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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, June 3, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 109             E-mail us
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Diques hydro project
A.M. Costa Rica file graphic
The current plan calls for a dam at the tip of the arrow and a large reservoir to the northwest.
U.N. report on dam cites simmering native concerns
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations expert sent to study the situation of the country's native peoples in the face of the El Diquís hydro project in southern Costa Rica says the government should address underlying issues affecting the native peoples in the country.

The expert, called a special rapporteur, recounted a host of simmering problems. Specifically he addressed in his 11-page report land tenure, representation, and the advancing of a law on native peoples, according to his own summary posted to his Web page.

The special rapporteur is James Anaya, a professor at the University of Arizona. He visited in late April and his report is available now in Spanish.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has plans to build a massive hydro generating station in the Río Térraba river system. Anaya notes that the current design would take 818.24 hectares of the Térraba native land, which represents about 10 percent of the reserve. The China Kichá people would lose 97 hectares and the Rey Curré and Boruca peoples would be affected because they are on land downstream from the proposed dam. Other native groups are in the area of influence of the project, said Anaya.

A cornerstone of international and Costa Rican law is that native peoples must be consulted before national governments make changes to their reserves and other holdings. Anaya's report shows that there is frustration among the native peoples by what they see as the electrical institute's heavy handed treatment.

Anaya said that such consultation should take place with the understanding that a dam may not be built. But it appears that the native peoples report that the electrical institute has not provided feasibility studies and the information necessary for them to make an informed decision.

Anaya proposed that an independent group, perhaps United Nations experts, be empaneled to facilitate the process of consultation. And the consultation process should begin at square one, he suggested.

The report said that many non-natives have taken over properties either legally or illegally on the various reserves in the area. There needs to be a
way for the native leaders to recover this land, perhaps with the central government buying out those non-natives who have a legal right, he said.

The report also shows that many in the native communities do not trust their local development committees and see them as extensions of the non-native governments. The development associations appear to be in conflict with the traditional native leadership. Anaya said that the various native groups should be free to pick their own leaders and that the central government should pay for experts and other resources so they can negotiate on an equal basis. He noted that there is an asymmetry of power between the native groups and the dominant central government, in this case the electrical institute.

The Térraba have been irked since 2006 because the electrical institute moved heavy equipment onto native land to do geological studies. Anaya said that a sign of good faith was the institute's announcement that the machinery would be removed. That happened during his visit to the area that is south of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

He also said that native groups and others have been unable to obtain the feasibility studies that the institute developed to justify the project. He suggested that they be released.

There also is simmering unhappiness over the failure of the Asamblea Legislativa to move forward a comprehensive proposal to provide more autonomy for native groups. There was a protest at the legislature over this issue last year and 30 persons were expelled by guards, he noted.

Anaya said that Costa Rica has an opportunity to be a good example to the world to resolve this issue in a way that shows full respect for the human rights of the native peoples in accord with a negotiated agreement.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that the report was constructive and very positive and said that it is an important tool for consultation that will be an international example and a milestone in the history of the country.

The electrical institute reported some of Anaya's comments in a news release but did not address his statement that full consultation means putting the construction of the hydro project in doubt.

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Guard who shot U.S. student
in hands of prosecutors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A security guard has been taken into custody and agents have confiscated his .22 caliber revolver that was used to kill a
Justin Johnson
Justin Johnston
16-year-old student from the U.S. state of Kansas.

The man, identified by the last name of Guevara, is a Nicaraguan national who has worked at the  La Cangreja Lodge in La Fortuna de San Carlos for about two years.

Dead is Justin Johnston a student at McLouth High School in that Kansas community and a member of the school's Spanish club. The school said in a release that he was on a nine-day trip with 12 students and two district sponsors. The trip was arranged
through EF Educational Tours based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school is about 25 miles from Lawrence, a major city and home of the University of Kansas.

District officials said they are working with EF Educational Tours to ensure the safety of the remaining students and to make travel arrangements for an early arrival home.  EF Educational Tours is taking steps to make counselors available to the students and sponsors, the school said in a release.  District officials have been in close communication with families who have students on the trip, it added.

