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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, July 14, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 137       E-mail us
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Watch out for browsing water buffalo in Atenas!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Atenas-based technical university will study the feasibility of raising water buffalo on a commercial scale in Costa Rica.

The university's  Escuela Centroamericana de Ganadería is getting the loan of four of the creatures from a Guanacaste businessman. The idea is to explore possible commercial uses for the water buffalo over a period of three years.

The school already agrees that the meat is low in cholesterol and high in protein.  The milk is top quality, too, the school reports.

These are the docile, Asian water buffalo, as anyone who has tried to milk a North American bison will be happy to hear.

The Universidad Técnica Nacional also said that the animals can eat plant material that regular cows reject and that they are resistant to humid
water buffalo

conditions. Part of the program will be to train students to work with and raise the animals.

The four water buffalo are on loan from Luis Clachar Rivas, who runs a tour buisness in Guanacaste. There was the suggestion that the animals would be good for tourism, too.

The animals are sometimes called bufalinas in Spanish to differentiate them from the bison and the fierce water buffalo found in Africa.

Zelaya sets weekend deadline for his reinstatement
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Casa Presidencial said Monday that negotiations would resume Saturday between the delegations representing both sides in the Honduran political crisis.

But ousted Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya has issued what he calls an ultimatum for his return to power.

Zelaya spoke to reporters in Nicaragua on Monday. He says the interim Honduran government that deposed him in June must give him back the presidency within a week.

Zelaya said that if he does not resume office by the weekend, he will consider the discussions a failure.

The consequences of the ultimatum were not spelled out, but Central American politicians are concerned that leftist backers of Zelaya, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, might consider military action. Chávez
already has threatened to invade Honduras in support of Zelaya.

Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez has spoken of the domino effect of the coup that ousted Zelaya. The Honduran military detained him June 28 and sent him to Costa Rica. The Honduran supreme court had accused him of trying to make unlawful constitutional changes to seek another term. 

Arias most likely was thinking of Ortega, who has a slim hold on Nicaragua, having been elected by a minority of the popular vote. Some saber rattling would generate  popular support.

Chávez over the weekend talked about a possible coup in El Salvador where left wing Carlos Mauricio Funes has just taken over the presidency. Politicians on the scene were surprised by the comment.

The United States, the Organization of American States and many countries have called for Zelaya's reinstatement.

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Parents held in death
of child who was beaten

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A month-old baby has died from multiple wounds, and law officers are holding the parents.

The victim, Britanny Linares Wu, died in Sauce de San Vicente de Tres Ríos, la Unión. Investigators say that the child was exposed to multiple beatings during her short life.

They said she suffered fractures which showed signs of healing. Death was due to multiple injures that led to bleeding in the head and face.  She died Friday.

Investigators detained the parents early Saturday and sought preventative detention in a judicial process Monday.

Public employees get 1.21%

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public employees will be getting a 1.21 percent raise for the second half of the year, the Ministerio de Trabajo decided Monday. Public employee unions expressed their dissatisfaction.

Our readers' opinions
Saving money is fine
as a reason to move here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I take issue with nearly everything in Barry Schwartz’s letter telling expats to stop complaining or go back to their home country. I do imagine he is right that most expats, including me, moved here because it’s cheaper to live. What’s wrong with that? That is a valid, ethical and common sense reason to make the move here. It’s the same reason people are leaving expensive states like California and flocking to places like Idaho, Utah, and others.

Why not move somewhere where your money goes a little farther and you can enjoy a better standard of living? Sounds pretty reasonable to me. He makes it sound as if the economic advantage is a less than noble reason to make the move to someplace like Costa Rica.

In the five years I have lived here, prices have risen much faster than the colon-to-dollar exchange rate. That means I have much less purchasing power, and that purchasing power was one of the main attractions for my moving here. When that is eroded, without an accompanying increase in efficiency or comfort, I’m not supposed to complain? And electricity? The price has skyrocketed and while I haven’t done a comparison, I suspect the price for electricity in Costa Rica is now higher than in most states in the U.S.

I live in a rural area and have a small house. I don’t have air conditioning, and I don’t have a swimming pool. I have a few ceiling fans, a refrigerator, washer and dryer (which I use sparingly), and a small German on-demand (i.e., very energy efficient) style hot water heater, and my electric bill routinely runs $100 or more per month.

Yes, Mr. Schwartz, I think that is ridiculous especially considering the reliability of that electricity. You live in Escazú so your power is probably fairly stable. Where I live, the power goes off several times per week, anywhere from a minute to several hours and the voltage fluctuates dramatically. Even though I have heavy surge protectors on my circuits, I’ve lost more than one piece of electronics and had several battery backups wear out prematurely because of the huge power fluctuations.

