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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, July 4, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 132        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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July Fourth in Costa Rica!
July Fourth salute
A.M. Costa Rica photo
U.S. citizens, family members and friends salute Old Glory with the Pledge of Allegiance Friday morning at the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds.

The event was the annual American Colony Committee gathering. Attendance was off slightly, perhaps because for the first time this year an admission fee was charged.

The beer and hot dogs still were free, and those who attended heard a short talk by the new U.S. ambassador, Peter Cianchette.

Some Costa Ricans were unhappy with the event, in part because the committee did not fully explain on its Web site who could attend and who could not. See story BELOW!

Baby has unspecified health problems
Mother flees reserve to save child considered evil

By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A young mother fearing her baby would be murdered, fled from her village on a treacherous journey to find help this week. She arrived to safety Wednesday, and now people in the area are asking for help and a doctor.

A family strangled their 5-year-old-boy because he could not walk on the Chirripó Indian reserve, said a expat neighbor. The young mother, Blanca Rosa, feared her 2-year old daughter, whose left hand is limp and who does not talk, would be next. She fled the village and walked for four days with her child and mother to the nearest non-Indian community, said the neighbor.

Blanca Rosa carried her baby Pricilla over raging rivers and helped her feeble mother climb over rugged terrain until they reached safety, said Ginnee Hancock, who lives on a farm below the mountainous reserve and is involved with the Voz Que Clama mission, the nearest settlement in the area.

Many of the Cabécar Indian people believe any sort of disability is sign of an evil spirit, said Ms. Hancock. One woman was told that she should kill her son who had cerebral palsy, said Ms. Hancock, adding that the mother was  told to stop feeding her son so he'd die faster. Ms. Hancock also said that without enough food, villagers may believe they cannot  afford to feed those unable to work.

There is a young man who lives at the mission who suffered a spinal cord injury when he fell out of a tree. The boy is covered in scars from head to toe, said Ms. Hancock, because his own family tried to beat and stone him to death. 

Since the mission is already over its legal capacity of residents, Blanca Rosa, her baby, and her mother Roxana are staying nearby in the home of an Indian  family. Ms. Hancock said she plans to have a doctor see Priscilla at William Allen Hospital in Turrialba today. But, she added a specialist will most likely be needed to diagnose the child's medical condition. Since the family has no money, Ms. Hancock needs to find a doctor in Costa Rica willing to help, she said.

“Priscilla is almost 2 and is severely underdeveloped. She cannot walk or crawl, is not trying to talk at all and has a hard time focusing,”
cabecar child
Baby Pricilla has undiagnosed ills

reported Ms. Hancock. “Her eyes . . .  my 
daughter says it is as if there is nothing there . . . the fist never unclenched. The fingers did flex out when my daughter opened the fingers, so they can open,  but the child could not keep the fingers open.”

The entire Cabécar village is especially in need of rice and beans right now, said Ms. Hancock. She said she has contacts in San José who could deliver the food to Turrialba. If anyone could donate it would be greatly appreciated, said Ms. Hancock.

For more information those interested can contact Donations into the mission's bank account can be made via Pay Pal at

 “The directors of the mission take no salary.  All money donated goes to help the Cabécar, the rural poor around Tuis and the Cabécar on the reservation,” said  Ms. Hancock.  A.M. Costa Rica featured the sprawling, remote reserve in a news story in February.

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Flawed July 4 Web site irks some Costa Ricans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today's July 4 event has rubbed some Costa Ricans the wrong way because organizers failed to get out the word that family members are welcomed, too, even if they are not U.S. citizens. The American Colony Committee failed to mention that on its Web site.

Margaret Sohn, co-chairwoman of this year's event, agreed in the telephone call that the Web site needed to be changed. But she said that the committee could not afford to open the gates to everyone or it would go broke.

