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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, July 26, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 147       E-mail us    
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xxx
Manuel del Jesús Valdonado Salgado

A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Alonso Ballester Chávez is a recycler

These men are  not worried about the pump price of gas
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of  the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is one sector of the San José economy that is unaffected by the continual rise in gas prices.

That's the sector that relies on muscle power. All over the city bicycles with large front baskets, carts and other types of non-motorized delivery vehicles keep business and products moving.

Some independent businessmen use these vehicles, too. Alonso Ballester Chavez, 30, lives in  San Juan de Dios, Desamparados, and makes his money recycling. Paper, bottles, aluminum all find a home on Ballester's pullcart.

He said he leaves his home in the southern suburb at 4 a.m. for the place in San José where he keeps his cart. With muscle power he covers San José, Guadalupe and other areas to return to the Paso de la Vaca in northwest San José to sell his finds.

Ballester said he has been working like this since he was a child, and he has routes staked out where people who know him save newspapers and other recyclable items.  He
also calls from the street. He said he earns on the average from 3,000 to 4,000 colons a day, some $5.80 to $7.75. He is proud of his work.

Manuel del Jesús Valdonado Salgado, 26, lives in Barrio México and is new to the street vending business. He has been selling orange juice for about three months because he needed the work.

He starts in Barrio México on the capital's northwest corner about 6 a.m. and uses a recycled shopping cart to haul his store of oranges. He walks and pushes until 2 p.m. when he starts to return home.

Valdonado charges 250 colons, about 50 U.S. cents, for a serving of freshly squeezed orange juice. Sometimes he travels as far north as Tibás on San José's north border.

Meanwhile, the national refinery asked regulators for a 3.6 percent increase in the price of regular gasoline Monday, some 19 colons that would bring a price to about 569 colons a liter, about $1.10 or $4.17 a U.S. gallon.

For  Ballester and Valdonado this news was of mere academic interest.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 147


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Tourism police agreement
signed at Nicoya festivities


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister signed an agreement Tuesday with the tourism ministry to set up a pilot plan of the proposed tourism police.

That was announced by President Óscar Arias Sánchez when he gave his traditional July 25 speech in the Parque Central of Nicoya.

Arias also promised more potable water for the Nicoya Peninsula and announced the beginning of a feasibility study on a proposed dam at Río Piedras. The study will be financed by the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica.

Tuesday was the 182nd anniversary of the annexation or Guanacaste by the Partido de Nicoya, which voted to join with Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua. As is traditional, the central government moved to Nicoya for the day and ministers conducted the weekly Consejo de Gobierno there.

Arias praised Guanacaste for its history and traditions. He lamented the deplorable state of its roads, the increasing insecurity in its neighborhoods and the unequal distribution of the massive economic gains of the area. This is where beach development has been fueled by foreign investment and where Daniel Oduber airport near Liberia brings in 400,000 tourists a year.

Arias noted that the airport will receive improvements to its terminal and runway soon. He also noted the large investment made by business people in the area in the operation of the airport.

Arias said he promised that the three coastal provinces, Limón on the Caribbean and Puntarenas and Guanacaste on the Pacific, would be a priority of his government. He said it was time for Guanacaste to receive the attention it deserved.

Arias said that the area would receive an allotment of water from the Proyecto de Riego Arenal-Tempisque for agriculture and human use on the peninsula.

The tourism police concept has been announced. The agreement is between the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Organic sugar program
gets kids out of mills

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials have launched a program to get children under 14 out of the sugar mills and into school.

The program is called  "Dulce Granulado Orgánico sin Trabajo Infantil" or loosely translated: Organic granulated sugar without youth labor.

The program is being pushed by the Ministerio de la Producción, the former agriculture ministry, and the Ministry de Educación Publicá. Officials said Tuesday that 80 youngsters have been sent from the mills by cooperating sugar producers, mainly in the Cantón de Mora and the Puriscal vicinity.

Also involved in the Ministerio de Trabajo, the Embassy of Canada and the International Labour Organization, a U.N. agency.

The project is expected to ship its first container full of sugar produced without child labor to Europe next months, officials said.

Some 63 producers of the Asociación de Productores Orgánicos de Dulce de la Zona de Mora y Puriscal have given support to the project. The association has a modern sugar plant with a closed system of evaporation. Youth help is less needed here.

