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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, July 28, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 148       E-mail us
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U. Latin damage
sack U. Latina

Heavy metal fans go wild and pillage area. Police use tear gas against rock throwers.

Spectator and guard survey damage at left.

Melissa Ardire

Nosara woman
dies in U.S.

Melissa Ardire was victim of strange highway crash

Texas judge unconvinced by Tomayko abuse claims
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A judge in Texas said that he thinks Chere Lyn Tomayko has not been telling the truth about abuse by her former boyfriend.

Judge William Harris was the original judge on the child custody case more than 11 years ago which has turned into an international kidnapping case and a heated issue between the U.S. Embassy and Costa Rican officials. In an unprecedented move Monday, the security minister granted refugee status to Ms. Tomayko, based largely on the mother's claim that her former boyfriend in Texas abused her.

When asked what he thought of Ms. Tomayko's current refugee status, Judge Harris said, “I think she is lying there just as she lied to me in court. I don't think she's changed.” He said Ms. Tomayko could be a very persuasive woman and must have persuaded someone in Costa Rica to believe her story.

Ms. Tomayko is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a U.S. federal court in Texas, on charges of kidnapping her daughter Alexandria in 1997. The former boyfriend and father to Alexandria, Roger Cyprian, still lives in Texas and has hired a Costa Rican lawyer.

During various hearings in Texas there was no evidence  to back up Ms. Tomayko's allegations of abuse, and, upon cross examinations, her stories were inconsistent, said Harris. He is still at the 233rd District Court in Fort Worth. He spoke to a reporter by telephone.

Harris added that as to his recollection, Ms. Tomayko did not even bring up allegations of abuse until he ruled that Cyprian be given visitations right to young Alexandria. The case had been going on for quite some time before Ms. Tomayko suddenly brought up the abuse allegations, said Harris. That was 11 years ago.

Judge Harris confirmed everything Cyprian has said in previous interviews:

• That Ms. Tomayko alleged the father sexually abused the girls and that medical evidence could not confirm the allegation.

• That Ms. Tomayko had previously fled from California and alienated her first child, Chandler, from her biological father as well.

• That Ms. Tomayko had no witnesses to back her claims, whereas Cyprian had numerous witnesses.

• That the case was long, and Ms. Tomayko continued to violate the judges orders, attempting to avoid the shared visitation.

When Harris was told that the Alexandria said here 
on television that she remembers her father beating
her he said, “When a child has been programmed as long as this child has been, they can remember anything.”

Any practicing psychologist would confirm that memories can easily be changed, said Harris. Alexandria was about a years old when the child custody proceedings began in 1990. Ms. Tomayko fled to Costa Rica with her two daughters when Alexandria was about 7 years old.

The judge said Alexandria is now 18and that his jurisdiction in the case has ended, but that his rulings were considered “perfected judgments, final and conclusive” and could be used as evidence in the federal case.

Harris added that Ms. Tomayko violated court orders several times and that he held her in contempt. Harris said her behavior in court was passive aggressive.

“She seemed like a fairly charming and well spoken person,” said Harris, “We have people all the time who are nice folks except they commit serious crimes.” Fleeing the judicial jurisdiction brought Ms. Tomayko a federal indictment and put her on the F.B.I. 10-most wanted list.

Ms. Tomayko applied for refugee status here but was denied by the Dirección General de Migración. Ms. Del Vecchio decided to grant refugee status nevertheless, although no one here, including the news media, had talked to Cyprian or to Harris.

Even President Óscar Arias Sánchez said Friday that he was satisfied that the Sala IV constitutional court released Ms. Tomayko form Buen Pastor prison where she had fought extradition to the United States for 11 months. Arias downplayed what might happen to U.S.-Costa Rican relations due to the violation of the existing child abduction and extradition treaties. He called the case a small thing and said Costa Rica was a leader in protecting human rights.

Although she is free, the case is still an active one in the constitutional court where at least two briefs are attacking the grounds by which Ms. Del Vecchio awarded refugee status.

Ms. Tomayko was able to stay so long in Costa Rica because U.S. Embassy officials would not act. Employees there appear to be among those convinced by Ms. Tomayko''s story of abuse. Only when Alexandria Cyprian reached adulthood and could not be returned to her father was Ms. Tomayko detained. By then she had had two other children, these by an Heredia veterinarian. She married that man April 6.