This is the first year that U.S. citizens and their family members will be asked to pay. The amount is 2,000 colons or $4. For more than 40 years the event was free to U.S. citizens and family members.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported that volunteers handling the gates had unofficial rules. For example, the boyfriend or girlfriend of a U.S. citizen almost always was allowed entry. So were children regardless of nationality.

Susan Tessem, president of the committee disputed this in a letter last month to A.M. Costa Rica. She insisted that the entry rules were inflexible. However, volunteers who have worked the gate again confirmed that they acted generously.
july fourth event
This is what the Web site says

That unaccompanied Costa Ricans could not attend the event always has been a sore point, even among U.S. citizens. A letter from the Costa Rican wife of a U.S. citizen generated this year's flap. The text of her letter is BELOW

The woman, Victoria Arce, Desamparados, said: "As a U.S.A. citizen, my husband is saddened and embarrassed.  As a Costa Rican citizen, I am simply offended."

Ms. Sohn said that the unhappiness was generated by a misunderstanding and that all family members of U.S. citizens are invited to the picnic as long as the U.S. citizen also attends.  Those attending the gates usually check passports.

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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Jeaninia del Vecchio, the minister of public security, will announce a new initiative to alleviate crime in Limón today at 2 p.m. at the Comandancia de Limón.

The initiative will consist of a 100-day effort to reduce the high rate of crime that has plagued the area and is supported by the Atlantic chamber of commerce as well as the local municipality, community churches and private tourism and development interests in Limón, according to a Casa Presidencial release.

Scheduled events include a performance by the Escuela Música de Limón at 10 a.m. in the Centro de Servicios del Caribe located in Barrio Roosevelt. The initiative will kick off after an 11 a.m. celebration of the first annual “Peace with Nature” festival taking place at the primary entrance to Liverpool, south of Brisas de Veragua.

Arias and Ms. del Vecchio will visit Sixaola earlier in the day. That is an area where there are many illegal board crossings from and to Panamá. Some Fuerza Pública officers in the area have been arrested in connection with drug-related murders.

Our reader's opinion
U.S. citizen's wife deplores
excluding Ticos at picnic

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been going to the 4th of July picnic with my husband, a U.S.A. citizen, and my children for 16 years.  We started going to the picnic when they were held at the ambassador's house and admission was free.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Americans living here, many also with Costa Rican families.   I am sad to say, it appears, we are not welcome this year.

Although the Colony always advertised the picnic was for U.S. citizens, at the gate they always had a policy of letting U.S. Citizens in with their Costa Rican wife and children.  It looks like this year will be different, based on the information advertised on their Web site: “Proof of US Citizenship Required.”  It looks like this year, Costa Ricans will not be welcomed to the picnic with their U.S.A. spouses.

Frankly, since the Colony is charging an admission this year, and a Costa Rican company is donating the land for the event, I don’t know why they do not advertise that everyone is welcome to celebrate the U.S.A. Independence Day.  I would be curious to hear other people’s comments on the exclusive nature of this annual event held in Costa Rica and why it should not be open to the public.

Although my husband did go though the process of getting our two children born here, their U.S.A. passports, my other two children from my previous marriage do not have U.S.A. passports.  And of course, I do not have a U.S.A. passport.  It seems odd to me that the American Colony would have this policy for a “family” event, wife and some children, “not welcome.”  It seems somewhat discriminatory.  I am not a Native American Indian married to a white man in the 1880s, living in the U.S.A.  My U.S.A. husband is a welcome resident of my country.  As is every U.S.A. citizens living here, many of whom are married to Costa Rican spouses most of whom do not have U.S.A. passports.

The colony’s web site information mentions twice, U.S.A. citizens and “proof of U.S.A. citizenship required,” and this suggests to me that they might be serious this year about turning away the Costa Rican families of U.S.A. citizens at the door.  Kind of like Blacks in the southern United States in the 1960s if they tried to go into the wrong restaurant with a white spouse.  It will be interesting to read the news of how this year’s picnic turns out.  I look forward to Derry Dyer’s comments in her Tico Times, should she be brave enough to speak out against this seemingly wonderful annual event now turned into an annual reminder that “Costa Ricans are not welcome.”

