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(506) 2223-1327        Published  Friday, July 11, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 137        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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This backhoe that was opening up a roadway at the  Radiant Sun Valley project was confiscated, the tribunal said.
confiscated backhoe
Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo photo
Projects for 1,000 new Pacific homes reviewed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental investigators in a sweep through the south Pacific coast have turned their eyes to five large projects in the Cantón de Osa that will bring 1,000 new homes to the area.

Investigators are checking out Osa Tropical, Sueños del Trópico, Vistas sin Fin, Trópicos Verdes and Radiant Sun Valley with close inspections, the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo said Thursday in a press release.  The tribunal seemed surprised by the extent of development in the area.

The five projects cover more than 800 hectares (1,977 acres) along the Pacific coast. The projects are in the vicinity of  Ojochal and Chontales de Osa. Around 1,000 luxury homes are planned in the projects, the tribunal said.

The investigators expressed concern over the pressure on the landscape, the nearby forests, the water resources and the fragile mountain soil that such developments would have.

The tribunal is an independent agency under the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, and it includes judges that are empowered to assess environmental fines and order compensation to the environment. The sweep this week is being done by representatives of many other agencies, too.
Already the sweep has produced its first action. The Tribunal said that a backhoe was confiscated on the  Radiant Sun Valley development because it
was carving a roadway in the protected zone near a watercourse. Investigators said they presumed that the road would eventually cross the waterway to another part of the project.  Radiant Sun Valley has 111 hectares or 274 acres, according to the tribunal.

Osa Tropical, a project that is being constructed in 11 stages in Ojochal  also had an environmental problem, according to the tribunal. Some of the new homes there have portions in the protective zones of watercourses or have been built in locations with grades of more than 60 degrees. Investigators also said that the construction is visible from nearby Bahía Ballena.

Radiant Sun Valley is owned by the same corporation as Sueños del Trópico with 389 hectares (961 acres), Vistas sin Fin of 149 hectares (368 acres) and Trópicos Verdes of 51 hectares (126 acres), according to the Tribunal. The report Thursday identified the corporation as Ejecutivos del Cielo S.A., set up by Canadians. In all, some 800 homes are planned her in the  Chontales vicinity. The plan envisions lots from a third of an acre to an acre and a quarter, the tribunal said.

Investigations were to continue today in the coastal area south of Dominical.

Taiwanese road construction firm wants out of job
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ret-Ser Engineering Corp of Taiwan is pulling out of the Naranjo-San Carlos highway job, according to sources in that Asian country.

The  Government Information Office inTaiwan said that Ret Ser is seeking a local engineering company to undertake the $61 million construction contract. The source was reported to be  a Central News Agency report.
Part of the project has been suspended since December due to right-of-way problems. The completion date for the job has been pushed ahead to April 2010 instead of October 2009.

Coast Rica cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China in June 2007, but at that time a spokesman for the company doing the construction said that the firm would complete its contract. Plans for the road have been widened from the original two-lane to four lanes.

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Banco Central increases
interest rate by one point

By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The board of the Banco Central Thursday increased the bank's lending interest rate to 9 percent by a majority decision that went into effect  the same day.

The bank's overnight deposit rate also increased from 4.25 percent to 5.25 percent with the board action.

By shifting the annual rate of interest on loans from 8 to 9 percent, the bank seeks to combat the decrease in currency value caused by inflation and negative real interest rates.

In layman's terms, the central bank, acting as the government financial institution, is attempting to strengthen the value of the colon, simultaneously combating inflation. The move will also slow down lending by making them less profitable. National banks had been sitting on loan files for weeks in anticipation of the interest rate change.

The overnight deposit rate is commonly referred to as the inter-bank loan rate. As the government bank, the Banco Central is adjusting the rate on loans to private banks from the nation's reserve, which will in turn affect the customers of private banks and local financial behavior.