Embassy officials and employees have not explained their lack of action, and most of the U.S. diplomats involved are now elsewhere.

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Arias vows to get water
to all of Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez promised the people of Guanacaste water Friday during the annual Nicoya celebration. Arias said the government would continue constructing public infrastructure and battling poverty.

Water has become controversial in the province because the residents of Sardinal have rebelled against what they see as the theft of their water for condominium projects in the Playas del Coco area. Traditionally Guanacaste has always had water supply problems.

Roberto Dobles, minister of Ambiente y Energía, outlined a $28 million plan to supply water from the Río Corobici to the area west of the Río Tempisque that empties into the top of the Gulf of Nicoya. The system will use existing canals and gravity to move the water west, he said. The project is being done by the Instituto Costarricense de  Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

He said the project would be done in 2010. The project is supposed to supply a cubic meter of water every second to the western side of Guanacaste, officials said.

Every July 25, the president and others go to Guanacaste to celebrate the anniversary of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya, which joined Guanacaste to Costa Rica. They hold a meeting at which government officials discuss projects under way that will benefit the area.

Roberto Gallardo. minister of Planificación, outlined a plan of action for Guanacaste that is supposed to have a $200 million price tag. The plan addresses access to the water system, access to basic services and the environment, he said. The project is supposed to be developed in 2009 and 2010. The Arias government leaves office in 2010.

The Sardinal project has become a rallying point for opponents of the central government. Developers in the Coco area put up the money in a trust, and Acueductos y Alcantarillados is supposed to oversee the work. But there is an investigation now as to the quantity of the water source and if all the permits for the project were obtained.

The Pacific coast area of Guanacaste, as well as other fast-growing areas in Costa Rica, have outstripped the water supply and the pipes used to delivery it.

Faster work sought
on airport in Liberia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Guanacaste tourism chamber is lobbying for faster work on the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia.

The chamber, the  Cámara de Turismo Guanacasteca, extrapolated the  growth in tourist arrivals at the airport since 2001 and estimated that some 530,000 tourists would be arriving in 2010. There were   405,450 arrivals in 2007, according to the chamber's figures. Official numbers from the Dirección General de Migración and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo are still not available.

In view of the importance of the development of the airport and terminal to tourism, the chamber urged more speed in letting bids for the construction of a new airport building, said Álvaro Conejo, chamber president. He also said that officials need to remove trees and drain areas near the runway. Conejo said that the work has been more or less stalled for six months.

Bridge opening at 5 a.m.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bridge over the Río Virilla on Route 32, the San José- Limón highway, is supposed to be open today by 5 a.m.

Highway officials shut the bridge that is near the Estadio Saprissa over the weekend to allow fresh concrete to cure. Officials said they used special additives in the concrete so it would cure faster. The bridge is 30 years old, and the concrete was used to repair several sections.

Roads being resurfaced

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A main highway through La Uruca is being resurfaced at night, and parts will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for a month, according to transport officials.

The road is Route 108, and the section being resurfaced is from the  antigua Botica Solera to Pozuelo.  When that work is done, workers will be resufacing Avenida 10 in San José from La Sabana to the Iglesia de Las Ánimas.

The nightly work will be postponed in the event of heavy rains, officials said.

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Nosara woman injured in strange crash dies in New Jersey
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Melissa Ardire, an American tourist living in Costa Rica until a car crash near Nicoya last June, died Friday of complications resulting from an infection while recuperating in Cooper University Hospital, Camden, New Jersey.

“Friday night she came out of the operation and, basically, they couldn't stabilize her,” said Susan Gdovin, Ms. Ardire's aunt.

Ms. Ardire was driving a rented car from her home in Villa Tortuga, Nosara, with her 23 month-old son, Alex, when she suddenly lost control of the vehicle and crashed near the Puente de Amistad over the Río Tempisque east of Nicoya last June. She fractured two vertebrae, and was barely conscious while thieves arrived and stripped her and the car of all possessions.

Still unknown is why the car went out of control. The thieves took the tires, and they could not be inspected for a blowout.

Her son, Alex, suffered only minor injuries, but Ms. Ardire, 33, was rushed from hospital to hospital, eventually ending up in Hospital México in San José June 11. She was unable to communicate with physicians and in constant pain without adequate medication.

