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These stories were published Monday, Aug. 18, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 162
Jo Stuart
About us
                                                  Photo by Constance B. Lentz, M.D.
Massachusetts physician wins Wildlife category
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A physician from the U.S. state of Massachusetts has won first place in the Wildlife category of the A.M. Costa Rica 2003 photo contest.

She is Constance B. Lentz, a physician with the University of Massachusetts University Health Services in Amherst.

Her winning photo is of an olingo crawling down a cable in search of nectar at a hummingbird feeder. An obviously irked hummingbird keeps its distance. It should. The olingo has been known to eat small birds.

The olingo is a night tree creature found in Costa Rica’s rainforests, among others. The photo was taken at Galleria Colibri in Monteverde in January and was taken with a Nikon 4500 Digital camera, said Dr. Lentz in her submission memo.

Dr. Lentz said she has taken seven trips to 

Costa Rica and hopes to retire here eventually. 
She shoots both film and digital photos.
The Wildlife category is posted HERE!

There were 34 entries in the wildlife category, one of the two most popular.  Only the Scenic category with 39 shots attracted more entries.

In all some 65 individuals participated in the five categories of the contest.  The photographs ranged from snapshot to professional quality.

The Wildlife category was perhaps the most challenging for some participants because in some cases shy critters were captured in their daily routine. Participants also seemed to have been fond of close-up shots of flowers and tiny creatures. Judges like some of those shots, too.

Check out our Sports photos HERE!
Scenic photos HERE! 
Wildlife photos HERE!
and People pixs HERE!
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Flamingo marina operators seeking Sala IV help
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a surprise action, the Municipality of Santa Cruz has taken over by force the Flamingo marina from Jim McKee and his partners. 

McKee criticized the action that included municipal officials and an estimated 25 police officers from nearby Santa Cruz. He said his long-running legal dispute still is in an appeals court where his lawyer is seeking to enjoin the government from taking the exact action it did.

McKee estimated the business, officially the Marina y Club de Yates Flamingo S. A. as an $800,000-a-year operation run as a concession granted on public land in the coastal zone. He also said that officials refused to show him any kind of order that allowed the raid and also refused his invitation to take an inventory of personal items or fuel remaining in the marine tanks. He said they told him during the raid Tuesday that they were working on a verbal order from the municipality.

The dispute centers on some five years of concession rent. The municipality says that McKee and his partners have not paid the money, McKee says that the municipality will not present a bill to verify a new assessment and that he has been putting money into the municipal bank account in lieu of rent since April or May 1998.

In the latest legal skirmish, McKee said he and his partners lost a court case in Santa Cruz but filed an appeal Aug. 5. The raid took place Aug.12.

As a result of the raid, McKee said Sunday his lawyer has filed a request for action before the Sala IV, the constitutional court.

Municipal and Costa Rican officials also have criticized the marina for pollution, but McKee said that the municipality, now as the interim operator 

of the marina, is clearly polluting the water with diesel fuel. He said boats are being refueled from a tanker truck, and in the process about a quart of fuel leaks from the tanker hose as it is pulled from a boat each time.

For months, McKee has suggested that municipal officials are anxious to rescind his concession so it can be awarded to a group of Costa Rican businessmen. The marina has about 70 boats visit a day. 

A key figure on the other side is Berny Cordero, the legal adviser to the municipality. McKee said he was present Tuesday during the raid and he identified Cordero as the lawyer who was supposed to draw up the papers five years ago to establish a newer and higher concession rent. The new rent was supposed to be a bit more than 1 million colons (some $2,500 at the current exchange rate).   The previous rent was 50,000 colons ($125).

McKee said that he actively sought a new rental fee and provided the paperwork to increase it in 1998 but elections quickly changed the municipal officials. Cordero remained. The mayor of Santa Cruz is Pastor Gómez.

McKee announced in late July that he was surrendering his job as manager of the marina but would stay on the board of directors. His partners are Steven Ferris and Jack Osborne. McKee said the operators were negotiating with several groups in an effort to sell the concession after trying to run it for 15 years. However, for technical reasons McKee said he stayed on longer than he expected.

The marina is the only one in Flamingo and only one of four on the Pacific coast.

McKee said he will soon open a charter fishing office and property management firm.

Security guard is murdered on the job in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone killed a private guard at the Colegio del Oeste in Guachipelín Escazú sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The man, identified as Juan Bautista Mora, 52, suffered a bullet wound to his stomach, perhaps with his own .22-caliber revolver that is missing.