It seems very strange to me that the only country which celebrates their independence day here in Costa Rica which specifically prohibits Costa Ricans from attending is the U.S.A.  More ironic, the U.S.A. is a country of immigrants with a sizable Latin population, and yet it is hosting a birthday party in a Latin country and communicating to the citizens of that country that they are frankly “not invited” and “not welcome to attend.”  What kind of message does this send to the citizens of Costa Rica?

As a U.S.A. citizen, my husband is saddened and embarrassed.  As a Costa Rican citizen, I am simply offended. 

Why does the American Colony have to make their big annual event a statement of “Costa Ricans Not Welcome.”  Why can’t they invite everyone.  Can someone please explain to me the significance or reason behind making this annual event an “Exclusively for U.S.A. citizens”  event?

Victoria Arce

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a Page One story points out, Ms. Arce and all of her children are welcome at the picnic this morning. As worse, the American Colony committee is guilty of simply not getting the word out. However, Ms. Arce's comments echo those of many Costa Ricans with regard to the event. A July 4 event Sunday sponsored by the American Legion Post 16 in Alajuela is open to everyone. There is a 4,500-colon charge.

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Judge declines to confine the Puerto Viejo rape suspect
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The serial rapist who judicial officials believe has preyed on at least seven women including a 16-year old girl is still walking the streets in Puerto Viejo, they said.

Agents believe they know who the rapist is, said a judicial official Wednesday. But the one case that may have enough evidence for a conviction, hasn't even gotten the suspect in preventative detention. Instead the suspect must simply sign in to the prosecutor every 15 days, said a court spokeswoman.

In January of 1997, a court sentenced the suspect, Rolando Alonso Brown Humphreys, to 13 years in prison for rape.  Brown only served six of those 13 years, said Guillermo Bermúdez, the regional director of the Judicial Investigation Organization in Limón. “His sentence was probably cut in half for good behavior. He may have swept the floors and helped clean,” said Bermúdez. Brown was released in 2003.

Since 2003, eight women have reported rapes or attempted rapes in the Puerto Viejo area, said Bermúdez. Three of the reported rapes were this year, said the Limón judicial director. 

And officials believe there may be more victims. “Many may not have reported the crime since they left the country or were scared,” said César Villalobos, the regional judicial director of the Judicial Investigation Organization in Bribri. After numerous lab results came back inconclusive or negative, officials did not have enough evidence to arrest anyone, said Villalobos. Many times the rapist has covered the victims face with a cloth to preserve his identity. He preys mainly on  women not from the area, such as tourists, said officials. 

Many of the women reported that the rapist approached them and asked them where they were from, according to
Bermúdez. He then attempts to speak English with the victim, said the judicial official. The man then covers the victim's face, many times with an article of their her clothing, said Bermúdez. He proceeds to rape her and ask her questions as he rapes her, said Bermúdez

In 2003, Brown served eight more months of preventative prison in an attempted rape case, said Bermúdez. The outcome was uncertain.

Judicial agents have investigated Brown in the rape of a 16 year old girl and a 55-year-old woman from the United States, among others, said Bermúdez. Five out of the seven victims were foreigners, added the judicial official. The majority of the reported victims are in their 20s, said Bermúdez, there was also a 36-year-old victim, he said.

One victim who fought off the rapist in March, reported the crime and named Brown as the suspect, officials said. However, officials seemed to be confused as to whether the crime was an attempted rape or a robbery. 

Somehow when the victim filed the complaint about an attempted rape, the case was filed as a “robbery” by a judge in Bribri, said Eddie Ryan, vice president  of the Cámara de Turismo de Puerto Viejo. Whether the woman was in a state of shock, the judicial complaint was unclear or the judge made an error is not known, said Ryan, who has been active in the case. The townspeople have been active, too, and sent a petition to the president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Luis Paulino Mora Mora, according to Ryan.

