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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, June 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 128        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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water shortage people
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
William Soto at Pollo Norteño and Rodrigo Araya at Chelles Bar had water woes but no crisis.
Most had no problems during a day without water
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thousands of residents woke up to no water Sunday morning. Some however, said they were well prepared.

Employees in small downtown restaurants and bars said they had worked late Saturday night filling containers and coolers with fresh water. “We have enough for two days at least,” said Rafaela Monge, a hostess and bartender at La Esmeralda bar and restaurant on Avenida 2.  Ms. Monge said she had stayed until about 10:30 the night before filling containers.

Larger hotels and restaurants had tanks and employees said they hadn't received any problems. Some weren't even aware there was a dilemma. “Water shortage? There's no water?” asked receptionist Jessica Hernández at Hotel Balmoral downtown. Ms. Hernández and the other receptionist working the front desk Sunday morning were both surprised there was no water in eastern San José, they said. 

The Hotel Balmoral has it's own underground well 170 meters (558 feet) deep, said Victor Perez Gerro, the assistant maintenance manager at the hotel. There would be plenty of water for the restaurant and hotel for as long as was necessary, he said.

Like the Balmoral, employees at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica said they had a tank to supply enough water to guests and the restaurant. Estephanie Porras, a receptionist at the hotel said the tank on the top floor, stored enough water for at least one day.

Some locals said although their apartments had water tanks, the water pressure was extremely low Sunday morning. Rafael Gómez and Fernando Gutiérrez, residents in an apartment building in Barrio Dent, said the the low pressure water didn't bother them.

When Gómez was asked what he would do if there was no water, he laughed and said “we'd have to run to the fountain,” gesturing at the Fuente de Hispanidad at the San Pedro traffic circle outside which was on full blast Sunday morning.  

Both men who work in offices on the seventh floor of Mall San Pedro, said they had received e-mails warning them about the water cut.

Most locals said they had heard about the water shortage on the news, in the paper, or from their
downtown fountains
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
San José photogenic downtown fountain was not affected by the outage.

bosses. A few however, had no idea. “I didn't know because I worked late last night, and had no chance to watch T.V.,” said William Soto Valencía a cashier at Pollo Norteño on Avenida 2. Soto, who works two jobs, one as a cashier and one as a late night bartender, said it was not until morning when he used the bathroom at his home in San Fransisco de Dos Rios, that he realized there was no water.

“Thankfully, my sister saved some big buckets,” said Soto, “she saw the news.”

At the restaurant Pollo Norteño, the hardest part was using the bathrooms because only the urinals worked and there was no water to wash hands, said Soto. The restaurant was utilizing plastic plates and had also saved water Saturday night to wash the dishes, said Soto.

Chelles Bar on the central boulevard had very little water pressure Sunday, but workers did have water, said manager Rodrigo Araya. There was a large tank on the roof used by those in the building, said Araya, as he blended fruit smoothies for customers.

Marco, a maintenance worker at Shannon's Pub had poured buckets of water into a large white cooler which the bar operator had bought especially for Sunday, he said. The water was used to make drinks and wash dishes, he said. There was also another container of water if they ran out, he added. “Many people in San José didn't bathe today,” said Marco with a laugh. He was from Tres Rios, he added, so he was fine.

The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados shut off the water to about 500,000 persons for 12 hours so that electrical workers could repair and clean a tunnel that carries water from the Río Macho in Orosi, Cartago. The tunnel is part of a complex system that generates power at a dam there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 128

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Rice producers granted
an 18.85 percent raise

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rice producers got an 18.85 percent raise, according to the  Corporación Arrocera Nacional and the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

A 73.6 kilo (162.3) sack of rice that sold wholesale for 17, 981 ($34.85) will now sell for 21,370 ($41.42), said the announcement Friday.

The government agencies said the price adjustment was due to the higher cost of fertilizers, agrochemicals and other necessities in the production of rice. Hardly any meal in Costa Rica does not feature rice in some form.

