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(506) 223-1327              Published Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 183           E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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The Teatro Nacional is among the public buildings decked out in flags and bunting to mark independence day Saturday.

teatro national
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Election tribunal will monitor Cartago celebration
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All sides of the referendum campaign have said they are worried about violence when the nation's independence is celebrated tonight in Cartago.

The Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones took the unusual step of saying it would supervise the activities and send 200 civilian observers to the event.

The participation of the tribunal was sought by security ministry officials as well as leaders of the campaign against the free trade treaty with the United States.

Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, met with tribunal officials Thursday, as did Eugenio Trejos, president of the Movimiento Patriótico del NO. So did Alfredo Volio, leader of the SÍ al TLC campaign.

The event in Cartago is at 6 p.m. It is traditional that on Sept. 14, the president and his cabinet assemble in the nation's first capital and receive the torch of independence. The torch is carried by school children from the nation's northern border to Cartago and then to other cities and towns.

The Cartago event is mostly symbolic. Saturday there is, as usual, an assembly of politicians at Parque Nacional at the Monumento Nacional.

The monument depicts five women representing the Central American states beating William Walker, the 19th century filibusterer who wanted to become ruler of the isthmus.

That the tribunal would consider playing peacemaker at a non-electoral activity shows how divided the country has become over the free trade agreement that goes to voters Oct. 7. Even the tribunal in its written declaration noted that the assembly in Cartago was not strictly electoral. The tribunal has broad powers at times of elections.

The idea for tribunal involvement seems to have
tribunal magistrate
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Luis Antonio Sobrado outlines what the election tribunal will do today while a second magistrate, Max A. Esquivel Faerron, watches.

originated with the campaign against the treaty. They suggested that persons opposed to the treaty would be barred from the ceremonies.

In fact, university students and others opposed to the treaty have been kept away from other public events, mainly because they chanted and were disruptive. The campaigners against the trade treaty have complained internationally that they were being beat up by police, but there has been little evidence that they have been singled out. Security officials guarding the president have roughed up some individuals, including a legislator. That last case has resulted in an investigation and internal punishment of the policeman involved.

Luis Antonio Sobrado, the chief magistrate at the tribunal, held a 9 p.m. press conference Thursday to announce that his agency would guarantee citizen participation in Cartago.  The 200 tribunal observers will wear distinctive armbands.

Sobrado told a reporter that the tribunal magistrates would not interfere, but a written statement said that magistrates reserve the right to object to any arbitrary or unnecessary measures that the Fuerza Pública might impose.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 183

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$17 million appeal launched
for major Nicaraguan disaster

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations World Food Programme launched a $17 million appeal to assist an estimated 100,000 persons who are victims of Hurricane Felix in Nicaragua.

A report from the United Nations outlines a major disaster. Rescue crews reported that they were stunned by the intensity of the destruction wrought along the impoverished country’s northern coast, said the U.S.

A team from the Costa Rican emergency commission is at work in nine communities about 12 hours north of Managua, the capital.

Initial reports from the U.N. agency said that of the almost 10,000 homes affected by the violent Category 5 hurricane, 80 per cent were destroyed. Almost 5,200 wells were contaminated and 6,000 latrines destroyed. Diarrhea among children is increasing and heavy rainfall is creating unsanitary conditions that have raised fears of worsening health conditions, it said.

The Nicaraguan Embassy in San José will be sending off at least two containers of aid this morning.

One container has what the embassy has collected over the last two weeks and includes canned foods, clothing and other non-perishable assistance.

The second container has some 60 million colons ($115,000) in food products and sanitary items that were donated by  Industrias DIPO, said a release from the embassy.

The emergency commission team already has carried some 20,000 kilos, some 22 tons, of food and personal items like soap and toothpaste, as well as blankets to northern Nicaragua.

The emergency commission said that the Costa Rican team was working in these communities: El Pollo, El Danto 1, Fruta Pan, Las Breñas, Cocal, Arena Lozo, Zopilote, Tipispan and Dieahill. The team is based in La Rosita, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

“The victims of this catastrophe are among the poorest and most vulnerable people, not just in Nicaragua but in the whole Latin American region,” said William Hart, U.N. food program country director.

