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(506) 2223-1327           San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 124           E-mail us
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Costa Rica has its own gold-mining traditions
By Gene Warneke
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

César calls to me from my front gate and asks me if I’m buying gold today.  I reply, “Si, claro, y el precio es más alto hoy.”  I swiftly invite him in.  César is stout at 5 foot, 4 inches with bulging glistening guaro eyes widely set on a robust sun-wrinkled face.  He smiles easily and politely converses with me, inquiring about my health, my mare with her new filly and what the local gossip is. 

César is an orero or gold miner.  He lives on a remote mountain finca on the Río Barrigones near the tiny pueblo of San Miguel that has not even a mom and pop pulpería, just homesteads and a one-room school. To sell me small amounts of gold he’s panned from the river, he walks an hour downhill from his primitive shed-like home without electricity, municipal water, and no Internet or cell phone service.  It’s his only source of income, but even with the price of gold so high now, he only makes barely enough to buy basic supplies and his precious guaro, the sugar cane liquor.  After about a half hour, César says his goodbyes and benedictions, then disappears down my little gravel lane in calf-high rubber boots.

This is a way of live for hundreds of Tico campesinos in this area.  Some are part-time oreros, others full-time, for gold has sustained them for generations.  Most of them live in primitive conditions high in the jungled mountains of the Osa peninsula. Occasionally, they hunt protected game inside or outside the parks and reserves to add protein to their daily diet of gallo pinto, string beans, river shrimp and tropical fruits. 

They spend hours each day bending over in the hot tropical sun swishing their pans for gold.  Each has their favorite spot or spots and is close lipped as to where they pan.  It’s not wise to approach them quietly along the rivers or to even ask them where they have their unofficial but protected claims.  In fact, the Osa has a history of gold fever violence that continues even today, as evidenced HERE! on Page Two.

The peninsula, on the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica has a hot humid climate and contains the richest biodiversity in the whole of Central America, especially within its Parque Nacional Corcovado.  Unbeknownst to most foreigners, it has been one of Costa Rica’s largest and most prolific gold bearing regions since the 1930s.  Its placer gold, at 21 karats, ranks as some of the world’s most pure.

When it rains hard and long, the rainforest rivers rise quickly and tumble the gold down from a myriad of veins exposed high in the mountains of the parque nacional and adjacent reserves. When the rains stop and the river levels quickly fall, the Osa miners descend to the river banks to pan for newly deposited gold dust and nuggets.  The prime gold-bearing rivers have the names Tigre, Rincon, Barrigones, Agujas, Riyito, Nuevo, Conte, Madrigal and Carate. They are short, cool, clear-running streams that cascade down from the mountainous backbone of the peninsula.
gold nugget
Gene Warneke photo
This is a 39.2 gram (1.4-ounce) Osa gold nugget 3.4 centimeters high (about 1.34 inches)

In Spanish, osa means "she bear," but the peninsula’s name is from a source with a golden background. The original Osa was a nearby Diquis tribal chief, or cacique, who wore gold pendants and bracelets fabricated from the placer gold found in the rivers of his large tribal group. The homelands of his Diquis group were on the northeast side of Gulfo Dulce from the Osa Peninsula, but it was the rich rainforest covered peninsula that was given his name by the Spaniards.

Since Osa peninsula was such a remote and barely settled region of Costa Rica until recent times, non-natives didn’t discover gold nuggets until the 1930s. Much gold has been taken out by Ticos with dredges and shovels When Corcovado park was created in 1975, gold mining was declared illegal, and the rangers had to sometimes resort to weapons to drive the gold miners out.  When the United Fruit Co. abandoned its banana plantations, many of its workers moved over to the Osa peninsula and took up gold mining both inside and outside of the park.  Again, park rangers had a tough time getting them out of the park.  Miners still sneak back into the park on a regular basis.

