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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Aug. 28, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 170       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Tuna farm impact study contains flaws, say environmentalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An organization that opposes an underwater tuna farm in southwestern Costa Rica claims 13 residents of the area never were interviewed by agents of the project but their names nevertheless appear in an environmental report.

The organization, Fundación Vida Marina, says it has 13 sworn documents from the 13 individuals and that it has asked the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental, the environmental watchdog for the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia, to void the tuna farm's environmental impact statement.

The project is being developed by Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. and involves raising young yellowfin tuna to market weight in
cages two kilometers (1.2 miles) long under
 the ocean. Opponents said the project will pollute the Gulfo Dulce and attract predators.

In a news release, the organization said that it was acting jointly with teachers of sustainable tourism from the Universidad de Costa Rica. The organization also asked that a case be opened against Granjas Atuneras and the advisers who did the impact statement to expose them to possible sanctions.

The 13 individuals have signed a sworn statement that says they were never interviewed or surveyed, said the organization.

As part of the impact statement the company addressed the social effect on the community. The organization did not say how many persons in all were listed in the report as being interviewed.

Memorial date still not fixed for expropriation figure Hamilton
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A memorial service still is not fixed for Joseph Hamilton, the U.S. businessman who was a figure in Costa Rica's long- running property expropriation drama.

Hamilton owned Finca Santa Elena on the north Pacific coast that was twice expropriated by the Costa Rican government to become part of the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa.

Hamilton's land also was a supply base for the U.S.-backed contras in the 1980s war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

The Costa Rican government failed to pay for the land until 2000 when international pressures, principally by the United States, and an arbitration decision forced officials to do so.

Hamilton, 86, died Aug. 18 at Hospital CIMA in Escazú. Before coming to Costa Rica in 1969 he was a successful textile manufacturer in Greensboro, North Carolina, where his two children, Holly and Jeffery, live today.

The 15,000 hectares of land (37,000 acres) on the Santa Elena Peninsula on the north Pacific coast was first expropriated in 1978 by the government of Daniel Oduber. Hamilton  rejected the $1 million-plus price proposed
by the government and maintained control into the government of Luis Alberto Monge. That was when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency constructed an air field for secret flights.

Oscar Arias Sánchez ordered the air strip shut down almost as soon as he became president in 1986 and then announced that the land would become part of adjacent Parque Nacional Santa Rosa.

A New York Times report July 25, 1987, said that Costa Rican children would plant tree seedlings on the controversial airstrip as a gesture of peace.

Hamilton, a friend of U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, complained about the expropriation, and U.S. pressure delayed some $250 million in loans that international agencies were going to give Costa Rica. Finally the case went into arbitration with an agency of the World Bank.

The arbitration panel awarded Hamilton $16 million and $4 million in costs in 2000.

Friends said Hamilton vowed never to own land here again. He was living south of Santa Ana at the time of his death.

A memorial service probably will take place within the next two weeks, a friend said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 170

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A.M. Costa Rica/David K. Treadway
Veterinarian Brenes performs a procedure on one of many dogs brought to the clinic.

Esterillos Oeste takes
action against strays

By David K. Treadway
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The beach community of Esterillos Oeste in cooperation with the McKee Foundation held a spay and neuter  clinic Sunday. 

The event was organized by several local residents and supported by volunteers and several businesses.   Performing the surgeries were Sergio Brenes Mata and Desire Delgado Ramirez, both Jacó veterinarians.  Brenes helps with other low- to no-cost clinics in Jacó  where he said there are as many as 900 stray dogs just in that area alone. 

Assisting the veterinarians were Nadia Gonzales and Doris Schluckebier.  Esterillos Oeste volunteers who  organized and planned the event were Beau Maisel, Kristy Raihn, and Elisabeth Lubbers, all of whom helped at the clinic itself during the day.

The procedures were being offered for 5,000 colons (less than $10), but there were several individual sponsors who volunteered to cover the cost for anyone that could not afford the procedure for their pets.  Some residents helped to round up several strays and house them over night and bring them on Sunday to the clinic, which was set up in the local school. 

The Super Sol market along with Azul restaurant supplied lunches and drinks for volunteers.  Workers expected to do as many as 20 surgeries by the end of the all-day clinic.

