact from former investors via ads published in a weekly newspaper. The proposal presented to the court included a letter purportedly from Citibank. That letter was a verification that a company seeking to purchase the Hotel Europa had $10 million in its account.

A Savings Unlimited investor in the United States asked a public service firm called Fight Fraud America to check out the proposal. The company filed a report in February that cast doubt on the initial proposal.

Leslie Kim, who heads Fight Fraud America, said that Citibank denied the letter came from its Fresh Meadows, New York, office. The bank said that no one with the name Michael Harripersaud, worked for the company anywhere in the world, she said. That was the name at the bottom of the letter. The financial giant launched its own investigation, said Ms. Kim.

Fight Fraud America also checked out the purported purchaser of the hotel, DFS International Limited that was being represented by Incite International Holdings, according to the proposal. Ms. Kim reported that Incite was a new British corporation with a mail drop as an address.

The company had no supporting documents filed with the British Registry, its Web page was new and no one at its listed Las Vegas, Nevada, location had heard of the firm when an investigator paid a call, said Ms. Kim. She deemed the firm a shelf corporation.

Eventually Fight Fraud America said it came in contact
with Teresa Collo, identified as the owner of DFS International Limited. The report said that the woman had no knowledge of Borges or Incite and did not know where Costa Rica was located.

That proposal is no longer valid, and Borges could not be located to comment on who set up the purchase offer.

The second proposal is the topic of a meeting of lawyers and investors today. Milanes wants to put up 11 properties including the Hotel Europa downtown and will continue to pay $100,000 a month for eight months with a much larger final payment, according to the proposal. Two firms seek to be trustees of the arrangement. They would have to sell the properties and remit the proceeds to Saving Unlimited victims at a percentage of what they had on deposit with Milanes. When the company failed, Milanes was believed to have had $200 million on deposit. The current proposal is estimated to be worth about $10 million.

The Hotel Europa is a key element of the deal, and the principal occupants there now is Milanes himself in the penthouse and one of his casinos on the first floor. A court-appointed appraiser never got a financial statement from the hotel, so no one among the investors and court officials knows if the business is making money or throwing off large losses. Most downtown hotels are facing hard times.

The U.S. investor who sought help from Fight Fraud America also paid to have the final report translated into Spanish. Both copies were turned over to the Judicial Investigating Organization, but it does not appear that agents followed up on the extensive information in the report. At the end of April, judicial agents completed a detailed report on the extensive business interests of Milanes in other countries, but that document is not available and, inexplicably, not part of the court file.

The negotiations between investors and their lawyers and Milanes and his lawyers are not open to the public or press. But some investors have reported that prosecutors, the majority of lawyers, the public defender representing some investors and maybe even the judge are pushing for approval of the second proposal.

Some investors said they wanted to see the deal in writing before making a decision. If the investors accept the deal, there will be no trial, and Milanes will not face the possibility of jail. Prosecutors are reported to be anxious to avoid a trial. Lawyers probably will be paid off first, if the deal goes through.

Unclear is if anyone has done a title search on the properties that Milanes is offering as part of the settlement.


Slain prison guard honored;
Inmate's death investigated


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The Judicial Investigating Organization now has the case of a notorious prisoner who was found dead in his maximum security cell Sunday morning.

Coincidentally, the same morning at the Catedral Metropolitana security officials were honoring the prison guard who died in the latest jailbreak attempt.

Dead in the cell was Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, who helped engineer the May 11 attempt at the La Reforma maximum security unit. He and other prisoners killed another guard in an earlier successful breakout Oct. 9, 2006.

Naturally suspicion fell on prison workers, but officials said that Araya suffered from several medical problems. His body was removed to the judicial morgue where autopsy results will be available in a week. Cruz Roja said there were no visible signs of trauma on the body. But that did not stop his family from venting their suspicions.

Two prisoners died in the May 11 attempt in a firefight with tactical squad members.