Ms. Gdovin, along with other members of her family, arrived in Costa Rica and began working to ensure Ms. Ardire's recovery. They procured pain medication and an interpreter for the medical staff. Ms. Ardire flew home to New Jersey June 21 and was admitted to a physical rehabilitation center. “We thought she just needed rehabilitation,” Ms. Gdovin said, “then they discovered the infection.”

Ms. Ardire was infected with klebsiella, a type of bacteria common in post-operative patients, and quickly developed other bacterial infections that began to eat away at her skin. She was transferred to the Cooper University Hospital, according to Gdovin.
Ms. Ardire and son
Melissa Ardire in a family photo with Alex

Doctors and surgeons soon became vexed with the failure of the operations, usually every three days, to remove the bacteria completely, and Ms. Ardire was quickly fading under the stress of the procedures, Ms. Gdovin said.

Friday night at 9:30, Ms. Ardire died, according to Amanda Schemelia, Melissa's sister. Her mother was at her bedside.

“Her body just gave up,” Ms. Gdovin said, “It was too much for her to keep fighting this infection.”

Ms. Gdovin has become Alex's guardian, and, despite the depth of the tragedy, she remembers her niece's last days with a certain fondness.

“I cherish the last six weeks because it gave us a chance to talk about what her closest dreams were. It gave us all a chance to talk to her,” she said, “At least I had that, I got my chance.”

The family viewing and service will be held Tuesday, according to Ms. Schemelia, who also organized efforts online to raise money for her sister's treatment and a new fund on Alex's behalf.

closing New Fatasy
Closing sign placed

on New Fantsy
New Fatasy exit
Female employees leave

New Fantasy
Musas closing
Employee at Musas locks

the firm's metal gate
zona blue closed
Photos by José Pablo Ramirez Vindas
Policeman on dury
at Zona Blue

Municipal raids on brothels were an administrative activity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The raids Friday afternoon on brothels in Barrio Amón north of the downtown were administrative not criminal.

The raids were accomplished by police officers, but the investigations were of the business licenses issued by the Municipalidad de San José. Four establishments were closed when it appeared that the business being conducted was not consistent with the declarations when the license was sought. Although some Fuerza Pública officers and immigration officials were involved, most of the activity was by the Policía Municipal of San José.

Three operations, Musas, New Fantasy and Zona Blue, are well known houses of prostitution frequented mostly by North American tourists. Although pimping is a crime in Costa Rica even while adult prostitution is legal, all three locales were expected to reopen after making their individual peace with the municipality.
Municipal officials promised more raids. They will be busy because there are perhaps 100 such houses of prostitution  in the Central Valley area, ranging from the luxurious like New Fantasy to second-floor walkups catering to mostly working class Costa Ricans.

Reaction among expats and tourists, at least the men, seemed to favor the continuation of the controlled prostitution at established business locations. Some typical responses are below.

The raids Friday afternoon were prompted by reports on Channel 7 Teletica about the older historic structures in Barrio Amón being taken over by prostitution operations.

The raids Friday did not include agents of the judicial Investigating Organization which would begin a criminal file on illegal activity. Some cynics suggested that the raids provided brothel operators with time to repaint and make repairs before the high tourist season.

Expats give their views on the value of brothels and other activities here
Brothels have economic value

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal, and many establishments follow the letter of the law by renting rooms to visitors in a legitimate hotel while letting local women of legal age to enter and remain. 

These hotels have no overt financial interest in any negotiated services outside of their own hotel, bar, restaurant and casino businesses.

Several “brothels” or “massage parlors” have been ignoring these same laws by having a financial interest in the prostitution, and the media attention has brought about some heat. 

As you read, “no arrests were made” and television cameras were present —  leading me to believe this was a publicity based police operation.  If these brothels were to remain permanently closed, Costa Rica would definitely cut down on their "per seat" tourism revenue (i.e: each airplane seat occupied by a single middle-aged white male). 

This is the Big Money tourism dollars as these types of visitors drop a couple thousand dollars in a week without using any of Costa Rica’s natural resources.

Moral arguments aside, these businesses put women to work in a structured and secure environment where their relatively high paying jobs end-up pumping cash into the local economy — benefiting all Costa Ricans.

Bottom line:  Costa Rica knows adult services are good for the economy, and there are much larger criminal problems in need of Costa Rica’s limited law enforcement resources. 