The McKee Foundation Costa Rica is run by Katja Bader.  It has been in operation here since June of 2003 and has assisted in the spay and neuter procedure for more than 1,100 cats and dogs.  The foundation not  only helps in setting up these local clinics but assists poor families individually with services in cooperation with veterinarians. 

The organization also has several volunteers in the area that house stray dogs and cats that are rescued from the street and assist in placing them in homes after they are spayed or neutered.  The adoptions are free,  but donations are accepted. 

Ms. Bader said the foundation is raising money to open its own facility, staffed with a full -time veterinarian and assistants.  The organization hopes to raise $80,000, and already has $10,000  towards the goal.  Information is available through Brenes’s office at  643-1256.

Two men called fugitives
arrested by agents here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men identified as fugitives from justice have been arrested in Costa Rica.

Escazú resident Allan Stone was confronted by a squad of

Jorge Velarde Silva
armed policemen while he walked his dog Saturday morning. He faces allegations of fraud and money laundering relating to a stock operation in the United States, agents here said.

Friday, a Peruvian man sought by police in Australia to face a charge of drug smuggling, was captured. He is  Jorge Ernesto Velarde Silva, 44, who lived in  Playa Negra with his North
American wife, said agents.
Both men had lived some time in Costa Rica. Stone was arrested by the Fuerza Pública under the supervision of the International Police Agency and the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad.

Velarde was arrested by the same agencies as well as the  Unidad Contra el Lavado de Dinero of the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents said his home was raided due to the large sums of money passing through his bank accounts.

Velarde is a professional scuba diver who worked in hotels in the area. He had been under surveillance since 2005, agents said. He has been in Costa Rica since 1999, they said.

The charge stems from a 2001 case in which drugs were moved by boat, the "Sparklies Plenty," from Colombia to Tahiti and to Australia, agents said.

RACSA says its mail woes
come from upgrades

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the internet provider known as RACSA, is having trouble delivering e-mails., and some individual domains won't accept some RACSA e-mails because of configuration problems and because the RACSA domain appears on some spam block lists.

In many cases, an e-mail message is returned citing Sender Policy Framework (SPF) Project violations. This is a system to authenticate e-mails that confirms the sender's identification. Many unwanted commercial messages use fake return addresses. This system is supposed to weed them out.

RACSA itself says on its Web site that work it did last week in upgrading its mail service may have caused some problems, but it only instructs users to clear the cache of their computer. Some who have contacted support at RACSA report unsatisfactory responses.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 170

A handy phrase to wish success or describe a result
Como anillo al dedo

“Like a ring to the finger.” I’m especially partial to this little dicho. It’s capable of expressing three ideas at the same time. It can be applied to things that fit, but it can also refer to things that go together, or one thing that’s the natural consequence of another. But I think perhaps we need a few examples to help clear up any confusion.

Let’s say that a friend tells you that Roberto and María are dating. “Well,” you might respond, “I didn’t know they even liked each other.” To this your friend might reply: "¡Ay, si! Ellos son como anillo al dedo,” meaning that they fit together. In other words, they’re a perfect match.

But my grandmother used this dicho in a very different way. When my siblings and I were school children, we always put off doing our homework as long as we possibly could. Each day, when we got home from school, Grandma would chasten us to get busy and do our lessons. But, of course we wanted to use the remains of the afternoon for play.

In the evening, as regular as clockwork, my father would come home and ask if we’d finished our homework and then scold us severely for not having done so. Whereupon grandmother could often be heard to mutter, "como anillo al dedo," meaning that our recurrent recalcitrance and my father’s perennial rebukes were two things that just went together; one was the natural consequence of the other.

In most cases, however, this dicho refers to pleasant things. You might use it to express confidence, for example, to a friend who is about to embark on a new career or open a new business. In this case como anillo al dedo would mean that you think your friend’s new position or venture suits him very well. It’s a way of saying that you think he’ll do well.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto


These days I am kept very busy with the orientation of new international students at the university where I work. They come from every corner of the globe to study, but before they can begin they have many things that have to be put in order, especially since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now has a plethora of new requirements that all international students must fulfill before they are permitted to begin their studies.