Bermúdez also said he had the complaint listed as a robbery. A court spokeswoman, however said the prosecutor in Bribri is calling the crime a rape. The suspect, must sign in every 15 days, must not approach the victim and must remain at home, said the spokeswoman. The spokeswoman did not know if the crime had previously been labeled as a robbery, she said, but the duration of the restrictive measures have been extended for three more months.

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Italian camera/sound crewmen and announcer watch Federico Pilurzu help a young surfer
Country getting some publicity on television and newspapers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation is getting some publicity on U.S. and Italian television and in the New York Times syndicate.

Dan Wise, operator of the Río Colorado Lodge in northeast Costa Rica, said that a television show, "The Catch Costarica," premiers tonight at 9 p.m. Central time on the Outdoor Channel.  

This is the first reality TV fishing show filmed in high definition television and will be a 12-week series with the first four show filmed at his lodge with Wise appearing in the first four segments, he said.

Other shows feature a lodge in Zancudo and the Corcovado Tent Camp on the Osa Pennsula, he said.
Some 10 million Italians will see Tamarindo, Avellanas, Witch's Rock and Playa Grande in Guancaste, thanks to a production being filmed there with Costa Rican surfer  Federico Pilurzu. The show which will air in November is called "La Ola Perfecta" or the perfect wave.

Christopher Howard, who conducts widely regarded tours for North Americans, said he will be accompanied this month by Michael Pollick, a reporter from the Herald Tribune of Sarasota, Florida.

The newspaper is part of the New York Times holdings, and the articles resulting from the tour will be syndicated to other newspapers in the chain, said Howard.

Pollick is working on articles about baby boomers in Costa Rica, Howard said. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 4, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 132

This is a big birthday month for countries as well
July is a busy month for birthdays.  Big ones, not of people but countries.  Local Canadians and friends celebrated Canada Day at the Club Campestre Español in La Ribera de  Belén last Sunday.  Actually, the official birth of Canada as a federation was July 1, 1867.  The country club was overflowing with people other than those celebrating Canada since Sunday was also the playoff between Germany and Spain for the Euro Fútbol Championship.  Joy prevailed because Spain won.

Expats from the United States will be celebrating their Independence Day on the actual date, July 4, this year, declaringindependence from  England in 1776. The location of their celebration is the Cerverceria Costa Rica picnic area.  I don’t think there is an international beer drinking contest to compete for attention on the grounds.

Sadly, it is not a great year, so far, to celebrate.  Many countries on the planet are having a lot of trouble.  Mother Nature is not helping with the blows she is dealing, but a good part of it is our own fault. 

The more we learn how smart other species really are, the more it becomes clear what slow learners we humans are.

Or perhaps we just cherry pick what we learn.  Cherry picking, a cliché, has become a favorite with me.  It applies to so many things like the interpretation of history, the news that we get, what we believe about a country, or a religion and what government authorities tell us. How can we learn in time to avoid disasters if we don’t know the whole truth?

Actually, at one point in my life I did work as a cherry picker. I was not a teenager. I was a young faculty wife making some extra money. I don’t recall that I chose some cherries over others, but I am sure I did. I picked the cherries I thought the farmer would like and would sell. Those who   cherry pick in other areas perhaps are unaware they are doing it, but usually people who cherry pick have an agenda.

All of this is leading up to an e-mail I received from Bill.  He was responding to a sentence in my last column when 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

I said that as a result of the cost of gasoline (and thus the cost of shipping goods) both people and countries would start tending their own gardens.  I didn’t necessarily mean that literally.

However, it seems that in England people have home gardens, and some of them have now discovered that the commercial manure fertilizer they were using had a toxic chemical that was a disaster to both their plants and themselves. The scientists of the chemical company figured out how to kill enemy bugs but didn’t bother to further investigate, or if they did, didn’t bother to tell the hapless users that it could kill them, too.  Their agenda was to sell fertilizer.

