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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, July 7, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 134       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Lowly slug can be an unwelcome addition to your diet
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A little health tip for those living in the tropics: don't eat slugs.

The health ministry has renewed this warning because slug populations swell in the rainy season.

Short of a really, really cheap French restaurant, experts say that parts of slugs can be ingested in salads and sometimes by mistake.

The best known slug encounter was in the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" where fellow young wizard Ronald Weasley suffered a backlash from one of his own magic spells. But in that case, the lad was expelling slugs and not ingesting them.

The malady does not come from the slug but from a parasite that uses a slug as part of its life cycle. The parasite is named after this country:  Angiostrongylus costaricens.

It is a nematode or little worm.

According to a report by a pathologist at the Universidad de Costa Rica, the disease has been seen in children here since the 1950s.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
These guys are found all over now

Although most people would not knowingly eat slugs, scientists think that the nematode can be found in the secretion that slugs leave behind when they travel. This could be on vegetables or fruit.

In one study some 50 percent of the slugs collected were hosts to the parasite.

María Luisa Ávila Agüero, the minister of Salud, has issued a warning about the disease, the slugs, called babosa and the rainy season.

In the worse case, the parasite can puncture the wall of the human intestine and cause a serious infection. Other times, people are unaware they are infected.

Santa Cruz will investigate strange case in Tamarindo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Santa Cruz has appointed a commission to look into why someone began to build a commercial center on land designated for a park in the middle of Tamarindo.

The construction so irked some residents that they demolished the construction several weeks ago.

The news of the commission was reported by the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo, which opposes the project. The zoning plan for the community designates the land as a park, but land is very valuable in the beach community of Tamarindo, and the
association said the property is worth $700 a square meter and contains 6,000 meters

The association said that officials in Santa Cruz deny much knowledge of the project. Municipal council members said that a European sent a note in December that proposed constructing the project but no formal decision was made. In March construction began, said the association.

The three-member commission will seek to locate who gave permission for the project, if anyone.

The association said it had a six-year agreement with the municipal authorities to administer the park land.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 134

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Better PR needed to stem
crime fears, U.N. aide says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations official stationed in Costa Rica said Thursday that the popular perception of insecurity is much greater than reality. He proposed a public relations campaign to correct the image in the public mind

Such fears limit human development and their liberties, he said adding that strategies should be developed to improve their perceptions.

The official, José Manuel Hermida, was appearing before the Comisión de Narcotráfico of the Asamblea Legislative.

He also deplored the increase in the number of security guards. He said that the number of private guards had increased from 8,000 in 2004 to 19,000 a year later. However, the increase may be due to a new law that required private guards to register with the ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The U.N. official based his opinions of the public perception of security on surveys his office has commissioned.

He added that the private security guards have no requirements as to education or emotional stability. He pointed out that Fuerzas Pública officers must have completed the fifth year of secondary school.

Hermida did not outline in detail a public relations campaign to decrease the fears of citizens about their insecurity. However, surveys elsewhere have shown that public perceptions of crime usually are linked to exposure to television where violence is a component of many shows.

It is not clear if the television engenders the insecurity or if those who fear crime and the outside world simply prefer to sit home and watch television.

Acelera Internet pricing
is being cut in half

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has agreed to allow the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to cut in half the rate for its advanced Internet service to its 18,000 subscribers.

The telecommunications giant sought a rate cut to compete with its subsidiary, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. and various cable companies.

The high speed Internet, called Acelera, runs on telephone lines. Users will have the option of getting a price break or increasing the speed of the service under terms of the ruling by the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos.

Sunday is the big day
for world soccer fans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is the big day for World Cup fans. Italy faces France in the finals, and most of Costa Rica will be watching.

The game begins at noon Costa Rican time, and the general sentiment rests with Italy which ousted Germany from World Cup play this week. That made Costa Ricans feel good because Germany defeated Costa Rica 4-2 in the inaugural game of the championship.

The game will be played in Berlin.

Crime victim strikes back
and runs over motorcycle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here's another example of a citizen who fights back.

Two men on a motorcycle held up a motorist in Sabana Sur. One bandit pulled a gun and took a gold chain and cash worth 600,000 colons ($1,165) from the motorist.