This, coupled with the already complicated orientation process demanded by the university, means that getting ready for the first day of classes can be an arduous process for students who come from abroad to study in the United States.

It is part of my job to help shepherd them through this labyrinthine operation. But once all the pieces have fallen into place — usually not until the day before classes are scheduled to begin — it’s another case of como anillo al dedo.  That is to say, it finally all “fits” just like a ring on a finger.

Shark fishing scuffle reaches screen before the courts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmentalist Paul Watson's seagoing confrontation with shark fishermen will have its day in the court of public opinion before it goes to trial here.

A  film that contains footage of the event is contained in "Sharkwater," a work by Canadian documentalist Rob Stewart, that will debut at the Toronto Film Festival Sept. 8 through Sept. 12.

The movie's Web site says that the film originated in an effort to protect sharks:

". . . Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Their unbelievable adventure together starts with a battle between the Sea Shepherd and shark poachers in Guatemala, resulting in pirate boat rammings, gunboat chases, mafia espionage, corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges, forcing them to flee for their lives."

Watson has said via e-mails that he was never notified that he had been charged in Costa Rica or that he was scheduled for a trial. He was declared a fugitive in June when he didn't show up for criminal trial, according to court officials here.

Watson has not returned to Costa Rica since April 2002 when he visited Puntarenas shortly after the confrontation with the shark fishermen. but he reports now that he has hired a lawyer, Jaime Daremblum the former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States.
"I did not damage any property," Watson said. "I did not threaten anyone's life nor did I even come close to hurting anyone. The entire affair was videotaped by a number of cameras. The fishermen's charges have no evidence other than their verbal claim. I have many more witnesses than they do."

He is charged with endangering the craft to the point of almost sinking her. However, the confrontation took place in Guatemalan waters, and the video, which is available on the Web site, shows the fishermen sailing off apparently undamaged.

The case is confusing because the court summary here said that the brief contact between the two boats, Watson's 657-ton Ocean Warrior and the smaller fishing craft, took place near the Isla del Coco, which is Costa Rican territory.  Watson's crew was spraying the fishing boat with water in an effort to dissuade them from what Watson said was illegal shark fishing. The fishermen claim the boat nearly sunk.

"The problem is that I can't be guaranteed a fair trial," said Watson. The very fact that they would jail me for up to a year before hearing the case is unacceptable. I cannot see paying illegal shark finners to withdraw an accusation that has no evidence to back it up." He said he was told the case would go away with the payment of $100,000. "If I am arrested, we are prepared to spend much more that $100K on a defense and an opportunity to expose this farce to the rest of the world. It will certainly be an opportunity to expose Costa Rica's continued corrupt involvement with the illegal shark fin trade."

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 170

Agents say LP fuel tank held much more than gas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents discovered what they called a new way to smuggle Friday when they arrested two Mexican men and confiscated their pickup.

Some 60 kilos of suspected cocaine was found hidden in a low-pressure gas fuel tank being carried in the bed of the truck.

The two men were among six held for drug offenses Friday and over the weekend, said officials.

The two Mexican men, identified by the last names and ages of Ruiz Fernández, 51, and Ibarra Ruiz, 21, had traveled from Nicaragua through Costa Rica to Panamá. They were on the return trip when agents stopped them at the Peñas Blancas, Guanacaste, border crossing with Nicaragua.

Agents called on the Cuerpo de Bomberos from Liberia to help them dismantle the gas cylinder. They said they found the gas cylinder to be in three sections. One held low-pressure gas, but the other two held a white powder in packages.

In another case, a young man from Barrio México, San José, was intercepted at Juan Santamaría airport with 64 small packages of cocaine in his stomach, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

He was identified by the last names and age of 

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo

Police bcame suspicious of this LP gas tank

Murillo Espinoza, 31, and officials said the cocaine totaled 650 grams. He became the fifth person held for investigation of international drug trafficking at the airport last week. Four Bulgarians were detained Wednesday, and anti-drug agents said they confiscated 3.5 kilos of cocaine.

In four local arrests, agents arrested individuals identified as local drug distributors in Cañas and Alajuela.