The district said its primary concern is for the Johnston family and also for the many students and staff members who are affected by this tragedy.  The district’s crisis plan has been activated and counselors will be available on site for students and staff today and tomorrow, it added.

The shooting took place at the lodge when the guard appears to have mistook Johnston and some friends as thieves.  Judicial agents from the regional office in La Fortuna are investigating. The student was a guest at the lodge. La Fortuna is near the Arenal volcano.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the group had orders to be in their rooms by 10 p.m., but it appears that Johnston and others decided to visit another group of students and managed to evade security to do so.

When they were returning to their rooms, they were noticed by the guard, who saw individuals with backpacks, judicial agents said. That caused him to think they were thieves or robbers. agents said. The guard shouted and fired a warning shot in the air, said agents, but this seemed to panic the students. As the group continued to run, the guard fired and hit Johnson once in the chest, agents said.

The cause of death is being verified in an autopsy. The guard is in the hands of prosecutors. He was unable to produce documents saying that he had a legal right to carry the weapon, said police at the scene.

Flooding alert is lifted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission has lifted an alert it had imposed due to flooding in some communities in the northern zone.  Still some 250 persons remain in shelters, the commission said Thursday afternoon. However, 30 persons in shelters in the Escuela Moravia Verde de Upala were able to go home, the commisison said.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted weather for Friday similar to Thursday: Generalized rain over the country in the afternoon extending into the evening hours. On the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone, the rains will start in the mountains and move to lower elevations in the evening, it said.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 109
Latigo K-9

Commercial longlining ships like this Panamanian vessel pictured  off Panama have been barred by a presidential order. The  hundreds of baited hooks attract billfish, turtles and other prized species. The edict covers ships over six tons.
longline fishing boat
The Billfish Foundation photo

Miami professor promotes new electronic eye for sports fish
By K. A. Engman
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A fish whisperer from Miami came to tell Costa Ricans about a new tracking device for that darling of the sport fishing world, the billfish.

Marine biologist Nelson Ehrhardt demonstrated the new, hand-held device which acts like an electronic satellite sensor
taker for migrating sailfish and marlin at precise points in the tropical eastern Pacific.

The device is about the size of a cell phone and provides the captain of a sport fishing boat with a touch screen to record key data on the fish. Each time one is spotted or caught or when signs of the controversial longlines are detected, the captain taps the screen.

The information goes immediately to a University of
Professor Ehrhardt
Professor Ehrhardt
Miami database, said Ehrhardt, a professor there.

“Here we are, instantaneously, in real time, looking at what is happening in our screens in Miami. It!s huge,” he said, adding the data will help scientists develop forecasting tools for billfish behavior.

The goal is to combine migration data from the captains with what scientists already know of oceanography to study habitat use of the billfish, whose numbers are a serious source of concern, he said.

The benefit to the sport angler is that the device helps locate the fish. This new device is a smaller version of one installed and tested on Guatemalan sport fishing boats in the past year. Those boats reported higher catches and lower fuel costs, he said. The billfish migrate from Mexico to Ecuador, so billfish issues are important all along the tropical eastern Pacific.

The colorful sailfish, with its massive dorsal fin and long needle nose, and its fellow billfish, the enormous marlin, are stars for Costa Rica!s lucrative sport fishing tourism.

“These are the exotics of the sea, very rare, extremely beautiful,” he said. Sailfish are coveted for their beauty and seemingly indomitable spirit. Once hooked, they fight vigorously, diving, leaping, twisting, and tail walking to make the angler labor to bring them to the boat, where, the moment it touches, it counts as a catch.

“It!s simply an extraordinary experience,” Ehrhardt said.

He met Monday with officials from Costa Rican fisheries and tourism, and sport fishing representatives to explain the device and the critical need for conservation. Costa Rica has a
vested interest in protecting billfish because sport fishing is big money, he said.

