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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Aug. 9, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 155      E-mail us
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Ms. Chinchilla asked to investigate fishing incident
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The high seas encounter between a U.S. registered sportsfishing boat and a Venezuelan commercial purse seiner is the third major incident in two years, according to The Billfish Foundation. The foundation said that in a letter to President Laura Chinchilla and others regarding what it called an attack on the Silver-Rod-O Aug. 1 off Playa Garza in the Pacific.

The Florida-based foundation urged Ms. Chinchilla to initiate an investigation into the incident and take appropriate action against the captain and owners of La Rosa Mistica, the Venezuelan boat involved.

The foundation letter, over the signature of its president, Ellen Peel, said the sportfishing organization was aware of 10 vessels that have been attacked by foreign flagged purse seiners licensed by Costa Rica. It said that in June 2008 nine vessels were similarly attacked.

The organization said it had complained to the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura without success. Among those getting a copy of the letter is Luis Dobles, executive president of the government fishing agency. "In the past our requests to INCOPESCA to take action against the vessel initiating such dangerous and illegal attacks met with no positive action," the letter said.

"We fear that unless these purse seine vessels are made to understand that such behavior will not be tolerated by the Costa Rican government. Continued, such actions will ultimately lead to injury or death at sea," the letter added.

The owner of the Silver-Rod-O, Gary Carter, said that he and some friends were fishing amid a group of spinner dolphin. Such groups tell fishermen that there are schools of tuna beneath the water.

"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," Carter said in an e-mail that was the basis of an article Friday. "The helicopter then began making passes over us, as it circled the dolphin school. As the seiner came closer and began setting its net, the helicopter started dropping incendiary devises around us and the school of spinners. Several
La Rosa Mistica
Gary Cater photo
La Rosa Mistica

landed within 50 meters of our boat, and in all directions, there was smoke billowing from the water." Carter took photographs.

The goal of the commercial fishing boat captain, of course, was to drive the sportsfishing boat away so it would not interfere with the Venezuelan net.

The letter identified Carter as a foundation member and a part-time Costa Rican resident. Carter told a reporter he had been fishing in Costa Rican waters since the 1980s.  The foundation also cited its survey that showed that sport fishing tourism contributes over $599 million annually to the Costa Rican economy. That is a sum more than commercial fishing, it said.

The foundation identified the owner of La Rosa Mistica as Ingopesca, S.A. The firm is located in Punto Fijo, Venezuela.

The Venezuelan boat is recognized as a commercial tuna operation by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. It is believed to have its home port either in Panamá or Perú.

The foundation said to the president: "We urge you to take swift and convincing action to end this dangerous sort of action at sea immediately. We believe that such irresponsible behavior does not warrant the trust placed in a purse seine vessel by authorizing and licensing them to fish in your national waters."

Among others, a copy of the letter was sent to Anne Slaughter Andrew, the U.S. ambassador here.

Hurricane season has the potential to be a record
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Atlantic Basin remains on track for an active hurricane season, according to the scheduled seasonal outlook update just issued by the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Weather Service. With the season’s peak just around the corner – late August through October – the need for preparedness plans is essential, the agency said.

The center also announced that, as predicted last spring, La Niña has formed in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This favors lower wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storm clouds to grow and organize. Other climate factors pointing to an active hurricane season are warmer-than-average water in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, and favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions in unison, leading to more active seasons.

“August heralds the start of the most active phase of the Atlantic hurricane season and with the meteorological factors in place, now is the time for everyone living in hurricane prone areas to be prepared,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and  administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which supervises the weather service.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the whole season – June 1 to Nov. 30 – the updated outlook is projecting, with a 70 percent probability, a total of (including Alex, Bonnie and Colin) 14 to 20 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher),
Hurricane Alex
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Hurricane Alez, the first named storm of season

including eight to 12 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which: four to six could be major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph).

These ranges are still indicative of an active season, compared to the average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. However, the upper bounds of the ranges have been lowered from the initial outlook in late May, which reflected the possibility of even more early season activity.

“All indications are for considerable activity during the next several months,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “As we’ve seen in past years, storms can come on quickly during the peak months of the season. There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record.”

Although hurricanes do not enter Costa Rica, the effects can bring severe weather and heavy damage.

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This is the homemade .22 caliber pistol

Parents face tough choices
on having weapon in home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are no easy solutions for parents with minor children when there is a gun in the house.  The vice minister of Seguridad, Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, is the latest to encourage citizens to disarm.

