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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, Aug. 6, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 154      E-mail us
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Venezuelan commercial trawler
Photo by Gary Carter
La Rosa Mistica encicles a presumed school of tuna
Sports fisherman decries bullying by tuna seiner
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The owner of a Costa Rican sports fishing boat said that a Venezuelan tuna seiner threatened to run down his boat while the commercial fishing boat's helicopter dropped incendiary devices on all sides.

The goal was to force the sports fishing boat from an area favored by spinner dolphins, which suggests the presence of tuna below the water.

This is the latest confrontation between a large commercial fish factory and sports fishing boats. The confrontation happened just 20 miles offshore from Playa Garza on the Nicoya Peninsula, according to the boat owner.

He is Gary Carter, and his boat is the Silver-Rod-O. He is a successful sports fisherman who has been in Costa Rica since the late 1980s. He is irked that the Costa Rican government permits such activities within waters it controls.

The confrontation happened Sunday. The commercial tuna boat is the La Rosa Mistica, which was not flying a national flag, according to Carter. He said the confrontation was unexpected:

"We were celebrating one of our guest's first-ever sailfish release, when the seiner veered from it's course and headed directly toward our boat. The helicopter then began making passes over us, as it circled the dolphin school. As the seiner came closer and began setting it's net, the helicopter started dropping incendiary devises around us and the school of spinners. Several landed within 50 meters of our boat, and in all directions, there was smoke billowing from the water.

"We were determined to continue fishing the area and not yield our position, but the seiner headed straight toward us, threatening to either encircle us in their net or be plowed into the sea unless we abandoned the school of dolphin. Rather than
endanger our guests, we retreated and watched and listened as the La Rosa Mistica closed the net and it's crew obnoxiously celebrated it's victory."

Carter said the Venezuelan captain declined to engage in a radio conversation and would not respond to hails from the sports fishing boat.
The explosive devices dropped by the helicopter crew are designed to chase away the dolphin.

This is not the first time Carter has been threatened by commercial boats. "This is certainly not the first encounter of it's type in Costa Rican waters, but it's time that something is done about it." he said.

Carter also attributed the decline of large tuna to heavy fishing by commercial craft like the La Rosa Mistica. He said that the average tuna catch now is from 25 to 35 pounds in place of fish weighing over 100 pounds in the past.

A study by the Billfish Foundation found that North Americans traveling here in 2008 to fish generated $599 million or about 2 percent of Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. It found that sports fishing was a bigger generator of income to the country than commercial fishing.

The study, conducted in 2009 by The Billfish Foundation, Southwick Associates and the University of Costa Rica, revealed 283,790 anglers visited Costa Rica. It was estimated 22 percent of those tourists visited the country for the exclusive purpose of fishing.

From that $599 million the study also showed sportfishing generated almost $78 million in tax revenues for Costa Rica and 63,000 jobs. In comparison, the effect of commercial fishing for the same species sought by anglers generated approximately $528 million to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product. Commercial fishing contributed $68.6 million in tax revenue and created 57,000 jobs.

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Canadian fugitive sent back
despite citizenship here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian resident here has been extradited back to his homeland to face a murder charge even though he managed to obtain Costa Rican citizenship.

The Costa Rican Constitution prohibits the extradition of citizens here.

Officials had to seek and obtain an annulment of the citizenship granted to the man,  Marc Eudores Fournier, before extradition could take place.  That action was taken by the Tribunal Supremo de Eleciones, although the exact grounds were not reported by the office of the Fiscal General de la República. Being a murder fugitive would have made him ineligible for citizenship.

Fournier lived in Guanacaste. He was detained Jan. 15 in conjunction with the International Police Agency agents here. The extradition was ordered by the  Tribunal Penal de Guanacaste in Santa Cruz.

Poisoning leads to death
for one of five in San Ramón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A case of poisoning and murder is developing in San Ramón.

A man died early Thursday after being hospitalized for poisoning He was one of five persons who are believed to be victims. Two still are hospitalized and two left the hospital Thursday.

Being held is a man with the names of Solano Jiménez, who already has been remanded to preventative detention.

The Judicial investigating Organization identifiedddd the man who died as  Carlos Luis Jiménez Núñez, 40. He was hospitalized Tuesday, as were the others.

 The other four victims have the last names of Vásquez Vargas, Ugalde Hidalgo, Hurtado García and Zúñiga Méndez, said the Poder Judicial.l.l.l.l.l.l.l.