“As our staff arrive with supplies, it is clear they have been left with literally nothing. Everything is destroyed and their lives are in pieces. What we are discovering as we visit these remote areas is a desperate swathe of humanity that has been invisible to the outside world, and which now more than ever needs the help of outsiders,” he said.

“The numbers of people seriously affected continues to grow while at the same time, as more information comes in from this remote region, we realize just how violent and destructive Hurricane Felix really was,” Hart said. “Not only have entire villages up and down the coast been pummeled and flattened into the ground, but extensive damage has also been reported among those living as much as 100 kms. back from the coastline.”

Hurricane Felix, when it hit Sept. 4, also ripped out large quantities of coconut, banana and mango trees, depriving inhabitants of basic foods. The upcoming harvest of rice and other vital crops has been lost, and due to salt water damage to fields it is expected that December’s harvest may be lost or severely reduced.

Over the weekend, two ships carrying a combined total of 151 tons of U.N. food (enough for 15,000 people for 20 days) arrived in the battered coastal port of Bilwi (formerly Puerto Cabezas) after a two-day journey along the Escondido River. Bilwi has been cut off from overland transport after a key bridge was destroyed by Felix.

About 14 tons of the food (enough to feed 1,550 for 18 days) was then transported by two U. S. Air Force helicopters to the town of Raiti, one of more than 100 Miskito Indian communities along the coast. Without the helicopters, which have established an air bridge in the area, the journey would have taken over a week.

The U.N. Children’s Fund said it was seeking over $2 million in relief aid over the next six months for the hurricane victims.

Another real estate broker
grabbed by immigration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration has nabbed another real estate broker who was living in Costa Rica on a tourist visa.

They identified her as Kytka Jezek, who also is known as Kytka Hilmar-Jezek. Ms. Jezek ran Kytka's Costa Rica for several years. She also is an author, educator, life coach, tutor, home school and raw foods consultant, according to one of her many Web pages.

She is believed to live in the Central Pacific and has been here for at least four years.

Ms. Jezek, 43, has 48 hours to appeal the finding by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. Otherwise she will be deported.

She becomes the second real estate broker this week to run afoul of immigration. Wednesday agents detained Adam Blackiston, 36, in Jacó. He was identified as a real estate dealer there, but he also is wanted to face a charge of growing marijuana in the U.S. State of Virginia, agents said. Because he was here illegally he was to be deported.

Ms. Jezek, who also answers to the name Kit, was turned in by her neighbors, according to immigration officials. However no one wants to comment in detail because Ms. Jezek was the subject of an unflattering article in El Diario Extra Thursday.

30-year term in homicide

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man, Cristian Flores Mora, who lured a seafood vendor to his death got 30 years in prison in the Tribunal de Juicio de Desamparados Thursday. A female accomplice, Maribel Gutiérrez Luna, got eight years for aggravate robbery.

The pair contacted  William Porras Zeledón on the pretext of buying shrimp and then robbed him and then shot him when the victim pulled his own gun in Linda Vista de Desamparados.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 183

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Glencairn says it has rinsed cyanide from failing leach pad
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Glencairn Gold Corp., under fire from environmentalists here, said Thursday that environmental protection measures implemented since July at the Bellavista Mine in Miramar have successfully reduced cyanide concentrations.

The company noted it suspended mining operations July 25 and then implemented measures to ensure cyanide used in the heap leach processing on the site was rinsed from the site's leach pads and destroyed.

Sampling of solution discharge from the leach pad as well as solid sampling of the leach pad has confirmed that cyanide concentrations are now at acceptable levels that pose no threat to the environment, the firm said. The company's analysis of cyanide levels from water and solid samples have been confirmed by independent laboratories, it added.

Several environmental groups claimed that the mine was on the verge of an ecological disaster with cyanide leaking into nearby communities and even into the Gulf of Nicoya.