Local land owners talk about how U.S. troops occupied their fincas as a staging ground for the 1990 invasion of nearby Panama.  The Ticos watched the Americans dredge the rivers for gold with heavy equipment.  The river scars are still there.  No one here knows who kept the gold.   

*Besides being a former buyer and seller of gold, Warneke, a permanent resident, is a writer, editor and photographer mostly from California who has lived on the Osa peninsula for two years and in Costa Rica for six.

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Our readers' opinions
Writer asked to evaluate
some alternative opinions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reference to your reader's opinion letter "Study was misrepresented in global warming note" by Arthur G. Nassau, wherein he remarked "I can only admonish Ms. Jay that while she is afraid to accept the findings of over 90 percent of the world's scientists, she does not change that in any way by publishing her unsubstantiated opinions," I wish to submit that just because 90 percent (assuming this number is even correct) believe one way does not in and of itself mean that it is true and correct.  Remember that just about 99.999 percent (number not substantiated) of scientists at the time believed that it was the sun that rotates around the earth and not the other way around.  Now we know that the same 99.999 percent of them are proven wrong. 

I suggest that if Mr. Nassau is not, as his commented. "afraid to accept the findings" of alternative opinions that he familiarize himself with the following articles and forward these links (especially references #1 and #2) to the American Astronomical Society and have their comments:

From Schroeter Institute for Research in Cycles of Solar Activity, Germany
New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming?
by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt

and while the reader is at it, check out the author's credential and the accuracy of his past predictions here:


Sun's Strange Beharior Baffles Astronomers
by Denise Chow, staff writer
reporting on the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami last month

From The Tech Herald -  Science
Fading sunspots suggest years of impending cold
by Steven Mostyn - June 17, 2011, 19:40


From NewAmerican
Scientist Try To Have It Both Ways on Global Warming
by Beverly K. Eakman - June 20, 2011
Dennis Jay

Carbon dioxide causes
ocean current changes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I, too, was ready to respond to the global warming disbeliever but decided I’d see if anyone else out there had a brain. I was glad to see Arthur Nassau’s response. He did have one error: 90 percent of the world’s scientists are not in agreement that man is changing the climate of the planet. The actually number is closer to 98 percent. Also, ocean currents do indeed affect the Earth’s climate. That’s precisely the point. The carbon dioxide we’re dumping into the atmosphere is being absorbed by the ocean and changing the water temperature. This fact is readily available to anyone who wants to actually research the facts.
Ken Anderberg

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 124

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Country getting a new British ambassador in August
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The British government has designated a new ambassador to replace Thomas J. Kennedy, who is completing five years here.

The new ambassador is Sharon Isabel Campbell, a career diplomat. Her husband, Christopher John Campbell, has been named non-resident ambassador to Nicaragua. The embassy here also has responsibilities for the country to the north.

Kennedy was honored at a diplomatic reception at Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry, Wednesday night.  Carlos Roverssi, acting foreign minister in the absence of  René Castro, decorated Kennedy with the Orden Nacional Juan Mora Fernández, Grand Cruz Placa de Plata.

The foreign ministry usually decorates foreign ambassadors who are leaving, but in the case of Kennedy, a special effort was made. Workers brought out the red carpet to provide a path of honor up the main step of the building.

Kennedy also was praised for work between the two countries on arms trafficking, climate change and as members of the U.N. Security Council.

For expats, Kennedy is best known as the host for the annual fund-raising Queen's Birthday Party that is held at the ambassador's residence in Escazú

The British government said that Mrs. Campbell would take over her post in August. She and her husband have had generally parallel careers. Mrs. Campbell joined the British foreign service in 1983, a year after her husband did. An announcement from the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office said:

"They have held a range of positions in bilateral and multilateral missions overseas, including four joint postings. Their work has covered a wider range of issues including consular, political and international security policy, commercial diplomacy, immigration work and corporate services. Their most recent London positions have been as deputy head of consular resources and head of Peacekeeping in Conflict Group respectively. They have also both previously worked in ministers' private offices in London."
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores photo
Carlos Roverssi decorates Thomas Kennedy

The Campbells
British Foreign & Commonwealth Office photo
Sharon Isabel and Christopher John Campbell

Both have served in Caracas, Venezuela, and in Asia.