At the cathedral security officials presented the wife of  Francis Morales Fallas a medal. She received on behalf of her husband the Cruz Escarlata or scarlet cross. The medal is for someone who died in the line of duty.

dead policeman
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo by Guillermo Solano
Family of slain prison guard Francis Morales Fallas is pictured during a Mass in his honor Sunday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 100
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beach cleanup
Asociación Terra Nostra photo
This is what volunteers confronted Saturday on the Gulf of Nicoya coast

Beach cleanup volunteers collect 4,335 kilos of trash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 275 volunteers returned to Playa Guacalillo at the mouth of the Río Grande de Tárcoles Saturday and collected 4,335 kilos of trash that filled up 250 bags. The haul included 53 vehicle tires as well as eight for agricultural use, said Asociación Terra Nostra.

This was the fourth cleanup of the season and the second time a stretch of Playa Guacalillo was the location. The effort is part of the program "Costa Rica, te quiero limpia." The Ministerio de Salud supports the program. The program also is supported by commercial enterprises, and social groups including Banco Nacional, Channel 7,
Pastas Vigui, S.A, Desert Development Co., the Rotaract club and Coopemep. Students from the Liceo Braulio Carrillo de Tibás also participated. 

The Saturday effort inaugurated a new category of trash. It is called unclassified plastic. The Ocean Conservancy identifies it as pieces of plastic that are not bottles or other containers. These are the bits of plastic that usually end up  in the ocean and can be doll parts, pieces of toys, and just plain plastic junk. There was 1,125 kilos of this material collected, Terra Nostra said.

Much of the material collected during the six-hour cleanup will be recycled, the association said.



Tropical ants recognize, defend their tree home, study says

By the Colorado State University news service

A tropical ant species with keen chemical detection can distinguish between its host tree and plant interlopers – and the ant uses this ability to aggressively protect its host tree to help ensure survival of the ants, a team of Colorado State University researchers has found.

The ant’s ability to detect and respond to its host’s chemical signals is central to maintaining the tight symbiotic relationship, according to the team’s study, published in the online edition of Biotropica, a scientific journal focused on tropical ecosystems.

“The ants are like gardeners, weeding out competitors to their host plant,” said Tiffany Weir, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at the Fort Collins, Colorado, institution. “This allows other trees of the same species to grow, allowing the ant colony to expand by gardening their host trees.”

Ms. Weir was part of a research team based at Explorer’s Inn, an ecolodge and research station in the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. Deep in the Peruvian rainforest, the team examined the interconnection between the tropical ant, Pseudomyrmex triplarinus, and the host tree, Triplaris americana.

The research team, led by Jorge Vivanco, a professor in university's Department of Horticulture and Landscape architecture, looked specifically at the chemical signals involved in the symbiotic relationship that allows the ant species to receive shelter and sustenance from the host tree in return for its defensive activity.

“The ants inhabit hollow channels inside the tree and aggressively fight off any invaders, including other plants. Yet how these ants recognize their host tree, compared to other plants, had not been studied,” Ms. Weir said. “We found that the ants distinguish between their host trees and encroaching species through recognition of chemicals in the plant’s surface waxes.”
tropical ant
Colorado State Univeristy photo
This species of tropical ant, Pseudomyrmex triplarinus, aggressively defends its host tree from invading plants.

The team used a series of experiments to demonstrate that ants recognize chemical signals embedded in the leaf surface.

Scientists harvested and replanted tropical grasses and ferns near T. americana trees. The ants systematically pruned away the invaders. The researchers then used sewing pins to attach leaves from several trees, including T. americana, to the host trees; the ants distinguished between unrelated tree leaves and those from T. americana and effectively removed leaves from potentially competing trees.

These and other experiments demonstrated the high degree of specificity involved in this particular symbiotic relationship as well as the involvement of a chemical signal in leaf surface waxes that allows ants to accurately distinguish between their host and other plants, Ms. Weir said.

The study sheds more light on symbiotic relationships within rainforest ecosystems and could help rainforest conservation efforts, Weir said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 100

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Santos and Zelaya
Presidencia de Colombia photo
Colombian President Santos talks about the accord while Manuel Zelaya watches.

Accord to permit Honduras
to resume OAS membership

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, said Sunday he hoped an agreement signed in Cartagena would allow the immediate return of Honduras to full participation in the Organization of American States.