Another reader has assumed that my column’s agenda is to persuade people to retire to Costa Rica because it is cheaper and safer to live here.  He allows as how I have done a very poor job of that lately.  That has never been my agenda. I have tried to communicate what this culture and its people are like and what it is like for an expat and U.S. citizen to live here. 

Costa Rica is not a cheaper, safer version of the U.S.  It is a country in its own right, having gained its sovereignty as a republic less than 50 years after the United States did. Costa Rica celebrates its independence day Sept. 15.  

Obviously, just about every country in the world is celebrating its birthday this year.  I was just picking the ones I know about without much research.

So, happy birthday to all countries.  May you, like Costa Rica, experience peace in the coming year.

Concerned boat captains meet with officials on harassment
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fishing and local authorities have met with concerned sportfishing boat captains and companies following a series of confrontations between private boats and larger industrial net vessels.

The most recent confrontations occurred Friday, June 20, when a helicopter scouting for tuna scattered several smaller sportfishing boats, including the Carolina Magic, by dropping cherry bombs on them and flying dangerously close overhead, according to documents and testimonies from Maverick Sportfishing Yachts, which was not involved directly in this case.

Another confrontation between a Nicaraguan-registered purse seine boat, the Andrea F, and several Maverick Yachts-owned sportfishing boats followed shortly on Saturday off of Los Sueños when the Maverick boats and several other private sportfishing boats refused to give in to intimidating actions committed by the larger Andrea F and its own helicopter scout, according to the company.

Larry Drivon, the chief fishing officer for Maverick, said that representatives of the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y
Acuicultura have met with operators of the boats involved and is investigating the incidents.

“There was a meeting between the attorney for INCOPESCA and some of the crew members from some of the boats that were involved, that took place Tuesday,” he said, using the initials of the fishing institute.

Drivon also mentioned a meeting between local boat captains in Los Sueños, including many who had faced similar run-ins with larger, aggressive industrial vessels.

“This is the first time that anything of that magnitude that involved us has happened,” Drivon said.

Nancy Lebo, a part-owner of Maverick Yachts along with her husband Richard and Drivon, commented earlier on the larger industrial boat actions.

“We only take a couple of tuna at one time, but these guys kill the entire school, the porpoises, everything,” Ms. Lebo said, “They pretty much wreck everything.”

“This has been happening over many years,” Ms. Lebo said, regarding the bullying of smaller sportfisher boats, “But now it's been escalating.”

New study of Costa Ricans shows Omega acids protect heart
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids found in some vegetable cooking oils and fish was associated with reduced heart attack risk in a Costa Rican population study, and eating omega-6 fatty acids was linked to lower blood pressure for healthy people in an international study.

The Costa Rican study was published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. The international study is in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that must be obtained from food because the body cannot make them sufficiently.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in walnuts, soybean, canola and flaxseed oils and in fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines.  Omega-6 is plentiful in soybean, safflower, sunflower, and corn oils, as well as in tofu, nuts and seeds. 

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish containing Omega-3 twice a week and getting fats from polyunsaturated sources such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Replacing saturated and trans fatty acids with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may reduce cardiovascular risks, according to previous research.

In the Circulation study led by Hannia Campos, intake of omega-3 from vegetable oils was associated with a 59 percent reduction in heart attack risk. 

Researchers studied 1,819 residents of Costa Rica who had survived a first heart attack and compared them to a similar group who had not had a heart attack.  Participants completed a food and alcohol frequency questionnaire and researchers analyzed body fat samples.

Compared to those with the least amount of the acids in
their body fat samples, those with the highest levels had a 59 percent lower heart attack risk, “a large and significant reduction,”  said the study.