The education ministry said it has installed a televised secondary school in the area for youngsters who would have been working in the sugar industry.

Dagoberto Elizondo Valverde, director for the production ministry in the zone, said that in the past youth labor was accepted. Youngsters attended oxen, chopped the sugar cane, poured the liquid sugar and engaged in any number of dangerous jobs.

The labor organization says that in Costa Rica some 113,228 youngsters are involved in mostly agricultural work. Officials identify the situation as a socio-economic one.

Murder of judicial aide
still dominates news


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The murder and subsequent arrest of a defense lawyer continues to be the top story on the San José television stations.

Viewers of Channel 7 Teletica saw 14 minutes of little more than agents driving up to search the apartment of Luis Fernando Burgos and his dead wife, Maureen Hidalgo Tuesday afternoon.

Cameramen became excited when Burgos, now in custody, was brought to the scene to witness the search.

Meanwhile, a string of other deaths, including that of Carl D. Brainard, a U.S. expat in Nosara, are being ignored. Brainard's body was found July 12 in the Pacific beach town.

Investigators believe that Burgos killed his wife July 11 and then made a number of telephone calls to acquaintances to seek help hiding the body. A female prosecutor has been suspended because of contact she had then with Burgos.

The body was not discovered until July 16 when it was located on a road near Atenas. The woman also worked in the Poder Judicial as an assistant to a judge.

Truck contains dozen illegals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in Cariari, Pococí de Limón, stopped a truck Tuesday only to find 24 persons in the cargo area. Officials said 12 of them were illegal aliens. The driver was held. The illegal residents will be deported.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 147








Association works with Hospital Nacional de Niños
When children are badly burned they give support
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An association is working to ease the pain and disfigurement and increase the mobility of young burn victims.
 
When every other door closes on a suffering young face, the Asociación Pro—Ayuda al Niño Quemado at the Hospital Nacional de Niños in San José hopes to be there to give spiritual or a physical support —

especially when the victim is  a child of low economic status.

The cause of the burn and suffering is diverse, and the enemy could be at home or
any place. Some 55 percent of burn cases are caused by hot liquids, followed by the direct fire contact, hot objects, electricity, chemicals, the sun and fireworks, say experts who study prevention.

Even with those factors, 90 percent of the injuries don’t cover more than 10 percent of the body area and are not worse than second-degree burns in 95 percent of the cases according to the association. But it is the 5 percent that is tragic.

The Asociación Pro—Ayuda al Niño Quemado, a non- profit organization that started work with burned children in 1984,  is working in prevention and treatment, the last with the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas.

The Shriners receive children with more of the 40 percent third-degree burns from Costa Rica. The association also has a special unit inside the Hospital Nacional de Niños, according to Nayra Gaspar Calvo,


A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Nayra Gaspar Calvo, association president

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A physican and nurse change dressings on a burned child in the Hospital Nacional de Niños facility.

president of the association since December 2005.

The work of the association is not always successful. The first child helped by the organization spent nine months in the special hospital in Galveston and then died.

The death showed the need for the organization, said Ms. Gaspar, because the burned lad put up a valiant fight that he could not have maintained in Costa Rica.

The work of the association is free to those it helps. The Shriners organization also provides free hospitalization. The association pays for transportation for a burn victim and transportation and food for the responsible family member.

In Costa Rica the association provides therapy.

In new construction at the Hospital de Niños, the association expects that an entire floor will be dedicated to burn victims. The treatment will include psychological and sociological as well as physical care.

The association also does education work with fliers and posters to prevent burns and to provide basic first aid information in case they occur.

The association also visits schools and other places were youngsters may be found to provide basic prevention information. Costa Rica has its own unique risks.

Many kitchens in Costa Rica are fueled by individual gas cylinders. These can explode or otherwise cause damage to those nearby.

Poor families or those forced to live communally often share electrical services that frequently are overloaded to the point of ignition. So youngsters can be burned badly in their own homes.

Right now the association has about 20 cases in its care. One youngster is in Galveston, and another, Santos Bonilla, will return there for more treatment next month.


Columnist Jo Stuart incorporates her observations in a new book
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jo Stuart, the A.M. Costa Rica columnist, has published a book containing her 13 years of insights into Costa Rica and the culture.

In all, the book "Butterfly in the City: A good life in Costa Rica" contains 93 columns from both this newspaper and The Tico Times where Ms. Stuart also

Jo Stuart
was a columnist.