"Prevention is vital and we cannot let ourselves be carried away by fear," he said. Everyone wants a secure house, and it is necessary to begin in the home.  This security we can maintain without firearms, and if we decide to have them the responsibility is to secure them adequately."

His comments were cited by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública as it announced that 14 families have surrendered weapons to get them out of their homes. There was a ceremony Thursday in which President Laura Chinchilla participated in the destruction of handguns.

Left unsaid is the quandary of parents. A weapon that is locked up and secure is not very useful when criminals break into the home, something that is happening more frequently here. Yet the same weapon, if placed in a drawer loaded, is a magnet for youngsters. A teen girl critically injured herself with her father's weapon last week in a suicide attempt over her love life.

And the problem is not just with children. Two police officers on duty shot themselves in the last two weeks. Both died. One was believed accidental. One was believed to be suicide. Both shootings happened in the police stations.

Sunday a private guard manipulating his .22-caliber pistol accidentally shot a child. Another child suffered a wound in the foot from a stray shot during a gang shootout last week.

Meanwhile, the Dirección General de Armamento is available at 2229-1486 for anyone who wishes to surrender a weapon.

Regardless of the country's gun laws, crooks have no trouble getting weapons. Fuerza Pública officers confiscated a homemade pistol Thursday in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. Four young men were in the vehicle in which the zip gun was found. It was a .22-caliber device made of pipe and a heavy rubber band. Officers said they suspect that the four men were robbers who were targeting commercial establishments in the province of Heredia. Homemade shotguns and other types of homemade weapons are discovered periodically.

There is a litany of persons stopped with illegal weapons. In the countryside, the weapon may be an old shotgun or .22-caliber rifle used for hunting.  But there are many confiscations of weapons from persons who appear to have a criminal use for the firearm. Seldom are there reports of convictions.

Even when someone murders an individual with a weapon, the murderer is penalized far more than for the act of carrying an illegal weapon.  One example is a man with the last names of  Grajal Núñez. He killed a schoolboy, Jonathan Viquez Madrigal, in Limón Nov. 30, 2008, during a robbery. Last week he got 20 years in prison for the murder but just six months for carrying an illegal weapons.

Others who might get a similar sentence for carrying an illegal weapon will not see prison. Under Costa Rican criminal law persons with a clean record can receive conditional release for sentences up to three years in prison.

Grajal, by the way, probably will be out in six or seven years on the murder conviction due to the way the Costa Rican prison system generously calculates time served.

Shark-finning campaign
launched by three groups

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Three organizations have launched a campaign against shark finning by Costa Rican-based boats.

The cruel practice of “shark finning” is threatening Costa Rica’s eco-friendly image, said Ethical Traveler, one of the organizations. Shark finning is the act of chopping the fins off of live sharks and dumping the then-helpless sharks back into the sea to drown. The fins are exported to Asia where they are used in an expensive delicacy: shark fin soup—or as journalist John Platt calls it, “Extinction in a Bowl.”

A 2007 study published by Science magazine showed a 90-percent decline in global shark populations in recent decades.

A study commissioned for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species found fishermen responsible for the death of over 200 million sharks each year.

"Sharks are a majestic and critical part of the ocean ecosystem," said Jeff Greenwald, executive director of Ethical Traveler. "Killing them for their fins is more than just barbarous and wasteful — it’s illegal under Costa Rican law. This crime must be stopped." has partnered with nonprofit groups and Costa Rica’s to stop shark finning in the Central American nation. In April, Pretoma founder Randall Arauz received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award for his work to pass a Costa Rican law requiring that sharks be “landed” with their fins attached — a major victory for the sharks. But the work is not finished, said Ethical Traveler.

Arauz is also launching a campaign to discourage Costa Ricans from eating shark meat, which is often concealed behind different names — such as cazón, bolillo, and bolillón — and consumed unknowingly.

Thanks to the growing middle class in China, appetite for shark fin soup is as insatiable as ever, Ethical Traveler notes.  According to Arauz, shark fins sell for more than 100 times the price of shark meat. Arauz notes that “Taiwanese finning ships are now docking at Costa Rica’s private facilities under cover of darkness, in order to escape the reach of the country’s anti-finning law.”

Travelers and environmentalists are pressuring the Costa Rican government to step-up enforcement of existing laws against landing fish at private docks, and to discourage the consumption of shark meat. More information on the campaign is available HERE.