The agreement, between Porfirio Lobo, president of Honduras, and Manuel Zelaya Rosario, the ousted former president, allows Zelaya and supporters to return to the country and gives them full political participation.

The agreement was negotiated, in part by Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, who is a supporter of Zelaya. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan foreign minister, and María Ángela Holguín, the foreign minster of Colombia were credited by Santos for putting the deal together.

Zelaya was ousted as president June 28, 2009, when soldiers detained him and exiled him to Costa Rica. The coup was supported by the supreme court and the congress, although the legality still is in doubt. Zelaya was accused of trying to set up a referendum on the constitution even though the courts said he could not. He was seeking to prolong his term in office.

The United States has supported the return of Honduras to the hemispheric organization, and Santos said Sunday that with the new accord there should not be any negative votes.

Zelaya was seen as adopting a leftist course with the help and counsel of Chávez.

Major drug ring suspect
detained on his birthday


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican police say they have captured a suspected drug kingpin.

Authorities say the man, Gilberto Barragan Balderas, was arrested Friday in the border town of Reynosa, across from McAllen, in the U.S. state of Texas, at what appears to have been his birthday party.

Police say Barragan was a leading member of the Gulf drug cartel who was in charge of defending some of the gang's main smuggling routes into the United States from the rival Zeta cartel.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Barragan's capture. Mexican officials say two of Barragan's alleged associates were also arrested Friday.

Icelandic volcano unlikely
to disrupt European travel


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Aviation authorities in Iceland said Sunday that they have shut down the island's main airport and may have to close the island's other airports after the country's most active volcano began erupting Saturday.

However, scientists say the eruptions are unlikely to cause the same disruption to European air travel as another volcano that exploded last year.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office says the Grimsvotn volcano beneath the island's largest glacier has been shooting plumes of smoke at least 11 kilometers into the air since Saturday. The area surrounding the Vatnajokull glacier in southeastern Iceland is uninhabited.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 100

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Latin American news
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Costa Rica wins seat
on U.N. Rights Council


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Six countries, including Costa Rica, that have never previously served on the United Nations Human Rights Council are among 15 new members of the Geneva-based body after a round of balloting among U.N. member states Friday.

Nicaragua failed to win election.

The other five successful candidates are Austria, Benin, Botswana, the Republic of Congo and Kuwait. They will make their debut on the council next month, starting three-year terms on the 47-member panel that allots seats according to a formula based on world regions.

The other newly elected members — although they have previously completed stints since the council was created in 2006 — are Burkina Faso, Chile, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Philippines and Romania.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss announced the results of the voting, which was conducted by secret ballot at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Four countries were elected in the African category, four in the Asian States grouping and three from Latin America and the Caribbean, while two countries were chosen from Eastern Europe and two from the Western European and other states grouping.

In the Eastern European category, Georgia was unsuccessful. Only two of five regions put forth competition slates, noted Human Rights Watch. One region was Latin Ameican and the Caribbean, which had four candidates, including Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

"Without competition for seats on the Human Rights Council, the membership standards set by the General Assembly become meaningless," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Manufactured slates of candidates may be easier for states, but they are bad for the council."

Ten of the 15 countries elected were virtually assured of success because there was no competition for the seats assigned to their regions. Under the current system, states are reluctant to compete for seats on the council, and states challenging endorsed candidates face both stigma and concrete repercussions, Human Rights Watch said.

The problem was evident this year when no country was willing to challenge Syria's candidacy within the Asian regional group despite Syria's brutal crackdown on demonstrations that has resulted in the reported deaths of more than 800 people. Human rights groups from around the world had appealed to no avail for other states in the Asian group to enter the race, Human Rights Watch noted.

The Asian group ultimately avoided the travesty of Syria being elected only by convincing Syria to withdraw on May 11 and nominating Kuwait in its stead, Human Rights Watch noted. Kuwait was elected from the Asia group Friday along with India, Indonesia, and the Philippines without opposition.



Ad rates are going up

Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica, announces that it will be increasing advertising rates as of June 1. The increases, between 0 and 9 percent, will affect display as well as some classified rates.

Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

The company last raised rates in 2007 and held the line for the benefit of clients during the recent recession.





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