He was found in the guardhouse at the gated entrance to the facility Sunday morning. Capt. Víctor Matamoros of the Fuerza Pública delegation in Escazú reported that there was an indication of a struggle and some items in the guardhouse were broken and a cellular telephone was missing.

Mora was accustomed to passing the night in the guardhouse. Nothing was reported to be missing from the school proper.

The killing resembles that of a guard in a souvenir shop in San Rafael de Escazú several months ago. He, too, was found dead one morning, and the killer has not been located. There, too, there was little indication of theft of valuables.

Another guard died over the weekend. He was identified as Víctor Julio Chinchilla Vega, 47, who died at the Monterrey facility in Aserrí. He was shot in the head with his own 12-gauge shotgun, and police are considering the case a suicide, although it could also be an accident or a crime.

Two other weekend murders were reported. One involved an off-duty security guard who tried to stop a holdup in Ipis de Goicoechea, north of San José. The victim, Angel Gómez Méndez, 40, struggled with one of four or five robbers at the Cartagena Bar where he had taken his wife and mother-in-law to celebrate Mother’s Day Friday.

One of the robbers shot him at least five times. The gang took about 250,000 colons, some $620.

Meanwhile, in Barrio San Jorge in Paso Canoas police arrested a friend in the killing of Filiberto Ayala Caballero, 68, who was hacked to death Friday night or early Saturday. 

The man arrested, identified by the last name of Martínez, was the person who reported finding the body Saturday morning.

Boy, 6, survives fall
that kills five others

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A four-wheel-drive vehicle with six persons on board plunged more than 200 feet into the Río Candelaria near San Ignacio de Acosta late Saturday. A 6-year-old boy survived the plunge that ripped the vehicle into parts. Four other persons died and one man still was missing and presumed dead.

The accident was similar to the one that took the life of a U.S. citizen near Limón. He was identified by the Cruz Roja as Bernan Norman Russell, 60. That crash happened about a kilometer west of Moín de Limón, and the automobile also went off the road and plunged into a riverbed early Saturday.

The boy who survived the crash was conscious and able to communicate when Cruz Roja workers found him sitting on a rock in the river  near the site. He was identified as Alberto Fallas Arroyo, the son of the man who is presumed to be the driver. The boy was listed in stable condition Sunday night at Hospital Nacional de Niños with a suspected leg fracture. All the occupants of the vehicle lived in Vuelta de Jorco de Aserrí, about 10 kilometers (six miles) away.

Alberto López Valverde, 52, and Rodrigo Fallas Bonilla, 63, were found dead at the scene. Then police and rescuers began a search and found the bodies of Gilbert Bonilla Fallas and Rudy Alberto Fallas Carballo Sunday in the river where they had been swept away by the current. Afternoon rains caused the river to swell.

Still missing and presumed dead is Cristian Castro. The search will continue today.

Edificio Colón worker
tells police of attack

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman employee working the overnight shift at Edificio Colón told police that a security guard there assaulted her sexually and then fled on his bicycyle in full uniform with his firearm.

The towering building at the west end of Paseo Colón houses a popular hotel, a casino and the British and Israeli embassies. It is considered secure. Police were called about 4:20 a.m. Saturday.

Drug cartel leaders
caught in Mexico

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Authorities say they have captured alleged drug kingpin Armando Valencia Cornelio and seven top officers in his cartel. 

Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha announced the arrests Saturday, saying the group was responsible for one-third of drug shipments from Mexico to the United States.

Macedo said the arrests occurred Friday near the central city of Guadalajara after Cornelio was spotted dining in the area. Mexico's Defense Minister Clemente Vega called the drug cartel "cruel" and murderous.

Officials say the group is active in several Mexican states, using tuna boats to transfer cocaine shipments. The group is suspected of being a key link between Colombian drug smugglers and the U.S. border.

Officials say Mr. Cornelio began operating with Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, until his death in 1997. In 1999, U.S. officials filed drug charges against Cornelio and a request for his extradition.

Kidnap victims’ bodies
found in Ecuador

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO , Ecuador — Police have found the bodies of a British oil worker and his Ecuadorean driver in the Amazon jungle, 10 months after they disappeared. 

Police say they uncovered the remains of Techint oil worker John Buckley and Luis Diaz on Thursday, in the jungle east of here. The two were kidnapped on Oct. 2 near the town of Chaco, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital. It is not clear when or how the men were killed. 