Ethical Travel is an organization that encourages tourists to visit only those countries that protect human rights and the environment. Ethical Traveler is a project of the Earth Island Institute, based in San Francisco, California. Specifically, the organizations ask that:

• Costa Rica's customs laws be strictly obeyed, even in privately owned docks;

• Shark meat be properly labeled, so that consumers are not misled;

• Directed shark fisheries be banned, and shark quotas established;

• Marine protected areas be created in coastal waters that serve as critical habitats for sharks, and in oceanic migratory corridors between Parque Nacional Isla Cocos and Galapagos Islands National Park in Ecuador).

Mission Blue is an organization encouraging public support for a global network of marine protected areas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 155

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The green roof above the multi-story hotel appears to be like a park with an ocean view.
Green roof at Manuel Antonio
Arqueco Ltda. rendering

Proposed Manuel Antonio hotel will have a park for a roof
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new luxury beachfront hotel proposed for Manuel Antonio will have a 40,000 square foot roof covered with grass and other native vegetation to serve as a habitat for wildlife, said developers.

The project is the Palazzo Park Hotel & Residences, which is being designed by Arqueco Ltda., architects, developers said a release:

"A key component of Palazzo Park is Costa Rica's first large-scale green roof proposed by project developer KC
Development Group. Eco or green roofs use vegetation to absorb rainwater, treat grey water, provide insulation to cool the structure, reduce energy consumption, and create habitat for wildlife. An open-air common area with vistas of the rainforest and the sea, Palazzo Park's green roof will provide over 40,000 square feet of native vegetation designed as habitat for indigenous species."

The developers also said they were restoring some 500 acres at Playa El Rey adjacent to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. The goal is to provide more habitat for the endangered mono titi in the park. These are the white faced squirrel monkeys that are landlocked in the park.

Heredia will have a $200 million, 20-year sewer project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Heredia utility company has outlined a 20-year, $200 million project to provide sewer service to nine cantons of the province.

Alfio Piva, serving as president in the absence of Laura Chinchilla, was briefed on the project Friday.

The company is Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia. The project includes a treatment plant for the sewage. Rather than dumping the treated water into a river, the plan is to use it for irrigation of various eco projects, said the company.

Piva noted that the project would be of benefit to more
than just Heredia residents. The province contains about 70 percent of the water sources that supply the Central Valley.

The Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados also has a major sewerage plan on the drawing board. Right now all of the Central Valley sewage collection system drains into the Río Grande de Tárcoles and then to the Pacific Ocean. The government company known as AyA plans to extend the sewer system into places that now do not have access and construct a treatment plant in Escazú. The Japanese government allocated $130 million to the project four years ago but there has been no actual site work done.

Piva was acting president because Ms. Chinchilla was in Bogotá, Colombia, at the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos.

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Tropical forests facing big upsets, new study reports

By the Carnegie Institution for Science news service

By 2100 only 18 to 45 percent of the plants and animals making up ecosystems in global, humid tropical forests may remain as they are known today, according to a new study led by Greg Asner at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology. The research combined new deforestation and selective logging data with climate-change projections. It is the first study to consider these combined effects for all humid tropical forest ecosystems and can help conservationists pinpoint where their efforts will be most effective. The study is published in Conservation Letters on Thursday.

“This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces,” remarked Asner. “For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it. On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration.”

Tropical forests hold more then half of all the plants and animal species on Earth. But the combined effect of climate change, forest clear cutting, and logging may force them to adapt, move, or die. The scientists looked at land use and climate change by integrating global deforestation and logging maps from satellite imagery and high-resolution data with projected future vegetation changes from 16 different global climate models. They then ran scenarios on how different types of species could be geographically reshuffled by 2100. They used the reorganization of plant classes, such as tropical broadleaf evergreen trees, tropical drought deciduous trees, plus different kinds of grasses as surrogates for biodiversity changes.

For Central and South America, climate change could alter about two-thirds of the humid tropical forests biodiversity — the variety and abundance of plants and animals in an ecosystem. Combining that scenario with current patterns of land-use change, and the Amazon Basin alone could see changes in biodiversity over 80 percent of the region.

Most of the changes in the Congo area likely to come from selective logging and climate change, which could negatively affect between 35 and 74 percent of that region. At the continental scale, about 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forest biodiversity would likely be affected if current practices are not curtailed.