Glencairn's environmental protection measures included detailed monitoring of the solution discharge from the pad and solid samples taken from trenches and boreholes in the leach pad itself, said the company. To ensure that the site is secure and environmental protection maintained, all cyanide or other potential contaminants common to the mining operations have been removed from the site, it said, adding that, rinsing of the leach pad, monitoring and sampling of solution discharge as well as solid sampling are continuing until a final technical status report is complete.

Rainfall in the Miramar area of Costa Rica has continued to be abnormally heavy and has caused surface erosion in some areas of the mine site, the company said. The mine has implemented remedial actions such as placing protective tarping to reduce rain induced erosion and is reinforcing and filling eroded areas.

The problem with the leach pad developed because the ground became saturated with water and began to give way
under the weight of the gold ore. The company has installed several layers of waterproof material to keep the cyanide with the ore.

The deep seated ground creep is continuing in certain areas of the mine site, said the company, adding:

In some areas of the site, there has been no movement recorded. The mine pit area and the areas where the major mining equipment, including the mill and crushing plant, are located have not been affected by the ground movement. The deep seated creep is occurring in the area between the processing plant and the leach pads and following deep bedrock troughs at the contact between the andesite basement and the paleosoil layer.

"Our operations team at the Bellavista Mine has done an excellent job in implementing our environmental protection measures to deal with this issue", said Peter Tagliamonte, president and chief executive officer of Glencairn. "With the successful reduction of cyanide levels, concern that ground creep movement could compromise the liner, subliner and drain system is no longer critical and any potential impacts on the environment have been significantly reduced."

Glencairn said it has maintained an open information exchange and positive relationship with government authorities and the local community in Costa Rica with respect to monitoring, reporting and future planning.
However, the company was slow to report developments until the environmentalists began issuing press releases predicting disaster. It is not known if any of the critics actually visited the site.

If a cost-efficient permanent solution is not found to the ground movement problem or required permitting for remediation is not obtained, it is possible that the Bellavista Mine may remain on hold indefinitely, said the company.

Cyanide is naturally occuring in rock stratas in Costa Rica, but the cyanide at Bella Vista is part of the chemical process to separate gold from tons of rock.

Little Theatre Group is leaving its Bello Horizonte home
For the first time in nine years the Little Theatre Group will be presenting a play in a theater other than the Blanche Brown Theatre in Escazú.  The next production, "84 Charing Cross Road," will go on the boards at the Teatro Laurence Olivier just off Paseo Colon. 

I remember the theater well. The first play in which I had a part was put on there.  Ah, yes, I played a bag lady. This happens to be a lurking fear of many older women, and I got a chance to face that fear in my role. The play was “Talking With,” and that was over 10 years ago. “85 Charing Cross Road” might be called “Writing to” since it is the story of an American writer’s correspondence with the seller of antique and classic books in a bookstore in London, England.

Mary White, the new president of LTG, thought she was taking on the job when everything was rosy.  Thanks to quality productions over the past years, the group has gained a reputation for excellence, the membership has grown, and there is more talent than ever before to tap into.  Having had a permanent home at Blanche’s has been a huge plus because it enabled the group to concentrate more on the creative aspects of theater and not have to struggle with logistics of where they could perform. When I was an active member, I was in plays at four different theaters around town.

But things change. In May Blanche fell and broke her hip in the theater during after-hours when it was closed and no one was around. Blanche’s younger relatives are coming to live with her and help her through her recovery.  My understanding is that they will live here permanently at her Bello Horizonte home. 

Over the years Blanche has been very much a part of the theater and a good sport about putting up with the late hours, enduring the noise of set building and accepting the infringements on her privacy and peace and quiet. But it is too much to expect others who do not have greasepaint in their blood to do the same. It was time to move on.

I am very happy about the move because it is going to be
easier for me to get to the new locale and "84 Charing Cross Road" sounds like my kind of play.  It is based on the true story of writer Helene Hanff’s 20 years’
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

correspondence with Frank Doyle, seller of antique books (one of which she is seeking.)  There are the witty and intelligent discussions of literature, the inevitable clashes and misunderstandings because of their cultural backgrounds and the growth of a friendship between two very different people. 