By increasing the rates as mentioned, private banks that borrow money from the central bank will be forced to increase the rates on future loans for their clients in turn, leading to a decrease in the incentive to borrow money and reinforcing the purchasing power of the colon.

Decree on traffic curbs
finally makes La Gaceta

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday was the first day of expanded vehicle restrictions in the Metropolitan core, but if a motorist got a ticket in the morning, there was a reason  to complain. A presidencial decree creating the restriction did not appear in the online version of La Gaceta, the official newspaper, until 9:30 a.m., according to a reader.

A.M. Costa Rica stopped monitoring the Web site at 4:30 a.m. when the previous day's papers still were visible. A paper version of the La Gaceta was not immediately available Thursday to see if an updated decree had been published.

The decree that finally appeared correctly said that the hours of restriction would be from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those are the hours when vehicled with certain last digits on the license plate are forbidden to enter the zone. Today, for example, the unlucky plate digits are 9 and 0. Monday the numbers will be 1 or 2. The restrictions do not apply on weekends.

Printers must have been frustrated because transit officials at the last minute changed the period of restrictions from 24 hours a day to just 13 hours.

This is the administration's plan to free up downtown traffic and to cut down on fuel use and contaminated air.

The restricted zone is from the Circunvalación on the south and east to Calle Blancos on the north and La Uruca on the west. In addition to the license rule, vehicles of six tons or more have other rules regarding which highways they can travel and at what times.

Raids at five junk yards
yield state property

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A joint task force seeking state property arrested one man and raided five junk yards in Desamparados Thursday. Officers confiscated train track rails, traffic signals, telephone cables, electric and water meters and other items clearly linked to government operations.

The man who was detained operates a junk yard in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados that has been closed by the muncipality and reopened illegally three times, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Limón port chief resigns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man in charge of the Limón ports resigned Thursday after little more than three months on the job. He cited a declining health as a reason. He is  Álvaro Rodríguez, executive president of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica. the resignation is effected a week from today.

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Half-sister of abductee says aggression claims are untrue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The older daughter of a U.S. citizen demonized by Costa Rica's women's minister and a La Nación columnist has come to his defense.

The daughter is  Brenda J. Cyprian, 28, of Fort Worth, Texas. She presented herself in an e-mail as an eyewitness to the three-year period when her father, Roger Cyprian, was supposed to be physically abusing Chere Lyn Tomayko. Instead, she said, the two had almost no contact.

Ms. Tomayko is about to be extradited to the United States to face a charge of parental child abduction.  As part of her defense, family members here and legal representatives have said she was a victim of abuse and that is why she fled Texas contrary to a joint custody order involving her daughter Alexandria. She was on the F.B.I.'s most wanted list.

The drumbeat of abuse was picked up by Jeannette Carrillo Madrigal, executive president of the Instituto Nacional de Mujer, and Julio Rodríguez, a columnist for La Nación.

Ms. Carrillo, in an opinion piece Sunday, characterized Cyprian as a violent aggressor and said the woman might be murdered if she were returned to the United States. Rodriquez said incorrectly Monday in his En Vela column that if Ms. Tomayko were extradited that she would be remanded to the claws of her aggressor. Instead, she will be in U.S. custody.

Neither writer spoke with Cyprian or appear to have acquainted themselves with the legal case in Texas. Ms. Carrillo, an Arias administration appointee, has not returned e-mails to a reporter. Rodríguez in his column said that Ms. Tomayko fled the United States from the claws of a man with a long history of aggression. Rodríguez said in an e-mail that the case was simply one of humanity over law.

The columns appear to be a last-ditch effort by Friends and family of Ms. Tomayko to frustrate her extradition. Some 10 months of court appeals have been unsuccessful.

Among other legal efforts, Ms. Tomayko tried at one time to obtain political refugee status in Costa Rica based on the aggression claim. She has been successful in winning the support of many other persons, mostly women, with her
claims of physical aggression. Some supporters were employees at the U.S. Embassy where officials did not move against her until her daughter turned 18.