In Asia and the central and southern Pacific islands, deforestation and logging are the primary drivers of ecosystem changes. Model projections suggest that climate change might play a lesser role there than in Latin America or Africa. That said, the research showed
Carara trailhead
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
The trail system at the headquarters of Parque Nacional Carara has been expanded to four kilometers, allowing a good opportunity to see the lowland rainforest up close. Visitors may see wildlife typical of the forest interior such as agoutis or this great tinamou. The entrance is on the main Orotina-Quepos highway two kilometers south of the Río Tárcoles bridge.

that between 60 and 77 percent of the area is susceptible to biodiversity losses via massive ongoing land-use changes in the region.

“This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world’s natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes — including severe alterations in their species composition — through the combined influence of climate change and land use,” remarked Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. “Conservation of the world’s biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology is in Palo Alto, California.

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Chávez urges FARC rebels
to release their hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and staff reports

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is urging Colombia's rebels to release all their hostages as a way to start peace negotiations with the country's new president, Juan Manuel Santos.

During his weekly radio and television address Sunday, Chavez said the Colombian guerrilla movement has no future through armed struggle.  He urged the country's rebels to release the dozens of hostages held in camps deep within Colombia's jungles as an overture to Santos, who was sworn in on Saturday.

Santos said he is open to talks with the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucioanrias de Colombia or FARC rebels, but only if they first give up their weapons and stop kidnapping, blackmail, drug trafficking and intimidation.

Venezuela broke ties with Colombia last month amid accusations from Bogota that Venezuela is sheltering Colombian rebels.

During his inaugural address Saturday, Mr. Santos said he would prefer frank talks with Venezuela as soon as possible.  He said that the word war was not in his personal dictionary. He used the Spanish work guerra. There has been concern that Colombian and Venezuelan troops on alert along the mutual border could lead to a regional conflict.

Chavez was invited to the inauguration, but did not attend.  After Santos delivered his inauguration speech, Chavez responded that he is ready to turn the page and look to the future with hope.

Santos served as defense minister under Uribe for nearly three years and scored key victories against rebels.  Under Santos, Colombian troops killed a rebel leader, Raúl Reyes, and freed several high-profile hostages held by the guerrillas, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Colombia has been mired in a 46-year civil war involving two leftist rebel groups and rightist paramilitaries.  Colombia is the closest U.S. ally in Latin America and has received about $6 billion in mostly military assistance from Washington.

Casa Presidencial in Costa Rica reported that President Laura Chinchilla met with Rafael Correa, the Ecaudorian president, while in Bogotá for the inauguration. They discussed enviornmental themes and the development of ecotourism, said Casa Presidencial.

Ms. Chinchilla invited Correa to visit Costa Rica, said Casa Presidencial.

Castro visits parliament
and warns of nuclear war

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has appeared at a special session of parliament for the first time since 2006, when he ceded power to his younger brother, Raúl.

Cheering legislators gave the elder Castro a standing ovation as he entered the legislative chamber in an event broadcast on Cuban television Saturday. The 83-year-old former president was wearing an olive-green military style shirt and waved to the crowd.

Castro spoke about the international situation and how growing tensions between the United States and Iran could lead to nuclear war.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 9, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 155

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Major roadway makeover
begins today all over nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workmen begin today restoration of the nation's roads under 21 three-month contracts that were awarded without bidding.

The contracts became necessary when a series of three-year contracts that had been awarded in a bidding process were challenged.

The Contraloría de la República authorized the direct contracts under which companies will apply asphalt to roadways, repair potholes, cut grass and pickup trash in the gutters.

Francisco Jiménez said that the Unidades de Inspección will be in charge of supervision. He is minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The Contraloría authorized 11 contracts in July for six months while other proposed contracts are disputed. The public works officials hope that disputes over bidding will be resolved in three months, although there is the possibility of even more appeals.

The short-term agreements cover 21 zones of the country, Jiménez said.

Alajuelita overpass almost
ready to handle traffic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The much-awaited Alajuelita overpass on the Circunvalación highway south of the downtown will be open by Aug. 30, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. This is the east-west bridge that passes over the Alajuelita traffic circle.

Road officials said Friday that the work was 85 percent complete and that the remaining jobs had to do with constructing a pedestrian bridge and putting in sidewalks.

The new bridge has six lanes. The intersection also is known as Rancho Guanacaste. The job, done by Constructora Meco S.A., cost $11 million.

The route carries 63,000 vehicles a day. Several traffic circles are left on the Circunvalación, and these are bottlenecks that stall traffic.  The first overpass was done at the Y-Griega traffic circle. The government eventually will put bridges over all the older traffic circles. The bridges carry through traffic, and only entrance and exit traffic to the Circunvalación use the circles once bridges are finished.

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