 Prosecutors are calling the case murder and four cases of attempted murder. The circumstances are unclear as is the nature of the toxic material that the victims drank. Agents are awaiting a report from the morgue.

There might be another death connected to this case. Also Thursday police were called because someone found a body in the public right-of-way in San Ramón. The victim, a man, was identified by the last name of Matarrita, said the Judicial Investigating Organization, He was 49.

Tightening of mining rules
advances in legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The environmental committee of the legislature has approved unanimously a reform of the nation's mining code to forbid open pit mines of the type that is being developed in Cutris de San Carlos. The current project is not affected by the proposal.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana introduced this proposal in 2005. Recent protests against the Las Crucitas project in Cutris have brought the issue of mines into the center of the political arena.

Acción Ciudadana said it would seek a legislative approval to put the mine reform on the fast track. That would reduce discussion and speed approval.

Specifically forbidden is the use of chemicals like cyanide, mercury and other toxic substances in the mining process. Exempted for 10 years are mines in Abangares, Osa and Golfito. Permitted is subsistence mining by individuals.

Ford gets loan guarantee
to export 200,000 vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama says his administration will help U.S. auto giant Ford Motor Co. export more than 200,000 vehicles by giving the company a loan guarantee.

Obama announced the move Thursday on a visit to a Ford plant in his hometown of Chicago in the U.S. Midwest.  Ford will receive the loan guarantee from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a government agency that provides credit for export transactions.

Obama's tour of the Ford plant follows a visit last week to the city of Detroit, where he inspected facilities of U.S. automakers, General Motors and Chrysler.  Obama has said his administration's $60 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler last year prevented a collapse of the two companies and saved jobs.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
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 weekday.

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.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
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Contacting us
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Visiting us
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More police join the ranks with graduation ceremony
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 679 new Fuerza Pública officers were graduated Thursday in a ceremony in the Teatro Melico Salazar after a parade down Avenida Central.

This is another step in the 15-year effort to professionalize the police forces, said President Laura Chinchilla.

An additional 91 officers were graduated from higher levels of training in the same ceremony.

Sunday will be three months since Ms. Chinchilla took office. The fabled 100 days is a bit more than a week away. This is the period by which presidents since Franklin Roosevelt are judged. But in the case of Ms. Chinchilla, security initiatives still are in the questionnaire stage.

The president has asked a U.N. agency here to gather concerns and comments from the citizenry.

Since José María Tijerino, took over as security minister, there have been more police in the streets at his order. But at least in downtown San José they mostly seem to walk around in pairs.

The bulk of the security experts inside and outside the government agree that the major security problem with the country rests with the courts.

As expats have put it, the situation is catch and release.

Magistrates in the Corte Suprema de Justicia now have the job of picking a new chief prosecutor because Francisco Dall'Anese resigned to head a U.N. commission in Guatemala.

The decision rests totally with the magistrates because the Ministerio Público, the prosecutorial agency, is within their domain.

The recruits who graduated Thursday completed the initial training at the Escuela Nacional de Policía. They will join a force that is fighting high absenteeism.  
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Ms. Chinchilla destroys a weapon

Ms. Chinchilla is a strong believer in gun control. Her point of view has been reinforced in the last two weeks by several high-profile shooting incidents involving youngsters. In one case a 17-year-old fatally wounded the female director of his private school in Heredia. He used his father's handgun.

Administration security initiatives are expected to tighten controls on weapon permits and possession. Ms. Chinchilla went from the ceremony Thursday to nearby Parque Central where she cut up a weapon that had been surrendered by a family as a symbolic gesture to protest violence.

There's light reading awaiting you outside on the street
It has been said, and I have repeated more than once, that the best places for thinking (and if you’re lucky, creative thinking) is in bed, in the bath and on the bus.  I opt for the bus and add walking.  To help, are the billboards at bus stops.  I will preface this by saying that I have a habit of reading all signs and billboards and names posted on buildings.  I am an advertiser’s dream target. 

This past week at the bus stop in front of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad two new billboards appeared.  One of them reads “San José”  And under a picture of a man tending a flower bed, are the words, “Clean and healthy; Use the waste cans.” And I had noticed that there actually are trash cans on street corners downtown.