But when the bandits tried to flee, the motorist drove his car into the motorcycle, and the two bandits fled on foot.

Fuerza Pública officers detained one suspect nearby when he tried to board a bus and confiscated a .38 caliber revolver.

A second suspect was located when he checked into a clinic with a broken limb.

Our reader's opinion

Let Him fix the roads,
writer says of Jesus

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This morning I noticed one of the most ridiculous items I’ve ever seen in A.M. Costa Rica (and we all know there have been plenty!

From the July 6 article: “Two months is a drag, so lawmakers get holiday”
“In addition to the free trade treaty with the United States and acceptance of a $130 million sewer reconstruction loan from Japan, lawmakers also have hanging a declaration that Jesus Christ has sovereignty over Costa Rica.”
This declaration sounds like something cooked up during the Inquisition!  But In 2006???  Don’t the wise and esteemed lawmakers of Costa Rica realize that there are non-Christian citizens in their country?  What kind of message does this send to atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Moslems,  etc?

Actually, on second thought, maybe this is not a bad idea.  Let Jesus Christ have sovereignty over Costa Rica, and let him be responsible for cleaning up corruption, fixing the potholes and the sewers!

Glen Love
Haverford, Pa. And
Dominical, Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 134

The tradeoff between freedom and security
The annual Fourth of July Picnic and celebration took place again this year at the Cerveceria picnic grounds near the airport.  Each year it seems to get better and bigger.  I caught the Alajuela bus and walked the four blocks or so to the entrance.  On the way I saw a young woman in a black, strapless mini-dress.  The only decoration was big white letters painted on the dress that said, “Being Rich is Expensive.”  I had to smile because I have been thinking about money, incomes and the cost of living, although not necessarily about the rich.

Generally, when we read about average wages in other countries, we are inclined to think in terms of our own incomes and living expenses.  Thus when we hear that some people must survive on a dollar a day, we consider them poor indeed.  Apropro of this, in response to an article about wages in Cuba, Jorge Rodríguez Hernández, consul general of Cuba, wrote an article in La Nación hoping to clear up the arithmetic.  It is always good to look at both sides of the ledger.

He was responding to an earlier article that stated that the salaries of the average Cuban — as low as $9 a month for a teacher, and $27 a month for a doctor — left the Cuban people in abject poverty.  According to Hernández, the official coin of Cuba is the peso, and there are 20 pesos to one dollar, but the Cuban people get paid and pay their living expenses in pesos, not dollars.  The minimum salary per month is 225 pesos.  Health workers and educators make more.  Pensions for retired people are at least 150 pesos per month, said Hernández. 
This does not sound like much, but two large expenses, health care and education are free.  Hernández adds that 75 percent of the Cuban people own their own homes and housing (rent or ownership) is usually just 10 percent of a person’s income.  (I pay closer to 40 percent for my housing.) He says that an average Cuban family can cover their basic necessities for about 100 pesos a month.  That is the equivalent of $5 U.S. and 2,575 colons.  That is pretty cheap.

He also explains that electricity costs 9 centavos per 100 kilowatts per month (about 4.5 cents), and if the cost goes up, the government subsidizes it. If I paid that here, my electric bill would be about 14 cents per month instead of $27.  I am quite sure it is considerably more than that in the United States  Still, some Cubans have more than one job in order to live more comfortably.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Everything is relative.  (How often have I said that?)  In the 1950’s my college instructor husband’s salary was $291 a month.  We managed to live on that. Our car was 11 years old, and we had no TV, but we did not feel deprived.  Perhaps, not having a TV we didn’t know what we were missing.  Today in Costa Rica, according to my source, a college instructor makes about $100 per month per course.  Full professors can make more.  Many of them, I am told, get other employment as well as teachers in order to make ends meet.  Of course, the less educated make less.  Health and education are subsidized by the government.

Salaries in five or six digits are not unusual In the United States, I am told, but there are many people right now who are working at two jobs in order to survive the way they used to. Or maybe it is just that everybody wants to be rich, and rich costs money.