But, let me see, I am now paying U.S. prices or more, but I’m getting extremely unstable electricity but I am not supposed to voice any displeasure. If I am paying first world prices, I think I have a right to expect reliable service.

As far as paying much more than the going rate for hired help, I agree with Mr. Schwartz’s friends — he is ruining it for the rest of us. I don’t believe in trying to get something for nothing. I believe in paying a fair price for goods and services. If 2,000 colons an hour is a normal wage in Costa Rica, then that’s what we should pay. It doesn’t work well to judge things here by the culture in the U.S. or whatever country an expat is from.

If you moved from say New York to Phoenix and needed a plumber and that plumber said his/her fee would be $30 an hour, would you say “Oh, well, I’m from New York and in New York the plumbers get $80 an hour so that’s what I am going to pay you”? I don’t think so. It’s the same here. Paying someone an exorbitant rate does raise prices artificially for everyone else and it promotes the prevalent thinking here that all Gringos are wealthy. And I think it also promotes the two price system – one for Gringos and one for Ticos. Not good.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Schwartz in saying that Costa Rica is a wonderful country. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. The good far outweighs the bad. But I, like many expats have contributed significantly to the local economy here by building houses, hiring workers, etc., so I think when things aren’t right I have a right to speak out.

Brad Morgan

Five-year resident explains
her approach to saving

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Ticos have ZEST!
My husband I have lived in Costa Rica for approximately five years with our three children. We have found in our experience there are ways to avoid being overcharged for items. Most importantly you don't have to pay higher prices than the Ticos. We always get at least three bids (sometimes four-to-five) on services before we have any kind of work done on our house. I tell all contractors in the very beginning, "I must wait to get the bids back before I make a decision."  This will incline them to try and give the lowest bid — much like the government requires of contractors bidding on jobs by outsourcing.  Even then, if the price does not seem fair for the services or goods provided, I have a choice to continue my search a lower price.
We live in Escazú, and it seems to be the land of plenty ($$$$$$.) You will surely pay more money for almost everything in this area, because Gringos are viewed as being rich, and many live in this area.  I shop in places like Pequeno Mundos verses paying the high costs of the Hypermas. I grow many of our own vegetables and fruits.

As Gringos we must to learn how to change our lifestyles. If you live frivolously you will pay dearly. If you frugally shop there are plenty of deals to be had.  I shop Craigslist Costa Rica and have found numerous bargains from the Gringos who pack up and move back to the U.S. because they can't seem to adapt to the culture in Costa Rica.

Gringos move here and pay double the costs of the same item in the states, and I buy the same item from them for half or less the amount they originally paid for it. I negotiate and bargain when buying from vendors — such as — items made of iron, or on furniture made locally, and when I offer cash I almost always receive a small discount as well.

Bartering for a better price is naturally expected in Costa Rica.  I thrive on getting the best deal possible- and if you are not willing to put forth the effort to get that deal, it for sure is not going to come knocking on your door! I think the same would apply in the U.S.
Perhaps the warm smiles from the Ticos are a facade and possibly superficial, but in my experience the average Tico has more integrity and class than most North Americans. I'm always appalled when I travel back to the States and observe the actions and behavior of some of the loud and rude people in my home country. 

Another good point that should be considered: take a moment and consider just how difficult the life of a typical Tico is compared to that of the average Gringo. I think you will realize the Gringos should be the people smiling and giving the extra bit of kindness and compassion. If they had to live their lives the way many Ticos do on a daily basis they would be whining and crying to anybody who would listen. I truly admire the people of Costa Rica. They manage to take what life offers good or bad and make the best of it. They live their lives with amazing zest. I sometimes feel envious of their true inner happiness. This is not an act or a facade — it is genuine!
My first couple of years of living in Costa Rica was a huge learning experience for me. I have since then learned to have more patience. I understand and accept things are not perfect nor will they be. The benefits obviously outweigh the downsides of living here. If not, perhaps Mexico is a good option. Just keep in mind electronics may be cheaper but most North Americans would not feel as safe living in Mexico as they would in Costa Rica. 

The peace of mind granted by living in a fairly safe country justifies a few higher prices, don't you think? Before you say it, yes, Costa Rica has crime but not at the same rate in comparison to the crime of Mexico or Brazil. Of course there is the last option: you can go back to the U.S. and try and find the grandioso lifestyle you are accustomed to.
Debbie Rice

Petty crime breeds worse

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Given the lackadaisical attitude of the culture regarding juvenile crime, it is hard to imagine what constructive purpose would be served by protecting the identity of these "juveniles."  Unless Costa Rica can better differentiate between "juveniles" and "criminals," chronic petty crime will continue to breed more serious offenses.