The only problem with the aggression claim, according to  Brenda Cyprian, is that her father was nowhere near the woman for the three years before Ms. Tomayko fled with her young daughter to Costa Rica. That was in 1997. The couple severed their romantic relationship in 1994, Brenda Cyprian said.

In a lengthy e-mail, Brenda Cyprian said, in part:

"Ms. Tomayko has continuously claimed abuse and fear for her life.  There is no such evidence of this as being fact, other than Ms. Tomayko’s accusations.  I was present at the time, and I am saying these accusations are false. 

"This, however, is not the only point I would like to mention.  During the custody battle for Alex, all the court needed to grant Ms. Tomayko full custody was some sort of evidence.  A police report, pictures, testimonies from witnesses; any of these would have given Ms. Tomayko leverage to prove her case against my father, but none was delivered.  

"If Ms. Tomayko was in fact afraid for her life, why was there never any police reports filed?  If there was in fact abuse going on, why did Ms. Tomayko not take advantage of the U.S. justice system?  There are several procedures that protect victims of abuse:  restraining orders, protective orders, supervised visitations among others.  Why were none of these utilized to protect Ms. Tomayko, Chandler and Alexandria from the alleged 'abuse'?"

Chandler is an older child of Ms. Tomayko. Alex is more correctly  Alexandria Camille Cyprian, the woman who was the object of the 1997 joint custody order when she was 7.

Ms. Tomayko now has two younger children born here while she was a fugitive.

Brenda Cyprian characterized herself as a victim who has been robbed of the companionship of Alexandria. " I, too, lost a sister who I have cherished since she entered the world on July 14, 1989," she said.  "I lost someone who prior to her disappearance was shaping up to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had." 

U.S. father arrested after two-year vacation here with his son
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested a U.S. man in Guadalupe Thursday on a charge of kidnapping his 5-year-old son. The man had been
David Albanese
David Albanese
living illegally in Costa Rica for at least two years, said a  spokeswoman from the International Police Agency.

The man, David Albanese, is wanted by a court in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the abduction. The child was about 3 years old at the time, said the police spokeswoman. According to police, Albanse asked the child's mother for permission to take the boy to Costa Rica for a month in August of 2006. The
agreement was that Albanese would return by September of 2006, but he did not, said the police spokesman. Albanese had a brother and a cousin in Costa Rica, said a spokeswoman from the International Police Agency. He spoke a little Spanish and worked at a sportsbook in Sabana Sur, she said. 
Agents arrested Albanese as he was getting into a taxi with his Costa Rican girlfriend near his home in Alto de Gaudalupe, said a police spokeswoman. Albanese had made  several recent trips to the beach with a woman companion, said a report from the security ministry.

Albanese lived in various houses while he was in Costa Rica, one in Bello Horizonte, Escazú, according to the police report. Officers from the International Police Agency and the Grupo de Apoyo Operativo of the Fuerza Pública participated in the arrest, according to police.

The child is now in the custody of the national children's institution. Officials from the institution  are coordinating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get the child back to the United States, said a spokesman.

Meanwhile at least two U.S. mothers accused of kidnapping their children are still awaiting extraction in prison. Nicole Kater, arrested in April 2008 and Chere Lyn Tomayko arrested in September 2007, are both in Buen Pastor prison, according to spokespersoins.. 

On going where nothing will be the same as it used to be
When this column appears, I will be in the United States on my way to Jamestown, New York, to attend the memorial for my mother, who died last month.  She would have celebrated her 100th birthday July 14. 

It has been a long time since I have been back to the States, and I imagine I will experience some culture shock. Part of that shock will be the changes in my family and relatives, some of whom I have not seen in many years and probably won’t recognize, and some I have never met. 

I am looking forward to it all.  Especially, I am looking forward to seeing my sister, Annetta, because it has been so long since we have been together.  Since adulthood our relationship has been mostly by mail, but it has been constant and important to both of us.  Although we have chosen different ways of life (I’m a gypsy, and she establishes roots), we share the love of cooking and that special tie that sisters have — after they outgrow the competition and disdain of younger years.  Unfortunately, Donnetta, the youngest of us three, is not able to make it.