In 2008 North Americans visited to sport fish and brought in $599 million in tourism revenue – 2 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, a study found. That year, 283,790 anglers visited Costa Rica, and 22 per cent of them were here just to fish. Research was by The Billfish Foundation, Southwick Associates and the University of Costa Rica.

In the past sport anglers mounted their catch as trophy, but these days anglers use catch and release, a camera to record success, and a taxidermist to make a replica.

Sailfish live four years on average, and the largest recorded was 222 pounds caught off the coast of Ecuador. As the fastest fish in the ocean, it has been clocked at 68 mph (110 kph) when leaping out of the water, according to

Ehrhardt stressed that billfish are at serious risk from the plethora of hooks of the controversial longlines of commercial vessels. Longline is a practice whereby large vessels use monofilament fishing lines that can stretch for 40 miles and dangle thousands of individually baited hooks. This results in bycatch, the incidental catch of unintended species, from sailfish to sea turtles.

Costa Rica has a large fleet of commercial longliners, which makes the issue even more pressing, he said. “Here there are a huge number of hooks, thousands of hooks.” In Guatemala there are markedly fewer commercial longliners and there are markedly more sailfish, he noted. Ehrhardt said that when sold for food, a single sailfish is worth $60. But a study estimates it generates $2,200 in tourism revenue when left free for catch and release sport anglers.

He questioned why people want to kill and eat creatures like the billfish. “When you contract a tour in the Republic of South Africa to see a giraffe you do not eat the giraffe.” In December 2008 Costa Rica fisheries authority, the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura, put a 15 per cent limit on commercial fishing bycatch and a ban on the use of live bait by the commercial longliners. It also put a ban on sailfish meat export.

This year news broke that Costa Rican authorities intercepted more than 7,000 kilos of whole sailfish carcasses being transported by a seafood exporter to Perú. The cargo was falsely labelled as striped marlin, which is legal to export.

Ehrhardt also noted the longliner problem is compounded by ocean changes. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the spread of dead zones, where water is so low in oxygen that sailfish leave them and swim to shallower, more oxygen- rich water,. But once there, they are swimming into the area frequented by the commercial longliners.

Back to a normal life stalking the elusive cell telephone
Life slowly is returning to normal.  If there is such a thing as normal to any life, it usually means no great ups or downs. We like to think that that is normal.  Those are usually the halcyon days that exist only in our minds.

I found my cell phone.  Eric had the bright idea of dialing the number. Since I was in his taxi, I could hear it ring but I couldn’t answer it. He said it was a good sign that no one was using it. That made sense.  When I got home, I dialed the number again and found my phone in the bathroom next to the sink.  I suppose that made sense, too.

This month when my bills start coming in, I am responding to the advice from several of my readers and going to the bank to make arrangements for automatic payments. That means I won’t have to wrack my brain to remember what I forgot.

My son left, such a happy dental tourist that I think I will try his dentist, although I don’t think she will enchant me as much as she did him.   After he left, I tried to remember what my daily routine was.

I finished the monologue I had written for the next Little Theatre Group presentation, “The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of.”  The program will consist of monologues by members of the theater about, of course, their dreams.  The dates of the production are June 17, 18 and 19.

Once again at loose ends, I did what I usually do when I don’t know what to do – head for the kitchen.  This time I noticed again the bag of dried apricots that have been sitting on the counter for a long time.  I didn’t enjoy them because they were like chewing orange rinds.  So I looked in my trusty Joy of Cooking book for a recipe.  There I found sauce cockaigne.  Every time I’ve heard the word cockaigne associated with food I have been curious.  So I checked the recipe.  Simple enough.

Cook two cups of dried apricots in 1 1/4 cups water until they are easily stirred with a whisk.  (Easier said than done.)
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Add 1 ½ cups sugar, dissolve and add 5 cups crushed pineapple.  Bring to boil and store in jars in the fridge.  Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or pudding. 

