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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, Aug. 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 165     E-mail us
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Wrecked cars
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Two patrol cars and impounded private vehicles make up this pile of wreckage.
Rough weekend weather exacts a toll on country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The heavy rains that hit late Thursday and Friday  have caused flooding in a number of parts of the country. The rains slacked off Sunday, but the emergency commission still has an alert in force for 14 cantons of the country.

They are Pococí in the province of Limón, Bagaces, Liberia, Carrillo and Nandayure in Guanacaste, Golfito and Corredores in the southern part of the country and the Central Valley communities of Aserrí, Desamparados, Alajuelita and San José as well as Cartago, Oreamuno and El Guarco in Cartago province.

A woman in Aserrí is presumed to have died Friday near her home when the ground collapsed and threw her into the Río Cañas. Searchers worked all weekend to locate her.

The most spectacular flooding took place in Corredores when a dike broke on the Río Corredores and a wave of water flooded and swept away that which was in its path. Hard hit was the regional office of the Fuerza Pública. The Friday night flood swept away patrol cars, vehicles that had been impounded, motorcycles and sections of the office building.  Some vehicles were found heavily damaged a kilometer away.

The Río Claro in Golfito also flooded due to a breached dike and cut the Interamericana Sur.
The national emergency commission said shelters had been set up in Abangares and Golfito. Some 38 individuals were being aided.

Pavas got 78 millimeters (3 inches) of rain Friday and Saturday and Santa Rosa in Guanacaste got 156 (6.1 inches), said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The saturated ground lends itself to slides, but no major displacements of soil have been reported.

The unstable weather in the western part of the county can be blamed, in part, on Frank, a tropical storm that is working its way up the western coast of the isthmus. A tropical storm warning is in effect for part of the Mexican coast, said the U.S. National Hurricane Information Center. The storm is expected to turn to the northwest in the next day or two, the center said.

A concern for the end of this week and next is Tropical Storm Danielle that is in the mid-Atlantic. The storm is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday, said the center. The storm center is still so far away that possible paths cannot be determined.

The weather institute said that cloudiness is expected for today as more humid air enters the country's airspace. Afternoon storms are likely on the Pacific coast, the Central Valley, the northern zone and the Caribbean mountains, it said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 165

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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New compound might be
effective against chagas


By the American Society For Microbiology news service

A new compound may offer an effective drug candidate against the deadly tropical infection, chagas’ disease say researchers from Brazil.  They report their findings in the August 2010 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
 
Chagas’ disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and it affects approximately 18 million people and causes up to 50,000 deaths per year in tropical regions of the world.  Human infection occurs through contact with contaminated feces or urine from infected insects, blood transfusions, contaminated food, and birth canal transmission.  In areas where the disease is endemic, such as Mexico and Argentina, up to 30 percent of infected patients may develop cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.
 
The current drug used to treat chagas’ disease, benznidazole, is effective when treating acutely infected patients. However, it is less so when dealing with chronic infections and poses severe side effects in elderly patients.
 
In this study researchers identified a compound against T. cruzi and found it not only inhibited cell division, but it was also very effective against T. cruzi even at very low doses.  Additionally, it was 340 times more toxic to parasites than mammalian cells as well as more effective than benznidazole in all experiments. The drug is labeled cyclopalladated compound 7a.
 
“This compound was demonstrated to have a fast antiparasite effect, decreasing its viability and invasion capacity and leading to an apoptosis-like death,” say the researchers.  “Due to its high efficacy in vivo, it could be an alternative treatment for chagas’ disease.”
 

Two killing suspects held
In Escazú condo case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have made two arrests in the murders of two men at a luxury condo in Guachipelín late Aug. 15 or early Aug. 16.

One suspect with the name of Ávila came into police hands when they checked a San José-Limón bus. That was Saturday. Sunday the second suspect, identified by the last name of Alfaro, got in contact with police from his family's home in Limón and said he wanted to surrender.

Dead were Carlos Luis Salas Fernández, 35, who was found in the rear seat of the vehicle at the condo compound, and a 23-year-old man, Ezry Cambronero Ureña, who was found in the trunk. Agents think the men were murdered in the condo with a short Samurai -type sword. Salas was a businessman and wine merchant. He was living in the condo, which is believed owned by a Canadian who is not in the country now.

Investigators have not made public the motive for the crime, but informal sources suggest that the four men argued about money and someone pulled a knife. The scene suggested an abortive theft attempt, too, because some of the dead men's property was found in the car with their bodies. Agents think that the killers were going to take the bodies and dump them elsewhere and fence the property, which included a portable computer. The killers are believed to have fled when the vehicle's alarm was triggered attracting the attention of a guard at the complex. Another source said that the vehicle with the bodies was blocked by another car and could not be used for a getaway.