On the other billboard a black figure is holding a sign that says No me etiquete.  "Don’t label me", then a series of words: Zorra, Solterona, Atea, Lesbiana, Mala Madre. "Prostitute*, spinster, atheist, lesbian, bad mother.”  followed  by “You have the right to make your own decisions, I have the right to make mine.” Ud. Tiene derecha a tomar sus decisiones.  Yo tengo derecha a tomar las mias. The ad is sponsored by the Colectiva por el Derecha a Decidir.  *(I don’t like the word ‘prostitute’ when applied to women because over the years it has become such a punitive and judgmental word.  I prefer ‘courtesan’ or even ‘working girl.’)

The two billboards have similar messages:  don’t dump trash in the streets and don’t trash other people for their life choices or beliefs.

Signs like these make me feel good that I live in a country that is reminding people to do the right thing. 

Down the street is another billboard (after all, I am walking) aimed at the young.  It has comic book drawings of kids and instructions of what to do to help their families
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

to prepare for an emergency.  The pictures alone should attract kids to read it, as it did me.

But all is not seriousness.  On the other side of one of the billboards is a an exotic scene with characters in turbans advertising "L’italiana en Algeri," a Rossini opera about a spoiled sultan who thinks he wants an Italian wife. (He has no idea what he is getting into). It is opera buffa at its best with a wonderful overture and some equally wonderful moments of manic duets.  It runs through this weekend with the last performance on Sunday at 5 p.m.  You can make a day of it on Sunday beginning at 2:30 learning some important lessons on living from the play, "Tuesdays with Morrie," the latest production by the Little Theatre Group at the Laurence Olivier Theatre (next to Sala Garbo) then downtown to the Teatro Nacional for the opera. 

I found all of the billboards interesting and informative.  Unfortunately, they didn’t give me any creative thoughts.  But when we think about it, what could make a better world than keeping our planet clean, respecting our fellow creatures (human and otherwise), being prepared for an emergency should one come, and having the time to enjoy the arts, those human creations that give us pleasure in just being here now and knowing that we are capable of such things?

Right now so many people in other parts of the world are suffering in their struggles, either with nature or with each other, I feel pretty thankful to be here, in this so far safe and sane little country.

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Part one of two
How well is the Venezuelan revolution handling its funds?

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hillside slums of ramshackle homes and narrow alleyways ring Caracas. Cauldrons of desperation and lawlessness, these are tough neighborhoods where Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez draws a base of support. 

President Chávez has invested heavily to improve these communities, and recently came to the 23 de Enero neighborhood to inspect homes renovated with state funds.

Here, oil money flows directly. President Chavez ordered the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., known as PDVSA, to build and operate a massive social services center.

At the medical clinic, Miguel, a 23-year-old painter, is treated for gastritis. "I do not have to pay anything. Everything here is free for the public. This should continue. I hope it does, because we will improve Venezuela," he said.

And who does he thank for his treatment? "President Chávez. President Hugo Chávez has done all this, with the revolution," he said.

In a workshop next door, people make clothes worn by PDVSA employees and Chávez-backers. Many who toil here are in their 50s and 60s, and say they would never get a job, let alone a living wage, in the private sector.

"Even though we are elderly, we are here working.  This would be impossible anywhere else, impossible if this were a private operation," said one sewing lady.

Elsewhere in Caracas, oil revenue bankrolled a new cable car service for a hillside community. In another neighborhood, residents like Josá Rodriguez point to a free dental clinic and a basketball court. "Many people ask: where is the oil money going? Well, I have seen some of it going to work right here in my community," he said.

But not everyone is thrilled. Across town from 23 de Enero, in one of Caracas' more well-to-do neighborhoods, medical student Claudia Pérez accuses President Chávez of pampering his supporters at the expense of everyone else. "He only takes care of those who support him and his government, not those who have a different point of view," she said.

And, she says, the Chávez program is short-sighted. "Oil cannot be everything. One day it will run out. And we are doing nothing to generate other forms of wealth," she said.

President Chávez boasts his country has enough oil to last the next 100 years. And he could be right.

New geological surveys show Venezuela's oil reserves dwarfing those of Saudi Arabia. But having oil is one thing; maintaining a state-owned oil industry and using
Venezuelan oil rig
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One of the country's oil rigs

revenue wisely are another, says Venezuelan oil analyst Juan Carlos Sosa.  

