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(506) 223-1327            San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 109            E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Anonymous Internet gossip enters treaty campaign
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the campaign over the free trade treaty referendum heats up, the Internet is becoming a way to make elaborate and anonymous claims.

Expats have seen this already in the Villalobos Brothers case where anonymous posters would attempt to influence the actions of creditors. A major campaign, some of it anonymous, was launched to get complainants to drop their cases.  There also were claims of letters from the fugitive Luis Enrique Villalobos that showed up on the Internet.

In many countries, including Costa Rica, those who place campaign newspaper ads must include their name and contact information. Election law demands it.

But not so with Internet messages. Opponents of the free trade treaty have been distributing messages with varying degrees of accuracy since negotiations started. Proponents have issued Internet messages of their own, sometimes rebutting opponents messages.

But the anonymous Internet poster has reared his or her head in this discussion, too. A message last week claimed to be a verbatim transcript of a meeting between Channel 7 news executives and the president's press secretary,  Mishelle Mitchel.

A.M. Costa Rica declined to publish an article on
 the transcript then because the source could not be verified.

Friday,  Ignacio Santos and Pilar Cisneros of Channel 7 Telenoticias issued an on-air challenge to the writer to make him or herself known and vouch for the accuracy of the transcript. They also asked for a copy of the tape the poster said had been made in advance of the transcript. Santos was featured in the transcript.

The core of the message was that Channel 7 would conspire with government officials to push a yes vote on the free trade treaty referendum. It appears that Santos and Ms. Cisneros did meet with Ms. Mitchel and another presidential aide at a café May 15, but they said they were there to listen to complaints about their coverage of President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

El Diario Extra, a newspaper that has provided a platform for treaty opponents, used the Telenoticias statement Friday as an excuse to publish the anonymous transcript in its Saturday edition.

This is not the first time Ms. Cisneros has disputed a transcript that was being passed around. Someone created an apparently bogus transcript of her speaking with the nation's chief prosecutor two years ago. The transcript suggested that they were seeking to build a case in the media against two of the nation's former presidents who were being investigated for corruption.

Women's group seeks international foothold with organic chocolate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of women in Pueblo Nuevo de Guácimo is developing an organic chocolate business that members hope will be an international success.

The women are the wives of workers at the organic farm Finmac, known for chocolate or cacao production. The Ministerio de Producción is aiding them as they produce chocolate bars without agricultural residue.

Finmac, operated by Hugo Hermelink, is the largest organic cacao producer in the country. Hermelink also is providing the training, said the ministry.
 Costa Rica is not a big cacao producer. The country lost nearly all its trees when a plant disease hit in 1970.

Costa Ricans generally will not pay for the higher-priced organic chocolate, according to published sources, so the women are trying to develop a trademark that will become known internationally.

In Costa Rica there are 2,416 hectares (about 5,970 acres) in cacao mostly on the Caribbean slope. There also are some farms near Quepos and Parrita and in southwest Costa Rica.  The Talamanca also  produces organic chocolate.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 109

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New police unit reports
successes with captures

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new interagency police unit says it has made progress in  eliminating criminals from the streets of the metropolitan area.

The new unit is the Grupo Interpolicial made up of the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Fuerza Pública, the Policia Municipal and the Policia de Tránsito.

The unit reported Friday that it had detained 83 persons during the month of May. Two of the persons were detained as they robbed a pedestrian, said the unit's report. The others had oustanding arrest warrants.

Patrols were mounted in Hatillo, Alajuelita, Guadalupe, San Pedro, Desamparados, Tibàs, León XIII, Cristo Rey, Barrio Cuba, Sagrada Familia, Escazù, Rohrmoser and the central city.

The efforts also resulted in the confiscation of 22 motorcycles and six firearms, said the unit.

Fuerza Pública officers have been concentrating on the central city to prevent street robberies. With the special unit, the Judicial Investigating Organization has joined the crime-prevention operation.

One aspect of Costa Rican law that benefits criminals is that a trial verdict usually is validated by a higher court. In the meantime, convicted criminals are allowed to roam freely and usually do not show up when their prison sentence is confirmed.

Bootlegged booze arrests
was also a health effort

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four women have been accused of making bootlegged guaro after investigators raided their homes Friday.