Agents theorized from the beginning that more than one killer was involved because of the effort in moving the bodies and attempting to clean up the condo.


Colombian fugitive found
to be living in Heredia


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police and local representatives of the International Police Agency have detained a Colombian living in Heredia who had been sentenced in his own country to 10 years and six months for international drug trafficking.

The man was identified as José Fernando Betancourt Castrillón, 40. He was sentenced by a judge in Bogotá in 2007, agents said.

Betancourt managed to escape jail. He specifically was charged with being a member of an organization trying to ship 900 kilos of cocaine to the United States, agents said.

Betancourt purchased property here and had a business in La Uruca making vehicles bulletproof.


Insulza visiting here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States is in Costa Rica. He will participate in an hemispheric meeting of experts in the prevention and elimination of violence against women.

The session is at Hotel Bouganvillea in Santo Domingo de Heredia today.

Later he will meet with President Laura Chinchilla and with the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos.


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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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 165

Universidad EARTH will marks 20 years with concert
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Universidad EARTH celebrates its 20th anniversary Wednesday with a concert at the Teatro Nacional. The purpose of the concert is to raise scholarship money as well as celebrate the 20-year milestone.

Universidad EARTH, with its principal campus in Guácimo de Limón, specializes in advanced academic training and research in agricultural sciences. The school has 370 students now from 23 countries and an international faculty of 40 professors.

The concert will be by the group Malpaís and the Orquestra Filarmónica.  The event is titled 20 años cambiando vidas, meaning 20 years of changing lives.

The university seeks out students with limited financial resources, and 80 percent of the students have scholarships, it said. In the last 20 years, the school has graduated nearly
1,500. The name EARTH comes from the title Escuela Agrícola del Trópico Húmedo.

Every student at Universidad EARTH is required to set up a business producing environmentally sustainable products, such as natural soaps, and periodically the school sets up an exposition of student work. The university also produces bananas. It doesn't use pesticides, pays workers above minimum wage and makes a profit of half a million dollars a year.

Students are expected to return to their home countries bringing the knowledge they have accumulated here.  The school was chartered by Costa Rica in 1986 and began classes with just 60 students. More information is available on the school Web site.

Concert tickets range from 4,000 colons to 15,000 colons, about $8 to $30. They are on sale at the theater box office, at 2221-5341 or via the theater Web site.


Our reader's opinion
Expat rates Caja's Hospital Calderón Guardia as first-class

By Alan Charles Johnson*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

I have lived in Costa Rica for almost 20 years, and I had to use the facility of Hospital Calderón Guardia only three times, twice in the emergency room and just a few days ago for a four-day stay.

I had never been beyond the emergency room facility until this particular time, so therefore I wasn’t really familiar with any other part of the hospital except the emergency facility. My wife, Blanca, had three serious operations in this hospital on three different occasions and she always assured me that it's a top-rated hospital.

My opinion of this hospital now having a first-hand experience is the following.

It would rival any first-class rated hospital in the U.S., and I mean every word I am about to say. I was diagnosed with pancreatitis which can be very severe, and the pain, on a scale of one to ten, one being slight, ten being excruciating, was definitely a ten.

While in the emergency room facility, I was sent for several different tests, five x-rays, sonogram and several blood tests. It was determined that it was indeed pancreatitis and that I would be required to spend some time in the hospital for treatment and further testing.

I was admitted and brought up to the fourth floor in a large room shared with six other patients and an ample size bath facility and shower. Part of the patient’s room was shared with a duty nurse who occupies a desk and devices to perform her/his duties and still be able to monitor the patients.

The meal schedule is incredible. The breakfast is served and then a few hours later a light snack and beverage and then lunch is delivered around noon and then an afternoon snack and beverage, the evening meal is of course next and then a beverage before bedtime.

The staff which includes doctors, nurses, technicians, kitchen staff, cleaning crews, maintenance crew are extremely well organized, compassionate, intelligent, professional, and energetic beyond anything I have witnessed here in Costa Rica or the U.S. and would definitely rival anything in the States.

It was a pleasant surprise to me because as I have mentioned I had never been beyond the emergency facility and as all emergency and trauma facilities go anywhere in the world they are a bit chaotic and of course overtaxed with emergency treatment.

I would rate the doctors and the nursing staff and all the support staff as excellent and very professional and
CAlderón Guardia
Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social photo
The original entry to Hospital Calderón Guardia

dedicated far beyond anything I have seen in the States and others countries where I have lived. It almost seems that practicing virtues is part of their curriculum. I have never witnessed such compassion to all the patients suffering from every conceivable ailment or disease.

This hospital is, of course, part of the socialized medicine system which Costa Rica has demonstrated works with great proficiency both economically and socially. They could be a great lesson to the U.S. and other countries of the world. But of course most countries because of their own ego problems wouldn’t consider using a smaller country as a model to their own health care systems.