To add to that, the play has some of my favorite actors: Susan Liang (who directed “Talking With”) will be Helene Hanf, and Joseph Loveday will be bookseller Frank Doyle. Phil Copeland, Lisa DeFuso, Penny Houghton, Caroline Kennedy, Carol Marianne and Vicky Longland complete the cast. Versatile Ann Antikiw is directing.
When I was in “Talking With,” if I had not sat in the dressing room so long after the performance, I would have met my dear friends Bonnie and Arnold Hano much sooner. They later told me they finally gave up waiting outside to tell me how much they had enjoyed the show. This doesn’t have to happen to you because downstairs is the cozy Shakespeare Bar where you can enjoy pre-show drinks and snacks and after the show meet with those members of the cast and crew who have the good sense to leave the dressing rooms.

"84 Charing Cross Road" opens Friday, Sept. 28, at the Teatro Laurence Olivier (next to Sala Garbo Avenida 2/Calle 28, San José) and plays for two weekends only: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. and Sun at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices: adults ¢3,000, students ¢1,500. For reservations call the same LTG box-office number: 355-1623, or check the Web site:

And for theater lovers in the Jaco area, "84 Charing Cross Road" will be performed for one show only at Hotel Club del Mar, on Saturday, Oct 13. (For info & reservations call: 643-3194).

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 183

Seven arrested in credit card fraud case involving foreigners
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven persons have been detained in an investigation of a major credit card fraud ring. Two more are being sought.

The fraud involved using the credit card numbers of foreigners who may never have been in Costa Rica. These numbers were applied to credit card vouchers for fictitious sales, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.  The bank involved is Banco de Costa Rica.

Agents said that the investigation peaked in February 2006 but that the delay in the arrests was because the prosecutor's office was making accounting studies and getting advice.
The amount of money stolen was about 95 million colons, said agents. At the rates of exchange existing when the frauds were committed, the amount is about $200,000.
Some of those detained operated small businesses including one in Costa de Pajaros and a business in La Cruz, Guanacaste. Some ran companies involved in the sale of seafood.

A 62-year-old Rohrmoser man, identified by agents as Carlos Ferro Carion, was the leader of the operation. He traveled outside the country continually, and agents alleged that he used his time elsewhere to collect the numbers on credit cards.

The frauds came to light when foreigners began to complain about charges to their credit cards. Some said they never had been in Costa Rica.

Ferro's daughter, María, 38, also was detained as was her husband, Eduardo Lobo Madrigal, 43, of Santa Ana, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

From gorillas to vultures to coral, red lists assess the threat
Special to A.M. Costas Rica

Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken, according to the 2007 World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species.

There are now 41,415 species on the Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation.

One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70 percent of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy, according to a summary released this week.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the World Conservation Union, said: “This year’s IUCN Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough. The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis. This can be done, but only with a concerted effort by all levels of society.”

The Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most reliable evaluation of the world’s species. It classifies them according to their extinction risk and brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the world’s biodiversity and the impact that mankind is having upon life on Earth.

Jane Smart, Head of the union's species programme, said: “We need to know the precise status of species in order to take the appropriate action. The IUCN Red List does this by measuring the overall status of biodiversity, the rate at which it is being lost and the causes of decline.

“Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival. As the world begins to respond to the current crisis of biodiversity loss, the information from the IUCN Red List is needed to design and implement effective conservation strategies – for the benefit of people and nature.”

Some highlights from this year’s IUCN Red List

The decline of the great apes.

A reassessment of the great apes, has revealed a grim picture. The western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) has moved from endangered to critically endangered, after the discovery that the main subspecies, the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), has been decimated by the commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus.

Their population has declined by more than 60 percent over the last 20 to 25 years, with about one third of the total population found in protected areas killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years.

The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) remains in the critically endangered category and the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in the endangered category. Both are threatened by habitat loss due to illegal and legal logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations. In Borneo, the area planted with oil palms increased from 2,000 square kilometers to 27,000 square kilometers between 1984 and 2003, leaving just 86,000 square kilometers (21.2 million acres) of habitat available to the species throughout the island.