The women were making chirrite, as the bootlegged guaro is known. Investigators from the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas handled the case. Later they said that homemade guaro has a high percentage of dangerous methanol because of the jury-rigged and unsanitary fabrication process.

Last September, some 38 persons died in Nicaragua after consuming the cane liquor that had methanol mixed with it.

Investigators said they observed the two homes for two months while the women conducted business.

The first home, that of a woman with the last name of  Méndez, is in Tuetal Norte, Alajuela. At a home in Calle Quijares in Carrizal, also Alajuela, police detained a mother and two daughters. Bottles and other items used in the manufacture of the alcohol were found, agents said.

The Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas frequently handles copyright infringement cases. In Costa Rica the manufacture of guaro is a state monopoly.

Kidnap victim killed
throwing self from car

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A tourist from Colombia died when she threw herself out of a moving car in an effort to avoid being kidnapped.

She and two U.S. citizens, also tourists, had been the victims of a stickup that turned into an abduction.

The crime took place in Playa Garabito. The woman was identified as Rudith Flores. She appears to have been injured fatally when her head hit a rock as she jumped from the vehicle and rolled.

Christian Surfers concert

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Best Western and Christian Surfers are organizing a live music concert featuring Australian musician and surfer Joshua Koutoulas.  

The event will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Best Western, Jacó.  Also featured will be a silent auction to benefit Christian Surfers of Jacó.   Admission is $2.

Volcano's heat to be studied

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will begin studies in the vicinity of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano in northern Costa Rica to see if a thermal energy plant is feasible there.

Our readers' opinions

A television soap opera

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

On May 5th we purchased a Samsung TV from Casa Blanca in Escazú central for our 60th anniversary.  They tested it in the store for SAP and a connection for earphones so my husband could hear programs clearly because our old TV did not have the hook up for the earphones.  

It worked for nine days and then TLC, his favorite station, switched only to Spanish.  They sent someone to the house to check it but had to take it back for repair.  They were not able to fix it, but Samsung's agent, a nice man named Alan, sent us not one but two different TVs to try to get Turner Classics to work in English.  He even sent a technician who could not help either.  It is now 25 days later and we were all at our wits end and we were left with a $450 TV that did not work correctly.

Reading the fine print with his one good eye, my husband hit something called Turbo plus and the TV worked perfectly.  Samsung and Casa Blanca were both absolutely wonderful to us and we are thankful to them, but, this whole episode could have been avoided if the technicians knew their job or read the instructions.
We thought it might be a good thing for other people to know what happened so they will not have a similar problem with purchases that do not work properly.

Again, our thanks to Samsung and Casa Blanca. Their people were very helpful and bent over backward to help, but the companies should have their technicians better trained.

Lucy Gucofski

A cleanup proposal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The cleaning up of Costa Rica is a no brainer.  I can't imagine why a Nobel Laureate can't figure it out for himself.

Every school child from kinder through high school (let's include the universities, tambien) by law must spend one hour a week, supervised by their teachers-professors, cleaning up the area closest to their respective schools.  The older kids will tackle the river banks.

By the time that the first graders are approaching high school, and the younger ones following their footsteps, they will have yelled at their parents so much about trashing the country that everybody will stop trashing it.

Also an enforced 20,000-colon fine for tossing out crap might help. Go for it Dr. Arias!!!

Dick Burgoon

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Puerto Limon Agency

Recovering drugs hidden under palm fronds and dirt is a hot, sweaty job.
drug haul
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguidad Pública/Guillermo Solano

The new buried treasure turns out to be kilos of cocaine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The haul is the modern version of buried treasure. Law officers uncovered some 1,050 kilos of cocaine Saturday when they searched a beach in the Parque Nacional Piedras Blancas near Golfito.

They believe the drugs were left there by three Colombians who beached their boat in the area.

The drugs were hidden under palm fronds.

A local fishermen said he saw three men acting suspiciously when he sailed by Playa Gallardo early Saturday.

The report prompted a major police operation, but by the time officers got to the area, they said the men had left.

The best guess is that the men were lost and did not really know where they were. They had sailed into the Golfo

Dulce, off loaded the drugs and left their launch.

What followed was a massive search for the men. They eventually were located near the Interamericana highway. They had walked nearly 20 kilometers or about 13 miles. Law officers say the men followed the Río Bonito. The  Policía de Fronteras and rangers of the Servicio de Parques Nacionales participated in the arrests.