Marco Vargas Díaz, the minister of Economía, Industria y Comercio, said that the higher prices would stimulate rice production, and such stimulation is consistent with the administration's national food plan.  Officials have been concerned because of the increase in basic food products at the international level. For example, the world price of corn has increased due to flooding in the U.S. Midwest.

The controlled price of rice still is below the world market price, the officials noted, but they blamed the higher world prices in part on speculation. The world price is about 10 cents per kilo higher.

The officials said that there was no need to issue a decree increasing the price of rice to the consumer because there were sufficient supplies in storage at the lower price, they said. However, other sources suggested that retail price increase was inevitable.

Three held after robbery
at airport of Canadian visitor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Airport police arrested three men suspected of trying to take luggage from a Canadian tourist in Juan Santamaría International Airport Friday. Two Costa Ricans, identified by the last names of Álvarez Montero and Zamora López, along with a Nicaraguan with the last names of Velásquez Torres were detained, and two firearms were confiscated, according to a Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública release.

Our reader's opinion
He does not welcome
construction carpetbaggers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The peace and quiet of my neighborhood was disrupted this week by new construction.  This isn’t someone building their dream house that they can make their home and be a member of the community.  They are building more condos so they can make a buck.  

They tore down every tree on the lot and left the entire hillside bare and ready for soil erosion in the middle of rainy season.  The trucks and backhoes start work at 7 a.m. and have turned the streets into a muddy mess.

If you are a property owner in Costa Rica doing construction, have some common sense and please remember to respect the community and the neighbors near your construction zone. 
Don’t start work until 8 a.m. Don’t make the roads worse with your dump trucks and backhoes. Don’t make everything a noisy, muddy and dusty mess. Don’t violate nature for your own personal gain. Give back something to your community. Make sure your employees and construction crew respect the community as well. And don’t work on Sundays. Can’t we have one day of peace and quiet?

If you are in Costa Rica to build responsibly and contribute to growing a better community, then you will be welcome.  If you’re here to just to make a buck, then you are basically a carpetbagger and you should go back to where you came from.
Jerry Hallstrom
Esterillos Oeste

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 128

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A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Volkswagen fan has plenty of subjects to catch with the camera
The legend of the Beetle lives on, thanks to local clubs
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The smell of exhaust filled the air and the roaring of engines echoed off the walls of the Universidad Latina garage Sunday as hundreds of Volkswagens of all kinds crowded in for the fifth Central American Volkswagen club gathering.

Costa Rican clubs members and private fans of the iconic German-designed car tallied the highest in attendance, but several spectators and participants came from all over the Americas. One car even had California plates and a “It's not a car  . . . it's a Volkswagen” sticker.

“It's very interesting,” Edgar Loria Muñoz said, “There are people here from Nicaragua and Guatemala.”

Muñoz was attending the meeting for the first time to show off his 1975 model Beetle. His 2 year-old son, Isaac, joined in the fun, sitting on the motorcycles on display and playing with one of several remote-control VW toys zooming around the garage.

Non-Volkswagen displays were also in attendance: a row of Ford Mustangs and a vintage Cadillac parked near the entrance. According to Luis Hernández, whose family has been in the Volkswagen club for more than 10 years, it's all part of the fun having different cars present.

“There are also Chevrolets, some Mercedes-Benz and, I think, a Porsche as well,” he said, “They were invited also. It's open to many cars.”
Norbet Cháves presented his yellow 1960 model Fiat 600, for instance.

The box-frame coupe had been remade to look like the MK IV British Leyland Mini 1000 driven by the popular British comedy character Mr. Bean.

“My name is Norbert, but if you say 'Mr. Bean' they will know me,” Cháves said, commenting on his vehicle's unique look, “It's the only model in Costa Rica!”

The car is parked next to a poster featuring pictures of the car frame before and after his work, which the man proudly points out to the crowd.

There were 1985 model VW Westfalia camper vans, 1984 model Transporters with truck beds and more souped-up Beetle models to count, including a few “Herbie” look-alikes complete with racing stripes and the number 53 painted on the white frame, inspired by the Walt Disney movie “The Love Bug.”