My apricots eventually needed the food processor to be able to be whisked.  I added a little nutmeg and when it was done, tried the sauce on some ice cream.  It was okay, but I preferred my own concoction I used to make: 

Heat equal parts pineapple and apricot preserves.  When hot, heat 151 proof rum and pour over the preserves. Light the rum and serve over dishes of ice cream while still flaming (pouring from the cooking pot).  

I just didn’t know it was called sauce cockaigne.

I don’t think the cloud has left its position over my head just yet.  It is the first of the month and I, like other unfortunate subscribers to Amnet are without network channels for at least two days. And Wednesday was one of the nights that instead of showing the Public Broadcasting News Hour, we got to watch (for the entire hour) a young woman thinking and fussing with her hair. Then my 3-year-old TV went black and refused to come to life. Even my wizard friend James couldn’t revive it.  I think it was suicide.

My neighbor came to the rescue by lending me his extra flat screen, more versatile TV for an indefinite time.  James took the bulky dead TV away.   Just a reminder of how soon we are replaced and forgotten.  Especially if we are something electronic. It makes me feel good to say that because I have, as they say, a few issues with electronic gadgets.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 109

New rector-elect at TEC has strong U.S. academic roots

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A forestry scientist with strong academic links to the United States is the new rector of the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

He is Julio Calvo Alvarado, who was elected Thursday by the university's community, including students, in a runoff. He defeated Dagoberto Arias Aguilar. The rector is basically the president of the institution. He will serve for the next four years. The institution has its primary campus in Cartago. It is one of the Costa Rican public universities. It is known informally as TEC.

Calvo, 53, has worked at the school for 33 years. He has received a number of honors as a distinguished researcher and professor.

He received his undergraduate training as a forestry engineer at the same university and then went to the State University of New York at Syracuse, New York, for a master's and then received his doctorate at North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1991.
new rector
Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica photo
The rector-elect, Julio Calvo Alvarado, celebrates with his wife, María Elena Rodríguez.

Limón soccer club president linked to U.S. tax fraud case

By the A.M.. Costa Rica staff

Police broke into the home of the president of the Limón soccer team and detained him while he was in his underwear.

The man is Carlos Howden Pascal, said the Poder Judicial. The man is being investigated for suspected money laundering

Prosecutor Guillermo Hernández, who handles economic crimes, said that the man controls 32 properties and 36 vehicles that are part of the investigation. The properties and the cars have been frozen by court order. Agents said they found 23 million colons in the man's home. That is about $46,000.

Since 2004, agents have been tracking a flow of millions
of dollars from the United States.  Agents said they think the money comes from Rodney Morrison, who is known as the cigarette king because he is the source of untaxed tobacco in New York. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the tax fraud.

Pascal has spent extended periods in the United States.

A tactical squad broke into the man's Limón home shortly before 6 a.m. to catch him wearing only his undershorts. Prosecutors are seeking preventative detention for six months. There is a hearing at 9 a.m. today to determine if he will be jailed.

Officials did not explain why it took them seven years to act. Pascal is expected to claim that he is not a party to any crime and that the money was sent to him legitimately for investment.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 3, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 109

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Argentina bans smoking
and tobacco ads in public

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina has approved a nationwide ban on tobacco advertising and smoking in public places.

After years of debate, lawmakers in the lower house of the Argentine congress overwhelmingly approved the law on Wednesday over the strong opposition of the tobacco industry. In addition to the bans on advertising and smoking in enclosed public spaces, the new law requires manufacturers to put health warnings on cigarette packages.

Argentine health minister Juan Manzur hailed the legislature's action, saying that at last Argentina has a law controlling tobacco use.

The Argentine government estimates that about eight million of its people smoke, nearly a third of its adult population. Tobacco-related diseases are thought to contribute to about 40,000 deaths a year.

In 2006, Uruguay became the first Latin American nation to ban smoking in public places and several other countries in the region have since followed.

FBI working with Google
on hackers, Ms. Clinton says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says federal authorities are investigating Internet giant Google's accusation that computer hackers, most likely in China, broke into the e-mail accounts of hundreds of users including Chinese political activists, journalists and those of government officials both in the United States and from several Asian countries.

