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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 168       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Lourdes Murrillo, mother of Cristian Zamora, holds his medal while priest blesses his casket.

Vests would have saved two slain policemen
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two policemen who died Tuesday would have been saved by bulletproof vests, and security officials are blaming the lack on an absence of resources.

The security minister, Fernando Berrocal, said Wednesday that the country also needed to make its laws stiffer to avoid the kind of criminal acts that led to the confrontation of a robbery suspect with police.

Security officials also are embarrassed because the suspect Rolando Antonio Ortega Ortega may turn out to be an undocumented Nicaraguan citizen who has lived in the country since at least 1994.

The Arias administration and the security ministry have given a chilly reception to a new immigration law, passed by the previous legislature, that went into effect earlier this month.

Officials tried to stop the law from going into effect. The measure is tougher on illegal immigrants and those who hire, transport and lodge them than was the prior law. A disproportionate amount of criminal violence comes from the legions of poor, undereducated Nicaraguan males living in bad conditions in Costa Rica.

Berrocal spoke at a ceremony of homage for police officer Cristian Zamora Murillo that took place Wednesday afternoon at the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. A morning ceremony honored the second dead policeman, Johny Hidalgo Díaz. Both men received the Cruz Escarlata or Scarlet Cross, which is given only to officers who die in the line of duty.
Berrocal did not specify what kinds of laws should be changed in the wake of Tuesday's violence. The suspect does not seem to have any prior arrests. He was ordered held for three months of preventative detention while the investigation continues. Agents still are seeking two men who are believed to have accompanied Ortega.

The three men were on a Pavas-San José bus and were seen to be threatening passengers. The driver stopped the bus near the Liceo de Pavas before 9 a.m. where Hildago was on duty. Meanwhile a passenger called police, and Zamora was responding.

Berrocal, in an interview with reporters, said that his ministry needed more money. There have been recent international grants, but none for police vests. Although their assailant hit the policemen with up to to 16 rounds, all struck their bodies in places that would have been protected by standard vests.

The ministry also is in the center of several financial scandals carried over from the previous administration. A fleet of almost new patrol cars made in Romania sits broken and idle because there are no repair parts and the vehicles were in poor condition when they arrived, officials have confirmed.

Berrocal is trying to transfer more administrative staffers into police patrol jobs.  Hundreds now serve as cooks, for example. The Arias administration says it wants to add 4,000 police over the next few years. Some 500 new slots are being created this year, said Berrocal in the past.

However, all these new officers need equipment, including vests, and transportation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 168

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Man killed in Moravia
had ties to United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Intruders tied up and killed an elderly man in Moravia Tuesday or early Wednesday.

The victim had links to the United States and told neighbors that he received a pension from there.

The death took place in a home on a quiet street in the community north of San José almost on the border with Guadalupe. There did not appear to be forced entry although a gate to a parking area was ajar, a neighbor said.

Neighbors said that the victim, identified by the last names of Montes Salazar would invite young guests to visit. Police are seeking information among these acquaintances.

It was unclear whether or not the man was a U.S. citizen.

Police said they believe the man was suffocated. That was what happened to Carl D. Brainard, a U.S. citizen whose body was found in the Pacific coast community of Playa Guiones near Nosara July 13. The car, stolen by whoever killed Brainard turned up in Tibás, which is not far from the most recent crime scene.

Police reported that items appeared to have been taken from the Moravia home.

Election tribunal warns
of political publicity

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones is telling public officials that they cannot promote their work until after the Dec. 3 municipal elections.

The country's election code prohibits the executive branch, decentralized offices and state companies from making announcements about their own management."

The only information permitted is that of an indispensable technical nature and material related to an essential public service, according to the code.

The first possible violator of this prohibition that went into effect Aug. 2 could be the Arias administration, which provides televised messages each Sunday about what transpired the previous week.

The Tribunal also notified companies that do public opinion polling that they must register by Thursday and promise to treat all political parties equally. The Tribunal seeks to insure objective polling, it said.

The prohibition against self-promotion and publicity, if broadly interpreted, would silence the central administration, perhaps restricting any notices to tiny type in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The election code clause also seems to conflict with the Constitution and enjoyment of free speech.