The couple was reported as saying it is an exciting time given the foreign office's renewed focus on Latin America through its Prosperity Agenda.  "We also look forward to supporting the already strong trade links with Costa Rica and further developing our commercial partnerships with Nicaragua. Building on the existing links and cooperation between the UK and these two countries, we are looking forward to working closely with both governments on a wide range of issues of mutual interest and benefit.”

This rainy season seems to bring in different weather
The green season has arrived, which means that if you don’t get all of your errands run before 1 p.m, fagetaboudit.  Or, if you are going downtown, learn how to do the umbrella ballet.  The streets are barely wide enough for two umbrellas side by side.

It means it rains most of the afternoon or there are huge aguaceros (cloud bursts) and killer lightning bolts with ear blasting cracks of thunder.  In the evening it is a different country.  The other night I walked into my living room and realized that I could not see beyond my balcony.  The fog had indeed “creeped in on little cat feet,” and it was like 19th century London.

Less than an hour later I looked up from my book and the fog had turned to rain but sparkling lights on the mountainside were visible again.  I don’t remember rainy seasons being like this in the past.  The next morning the world is dry again with no trace of the soaking it got, except for the green, green trees, and by 8 or 9 a.m. I can see at least one volcano in the distance, the one not blocked by a billowy cloud. Later the cloud will become dark and we will start all over again. In short, just like the rest of the world, the weather patterns in Costa Rica are changing.  It is a bit disconcerting, so I can imagine how really disturbing it must be in countries where the changes have been extreme.

I have predicted for some years that if the Arctic glaciers continue to melt, some countries will be going through another mini-ice age, but maybe it is just climate change with very cold winters and very hot summers.

I have also been predicting that my generation is not going to live as long as our parents and our children will have even a shorter life expectancy.  I think I may be right here.  But it won’t matter.  The predictions of people like me are soon forgotten.

Meanwhile my son, Justin, called to say that he had bought some canned coconut water and it was delicious, filled with electrolytes and no sugar.  No more energy drinks for him.  A couple of Saturdays ago I was at the Pavas feria not feeling well, so I bought coconut water in its original container . . . a coconut.  It was the first time I had ever tried it, and I found it vaguely sweet, not delicious, and
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

certainly not habit forming.  Later I felt terrible. And 
connected my pain with the drink and cannot imagine ever trying it again.

I told Justin that aversion therapy is a very useful tool in breaking addictions.  He said that it was originally a survival mechanism.  I think both are correct. The difference is that we have become so civilized that we no longer know what is good for us and our survival. We mainly know what we like. And we indulge ourselves. Had I lived in times when honey was the only intensely sweet substance and worth bee stings to get, I probably would have enjoyed the faintly sweet refreshing quality of coconut water.  But my brain still made a connection between the water and feeling sick.

All of which makes me wonder about the people who live too close to rivers that can overflow and levees that can break or near beaches in the path of the tsunamis that oceans can create, or settle themselves in land noted for its tornados or is below sea level.  Will they all go back to their piece of real estate and rebuild their destroyed homes after the present onslaught is over, even though this may happen again?  Or will they react with a place aversion and decide to move to where they feel is safer?

It is not that easy in this day and age.  In prehistory times humans migrated from one place to another when their environment became hostile or unbearable. But there was no ownership of property to which they were bound to and responsible for.  They could carry most of what they possessed.

It’s a puzzlement.  But I am going to stay where I am for the time being.  The Central Valley of Costa Rica seems to be situated between what may become the targets of these new weather patterns.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 124

CR Home real estate

U.S. to invest $100 million more in regional security

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States has pledged $300 million, an increase of $100 million, to bolster citizen security in Central America.