It does look as if the Cuban people have security from cradle to grave — but they don’t have political freedom and all it entails (what we were celebrating on Tuesday).  However, even the need for freedom is relative.  In the U.S. some people are willing to give up some of their freedoms in order to be safe and secure.  The argument is that if you have nothing to hide or have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from the government’s infringement upon your rights. The secret is to know what it is the government thinks is wrong.  Terrorist attacks are way down on the list of things that Costa Ricans fear, but crime is certainly infringing upon one’s freedom.

Could the alternatives that in simpler days in Costa Rica I thought was between time or money have changed to either freedom or security?

But back to the rich young lady (I assume her dress was speaking from experience) and me on our way to the celebration.  For the time being we were equals.

Neither of us needed any money because all of the food and drink, and entertainment, and there was plenty at this Fourth of July party, was free, and I never once thought about my safety.

Two lawyers convicted in child-trafficking case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A three-judge panel has convicted two lawyers on a charge of international child trafficking.

The case stems from a September 2003 raid on a La Uruca home where nine children, two weeks to 20 months old, were found.

Convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison were Carlos Hernán Robles Macaya and Rodrigo Johanning Quesada.

Another lawyer, Mauricio Brenes Loaiza, and a woman identified as a former secretary, Carolina López, were acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence, said a report from the Poder Judicial.

The prosecution had sought terms of 29 years each.
The judges also ordered that the two men lose their rights to practice as lawyers for three years.

Robles is the former manager of the defunct  Banco Anglo Costarricense, which was shut down in September 1994 with an estimated loss of public funds of more than $100 million. He faces a 25-year prison term in that case.

The nine babies were found because a neighbor complained. All had come from Guatemala, where adoptions are frequently done via private parties.The case was complex, and no one has said that the babies had been kidnapped. They later were reunited with their mothers.

Guatemalan officials took a strong interest in the case. Robles said that he was simply a lawyer representing the interests of a Florida adoption company.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 134

Edge for Calderón is just .6 of 1 percent
Mexico election is about as tight as they come

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After a detailed and meticulous vote count, Mexico's Instituto Federal de Elecciones Thursday released a final report showing ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón won with 35.88 percent of the vote,

Leftist rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador got 35.31 percent.

But this has not ended the wrangling over who won the most contested election in Mexican history. The losing candidate plans to file legal challenges and has called his supporters to a rally Saturday.

Calderon of the Partido Acción Nacional was smiling when he came before reporters to provide his reaction.

He expressed his happiness with the outcome and his gratitude to the more than 40 million Mexicans who voted Sunday, whether for him or for other candidates. He called for reconciliation, recognizing the need to reach out to the nearly two-thirds of the populace that did not vote for him.

In an earlier interview, Calderón also suggested he would offer a cabinet post to López Obrador, but it seems unlikely that the man who came in a close second in the official count would entertain such an offer. Instead, Lépez Obrador came before reporters to announce his rejection of the final vote count.

He said he would legally challenge the result in a tribunal established by law for all such disputes. He also said he would rally his supporters Saturday in Mexico City's main plaza, the Zocalo, and would put pressure on officials to examine evidence of what he called widespread irregularities in the voting process.

López Obrador of the Partido Revolución Democrática also criticized the electoral institute for what he called
a hurried process of counting. He noted that officials had until Sunday, under the rules established by law to complete the process, which he said should have been done vote-by-vote.

Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the electoral institute, however, said that the law does not call for opening vote boxes and doing a complete recount unless there are indications of some problem. He noted that representatives from every political party and international observers were on hand and that officials followed all procedures established by law.

The law also requires the recount to be complete without pause once it has begun, meaning that the people conducting the count were not even able to sleep until it was complete, something that would have made a prolonged effort lasting until Sunday almost humanly impossible.

Another question that emerged from the process concerned vote results Wednesday night that showed López Obrador over 1 percentage point ahead, as opposed to the results Thursday morning showing him six-tenths of a point behind. This was evidently the result of voting tallies from the northern Mexican states, where the ruling party has strong support, being counted last.

Ruling party officials accused López Obrador representatives of carrying out complaints and maneuvers in many northern states to delay the process there and give the impression that their candidate had an early lead.

The law establishes four days for legal challenges to be presented to the electoral tribunal, which has until the end of August to consider those challenges and make a decision as to their validity. The tribunal must deliver its final pronouncement on who won the election to the House of Deputies, the Mexican congress, by Sept. 6.

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