The Tribunal issued its statement after being contacted by reporters on the matter. The issuance of a press bulletin suggested that election officials might try to enforce the ruling. Executive branch organizations send out dozens of press bulletins every day.

The Arias government said Wednesday it would ask the Tribunal to give an  "authentic" interpretation of the section of the code.

Applying this rule would leave the government unable to communicate to the public its position on matters like the free trade treaty with the United States and other important legislation, said Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia. He contended that the prohibition in the code only related to national elections, not municipal.

The government may seek a change in the section of the code through legislation.

Hotels in pilot program
report electrical savings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five hotels on the central Pacific coast say they have reduced electrical consumption some 24 percent in a pilot project to save power.

The project began in 2005 and involved Sí Como No, Parador, Club de Mar, Best Western Jacó and Marriott Los Sueños, said a news release.

The strategy to save power came from the Fundación Red de Energía and two Dutch firms. The savings came from training and also analysis of power use. More than 50 percent of a hotel's power needs is electricity, the release said.

A 24 percent savings in energy translates to a 1.5 percent increase in net income for the hotels involved, the release said.

Savings like this can be used to help hotels earn their sustainable tourism certification from the Instituto Costarricenese de Turismo, said the release.

Another project is being planned for hotels in the mountains.

Patrols for illegal fishing
beefed up at Isla del Coco

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The security ministry said that patrols will be increased around Parque Nacional Isla del Coco to prevent illegal fishing.

Last weekend the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas joined forces with two other organizations to maintain a 12-mile radius sweep of the national park.

Also involves was the Área de Conservación Marina Isla del Coco and Asociación MarViva. In all, five boats were on patrol.

Long-line fishermen like to work in and around the island because it has an abundance of fish. But such activity is illegal in a national park. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, which is the parent organization to the coast guard, said such fishing and fishing with nets is doing serious damage to the underwater plant growth and creatures like turtles. rays and sharks.

The ministry said that many boats have foreign crews that earn much less than Costa Rican fishermen. The patrolling crews seek to board vessels and check their paperwork, the ministry said.

So far this year, 15 cases have been reported to prosecutors involving illegal fishing, the ministry said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 168

Photo exhibit highlights landmark buildings of NYC
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

A traveling photo exhibit, "The Landmarks of New York," opens tonight at the Galería Nacional del Centro Costarricense de Ciencia y Cultura, otherwise known as

Flatiron Building
the Museo de los Niños in north San José.

The exhibit is 81 photos and texts depicts outstanding New York City landmarks. The U.S. Department of State and the Octagon Museum of the American Architectural Foundation is sponsoring the traveling exhibition that is being shown in 39 other countries via three identical editions.

The collection portrays buildings ranging from office skyscrapers like the Chrysler and Flatiron Buildings to the New York Public Library and Ellis Island Immigration Center.

Exhibit curator Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel said in an earlier interview that the
photographs depict buildings constructed over a 320-year span from the 1652 Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House to the Ford Foundation Building begun in 1963. The photographs, she explained, thus portray the life 
and times of one American city from its origins through the Colonial and early national periods to its subsequent emergence as a metropolis.

Illustrating the link between architecture and other aspects of national life, Ms. Diamonstein-Spielvogel singled out a photograph of the Asch Building, where, in 1911, some 146 clothing factory workers lost their lives in the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist fire, an event that led to the introduction of workplace and social reform laws and regulations.

Ms. Diamonstein-Spielvogel served for 17 years on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, a body established in 1965 by the city’s pioneering landmark preservation ordinance.

More common today, landmark laws typically permit the local, state or federal government to designate as “landmarks” privately owned properties that possess special historical, cultural or aesthetic value. No landmark may be altered, reconstructed or otherwise changed without the approval of a specially appointed landmarks commission or similar body.

Although landmark laws have proven controversial, in 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the New York landmark ordinance when the owners of the Grand Central Station (depicted in the Landmarks of New York exhibit) challenged the Landmark Commission’s refusal to allow construction of a 55-story office tower on the roof of that railroad terminal.

Ms. Diamonstein-Spielvogel also has written a book that illustrates more than 1,100 buildings.

Sirens to share their wisdom at a Calderón Guardia exhibition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ceramics of Emily Gassenheimer de Friedlander, a U.S. citizen who has lived here 20 years, will be featured this month at the Museo Calderón Guardia in Barrio Escalante.