Corals have been assessed and added to the Red List for the first time. Ten Galápagos species have entered the list, with two in the critically endangered category and one in the vulnerable category. Wellington’s solitary coral (Rhizopsammia wellingtoni) has been listed as critically endangered (possibly extinct). The main threats to these species are the effects of El Niño and climate change.

In addition, 74 seaweeds have been added to the Red List from the Galápagos Islands. Ten species are listed as critically endangered, with six of those highlighted as possibly extinct. The cold water species are threatened by climate change and the rise in sea temperature that characterizes El Niño. The seaweeds are also indirectly affected by overfishing, which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase of sea urchins and other herbivores that overgraze these algae.
After an intensive, but fruitless, search for the Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji, (Lipotes vexillifer) last November and December, it has been listed as critically endangered (possibly extinct). The dolphin has not been placed in a higher category as further surveys are needed before it can be definitively classified as extinct. A possible sighting reported in late August 2007 is currently being investigated by Chinese scientists. The main threats to the species include fishing, river traffic, pollution and degradation of habitat.

India and Nepal’s crocodile, the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is also facing threats from habitat degradation and has moved from endangered to critically endangered. Its population has recently declined by 58 percent, from
436 breeding adults in 1997 to just 182 in 2006. Dams, irrigation projects, sand mining and artificial embankments have all encroached on its habitat, reducing its domain to 2 percent of its former range.

This year the total number of birds on the Red List is 9,956 with 1,217 listed as threatened. Vultures in Africa and Asia have declined, with five species reclassified on the Red List. In Asia, the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) moved from near threatened to critically endangered while the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) moved from least concern to endangered. The rapid decline in the birds over the last eight years has been driven by the drug diclofenac, used to treat livestock.

In Africa, three species of vulture have been reclassified, including the white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis), which moved from least concern to vulnerable, the white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) and Rüppell’s griffon (Gyps rueppellii), both moved from least concern to near threatened. The birds’ decline has been due to a lack of food, with a reduction in wild grazing mammals, habitat loss and collision with power lines. They have also been poisoned by carcasses deliberately laced with insecticide. The bait is intended to kill livestock predators, such as hyenas, jackals and big cats, but it also kills vultures.

After a major assessment of Mexican and North American reptiles, 723 were added to the Red List, taking the total to 738 reptiles listed for this region. Of these, 90 are threatened with extinction. Two Mexican freshwater turtles, the cuatro cienegas slider (Trachemys taylori) and the ornate slider (Trachemys ornata), are listed as endangered and vulnerable. Both face threats from habitat loss. Mexico’s Santa Catalina Island rattlesnake (Crotalus catalinensis) has also been added to the list as critically endangered, after being persecuted by illegal collectors.

There are now 12,043 plants on the Red List, with 8,447 listed as threatened. The woolly-stalked begonia (Begonia eiromischa) is the only species to have been declared extinct this year. This Malaysian herb is only known from collections made in 1886 and 1898 on Penang Island. Extensive searches of nearby forests have failed to reveal any specimens in the last 100 years.

The wild apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), from central Asia, has been assessed and added to the Red List for the first time, classified as endangered. The species is a direct ancestor of plants that are widely cultivated in many countries around the world, but its population is dwindling as it loses habitat to tourist developments and is exploited for wood, food and genetic material.

Overfishing continues to put pressure on many fish species, as does demand from the aquarium trade. The Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), which is highly prized in the aquarium industry, is entering the Red List for the first time in the endangered category. The fish, which is only found in the Banggai Archipelago, near Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been heavily exploited, with approximately 900,000 extracted every year. Conservationists are calling for the fish to be reared in captivity for the aquarium trade, so the wild populations can be left to recover.

This year, only one species has moved to a lower category of threat. The Mauritius echo parakeet (Psittacula eques), which was one of the world’s rarest parrots 15 years ago, has moved from critically endangered to endangered. The improvement is a result of successful conservation action, including close monitoring of nesting sites and supplementary feeding combined with a captive breeding and release program.

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