T.A. Tisthammer
Bellvue, Colorado

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 137

Chlor free

The ruined El Castillo was once a stronghold on the Río San Juan protecting against pirates and invaders. Now it is a tourist attraction.

More photos of the river and a news report are HERE!
El Castillo on the Rio San Juan
A.M. Costa Rica file photo

World Court decision could spark Río San Juan development
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The decision reported Monday by the International Court of Justice gives Costa Rica an opportunity for more aggressive development along the Río San Juan.

Costa Rica got most of what it wanted when it took the case to The Hague in 2005. The court reaffirmed the right of free passage for commerce and expanded that term to include tourism and passengers.

The Costa Rican zone along the river is underdeveloped. Costa Rica wanted the right to allow armed police to travel on the river, mainly because the roads are so bad or nonexistent. The court did not go so far as to allow this, but the pressure will be on security officials now to lobby for better roads in the zone. Meanwhile, police moving from one duty station to another will have to find other ways to travel.

More importantly, the decision removed the fears Costa Ricans and tourists might have of Nicaraguan soldiers on the north bank of the 205-kilometer (127-mile) stretch. The soldiers have been known to act arbitrarily at times, although sometimes minor crackdowns were orchestrated by whatever government was in Managua at the moment.

The court made clear that tourists from Costa Rica do not have to purchase a Nicaraguan tourist visa to use the river.

Most of the sports fishing for tarpon is in the mouth of the
Río Colorado, an outlet to the the Caribbean that is totally within Costa Rica. So that is not an issue. However, Nicaragua could prevent any form of sports fishing in the San Juan because the international court only validated the rights of residents to fish for subsistence.

The reaction was universally favorable to the court decision, including among Nicaraguan officials.

In Costa Rica the Defensoría de los Habitantes urged the central government to pay attention to the infrastructure, health services, security and development for the thousands of persons who live in the zone.

The decision represents an excellent opportunity for public policies to be redirected to this region that has been overlooked in the past, said the Defensoría.

Lisbeth Quesada Tristán. the defensora, said that there were old cases where residents had sought government aid. She mentioned the community of La Victoria de Upala where residents have been complaining about boundary problems since 1994.

Other communities face periodic flooding.

The court case was based in the fact that the international boundary is the south bank of the Río San Juan and not the middle of the river. Costa Rica relied on a 19th century treaty that promised the country free transport for commercial purposes.

Public schools to stay closed another week because of flu
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health and education officials said Monday that they were extending the midyear vacation for public school children one more week until July 27 as a way to stop the spread of swine flu.

They made the announcement after the death of a sixth person infected with the virus became known. This was a 44-year-old man in apparent good health who became sick about 10 days before his death and contracted a bacterial disease. He died Thursday of septic shock, said the Ministerio de Salud.

That followed on the heels of a much publicized case of a 25-year-old woman pregnant with twins who died Wednesday. She had been ill also for 10 days.

Two more persons have died, and lab tests are being run to
see if they were infected with the swine flu.

Health officials expect private schools to follow the lead of the public schools.

The country now has 351 confirmed swine flu cases with 19 cases being considered probable pending tests.

Health officials said that closing a few schools when there are cases of swine flu is not an effective strategy. They said that the incidence of asthma among children is about 32 percent, which is a risk factor.

By closing the schools, the health officials said they seek to blunt the peak of the epidemic.

Both María Luisa Ávila Agüero, the health minister, and  Leonardo Garnier, minister of Educación Pública, agreed with the decision. They spoke at a press conference.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 137

Panamá insurance company gets preliminary approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first international insurance company has received initial approval from the Superintendencia de Pensiones, which oversees the fledgling industry.

The new arrival is Sociedad Aseguradora Mundial S.A., which is affiliated with Grupo Mundial Tenedora, S.A, which operated insurance companies in all of Central America. It is based in Panamá.

This is the second company to receive preliminary authorization from the Superintendencia and the first working on foreign capital. The first was the Sociedad de Seguros del Magisterio, which is associated with the Magisterio Nacional, the teachers' welfare organization.  

These developments are the result of legislation passed to implement the free trade treaty with the United States. The
government-owned Instituto Nacional de Seguros has lost its monopoly status.

The Superintendencia said that Aseguradora Mundial applied in January. But the firm is a long way from selling policies here. The Superintendencia said it had approved its constitution, but there are other requirements. One is to deposit an unspecified amount of money in the Banco Central de Costa Rica. The company also needs to present reports on its plans, its technology and physical infrastructure, said the Superintendencia. The firm has four months to do this.

Javier Cascante, the superintendent of pensions, said that the opening of the insurance market is a good thing for Costa Rican consumers.