The men were identified by the last names and ages of Obando Angulo, 47, Bolaños Obando, 38,and Caicedo Angulo, 37.

Intercepting drug shipments have become routine on the Pacific coast.  Either at sea or along the coast, law enforcement officers usually stop a load a week of cocaine.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and the Policía de Control de Drogas also were involved in the search for the men Saturday.

When a request to listen can be construed as a command
¡Oiga usted!

¡Oiga usted! is not a dicho as such, but it is a very useful imperative expression. A friend who is a regular reader of my articles suggested ¡Oiga usted! to me recently as the possible subject for an up-coming column. So, here goes. 

¡Oiga usted! or just oiga is used in many ways. Of course the verb oír means to hear or to listen, and oiga is the second person singular imperative form of oír. You may exclaim to a friend as you walk down the busy Calle Central in San José: ¡Oiga el ruido del tránsito! "Listen to the noise of the traffic!"

In order to add emphasis to some important point you're trying to make you may say:  ¡Oiga lo que le voy a decir! "Listen to what I'm going to say!" As with all imperatives, oiga carries the weight of a command, but the force of the command is often determined by the context in which it is used.

Of course, my grandmother used this phrase a lot with us kids. When she said ¡Oiga usted! in a strong authoritative voice we knew we had better pay attention to what she was saying. But she could also say it in a soft, curious, slightly incredulous way, which meant she thought that one of us was "pulling her leg," as it were.

But she could also say it in this same soft, incredulous way placing special emphasis on and elongating the final vowel of oiga. This way of saying it meant she didn't believe a word we were saying. For example, you might say:  Doña Eva ¡ fijese que ya terminaron la carretera entre Santa Ana y Caldera!  "Doña Eva, just imagine, they have finally finished the highway between Santa Ana and Caldera!" To this she would undoubtedly have replied: ¡Oigaaaaa, usted!

Oiga can also be used to get the attention of someone you do not know. To a newspaper boy passing by in the street

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

you might call out ¡Oiga joven! or "Hey there, young man!" to let him know that you are interested in buying the afternoon edition. Or when knocking on a door, you might also shout ¡Oiga! in order to get the attention of the folks inside. One more usage is to yell ¡Oiga! to alert people that something is wrong.

Another Spanish verb similar in meaning to oír is escuchar, which means to attend, to harken, to hear, or to listen to. Of course, like all Spanish verbs, escuchar also has an imperative form, which is escuche in the second person singular, but somehow oiga is more forceful. ¡Oiga lo que le voy a decir! carries the force of a distinct warning, and every Costa Rican child over the age of 2 knows that when his or her parents use such a locution they had better pay attention and do as they're told.

Oigan todos muy cuidadosamente los pro y contra concernientes al TLC, porque afectará todo nosotros, for example, means: "We must all listen most carefully to the pros and cons of the TLC (CAFTA, trade agreement with the U.S.), because it will affect us all."

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 109

Hurricane season expected to be an above-average one
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hurricane season officially began in the Atlantic region on Friday, and the hurricane experts at Colorado State University, led by Professor William Gray, are once again forecasting an active season.

The hurricane research facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, near the front range of the Rocky Mountains, is a long way from the coastal areas most likely to be affected by hurricanes, but it is here that William Gray and his associates do their analysis, using data from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They predicted an active season last year, but it turned out to be an unusually quiet season, with no hurricanes landing on the U.S. coastline.

But researcher Phil Klotzbach says the warming of Pacific waters, known as the El Niño effect, undermined the forecast. This year, he says, that is not likely to happen.

"The El Niño that we had last year, which likely caused the season to come to an early end and caused a pretty inactive season, is diminished," he said. "We basically, right now, have neutral conditions and they have actually turned towards La Niña or cool water conditions in the tropical Pacific. That generally relates to less vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic."

The hurricane forecast team at Colorado State is predicting 17 named tropical storms in the Atlantic between now and the end of hurricane season, Nov. 30. The researchers expect nine of these storms to become hurricanes, with five of those becoming intense hurricanes, with winds of 177 kph (about 110 mph) or more.

The report states a 74 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline. There is a 49 percent chance that a strong hurricane will hit the Gulf of Mexico coast and an above-average chance that a major hurricane will strike Caribbean islands.