My children, Justin and Lesley, will be there, too. The rare times the three of us have been together in recent years have been memorable for me. And if we can squeeze in the time, I am eager to show them Mayville, the village where I grew up, and where, almost ironically, the house I grew up in is an historical site — or at least it was when my brother and I visited it some years ago. (We both had high hopes and expectations for ourselves, and as it turns out it is our modest home that is remembered.)

Then there is also Chautauqua Lake and the summer community of Chautauqua.  Once again, after going through slow times, Chautauqua is blooming. 

It is sort of a summertime Paris of the 50s.  Writers, musicians, philosophers, actors and students spend the summer there.   Big bands, opera and theater, poetry readings, as well as lectures on many subjects are part of the summer program.   At least that is the way it used to  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

be.  But nothing is the way it used to be, as the writer Dinaw Mengestu said in an article in the Wall Street Journal.  He was writing about Paris of the 50s, of a city of sidewalk cafes and bistros filled with writers, artists and philosophers  — many of them Americans — talking and arguing and philosophizing, and how today Paris has become like the rest of the world where “commerce and not culture is the dominant social factor.”

There is another quote from the article that is pertinent today.  African-American writer James Baldwin, made it after he moved to Paris in the late 1940s.  He said “I didn’t move to Paris, I left New York.” 

Whether it is refuges or retirees or people simply caught in catastrophes, many seem to be escaping where they are rather than choosing a specific destination. 

But I am going home again, even though I know I can’t.  It is going to be strange to go back to a town where I lived with and visited my mother so many times and have to stay in a hotel because there is no home there. 

One of my visits was when I was living on the East Coast. Curiously, it was in the 1950s, and I stopped to visit her on my way to California, a destination I had not chosen. I was merely leaving where I was.
I am looking forward to revisiting my past. I am also looking forward to returning to Costa Rica.  Because, to paraphrase what Gertrude Stein said, America is my country and San José has become my hometown.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 137

Cabécar child finally has a date with some physicians
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two doctors visited baby Priscilla this week. The 2-year's
Baby girl and mom
Priscilla and her mom
condition has not yet been diagnosed, but she should be on her way to Hospital Nacional de Niños by next week, said a woman advocating the girl's case.

Last week Priscilla's young mother fled her village fearing that the baby would be murdered. A local family strangled their 5-year-old-boy because he could not walk, the mother said. The mother, Blanca Rosa, fearing Priscilla would be next, carried the baby over rugged terrain until they reached safety. 

After four days of walking, Blanca Rosa arrived to the Voz Que Clama mission on the Chirripó Indian Reserve, said Ginnee Hancock who 
lives on a finca below the mountainous area.

At first leaders at the mission believed Blanca Rosa and her
baby Priscilla were from the nearest Cabécar village about a day's journey away by foot.  Now it is thought the woman is from another village farther away  and nearer to Panamá, said Ms. Hancock. 

Blanca Rosa made the trip with her baby and her mother Roxana, said Ms. Hancock. The three are now staying with a local Cabécar family who live near the mission, said Ms. Hancock. When Priscilla is placed in Hospital de Nacional de Niños, Blanca Rosa will stay with a local expat, said Ms. Hancock. 

Ms. Hancock said Blanca Rosa is worried about the trip and has never seen a city. Blanca Rosa saw a car for the first time Tuesday, said Ms. Hancock.

After an article published last Friday, the mission has received numerous donations totaling about $500, said Ms. Hancock. 

Ms. Hancock made contact with two doctors who agreed to see baby Priscilla with no charge, she said. One of the doctors estimated the baby may have to stay in the hospital for two months, but that she would eventually walk. Neither doctor diagnosed Pricilla's condition, said Ms. Hancock. 