Buckley had been working on a $1.3 billion pipeline construction project in Ecuador when he disappeared. Techint had offered a reward for information on the two men. 

Fox says México
invites scrutiny

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — President Vicente Fox says his government respects human rights and has nothing to hide from rights groups.

President Fox made the remarks Friday as he inaugurated an office of the National Commission for Human Rights in the border city of Tijuana.

Fox said Mexico is not afraid of world scrutiny because, in his words, it has no skeletons hidden in the closet.  Earlier this week, the human rights group, Amnesty International, released a report citing police negligence in the murder investigations of hundreds of women in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

The report said police routinely fail to investigate cases properly, fabricate evidence and torture confessions out of innocent people to close cases. 

The Fox administration came under criticism this week after the Foreign Ministry fired its undersecretary for human rights, Mariclaire Acosta.

Foreign ministry officials said that the section Ms. Acosta headed will become part of its global affairs department as of Sept. 1.

Rights officials are quoted as saying Ms. Acosta was fired because of the role she played in changing Mexico's approach to dealing with human rights groups locally and internationally.

Powerful storms bring’
damage and hail here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A powerful downpour Sunday afternoon brought heavy, destroying rains to some sections of the Central Valley and hail too. Sunday soccer play suffered, including big league games. The Alajuela-Santa Bárbara that was halted after 60 minutes.

Hardest hit seemed to be the Hatillo neighborhoods where homes lost their corrugated tin roofs to wind and rain.

Paraguay’s president
rejects neo-liberalism

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ASUNCION, Paraguay — The newly inaugurated president here says he will dedicate himself to fighting corruption and poverty in the South American nation. 

Nicanor Duarte, 47, struck a decidedly populist tone during his inaugural speech Friday here. Flanked by eight Latin American heads of state, including Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Duarte promised social justice and equality for Paraguay, the second poorest nation in South America, where more than half the population lives in poverty.

Duarte said, it is not possible to construct or sustain a strong democracy with a weak economy and an absent government. He said what he called neo-liberalism has failed, because it denies human dignity. Duarte said Paraguay will construct a society of equal opportunity where development has a human face.

Duarte, who won the presidential vote in April, belongs to the Colorado Party, which has ruled Paraguay without interruption since 1947. He succeeds Luis Gonzalez Macchi, whose administration was plagued by allegations of corruption. A judge has ordered Gonzalez Macchi to remain in the country, until a probe of the former leader's financial dealings is complete. 
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Iceland resumes its hunt for minke whales
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — This country has resumed whaling after a 14-year moratorium, despite fierce international criticism. 

One of Iceland's three whaling vessels left the harbor here early Sunday, and at least one other was expected to join the hunt for minke whales later in the day. 

Friday, the government authorized the three boats to catch 38 minke whales by Sept. 30, under what it says is a "research plan" to determine how much fish the mammals eat. Icelandic officials say they 

must control whales to protect fish stocks and protect the livelihood of the country's fishermen. 

The resumption of whaling in Iceland comes amid strong international protests and a campaign by the environmental activist group Greenpeace. 

Nations opposed to whaling, including the United States, say there is no scientific basis for the Icelandic research. 

Some 43,000 minke whales are believed to live in Iceland's waters, eating two million tons of fish and krill every year.  Iceland ceased whaling in 1989 under international pressure. 

Canadian officials isolate elderly facility over SARS-like virus
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

VANCOUVER, Canada — Health officials have isolated an elderly care facility in British Columbia where a virus related to SARS has broken out. But the officials say the disease is not SARS and the symptoms are much milder. 

British Columbia officials say a respiratory ailment has infected nearly 150 elderly residents and health care workers in the nursing home in a Vancouver suburb. Laboratory tests reveal that the virus is similar to the one that causes SARS. 

Three of the elderly residents have died of respiratory problems since the outbreak occurred July 1. But health authorities say the deaths are not necessarily linked to the outbreak because some of the victims had previous lung conditions. 

The symptoms, including cough, low fever, and runny nose, are mild like a cold. Nevertheless, Canadian national public health official Paul Gully says the nursing home has been quarantined while investigation into the virus continues. 

"This illness is not the same as SARS," he said. "We are working to regard this as a respiratory disease outbreak, which will then be controlled by respiratory isolation." 

The Canadian doctors say the virus outbreak peaked at the end of July with the last few cases appearing just three days ago. Dr. David Patrick of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control says none of the patients has been hospitalized and only three have experienced fever. 