In addition to approval for insurance companies, the Superintendencia will be authorizing individual agents.

Renewal of vehicle restrictions in San José expected soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials are expecting President Óscar Arias Sánchez to sign another decree limiting traffic in the metropolitan area.

The restrictions are expected to be the same as those thrown out by the Sala IV constitutional court a month ago. Vehicles will be prohibited from entering the area if the last digit of the license plate is one of two banned that day.
The area of restriction was from La Uruca on the west to the Circunvalación on the south and east, that is most of the central city of San José.

Most taxi drivers who traverse the city frequently say that the restrictive measures did free up traffic.

The restrictions are expected to go into effect next Monday if officials can get the document published in time in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

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Early dementia diagnosis
means early treatment

By the University of Michigan news service

At 81, Alberta Sabin’s mind is not as sharp as it used to be, and she knows it.

She frequently misplaces common items, forgets names and appointments, some of the most frustrating aspects of memory loss, she says.
“I had been looking for my cell phone for three days and would you believe I found it laying on the counter in plain sight?,” Ms. Sabin says. “There it was, and I thought why didn’t I see it before?”
It is that frustration that motivated Sabin to participate in University of Michigan-sponsored research designed to better diagnose and treat dementia before it escalates.
Sabin is one of millions of Americans who experience memory loss and may eventually be diagnosed with dementia.
“This is an explosive disease,” says Sid Gilman, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the university's Health System, who conducts research with Ms. Sabin and others in her community. “It’s a horrible disease that robs people of their humanity. They forget their families and friends.”
Roughly 50 percent of people who reach 85 will become demented, according to studies conducted by investigators at Rush Medical Center in Chicago.
By age 100, the number spikes to 60 percent. Of those who develop dementia, roughly 60 percent will prove to have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s predicted that the current number of patients with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States is roughly 5 million. By the year 2050, it will grow to about 30 million, presenting a significant financial burden to the healthcare system.
Gilman and other researchers at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, have a keen interest in patients like Ms. Sabin. The center first received grant support from the National Institutes of Health in 1989 and has continued to receive funding since.
Researchers have so far studied 80 patients in a project that has been going on for four years on the diagnosis of Alzheimer's at the earliest sign of cognitive dysfunction. Researchers would ultimately like to evaluate 120.
One of the goals of the research is to determine the best tool for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: PET scans or clinical evaluations. In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, there are other possible diagnoses with early onset cognitive impairment, including multiple strokes, frontotemporal dementia, corticobasal degeneration, and the cognitive disorder associated with Parkinson’s disease, which is termed dementia with Lewy bodies.
“The earliest possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease would be to the patient’s greatest advantage,” Gilman said.
PET, or positron emission tomography, is an imaging study that allows doctors to evaluate the use of certain substances by the brain. Normally, the brain uses glucose as a fuel. Using PET scans, doctors can image the amount of glucose used by the brain to determine whether there’s a difference in brain use by the frontal lobe, temporal lobe or the parietal lobe. PET gives the ability to make predictions as to those individuals who will go on from mild impairment of memory to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Ms. Sabin, whose mother and grandmother had dementia, is participating in research that will help diagnose and treat the illness earlier in life.
“I have trouble remembering names and the most frustrating is when they are names of people I know really well, I just can’t bring the name to the surface,” Ms. Sabin says.
“I felt I needed to do this because with my family history,” Ms. Sabin says. “I felt studies I was participating in would help other people so that they won’t have to go through what I did with my own relatives.”
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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 137

Latin American news digest
Colombians hunt down, kill
Pablo Escobar's hippo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian officials said Friday they have killed a hippopotamus that escaped from the famous menagerie of fallen Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar.

Authorities say at least two hippopotamuses bolted from the late drug lord's zoo two years ago and have survived on the lush vegetation of the steamy Magdalena valley in northern Colombia.

The Colombian government recently ordered the animals killed, saying they posed a risk to local communities. Animal rights activists have denounced the hunt.

Cocaine king Escobar, who maintained a private zoo of exotic animals, was gunned down by police in 1993.   Most of his animals were turned over to zoos after his death.

U.S. federal budget deficit
hits $1 trillion for first time

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. government is spending more money than it is taking in — at an unprecedented level.

The Treasury Department said Monday the federal budget deficit has exceeded $1 trillion for the first time. 

In the midst of a severe recession, Washington is spending billions on programs to stimulate the economy.  At the same time, tax receipts have slowed because of the downturn.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also drawing down the government's purse.

The Treasury released new numbers that put the deficit for the month of June at more than $94 billion.  At nine months into the fiscal year, that pushes the total above $1 trillion.

Economists say with the government owing that much money, they worry about rising interest rates and inflation.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details