The book title comes from a column in which the author saw butterflies being released to celebrate the anniversary of the abolition of the Costa Rican military.

But, of course, the title has a double meaning because Ms. Stuart is, herself, a
butterfly, flitting around collecting  bits for her columns. And she is a self-confessed city girl.

The 228-page paperback sells for $10.95 plus shipping
and is available in some San José bookstores.

Ms. Stuart, a U.S. citizen, has lived in other foreign countries, so she brings her experiences to her columns. They generally are taken from the daily routine of an expat here, from shopping in the feria or vegetable market to doing battle with immigration for a residency renewal.

One area in which Ms. Stuart is an expert is the clinics and hospitals, mostly of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which she favors.  She had written candidly about her falls, her treatments and her stays in the various hospitals and reports "There are times when I think I am writing a primer on the health care system in Costa Rica . . . ."

But as in her columns she is universally upbeat. Most of the dated or political columns did not make the book, which was edited by Sandra Shaw Homer of Tilarán. Small illustrations are by Sandra Conant Strachan of Escazú.






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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 147




Russia urged to reconsider giving Chávez new planes
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States Tuesday again urged the Russian government to reconsider a $1 billion military aircraft sale to Venezuela. U.S. officials say Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' weapons plans exceed the country's defensive needs.

The U.S. appeal came as Chávez arrived in Moscow for a visit expected to include the signing of several weapons deals, among them the $1 billion purchase of 30 Sukhoi SU-30 jets and a like number of military helicopters.

The SU-30 is a long-range, multi-role fighter jet and would be a major upgrade over aging U.S.-supplied F-16 aircraft that have been the mainstay of the Venezuelan air force.

At a news briefing, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States has raised its concerns with Moscow over the proposed sale, which he said would be in the best interests of neither Russia nor Venezuela.

"We repeatedly talked to the Russian government that the arms purchases planned by Venezuela exceeded its defensive needs, and are not helpful in terms of
regional stability," said Mr. Casey.  "Certainly, given the fact that this aircraft costs between $30 million and $45 million each, depending which model you're talking about, kind of raises some questions about Venezuela's priorities."

The spokesman did not say if the United States would make a last-minute diplomatic appeal to Russian authorities over the pending sale.

But he said the Bush administration has had a number of discussions with Moscow about the issue and will probably have more.

The United States has accused Chávez, a left-leaning populist, of curbing democratic freedoms at home and meddling in affairs of neighboring states.

The Venezuelan leader has alleged a U.S. role in a military coup that briefly unseated him in 2002, and says he needs new weapons, including 100,000 Russian assault rifles, because of alleged U.S. invasion plans.

Chávez arrived in Russia from neighboring Belarus, where he held talks with President Alexander Lukashenko, who has also been a target of U.S. criticism because of his authoritarian governing style.


Press group expresses concern over Mexican newsman who vanished
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mexican judicial officials believe a Mexican journalist who has been missing since July 8 probably was kidnapped by drug traffickers, says the Paris-based press advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders.

The press group said that Rafael Ortiz Martínez, who disappeared in Monclova in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, had written at least five reports about drug trafficking in that Mexican city.

Reporters Without Borders said if Ortiz Martínez actually was abducted by drug traffickers, the organization "would be extremely concerned" about his fate.  The group said drug trafficking has become a "virtually untouchable subject for Mexican journalists, who have to choose between censoring themselves or putting their lives in danger."
Reporters Without Borders urged Mexican authorities to launch an investigation of the reporter's disappearance, "given the gravity of this case."

Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira Valdés said that drug traffickers often use abduction as a way to intimidate the media, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The press group said the case resembles that of Alfredo Jiménez Mota, from the newspaper El Imparcial in the city of Hermosillo, who disappeared in April 2005 in the northern Mexican state of Sonora after investigating drug trafficking.

The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association and the Organization of American States also have expressed concern about the disappearance of Ortiz Martínez.


Home intruders flee but police catch up with one suspect
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers arrested one of four men who burst into a home in the San Sebastián section of San José, held residents at bay and took appliances. 

The robbers fled, and police followed to San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados where the vehicle was 
abandoned. Inside police found a crowbar, a ski mask and a stereo set that had been stolen.

Officers quickly arrested a man with the last names of Ballestero Félix who victims had identified.

The men broke through the porton or metal gate at the house and held weapons on the occupants.






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