Spectators walked from one display to the next, taking photos with cell phones and cameras while club members on a loudspeaker announced unique exhibits and even a few prize winners for different cars.  The atmosphere was open and friendly as veteran VW club members mingled with newcomers to the local VW craze.

“I've been a member for longer than I can remember,” Minor Picado said standing next to his blue 1965 model Beetle convertible, “Always.” 
more cars
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Mr. Bean's car . . . . . . a Bugatti from another era . . . . . . and a Volkswagen bride!

Children's agency decides to file formal complaint in missing boy case
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The mother of little Winston Esteban Vargas is facing a complaint of abusing him, said an official from the nation's children's institution. Now, three months after the disappearance of little Vargas, the institution is filing a case against his mother.

Vargas and his brother had been living in a children's home in Naranjo when the 8-year-old disappeared March 14 from his school playground.

The director of the Judicial Investigating Organization in San Ramón, Ronald Montero, said last week, the case is still being investigated and that agents believe the boy is being transferred between family members in Upala, Alajuela. Judicial agents continue to work with the children's institution, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia in the case, said Montero.

Not true, said Mauricio Medrano, technical director of the children's institution. “The investigations the judicial organization conducts are not very deep,” said Medrano. “Sadly we did not get positive results and had to bring things to another level.” Medrano said the Patronato was exasperated and frustrated with the judicial investigation. So the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia hired its own private investigator, said Medrano.

After what they believed to be a thorough investigation, the children's organization decided to press a complaint against the parents of Vargas, said Medrano. “We have reasonable suspicions that the parents participated in the disappearance of the boy,” said Medrano. Like the Judicial Investigation Organization agents, the childen's institution workers believe the boy is being hidden by relatives in Upala.
naranjo school
A.M. Costas Rica/Elise Sonray
School in Naranjo where the boy vanished

Although the parent's of Vargas live in downtown Alajuela, not Upala, the children's institution representative believe they are impeding the investigation and helped organize the capture of their son, said Medrano.  The Fiscalía de Naranjo will investigate the allegations and hopefully be able to find new evidence, said Medrano. “It's possible that they will investigate more,” said Medrano who emphasized that was one of the principal goals in filing the charges.

Young Vargas disappeared from the playground, Escuela República de Colombia in downtown Naranjo. The school's playground is fenced off by high metal bars.

The boy's teacher noticed he wasn't in class after the morning recess, said Eladio Torres Mesén, director of the Fuerza Pública in Naranjo at the time.

The mother of Vargas had been charged with physical abuse against both of her sons, said Medrano.

Jaco Towers

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 128

Cocoa growers betting on creation of new, resistant trees
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Climate change and diseases are ravaging cocoa bean crops in many parts of the world, eroding production and raising prices of the essential ingredient used to make chocolate.

A U.S.-based candy company is teaming up with agricultural researchers to fight the threat.

In the mid-1980s, Brazil was the world's third-largest grower of cocoa beans. That was before the emergence of two strains of fungus that attacked and decimated the country's cacao trees from which cocoa beans are harvested. Today, Brazil is a net importer of cocoa beans, and most of the world's remaining production is centered in African countries like Ivory Coast and Asian nations like Indonesia.

Today, drought threatens cocoa bean production in West

traffic accident
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio Ramírez Corrales
Motorcyclist Gustavo Miller, 30, lies in the highway in San Pedro after he was knocked down by a hit-and-run vehicle Friday evening. He went to Hospital Calderón Guardia.
Africa. And even though the fungus strains that wiped out Brazil's cacao plantations have yet to migrate beyond the Americas, researchers believe it is only a matter of time before they do so.

Raymond Schnell is a geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working from the agency's subtropical horticulture research facility in Miami, Florida.

"The two diseases do not exist in Africa or Asia. And Africa and Asia are the main production areas at this time, not Central and South America anymore. So if the diseases were to move, as diseases tend to do, it would cause major problems in these production areas, because all the material [cocoa beans] being grown in Africa and Asia now is susceptible to these two diseases," explains Schnell.