The first doctor who saw me said that it would take about 48 hours of no food for the body to heal my condition. He went on to say that the human body has wonderful capabilities to heal itself and that all they need to do is diagnose the problem and assist in the healing process, through proper medications, therapy, and or surgery.

A team of doctors would visit me at the foot of my bed, all eight of them, and ask me questions relevant to my case and then confer between themselves and make a group decision. It reminds me of the very popular TV show “Dr. House.” Only this is real life. Their diagnostic skills are world class and they would rival the fictional character Dr. House himself.

It is so incredible that a staff of doctors, nurses, and all the support staff can have such energy, dedication, caring mindset, compassion, all while maintaining very professional work ethics and still manage to have nice broad smiles on their face when you come in eye contact.

All I have to say is that Costa Rica is fortunate to have this wonderful hospital and its incredible staff from the administrator, doctors, nurses, technicians to the support personnel which makes this hospital run like a fine tuned and well oiled machine, and I hope the Costa Rica citizens as well as foreign visitors are very thankful for that. God bless the entire staff at Calderón hospital.

* Mr. Johnson lives in Sabanilla


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 165


Officials promise to set up anti-drug office in Pococí

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drugs are not just an urban issue. The central government has promised to open up a regional office of the Policía de Control de Drogas in the canton of Pococí, province of Limón.

The office probably will be in the major city of Guápiles.

Both the security minister, José María Tijerino and President Laura Chinchilla's drug czar, Mauricio Boraschi visited the area Friday.

They visited Garabito de Pococí where they talked about taking the public spaces back from criminals. This is the same terminology that has been used about police operations in the Central Valley.

Tijerino said that the lack of resources has made police work harder. He spoke at a Guápiles gathering under the banner Pococí como territorio de Paz.

The new anti-drug office will combat trafficking and addiction in the region. The Instituto Sobre Drogas y Farmacodependencia will coordinate programs in the region on drug prevention. Officials said they also are considering setting up a center for drug addicts in the canton, they said.

Tijerino and Boraschi later met with security ministry employees and those from the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Ministerio Público and the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional to discuss the crime situation in the canton.

Residents of Garabito de Pococí inaugurated a 50-meter
Children at play mural
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y  Seguridad Pública photo
Mural in Garabito de Pococí depicts children at play

mural in one of the areas the residents hope to take back from criminals and drug sellers and users.

Tijerino and Boraschi later traveled to Limón Centro where officials had praised a decline in the murder rate until a handful of killings took place.  Boraschi is now a vice minister of the Presidencia. Previously he headed the drug institute.

While the two officials were visiting Pococí, Fuerza Pública officers detained four men riding two motorcycles who tried to flee from a police checkpoint. That was in Las Palmitas in the district of Rita in Pococí.

Police confiscated a half kilo of cocaine from one man and a .38-caliber pistol, they said. Police said that a man on one motorcycle carried the drugs while the other motorcycle acted as an escort.



Four suspects caught after men with knives invade hotel room at La Fortuna

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Men armed with knives broke into a suite at a tourist hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos early Saturday, threatened the three tourists there and ransacked the quarters.

Fuerza Pública officers chased a vehicle containing four suspect a short time later and detained the men. The suspects are from Liberia, Cañas and Grecia, the Fuerza Pública said.

The terrorized tourists were from a single family who are believed to be visiting from the United States.

The crime is a version of the home invasions that have plagued Costa Rica for at least three years.

La Fortuna, which is near Volcán Arenal, has experienced a steady growth in crime, but most have been burglaries and simple thefts of tourist suitcases taken when the owners were not present. The police presence there recently was beefed up.
Allan Obando, regional director of the Fuerza Pública, said the hotel invasion took place early Saturday.

Police received information that a crime was taking place, and the occupants of a patrol car spotted a vehicle matching the description of the one that fled the crime scene on the highway to the volcano, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Inside the vehicle police found three Colombians and a Costa Rican. They were identified by the last names, ages and hometowns as Velásquez, 25, of Liberia, Cambronero, 34, of Cañas, Calderón, 35, of Cañas and Pérez, 28, of Grecia.

Police said they recovered a portable computer, two cameras and a lens, a cell phone and charger, a wristwatch and a flashlight, all identified as the property of the U.S. citizens who were the victims.

Police said they also found a crowbar, knives, a screwdriver and other hand tools.


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For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 165

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Police sweep five bars
in Jacó at midnight


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers staged raids on five Jacó nightspots shortly before midnight Saturday. They said they interviewed 147 persons.

Of these, officers said they found 24 women who did not have the paperwork to be in the country legally.

Participating were the Policia Turistica, the Policia Especial de Migración, the Fuerza Pública, as well as workers from the Ministerio de Salud.