The exhibit is entitled "Sabiduría de Sirenas" or wisdom of the sirens.

The artist has a long list of public exhibitions both here and the United States.

One of the standout pieces of the exhibit, which opens Tuesday, will be a six-foot reclining mermaid or siren. It is characterized as being of mixed ceramic media.

The artist said on her Web site that her work is "influenced by the visual aesthetic elements of nature, but also by the spiritual and emotional elements of our physical world."

The ceramics in her portfolio seem to have a strong

Ceramic mermaid is 72 inches long

influence of Costa Rican creatures. 

In addition to ceramics, the exhibition will include  collages.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is 100 meters north and 100 meters east of the Iglesia Santa Teresita in northeast San José.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 168

136 more luxury condos being readied in Excazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you thought Escazú has an overabundance of condos, guess again. Executives of the Spanish firm Grupo Inmobiliario Diursa will be in town next week to kick off promotion of their $30 million project in Guachipelín and announce an opening date.

The company is building some 136 luxury condos. The project, called El Cortijo Los Laureles, is contained in four towers of eight floors each.

Ulpiano González, the firm's president, will be among those who visit. The company is well known for developing residential and commercial projects in Spain.

The project will include swimming pools, commercial space, a gymnasium and similar. It is expected to be finished next year.

Escazú, particularly in the vicinity of San Rafael, has a number of condo structures that have not been sold out despite having been on the market for years. In addition, there are significant condo

Rendering of finished project

projects in Sabana Oeste with sales prices in the $200,000 range and along the Circumvalación to the west are other projects.

Guachipelín is a good location for those who love the beach but still want to be in the Central Valley. Eventually the highway to Caldera will be completed from Ciudad Colón to the Pacific greatly decreasing travel time.

Shannon says transition in Cuba is in 'slow motion'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Bush administration says Cuba is undergoing a de facto political transition while President Fidel Castro recovers from surgery and that it is up to the Cuban people to decide the future of their country.

The State Department's top official for Latin America held a press briefing Wednesday.

He is Tom Shannon, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs. The United States is watching developments in Cuba with particular interest since President Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raul, more than three weeks ago, he said. Shannon has been outspoken on Cuba.

"We believe that what we are seeing in Cuba today is effectively a slow-motion transfer of power," he said.  "That Fidel Castro, given his age and given the kind of health crisis he went through, does not appear, at least, to be in a position to return to the day-to-day
management of affairs that he had effectively enjoyed for so many decades."

Fidel Castro turned 80 last week, and Cuban officials marked the occasion by releasing photographs of the president, the only solid evidence up to that point that Castro was alive.

Shannon says, while Cuba waits to see what becomes of the man who led the island since the 1959 Communist revolution, the institutions of Cuba's totalitarian system are in a period of negotiation over power-sharing duties.

The assistant secretary of state says the United States has a role to play in helping steer Cuba towards democracy, but it is a role that must be played from the sidelines. "Cuba's future has to be determined by the Cuban people," he added.  "Ultimately, no political solution can be imposed from the outside. It is imperative that the Cuban people be able to choose their future."

Red Cross in Ecuador issues appeal as volcano gets ready to blow again
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Red Cross leaders in Ecuador have issued an emergency appeal for more than $500,000 to help provide relief to those affected by last week's volcano eruption.

The Red Cross said Wednesday that the funds will be used to provide food and other aid for up to 1,000 families over the next four months.

The emergency appeal comes nearly a week after the Tungurahua volcano 130 kms, (80 miles) south of Quito exploded, destroying nearby villages and displacing thousands of people. At least five people died.

The president of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, Juan Cueva, says the volcano's ashes are already causing
health problems, including respiratory infections. The organization is also working to protect people from contaminated water.

Cueva says psychological support is also needed for victims experiencing trauma from the disaster.

Earlier, Ecuador's President Alfredo Palacio promised that Ecuador would "rise like a phoenix from the ashes."

Volcano experts have warned that the volcano is poised for another eruption.

Tungurahua is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes. The 5,000-meter (16,400-foot) tall volcano sent huge columns of ash into the air in 1999, forcing the evacuation of 17,000 area residents of the town of Banos, to the north.

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