World population boom mostly in developing nations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The world population reached 6.6 billion this year, up from 6 billion in 1999. By 2025, researchers expect nearly 8 billion people will be living on the planet. Some 99 percent of those new inhabitants will be in developing countries.

Three million migrants are moving from poor countries to wealthier ones each year, and increasingly, their destination is a neighboring country. Those statistics come from an annual demographic snapshot of global population numbers and trends, produced by the Population Reference Bureau.

Rachel Nugent, an economist with the research group, points to the population shifts that are occurring now from Bangladesh to India or from India, Egypt and Yemen to the Persian Gulf.

She said people are moving within the developing world for the same reasons they migrate to wealthier nations. "People from very poor countries [are] going to less poor countries and fleeing wars and conflict." She adds that they are also responding to population pressures because, she says, "Some countries are very densely populated, and they often have high population growth. Those people need to go somewhere, and they often are going looking for jobs."

Nugent says migration from Guatemala to Mexico is one such example. "And many Guatemalans go to Mexico, probably 25,000 a year that stay and 100,000 a year that go back and forth. And that is a pretty high proportion of the Guatemalan population."

The United Nations projects that by 2050, the
population of Europe, now at 750 million, will fall by 75 million; and Japan, home to 128 million people, will lose 16 million. Population Reference Bureau senior demographer and survey author Carl Haub says a shrinking population is a threat to economic health.

"The number of young people in many European countries is half the size of their parents' generation," he says. "So what you see today are the corporations, the health care system saying, 'Listen! We can't find workers. We haven't had enough workers and now we can't find workers.' So they will have to come from some place and that's going to have to come from outside the country."

The World Population Data Sheet also notes that although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is lower than previously estimated, it remains catastrophically high in some sub-Saharan African countries. There is also disappointing news about efforts to increase access to sanitation and safe drinking water, as called for by the United Nations.

Ms. Nugent says that issue is one of two new environmental indicators in this year's survey. "We can see that in rural areas in the developing world and in some parts of Africa and Asia we don't have high rates of access to sanitation. That needs to be addressed." Nugent says another indicator measures protected areas within a country. "This means land, protected land for wildlife, for plant biodiversity, and for the indigenous and other populations that live nearby."

Report author Carl Haub says the easy-to-read "World Population Data Sheet" is designed to raise awareness among the public and public officials. "The numbers are there, and it's always a question of whether politicians will pay any attention to them,'" he said.

Special fund created to eliminate small arms in Central America
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Organization of American States has created a special fund to help countries in Central America manage, collect and destroy stockpiles of small arms and light weapons, meaning such items as handguns, automatic weapons and ammunition.

A $50,000 contribution from the U.S. mission is the first to the special fund.  It will be used to help finance a new Central America Munitions Stockpile Destruction Pilot Project.  That project, focusing in its initial stage on Nicaragua and Honduras, is being carried out by the Organization of American States in addition to the organization's work in destroying anti-personnel land mines in Latin America.

An official with the U.S. mission said the contribution, announced Thursday, is focused on stopping illicit trafficking in small arms in Central America.  The official said the United States views its $50,000 contribution as seed money to encourage other nations, especially those in Europe, to help with financing the project.

Christopher Hernández-Roy of the Organization of American States said Friday that Italy has provided funding for the project, while Germany is "lining up" money for the same purpose.
Hernández-Roy is head of the organization's Department of Public Security, which is carrying out the pilot project. Small arms and light weapons can make tempting targets for use by criminals and terrorists, he said.

The project is needed, said Hernández-Roy, because such Central American countries as Nicaragua have more arms and ammunition left over from the country's civil war in the 1980s than they can possibly hope to use for any legitimate military reasons.  The weapons, he continued, need to be stored and secured to prevent loss, diversion, or theft to criminals, or possibly to terrorists.

In describing its pilot project, the organization said that Nicaragua has reported that it has about 333 tons of artillery ammunition and some 100 tons of small arms and 79 tons of air defense ammunition to be destroyed. 

Meanwhile, Honduras has sought assistance with the cleanup of a storage site in the Naco Valley region of Honduras after the facility exploded accidentally in 1993.  Similarly, a smaller accident at a storage facility in Guatemala in 2005 raised concern by the Guatemalan government about the need to eliminate potentially dangerous surplus munitions in that nation.

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