Ms. Clinton says the United States is taking the allegations very seriously and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working together with Google to investigate the attacks.

"We are obviously very concerned about Google's announcement regarding a campaign that the company believes originated in China to collect the passwords of Google e-mail account holders," said Secretary Clinton.

Ms. Clinton made her remarks Thursday during an appearance with the foreign minister of the Czech Republic in Washington. Although Google says the campaign appears to have targeted senior U.S. government officials, the White House says it does not have any immediate reason to believe that government accounts were attacked. Google did not say which U.S. officials were affected, or how long the users' accounts were exposed.

Cyber security is becoming a diplomatic priority for the United States and the State Department recently appointed a cyber security coordinator to focus on tackling information theft and reducing the risk of conflicts.

Ms. Clinton says the United States believes cyber issues are going to be a continuing problem.

"We know this is going to be a continuing problem and therefore we want to be as prepared as possible to deal with these matters when they do come to our attention," said Ms. Clinton

China has lashed out at Google, saying it is unacceptable for the company to blame China for the attack. In its statement, however, Google did not say the Chinese government was behind the attacks or what the possible motives of those behind the campaign might have been.

The company did say the goal of the attack seemed to have been to monitor the contents of the users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding e-mail settings. Google says hackers used malware and phishing scams to dupe users into sharing their passwords and hacked into other Web sites to obtain Gmail users account information.

Google is not the only company to recently have been the target of a high-profile attack. U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin Corp. also recently reported an attempt to take information from its company computers.

Last month, the company said it experienced what it called a significant and tenacious attack on its networks. After taking aggressive actions to protect its systems no data was compromised. It is unclear who or what country might have been behind the attack.

China says that it, too, is frequently the victim of hacking attacks and says the claims of those who say it is supporting such attacks are completely unfounded.
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Want to pitch in majors?
Here is your chance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amateur baseball pitchers have a chance to live the Rocky Balboa dream without getting their heads bashed.

A California casting company is seeking applicants for a reality show where a skilled but unknown pitcher gets a chance to play for a major league team. This is similar to the scenario in "Rocky" where the character Balboa gets a chance to fight the heavyweight champ.

"We are looking for non-major league baseball-affiliated pitchers who have the ability to compete at the highest level but who, for some reason or another, were never able to pursue their dreams of a professional career," said the company Radical Media.

The company said that a handful who are selected will get pro coaching and mentorship, and then they will test their skills in a series of challenges. The producer of the show is Evan Weinstein, who has "The Amazing Race" to his credits.

Applicants have to be over Age 21 as of May 30, and must submit a photo and a brief bio to the casting company by Monday via email.

The casting employees are aware that Costa Rica is not big on baseball, but there are amateur teams with a heavy concentration of Nicaraguan and Cuban players. Some of the games are played Sunday at Parque la Sabana.

Haiti prepared for storms
U.S. representative says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Haiti is better prepared than it was last year to respond to the annual hurricane season, with emergency equipment and stocks pre-positioned in case of a disaster, a senior United Nations official says.

Nigel Fisher, the secretary general’s deputy special representative to Haiti, told a press conference in Port-au-Prince that “we are far better off than last year,” especially in assessing the areas of the country most at risk.

The Caribbean nation is often beset by hurricanes, and in 2008 was devastated by four consecutive devastating storms within the space of a month.

Emergency preparations last year were hampered because the country was still reeling from the January 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people and displaced countless others.

But Fisher said the country was further advanced this year, having assessed available resources, pre-positioned stocks of relief supplies, identified temporary shelters and determined major risk areas.

Festival stresses environment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central parks of Guácimo and Pococí are headquarters for three days of concerts, art exhibits, displays by small companies, movies and forums, all directed to the environment.

Sponsors are the Asociación de Cultura del Cantón de Pococí and the Asociación para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Región Atlántica.  The inauguration will be tonight at 7 p.m. About 4,500 visitors are expected, organizers said.

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