That was the announcement by Hillary Clinton at the  Central American Security Conference in Guatemala City Wednesday. The amount is 50 percent more than U.S. President Barack Obama promised in his March visit to El Salvador, she noted. She is the U.S. secretary of State.

Canada, in a separate announcement, said it would contribute $5.2 million to improve crime-fighting capacities.

In total, countries have earmarked about $1 billion to augment the unified effort against transnational crime. And more money is on the way.

"We have private sector partners who have pledged that for every dollar the United States commits to crime prevention, businesses in El Salvador will invest three dollars," said Mrs. Clinton, adding that  "I would welcome the private sector across the region to join in such an innovative approach."

She also extended this theme to challenge private firms. "Businesses and the rich in every country must pay their fair share of taxes and become full partners in a whole-of-society effort," she said. "True security cannot be funded on the backs of the poor. Civil society must be a full partner in defining and implementing long-term solutions"

"When President Obama visited San Salvador, he said we would start by investing more than $200 million in Central American-led efforts to address deteriorating citizen security," said Mrs, Clinton. "In fact, the U.S. funding for
the Central American Citizen Security Partnership will go even further than that. You have identified your priorities, you have set your strategy, and we will respond with almost $300 million this year, backed up by an action plan
 that is focused on high-impact investments to help you build new capabilities and create the reforms you need from within."

"Our investments will support special vetted police units, initiatives like the SICA Regional Crime Observatory to bring technology, data, and intelligence together, support to train judges and prosecutors, a fund to encourage fiscal reform, and a new challenge grants program, starting with $20 million this year to support initiatives to bolster the rule of law. And as always, we will support efforts to protect and empower women and girls who are too often the targets of so much of the violence."

President Laura Chinchilla and René Castro, foreign minister of Costa Rica, advanced a unique proposal that the United States pay for each kilo of cocaine confiscated in Central America.  the money would come out of a fund. The U.S. already is investing heavily in Costa Rican security, mainly with police and coast guards.

Although cocaine is viewed as the main problem, more and more synthetics are being fabricated in Central American and México for shipment to the United States. Washington has been unable to secure its southern border.

Cocaine also has infiltrated life in Costa Rica. The poor areas are inundated with cheap crack cocaine. International smugglers frequently pay their costs here in cocaine, so there is an excess in the country. Countries further north like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras also experience gang troubles as well as infiltration by the Mexican drug cartels.

The regional meeting in Guatemala brought together the heads of state of most Central American countries and a host of participants from elsewhere in the world. Mrs. Clinton said that the United States would seek observer status in the Sistema de Integración  Centroamericana, which sponsored the meting.

Legislature gives U.S. Coast Guard permission to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature Thursday gave approval for 46 U.S. Coast Guard boat to enter Costa Rican waters. Two lawmakers vote against the request that have been advance by the security ministry. Some 43 voted in favor.

These are the boats that may be on patrol in both oceans for anti-drug duty. Although 46 boats were listed by name in the petition from the security ministry, only a fraction will actually dock for shore leave and resupply in the county.

The U.S. Coast Guard boats are less controversial than 
U.S. Navy ships. Both types are on patrol, but lawmakers are less inclined to give permission to what they see as ships of war. That matter still is pending.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública made the request that had been forwarded by the U.S. Embassy. The Costa Rican Constitution prohibits foreign military vessels from entering Costa Rican waters or docking unless there is prior approval from the legislature.

This is a routine request that is made every six months, but leftist members of the legislature had seized on this issue to how their independence.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 124

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Guatemalan general's arrest
praised by U.N. envoy

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A United Nations envoy said the arrest of a former top Guatemalan military figure accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, sends a strong signal that justice can prevail in the Central American country.

Gen. Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, who served as chief of staff of his country’s armed forces between March 1982 and October 1983, was arrested last week, according to media reports.