Professor Gray says this increased activity is part of an overall increase in storms that began in 1995 after around two decades of relative quiet. He says the years ahead will likely be quite rough for people in the hurricane-prone areas.

"People ask how long this active period will last. Well, nobody knows for sure, but, if the future is like the past, this active period will probably keep going another 10, 15, 20 years or so," he said.

Barbara, Barry downgraded
to mere tropical depressions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tropical Depression Barbara is dissipating over southwest México after making a landfall at the Mexican- Guatemalan border Saturday.  The center of the tropical depression is north-northeast of Tapachula, México.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the Pacific storm could dump up to 5 to 10 inches of rain in parts of southeastern Mexico and Guatemala.  That could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

When the storm hit land early Saturday, it had sustained winds of 85 kph (about 53 mph), with higher gusts.  It weakened as it moved inland.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service says Tropical Storm Barry weakened into a tropical depression as it continued to head north.  Forecasters said heavy rains were hitting southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and parts of New Jersey. Flood and flash flood alerts remained in force for northwestern Connecticut and western Massachusetts. The storm center about 10 p.m. Costa Rican time was near Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Barry was the first tropical storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began Friday. 

Gray says his estimates are based on past storm activity and factors such as salinity of ocean waters that cause
variations in temperature. He dismisses the notion that hurricanes will grow stronger as a result of global warming caused by human activity.

"I do not believe at all that the build up of human-induced greenhouse gases, like CO2 or methane, are causing storms to be more frequent or more intense," he said. "The evidence is just not there."

Other scientists disagree on that point, but Gray and his team say they will stick to their methods, based on reliable data and historic weather patterns. They will continue to monitor the oceans in the weeks ahead and release an updated report sometime in August.

El Niño means reduced rainfalls here and drought elsewhere
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

El Niño recently worked its way into Costa Rican politics in the form of reduced rainfall and electricity shortages at a time when the government electricity/telecoms monopoly is defending itself from a free trade treaty. The phenomenon is better known for disruption of fisheries and droughts.

The El Niño/Southern Oscillation results from changes in ocean currents brought on by disruptions of the normal air pressure patterns over the southern oceans. It is most notable in the Pacific, which affects Costa Rica. There is a corresponding effect in the tropical Atlantic, but it does not reach into the Caribbean Sea.

El Niño supposedly refers to the Christ child because Christmas is when the effect becomes evident on the west coast of South America. Since records have been kept,
 events have usually been every two to seven years and last one or at most two years. One in 1997-98 was particularly strong while the one that just ended was minor.

An El Niño event normally starts with a fall in air pressure over the central Pacific, i.e. Tahiti. This reduces the east-west trade winds which push warm surface waters towards Australia and Indonesia, allowing water to stagnate and warm in the eastern Pacific up to the coast of South America. Without the upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water along the Peruvian coast in particular, fisheries that support birds and human industry are disrupted.

The generally warmer conditions bring rain to areas that are normally dry and drought to others. In the past 12 months that meant drought in Australia and a late rainy season in Costa Rica. With it came an extra month of good watermelons from Orotina, and low water in the important Arenal reservoir.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 109

National team works over Chile enroute to Gold Cup tourney
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica dominated Chile Saturday night and won a friendly soccer match, 2-0.

The game had meaning as a workout before the Costa Rican national selection beings its participation in the Gold Cup tournament Wednesday in the United States. Costa Rica will face Canada in Florida's Orange Bowl. Some 12 teams are fighting to be in the finals, which will take place Sunday, June 24, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The United States meets Guatemala also Wednesday.

The first Costa Rican goal Saturday came on a corner kick by Walter Centeno. The goal was not a pretty one. It bounced on the ground in front of the Chilean net and then
 bounced up to hit the crossbar before going in.  Gabriel Badilla got credit for the goal just 28 minutes into the game.

Costa Rican fans had to wait for the second half to see another goal.  Bryan Ruíz outran a Chilean defender to put the ball in the net unassisted.  Ruiz suffered a broken collarbone a few minutes later, and was taken out of the game. He is expected to miss the Gold Cup games.

The game was in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.

Costa Rica is in the Gold Cup's Group A with Haiti, Canada and Guadeloupe, a newcomer. Group B is the United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Group C is México, Panamá, Honduras and Cuba.

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