Law officers had hopes of finding minors in the bars, but they did not. They also sought to suppress drug use. The raids were similar to ones in late July at nightspots in San José. There officers did find two minors working as prostitutes and eight persons without correct immigration paperwork.

Miners in Chile signal
that they still are alive


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thirty-three Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two weeks have notified authorities they are still alive, but rescuers say it could take up to four months to reach them.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said Sunday a drill sent by rescuers nearly 700 meters into the mine came back with a message from the trapped men. He displayed the message in a television appearance.

Relatives hugged and kissed upon hearing the news.

Supplies of the trapped miners are limited.  Rescue teams thus plan to lower food, communications equipment and other items to help them until they are rescued.

The miners became trapped following a shaft collapse Aug. 5 in a gold and copper mine near the northern city of Copiapo, about 700 kilometers north of Santiago. 

It is not clear what caused the mine collapse.  The mine has had a history of accidents and had been closed in recent years before it was reopened.

Chile is the world's largest copper supplier.

Disabled drivers reminded
that they need new permits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 1,096 persons have received permission to ignore the license plate restrictions in downtown San José.

These are individuals who have some sort of disability. The permits are issued by the Dirección General de Ingeriería de Tránsito. But first the applicanttt has treceiveee approval of the Consejo Nacional de Rehabilitación y Educación Especial. The approval is good for one year.

The fact that a motorist has a license plate that identifies him or her as disabled is not sufficient, said the consejo.  Traffic officers have been instructed to ticket those persons who claim to be disabled but do not have the correct paperwork even if the disability is evident.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that some individuals were making photocopies of documents that say they were disabled or were putting a disabled sign on their dashboard.

Those who seek the permission also must show that they are unable to travel on a bus or in a taxi on the one day in five of the week when their licensed plate final digit is prohibited downtown. They also have to show why they must enter San José on a day when their licensed plate does not allow it.

In the case of persons who are blind, the consejo said it would not give permission for such individuals to have another person drive their car. Instead, those who are blind have the right to bring a dog on a public bus without payingg additional money, said the consejo.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 165


Latin American news
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Haitian singer living in U.S.
barred from presidential race

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian election officials have excluded U.S.-based singer Wyclef Jean and 14 other candidates from running for the country's presidency. Jean's campaign had generated considerable interest in the November ballot.

Haiti's electoral council released its final list of candidates late Friday, after a delay that officials said was necessary to study the eligibility of the 34 people who were seeking to run for president.

Officials said 19 people were qualified, including former prime minister Yvon Neptune, former prime minister Jacques Edouard Alexis and Jude Celestin, who has the backing of President Rene Preval's Unity party.

They said 15 others failed to meet a set of legal requirements, such as owning a residence in Haiti and living in the country for the past five years.

U.S.-based singer Wyclef Jean had met with President Rene Preval and other officials this week in an effort to resolve concerns about his application, especially the residency requirement.

As a child, Jean moved with his family to the United States, where he later launched his music career. But lawyers for the 40-year-old singer argued he should have been exempt from the rule because he has served as a roving ambassador for Haiti for the past two years.

The singer has generated considerable interest in Haiti and elsewhere about the Nov. 28 vote.

Hyppolite Pierre runs a consulting group in Maryland that focuses on human rights and development issues in Haiti. He says many Haitians embrace Jean because of a charity he founded in Haiti.

"People are looking for someone who can bring not just stability but confidence. And because of Wyclef's charity work in Haiti and he is not associated with the system in general, he connects much easier with the general population, with the poor," he said.

Pierre says Jean set an example that other candidates may follow during the campaign, specifically by trying to address the concerns of Haiti's youth and others who feel disconnected from politics.

The biggest issue for all candidates, however, is likely to be the monumental task of rebuilding after a January earthquake that hit the capital, killing 230,000 people.

At a May conference, foreign governments and other donors pledged nearly $10 billion for recovery and reconstruction efforts. The next president will have to work closely with a newly formed recovery commission that includes Haitian officials, foreign advisors and donor partners.

Pierre says some candidates will be eager to show voters they can foster a close relationship with the recovery commission.

"I don't think they have much of a choice, because you don't run a country unless there is an economy going. And that is going to be the major engine of the Haitian economy, at least for the next five to 10 years," said Pierre.

Yves Colon, a former journalist who now teaches at the University of Miami, says many candidates may want to keep the recovery commission at arm's length, at least during the campaign. He says nationalism often plays a key role in Haitian elections, and candidates may seek to convince voters that foreign interests do not have too strong a voice in the next administration.

After the vote, he says the next government will face new challenges in working with the recovery commission that issues rebuilding contracts.

"Once these things have already been awarded, what happens now? What can this president do, and what kind of voice is he going to have in the affairs of the states?" he asked.

One key task of rebuilding is to find new homes for government buildings that were damaged in the earthquake, including the presidential palace.






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