"Since almost all the oil revenue PDVSA receives are used for non-petroleum purposes, PDVSA cannot maintain the wells and keep them running. It does not have the funds, so it has to close the wells. And since foreign companies are given no incentive to invest in oil operations, production is paralyzed," he said.

Venezuela's oil production has plummeted by a third under Chavez, according to Sosa.

He blames PDVSA's social programs that are so popular among the poor. "Instead of staying on top of oil production and international sales, PDVSA's president has to worry about a thousand other things. And nothing is done well," he said.

And by doling out money in direct assistance rather than focusing on long-term development, President Chávez is masking poverty rather than curing it, according to economist Orlando Ochoa of Venezuela's Catholic University. "Oil wealth can be used to transform and improve the economic base of a country, as has been done in Norway.  Or, it can be used to compensate for economic imbalances, thereby prolonging the pain, as has been done in Venezuela and Iran," he said.

But President Chávez makes no apologies for the way he is spending Venezuela's oil revenue. "We are building hospitals, universities, housing, highways, railroads, public works projects like water distribution. And all of this costs money," he said.

And that money depends not only on petroleum production, but also on global oil prices, over which President Chávez has no control.

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America's Army game
praised as training tool

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

PC Gamers — from dungeon-crawlers and dragon slayers to all-out World of WarCraft  fanatics — are often dismissed as being out of touch with reality. But the allure of PC games and their ability to engage and transfix have become a powerful recruitment and training tool.

In role-playing games, players assume the persona of characters in a fictional setting and act out these roles within a narrative. The genre began with pen-and-paper, spawning thousands of games since they first appeared in the 1970s.

These dedicated gamers caught the eye of the U.S. Army in the 1990s when it first realized that the long hours spent in virtual gaming worlds could be an ideal medium to introduce potential young recruits to the military and help train them.

That was when the idea for America’s Army was born. The Army Game Project is a series of video games developed to help with recruitment. The game is financed by the U.S. government and is available as a free download.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the intention of the game is to provide information about soldiering and army values,” said America’s Army Program Manager Frank Blackwell. “And there’s no question that that has been a success.”

America’s Army is one of the Internet’s most popular games, with more than 11 million registered users around the world.

Andrew Bostock, a British gamer, says America’s Army opened his eyes to what a military career would entail.

“There is no better way to reach young recruits than to show them, in a world which they are accustomed to seeing and participating in,” Bostock said.

The game has built-in modules to immerse players in virtual training scenarios before they enlist.

“We tried to put some real first-aid training into the game,” said Blackwell. “And we’ve had two cases that we know of where young people have been able to, in emergency situations, save lives and attributed those skills back to what they learned in that training.”

Other modules train players on various weapons systems using enhanced graphics and realistic environments. The more realistic the graphics, says Blackwell, the better the training.

But there are concerns in some military circles and think tanks that virtual training might be edging out real-world training.

“I am a proponent of this sort of thing,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a national security and defense policy expert at The Brookings Institution, “but I don’t believe it can ever or should ever replace other kinds of training."

But Blackwell is quick to point out that virtual training is not intended to replace real-world training, but to complement it, giving soldiers the opportunity to supplement their training much more cheaply.

Beyond costs savings, O’Hanlon says virtual training also helps save lives.

“You don’t have to spend as much money on the equipment, on wear-and-tear, on fuel, etc.,” he said. 
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Latin American news
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Calderón says cartels
seek power over civilians

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Felipe Calderón says cartels are making money outside of the drug trade and are seeking greater power in towns where they exert control.

Calderón told an anti-crime conference in Mexico City that the cartels are using force to levy taxes and intimidate citizens.

He said the business of the cartels is to dominate other people.

The Mexican president said he would continue the military-led battle against the drug gangs.  Some opponents have said drug-related violence would lessen if the government ended the fight.

More than 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderón took office in 2006 and began cracking down on the cartels.

Calderón said Tuesday that he would consider a debate on legalizing drugs.

Last year, three former Latin American presidents: Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico said the U.S.-led war on drugs is a failure and that it is time to replace what they called an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient policies.

Government told to fix road

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has sided with residents of Montezuma on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula and ordered the public works ministry to fix the community's access road.

The major complaint has been about dust although the steep slope of the road sometimes results in landslides.

Montezuma is a major tourist attraction in the Municipalidad de Cóbano.

The route involved is 624. The court action was initiated by residents.

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