The omega acids were associated with a very strong protective effect, and the relationship quickly reached a plateau with most of the effect achieved after just a small intake, said researcher Campos, who has a doctorate and is senior lecturer in the nutrition department at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

She said in an e-mail that Costa Ricans eat little fish and get much of their fatty intake from lard. The data suggest that the amount of dietary acid required to produce this protective relationship in this population study corresponded to two teaspoons of soybean oil or canola oil, half a teaspoon of flaxseed oil or six to 10 walnut halves.

If confirmed by further research, it might someday be possible to reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular disease by adding a little of this essential fatty acid to the diet in the many countries where intake of fish containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and vegetable oils containing alpha-linolenic acid is low, as it is in Costa Rica, Ms. Campos added.

Compared to the United States, consumption of vegetable oils containing omega-3 and fish is very low in Costa Rica, she said. 

Residents there also tend to eat tropical white fish, which is much lower in long-chain fatty acids than the cold-water species such as salmon and mackerel that are commonly eaten in North America, she added. 

Fortunately, since the 1980s, the Costa Rican population has decreased consumption of palm oil, a vegetable oil that lacks alpha-linolenic acid and is high in saturated fatty acids, she said.  They have also increased consumption of other vegetable oils — especially soybean oil — that are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, she said.

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Legislative committee digs into growing Arias cash scandal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative finance committee decided Thursday to call Arias administration figures to explain the growing concerns over extra payments for a number of executive branch employees.

The request came, in part, because Casa Presidencial sent a list of 82 persons who are getting or have gotten payments off the books from the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. This is a greater number than the executive branch had reported Monday.

In addition, there is the matter of some $2 million donated by the government of Taiwan that was supposed to be used for housing for flood victims but instead has been used for unrelated expenses, according to legislative reports.

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The  Comisión de Control del Ingreso y Gasto Público decided to call Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother of the president and minister of the Presidencia, to explain the situation with the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

The committee also is seeking to hear testimony from a bank representative,  Alfredo Ortuño, and  Fernando Zumbado, minister of Vivienda or housing.

In addition the committee wants to know exactly how much money each of the 82 persons received and why. The committee said it will contact each person listed as getting money to ask them to provide reasons for payment and amounts received.

The money was used to hire specialists as advisers, according to the executive branch, but many of the people who were listed are politicians and not technicians.

Parents of metal school
planning a protest today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The parents of students in the so-called Escuela Metálica are planning a demonstration today to support their goal of keeping the famous school open.

The primary school, correctly called Buenaventura Corrales, gets its alias because it is constructed of metal.

That is the problem, according to education officials show say the school is deteriorating and represents a danger to students.

The members of the parents association are considering a Sala IV constitutional court appeal to keep the school open at least until the end of the school year in December.

Some skeptical parents suggest that the Óscar Arias administration might be closing the school because  the land underneath has become too valuable and might be sold to a hotel or other intense use facility. The building is half a city block downtown. An adjacent half block is a parking lot. The school is just west of Parque España and between avenidas 5 and 7.

Only two blocks away is the Escuela de República de Perú, but that facility suffers from chronic overcrowding. Both schools close for a two-week vacation today.

Auto thefts reported
to have declined in city

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grand Theft Auto: San José?

Not according to the Judicial Investigating Organization planning and operations officials, who Thursday released information documenting a gradual overall decline of motor vehicle thefts in the city which began in January.

November 2007 recorded the most vehicle thefts with 246. Cases have been steadily declining since then from 229 last January down to 161 for all of last month.

The 161 thefts last month are the lowest numbers recorded since July 2007.

While the graph provided by the organization begins documenting monthly totals in January 2007, the numbers fluctuate randomly until a steady increase from 171 in July 2007 to the 246 peak in November of that year.

Now it appears as if the upward trend that began last summer has dipped down to unprecedented lows. The organization credits recent initiatives to halt illegal car parts sales as well as increased vigilance, according to a release.

A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 4, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 132

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Jo Stuart
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