The solution? Develop cacao trees that are resistant to fungus and that can better withstand drought and other adverse climate conditions. For nearly 10 years, U.S.-based candy giant Mars has helped fund Department of Agriculture projects to probe cacao's genetic code. Schnell says sufficient progress has been made to take the project to the next level: the sequencing and analysis of the plant's entire genome.

"What we have now are markers that we can use to help us select for these disease-resistance traits. But in order to move the program forward, what we really need to do is have all the sequence information. And Mars has agreed to fund that project, where we are going to sequence the cacao genome," said Schnell.

Field trials are under way in South America, West Africa, Central America and Papua New Guinea to evaluate potential disease-resistant cocoa trees. Several of these tree selections were based upon disease-tolerance genes discovered in Miami.

Mars is contributing $10 million to the project, which is expected to take several years to complete. The resulting genetic data will then be studied for patterns that suggest disease resistant traits that can be employed in cacao breeding programs.

Mars officials are quoted as saying they intend to play an active role that "takes charge of the future" of cocoa bean production, rather than leaving matters to chance. For nations that depend heavily on cocoa crops, as well as chocolate manufacturers and chocolate lovers across the globe, the stakes are high.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Wyoming teen admits
scamming with peer groups

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In the first case of its kind in the United States, a Wyoming man has been charged with using modified peer-to-peer software to infect computers and create “botnets” –— armies of compromised computers numbering from 5,000 to 15,000 machines — that he exploited to obtain credit card and banking information.

In documents filed Thursday in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles, the man, Jason Michael Milmont, 19, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, agreed to plead guilty to a federal felony charge of unauthorized access to a computer to further a fraud.

The case against Milmont relates to his development of the Nugache Worm, which he developed to infect computers running the Windows operating system. This is the first time a person has been prosecuted for using peer-to-peer software as a delivery mechanism for malicious computer code, said federal officials.

The criminal information and plea agreement outline how Milmont developed malicious computer code — commonly called malware — and distributed that code to vulnerable computers. Milmont modified Limewire peer-to-peer software to work as trojan software that carried a hidden payload and then posted his modified version of Limewire on the Internet for victims to download.  Milmont also used instant messaging spam to surreptitiously download infected files to victims’ computers, said federal officials.

After victims downloaded the software, Milmont gained control of their computers, allowing him to obtain credit card and banking information from the compromised computers. He also used the compromised computers to carry out an Internet attack on an online business in Southern California.  Because the users of those compromised computers were unaware that their computers had been turned into zombies, they continued to use their computers to engage in online banking and purchases, said officials.

Milmont has agreed to appear in federal court in Cheyenne to be arraigned in the case in the coming weeks. He will be allowed to enter his guilty plea before a district court judge in Cheyenne, even though the case was filed in Los Angeles.

Special exhibition marks
museum's 30th birthday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Arte Costarricense will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a new exhibit opening Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The “30 Years Collection” exhibit will take participants on a walk through the historical and cultural contexts of the museum's collected works over the years, guided tours and artist information will also be on available, according to a museum release.

The museum opened on May 3, 1978, and has since collected over 6,000 works of art featured locally or in exhibitions overseas. About 194 works will be on display the release said. The exhibit will remain open from July 3 to the end of 2008, and regular admission fees apply.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 128

Spain manages to topple champion Germany in 1-0 game
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Spain has won the Euro 2008 football tournament championship with a thrilling 1-0 victory over three-time European champion Germany in Vienna, Austria. The victory gives Spain its first major title in 44 years.

Overshadowed by teammate David Villa, Spanish striker Fernando Torres scored the only goal in the 33rd minute
Sunday after he sped past the German defense and took a deep pass from teammate Xavi Hernandez.

Spain had more chances to score, but the single goal proved enough to give the country its first title since the 1964 European Championship. Germany struggled to get through the Spanish defense at Ernst Happel Stadium. German captain Michael Ballack played with an injured calf and could not provide the needed spark for his team.

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