“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,” said Ms. Hancock. Also one of Priscilla's hands is constantly clenched in a fist, but can be easily held open, said Ms. Hancock.

39 experts warn of extinction threat to world's coral reefs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Experts say one-third of the oceans' coral reefs face extinction by the middle of the century if nothing is done to save them.  The reefs are home to a vast array of sea creatures, which experts say would also be endangered by the loss of the reefs. 

A group of 39 leading coral experts from around the world sounded the alarm in the first-ever global assessment of coral reefs.

Corals are tiny sea creatures that lay their skeletons down to form large reefs that have been built over millions of years.  

Kent Carpenter of Old Dominion University in Virginia led the study, published this week in the journal Science, on the threat to the world's coral reefs, which are produced in tropical and sub-tropical seas in coastal waters.

Carpenter says steps must be taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop over-fishing and pollution of the oceans.

"If we do not do those things, then, at the current level of how things are going, we will probably lose our coral reefs by the middle of this century," said Kent Carpenter. "So, 2050 is the date that many people are predicting that coral reefs will cease to exist."

Carpenter says, as ocean temperatures rise, corals throw off algae attached to them that are essential for their survival.
"Normally, when you see a coral, it's tan or green or some colorful color," he said. "But when they expel their algae inside of them, then they become white.  And this is a phenomenon known as bleaching.  Another consequence of higher temperatures is increased disease, and this can cause mass die off."

Carpenter says the coral reefs at greatest risk of extinction are the most common, the branching or staghorn coral. According to the report, the Caribbean has the greatest number of threatened coral species. 

The report also lists corals within the Pacific's Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago as threatened because of large concentrations of people.
Experts say more than 25 percent of marine species depend upon the reefs for their survival. Carpenter says humans also depend upon coral reefs.

"They are important for food and important for other types of livelihoods," said Carpenter. "So, if we lose the ecosystems, we lose not only the biodiversity, but we also lose the capability of people to obtain income and food from coral reefs."

However, Carpenter says he and other marine biologists believe the coral reefs can be rescued through targeted conservation efforts and a cut in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Earlier this week, a U.S. government report said nearly half of coral reefs in U.S. government territory are in poor or fair condition. 

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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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Bush signs wiretap law
expanding surveillance

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George Bush has signed legislation expanding the government's surveillance powers. The measure also protects telecommunication companies from lawsuits stemming from assistance they provide to help track potential terror suspects.

One day after the bill cleared Congress, the president signed it into law.

"Today I am pleased to sign landmark legislation that is vital to the security of our people," he said.

The measure is the most extensive revision of U.S. surveillance law in 30 years. It is designed to enable intelligence agencies to move quickly to monitor communications involving terror suspects, in some cases without a special court warrant. The bill would require government authorities to obtain individual court orders to wiretap Americans who are outside the United States and require a special court to give advance approval to the government's procedures for wiretapping operations.

The president says it will give the United States a much-needed tool to track terrorists abroad while respecting liberties at home.

"It is essential that our intelligence community knows who our enemies are talking to, what they are saying and what they are planning," he added.

This new law was the result of months of negotiations and bickering between the White House and Congress, and it is considered a big victory for the president. It includes a controversial provision that he has deemed essential: legal immunity for telephone companies that have voluntarily cooperated with such wiretaps since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"This law will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will themselves be protected from lawsuits from past or future cooperation with the government," he explained.

It was the immunity provision that dominated most of the debate on the bill in Congress. In the end, most members of the legislature acknowledged that without the grant of immunity, telephone companies would be reluctant to cooperate with further emergency wiretaps.

Chávez to shop for arms
in a visit to Russia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is expected to buy more military equipment when he visits Russia later this month. The government of Venezuela announced Thursday that Chávez will meet with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev July 22, when he begins a five-day European tour.

The statement said Chávez plans to buy new military hardware, including tanks. Venezuela has already purchased $3 billion in Russian fighter jets, helicopters and guns.

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