The brothels will reopen and conduct business as usual — perhaps with some changes to their operational structure, which may in fact be needed to ensure the workers are being paid appropriately.
Bill Clanton
San José Vasquez de Coronado, San Isidro
Brothels, gambling pollution

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am an American who has lived in Costa Rica for four years but has been coming here since 1971. Costa Rica is shooting themselves in the foot daily, firstly with closing massage parlors, and brothels. There is a fantastic amount of money that the sex tourist spends, and Costa Rica enjoys a friendly reputation for this.

The sex business is mainly located in the Zona Rosa district of San Jose and is as peaceful as any place of this nature in the world. This revenue will end. Costa Ricans should not be so offended as sex and fidelity are not to sacred in any socio-economic class for men or women here.

Secondly closing gambling 50 percent of the day will deterate further outside revenue. Has anybody told the government how gambling casinos work, on events i.e. how many times the slot is pulled, how many deals, or how many throws or spins, close the casinos 50 percent of the time and immediately 50 percent of the employees loose their jobs and with not enough events the casinos go broke and close.

Thirdly with the corruption, no standards, no enforcement, and lack of infrastructure planning, the oceans, the rivers, the streams, the rain forest, and the cities are all becoming polluted. My friends from the U.S., singles and couples, are looking for other places to go some to Panamá and some to Colombia as well as other places.   Fourthly Costa Rica has become very expensive to eat, hotel, and travel in, which is also putting them out of the tourist market.

So Costa Rica is running sex tourism, gambling tourism, and eco tourism off, so what else is there? Costa Ricans better take a close look at where there revenue comes from and decide if they can do without tourism, as they have not much else but fruit and lite manufacturing to export and receive revenue from. It is hard to stand on one foot when the other is not available.\
John D. Norwood

Rock and Roll pollo

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 148

Universidad Latina security guards survey the smashed windows of their office.  The higly rated school is in Montes de Oca east of San José and at the end of the valley commuter rail line.
U. Latina destruction
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias

U. Latin concertgoers riot and sack university and shops
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shattered glass littered the sidewalks and street all around Universidad Latina, crunching noisily as dozens of security guards fended off curious onlookers and set up yellow caution tape around the destroyed glass doorways.

This scene followed a riot that took place there at 1 p.m. Sunday, and nearly every window in visible university buildings appeared smashed. Massive thefts have been reported from both the university and surrounding businesses.

“I was talking to a friend, and I was telling her that I've seen these things on TV, but not for real,” said Raquel Madrigal, 20, a part owner of a cafeteria across the street from Universidad Latina that was destroyed and looted, “Not here.”

University security guard Elmer Sánchez Zepea explained that the riot began when students and visitors attending a heavy metal concert at the university were denied entry due to space limitations. Up to 400 rioters began throwing rocks at police and looting the area, causing injuries and destruction, he said. Other estimates of rioters ran into the thousands.

There were no confirmed arrests as of Sunday evening, but several security guards claimed that the police had detained several rioters. Reported injuries were very few.

“There were no more than three real injuries,” said Cruz Roja representative Alexander Porras. “From being hit by rocks in the head, body and legs, a police officer is in stable condition in the hospital.”

Ms. Madrigal looked on in shock as agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization rummaged through her family's destroyed shop, taking photos and notes. The damage here seems to make up for the lack of substantial injuries. The youthful rioters even carried off a sofa.

“They broke the window with a lamp from the university,” she said, indicating a heavy light fixture among the shards of glass, “It's hard for me to believe that kids who study here can do this.”

She was shopping elsewhere when the riot took place and was notified by a call from an alarm service attendant, she said.

Computers and other valuables were carried away from the university, and many more were seriously damaged and destroyed before officers of the Fuerza Pública arrived to stem the riot. One witness claims the riot took some time to quell. Youths with their faces covered were seen throwing rocks at police.

Alvin Blanco, another university security guard, said the riot ended about 15 minutes after the police arrived, and was very short, but the level of damage to the area and witness accounts disagree.
Vandalized store owner
A.M. Costa Rica/Jeremy Arias
Raquel Madrigal stands amid the destruction of her shop

“Finally after two hours the police came shooting tear gas and breaking up the hoodlums,” one witness said.

University of Costa Rica student and nearby resident Pamela Ramírez, 21, said she was not present during the riot, but came by later to see the damage with her friends.

“It's just so . . . stupid,” she said, scanning the shattered windows of the Clinica de Ontologia, the cancer clinic, where guards reported several computers were stolen. Others were vandalized and dumped on the floor.