"The outbreak so far hasn't behaved like SARS as it manifested in Hong Kong, Toronto, Singapore, Vancouver, et cetera in the past," said Patrick. "So what are the possibilities? Well, this could be the SARS virus behaving less aggressively. Or it could be a closely related virus previously unknown which is less virulent than the SARS virus. 

Virus samples have been sent for examination to the World Health Organization in Geneva and U.S. government laboratories. Gully says the world organization has agreed not to treat this outbreak as SARS. 

Joint Canadian-U.S. task force will investigate the big blackout
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States and Canada say they will set up a joint task force to determine the cause of the worst blackout in North American history.

The task force was announced late Friday by both the White House and the office of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Both said the two countries will also join forces to prevent future outages.

Earlier, President Bush blamed an outdated system for Thursday's massive U.S.-Canadian power outage that affected cities from New York to Toronto to Detroit.

Bush said the blackout is a wake-up call to modernize the country's aging electrical grid.

Much of the country's electrical system is 50 to 60-years-old and investment has not kept pace with increase in demand. One industry group, The Electric Power Research Institute, estimates the 

U.S. power system needs between $50 billion and $100 billion in investments to bring it up to date.

The blackout had a domino effect, knocking out service to parts of eight states and Canada in only nine seconds. But the president of the North American Electric Reliability Council says the center of focus is the Lake Erie Loop power circuit which runs from New York into Detroit and Canada. 

Michehl Gent, whose non-profit council promotes the reliability of electrical systems, said trouble was first detected there with the loss of a series of power lines around Cleveland, Ohio during the hour before the black out hit. He said it is not clear whether these losses caused the blackout or were the consequence of some other problem.

Also, Friday the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee announced it will launch an investigation into the outage and hold a hearing in early September.

Bookmaker's life here gets a mention in The Times
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica got some unexpected publicity Sunday in the New York Times Magazine where the country was characterized as a haven for bookmakers.

The magazine piece focused on two U.S. bookmakers, identified only by their initials. One was a successful executive with Cascade Sportsbook.

The other is a former California illegal bookie who decides to get out of the gambling business to relieve the stress in his life.

The author is William Berlind, a sports and music columnist for the New York Observer. Although much of the article is devoted to the inside operation of setting betting odds, Berlind has this observation of the trip from Juan Santamaría Airport to "the grimy capital, San José:"

"A dusty highway heading vaguely toward downtown takes you through the poorer suburbs of San José, packed with family in corrugated-tin-roof shacks. . . . The entire valley is 

blanketed with smog from auto fumes, brush fires and burned trash."

He is equally hard on the bookmakers:

"But mostly they suffer because their peace of mind is dependent on the essential unpredictability of sports. The multitude of goofs, lucky shots and officiating quirks that perplex, agitate and annoy regular fans can be, to the bookmaker, life-altering events."

Berlind is generally non-judgmental on gambling and notes that the U.S. state governments take more from a wager than illegal bookies. Although he avoids any mention of organized crime infiltration here, he does say that many U.S. bookies are afraid to return to the United States because that government considers their activities here illegal. Of his exiting anti-hero, the author says:

"So after thousands of nail-biting games, countless headaches, delirious highs and nauseating lows, missed free throws and botched extra points, K.C. decided to get out of the bookmaking business for good."

Police on both sides try to block border routes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican police and immigration officials staged what they called "lightning" raids in conjunction with Panamanian officials at the countries’ border over the weekend.

Among other efforts Costa Rican police went into the hills at the frontier and tried to catch those who were crossing the border illegally. The border with Panama is an easy access for contraband and an exit point for persons wanted by the law here.

A report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the two main goals of the operation were to capture all the illegal travelers in the area and also to stem the illegal traffic of persons going from South America to the United States.

Some 15 persons were detained on the Costa Rican

 side of the border while officers in Panama caught 12, the report said.

One individual identified by the names Barona Mina was carrying a kilo of compressed marijuana and a half kilo of marijuana seeds, police said. Each kilo is 2.2 pounds.

The man, a Colombian, was crossing the border on foot and was captured after a short chase, police said.

Police said they would be keeping watch at 16 corridors used for illegal border crossings in mountainous and suburban areas.

Among the areas that are known routes for persons smuggling travelers to the United States are Paso Canoas and its Barrio San Jorge, Laurel, and Mellizas, Sereno and Cañas Gordas in the sector of San Vito de Coto Brus, said police.

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