Lopez Fuentes faces accusations that he directed a policy of wide-scale military attacks against civilians, particularly native Mayans, during which entire villages were destroyed and countless women and girls were raped.

Margot Wallström, the secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, issued a statement in which she stressed that ending impunity is essential if a country or society is to come to terms with past abuses against civilians.

Numerous Guatemalans were the victims of human rights violations during the country’s protracted civil war, and the U.N. helped the government set up the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala in an effort to tackle the problem.

“The apprehension of General Lopez Fuentes sends a strong signal to all perpetrators that conflict-related sexual violence is not acceptable, and that justice will ultimately prevail,” Ms. Wallström said.

“Sexual violence thrives on silence and impunity,” she added. “Women have no rights if those who violate their rights go unpunished.”

The envoy urged Guatemalan authorities to ensure the protection of victims, witnesses, human rights defenders and others throughout any legal action they may take to uphold their rights.

U.S. cigarettes packs soon
to have graphic warnings

By the A.M. Cost Rica wire services

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the government agency which regulates food, drugs – and tobacco – has released new health warnings for U.S. cigarette packs. The warnings consist of graphic photos and messages, which must cover half of each cigarette package and make up 20 percent of each tobacco ad. Health experts note that the United States was the first country to require health warnings on tobacco but is now playing catch-up with more than 30 countries which have already made such warnings mandatory. They say the new mandate is long overdue.

The Food and Drug Administration says the super-sized warning images must be displayed on cigarette packages and in advertisements no later than September of next year.  Margaret Hamburg is the FDA's commissioner:

“These graphic warning labels are really intended to reach a wide range of smokers and potential smokers,” Hamburg said.

The warnings represent one of the most significant changes in cigarette labels in more than 25 years. There are nine different photos – including rotting teeth and an autopsied body – and they will cover the upper half of both sides of the pack.

Direct aid to Haiti urged
to create more employment

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new United Nations report says that the international community can help create jobs and support the Haitian government in ensuring basic services by investing directly in the country’s people and institutions.

“To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them,” states the report prepared by the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti, which has been monitoring the international community’s financial commitments to recovery efforts in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake.

“This is the best way to ensure the strengthening of public systems, improved management of resources, increased accountability between the government and its citizens, and greater collective impact of our efforts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 24, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 124

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Soccer star and wife die
in crash with Mack truck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A professional soccer player and member of the Costa Rican national team died along with his wife about 1:30 p.m. Thursday when his car skidded on Ruta 32 north of San José and collided with a Mack truck going in the opposite direction,

Dead were Dennis Marshall and  Arianna Masís. Both were in their 20s.

Traffic police attributed the crash to high speed and wet roadways. The mishap took place on a curve about 30 miles north of San José. The truck was pulling a load of sand for MACO, the construction company. The crash took place in the truck's lane. The impact was to the right side of Marshall's southbound passenger car.

The highway was closed or reduced to one lane for four hours while the wreckage was cleared.

Marshall had played for Costa Rican professional teams but at the time of his death was contracted by team in Denmark. His last game with the national team was Saturday where he scored a goal against Honduras.

robbery raid
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Judicial police close in on a Desamparados home where a robbery arrest was made.

First arrest follows raid
in beauty parlor robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica taff

Judicial police raided a home in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados Thursday to capture a suspect in the robbery of a beauty parlor.

Agents said they found two firearms and marijuana and detained a man, 22.

Four men stuck up employees and patrons of the beauty parlor in San Pedro de Montes de Oca in May. The arrest Thursday was the first in the case.

During the robbery crooks not only took money but a television, other appliances and sound equipment, agents said.

Shark victim surfer dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 15-year-old surfer who survived a shark attack Sunday in Playa Grande on the Pacific coast died Thursday in Hospital México in San José. The cause of death was complications from the lose of blood in and after the attack.  The youngster,  Kevin Moraga, suffered a heart attack earlier in the week due to the loss of blood. That resulted in damage to his brain, attendants said.

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