Ms. Madrigal walked through the disheveled, ransacked hallways of her Latin Break cafeteria. The tile floor is smudged with muddy footprints left by the looters, and rooms once full of furniture and food displays are vacant. Damages will cost up to $100,000, a family member estimated.

At several places on the walls, long red smudges or imprints of hands and grasping fingers streaked the white paint; blood left by some of the looters who emptied the shop. Evidence of their injury seems to be Ms. Madrigal's only consolation.

“I'm thinking of reopening but in some other place.” She said with a sad smile, “It's very hard to start over, especially in a place where you don't want to.”

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Lionfish on the prowl in the Caribbean. It uses its long fins to herd smaller fish into a group that can be consumed.
lion fish on the prowl
Oregon State University photo

Struggling Caribbean coral reefs now face an exotic predator
By the Oregon State University News
 and Communication Services

The invasion of predatory lionfish in the Caribbean region poses yet another major threat there to coral reef ecosystems, according to a new study. Researchers found that within a short period after the entry of lionfish into an area, the survival of other reef fishes is slashed by about 80 percent.

Aside from the rapid and immediate mortality of marine life, the loss of herbivorous fish also sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, according to scientists from Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Following on the heels of overfishing, sediment deposits,

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nitrate pollution in some areas, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and increasing ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions, the lionfish invasion is a serious concern, said Mark Hixon, an  professor of zoology in Oregon and expert on coral reef ecology.

The study is the first to quantify the severity of the crisis posed by this invasive species, which is native to the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean and has few natural enemies to help control it in the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the first lionfish — a beautiful fish with dramatic coloring and large, spiny fins — were introduced into marine waters off Florida in the early 1990s from local aquariums or fish hobbyists. They have since spread across much of the Caribbean Sea and north along the United States coast as far as Rhode Island.

“This is a new and voracious predator on these coral reefs, and it’s undergoing a population explosion,” Hixon said. “The threats to coral reefs all over the world were already extreme, and they now have to deal with this alien predator in the Atlantic. These fish eat many other species, and they seem to eat constantly.”

Findings of the new research will be published soon in Marine Ecology Progress Series. The lead author is Mark Albins, a doctoral student working with Hixon.

In studies on controlled plots, the Oregon State University scientists determined that lionfish reduced young juvenile fish populations by 79 percent in only a five-week period. Many species were affected, including cardinalfish, parrotfish, damselfish and others. One large lionfish was observed consuming 20 small fish in a 30-minute period.

Lionfish are carnivores that can eat other fish up to two-thirds their own length, while they are protected from other predators by long, poisonous spines. In the Pacific Ocean, Hixon said, other fish have learned to avoid them and they also have more natural predators, particularly large groupers. In the Atlantic Ocean, native fish have never seen them and have no recognition of danger. There, about the only thing that will eat lionfish is another lionfis. They are not only aggressive carnivores, but also cannibals, the researchers said.

“In the Caribbean, few local predators eat lionfish, so there appears to be no natural controls on them,” Hixon said. “And we’ve observed that they feed in a way that no Atlantic Ocean fish has ever encountered. Native fish literally don’t know what hit them.”

When attacking another fish, Hixon said, the lionfish will use its large, fan-like fins to herd smaller fish into a corner and then swallow them in a rapid strike. Because of their natural defense mechanisms, they are afraid of almost no other marine life. And the poison released by their sharp spines can cause extremely painful stings to humans — even leading to fatalities for some people with heart problems or allergic reactions.

“These are pretty scary fish, and they aren’t timid,” Hixon said. “They will swim right up to a diver in their feeding posture, looking like they’re ready to eat. That can be a little spooky.”

Their rapid reproduction potential, Hixon said, must now be understood in context with their ability to seriously depopulate coral reef ecosystems of other fish. Parrotfishes and other herbivores prevent seaweeds from smothering corals. A major, invasive predator such as lionfish could disrupt the entire system.

Options to manage the lionfish threat are limited, Hixon said. They can be collected individually, which may be of localized value, but that approach offers no broad solution. Recovery or introduction of effective predators might help. Groupers, a fish that has been known to eat lionfish in the Pacific Ocean, have been heavily over-fished in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Hixon said.

“We have to figure out something to do about this invasion before it causes a major crisis,” Hixon said. “We basically had to abandon some studies we had under way in the Atlantic on population dynamics of coral reef fish, because the lionfish had moved in and were eating everything.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 148

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