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(506) 2223-1327                      Published Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, om Vol. 12, No. 184                          Email us
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Congratulations on your 191 years of independence, Costa Rica
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Independence weekend begins with morning event
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San Jose's independence weekend events starts today at 10 a.m. in Parque Central. There will be folk dancing, mascaradas and music including marimba, the municipality announced.

That is a prelude to the big event at 6 p.m. when the Antorcha de la Libertad will be passing through town. Relays of mostly school children are carrying the torch from the Nicaraguan border with the goal of arriving exactly at 6 p.m. at Parque Central. Other teams will take the torch to Cartago where central government officials and President Laura Chinchilla have another big ceremony planned. Cartago is the former national capital. The annual ceremony at Parque Central is the 27th.

In San José the 191st Día de Independencia includes a big dance with two professional groups after the torch moves on. The Banda Nacional de Conciertos and the Son de Tikizia will be featured at this free event.

A big change this year is that the Saturday independence ceremony will not be held at Parque Nacional. It will be in Parque Central instead, said municipal officials. There from a viewing stand being erected in front of the Teatro Popular Melico Salizar President Chinchilla and others will review the independence day parade.

The parade starts at 8:30 a.m., and marchers, mostly students will go from Parque la Merced to Calle 7 along Avenida 2.

Hundreds of police, fire fighters and Cruz Roja workers will be stationed along the line of march. Traffic police will be diverting vehicles.

The municipality is encouraging outlets that sell alcohol to have a voluntary dry period before and during the parade to cut down on any unruly behavior. Municipal inspectors also are going to be making rounds tonight of the various bars and liquor stores in the city to encourage the voluntary ban on sales, they said.

In Zapote Friday night there will be a dance at the fair grounds starting at 8 p.m. with music
torch from file photo
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
 Students from the Colegio Superior de Señoritas
 display the torch in this 2008 file photo.

provided by the Grupo Los Hicsos.

The Comité Cantonal de Deportes y Recreación de San José is putting on a mini cultural festival today, Saturday and Sunday at the Parque de la Independencia in Barrio Córdoba.

In Hatillo 6 in southern San José there will be sales of typical foods in the Salón Comunal from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says that a low pressure area still south of Panamá might dampen independence activities. In a special forecast, the institute said that late afternoon downpours with lightning are likely both today and Saturday. Also predicted are fog and rain in the early hours of the night. However, Saturday is predicted to be partly cloudy, hot and sticky for the parade with a chance of midday showers.

The event today features the Grupo Musical Auroral at 10 a.m., Marimba Madera y Son at 11 a.m., Grupo Folclórico Güi pi pía at noon and the cimarrona and mascaradas from Los Chapetones at 1 p.m. The traditional brass street band and the large papier-mâché masks are a standard at nearly all Costa Rican civic gatherings.

Security ministry is cracking down on guard services
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry is cracking down on private guard services because about 20 percent have expired permits to operate and many employees also lack the required permissions.

Guard firms have to renew their permits every five years. Employees who work as guards have to renew their permits with the ministry every two years. In addition, guards who carry weapons must have an additional permit.
Guards and companies have a tendency to let the paperwork slide because considerable effort is required to provide the documentation the ministry needs. In addition, obtaining a permit to carry a weapon is complex and time consuming.

Ministry officials said that those who hire guards and guard services have the responsibility to make sure the paperwork is in order.

The ministry officials also said that the growth of the number of private guards is a concern.

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Cartago line
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo   
This trackage is 17 kilometers east of San José

Rail service to Cartago
getting a special passenger

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though President Laura Chinchilla is scheduled to arrive in Cartago tonight by train, the passenger service is still several months way.

The rail agency, the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, says that Alajuela is the next step.

Workers have reestablished the rail line that had been abandoned nearly 20 years ago. They have checked out a major bridge on the route, and workers from the Muncipalidad de Cartago are refurbishing the rail station there.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes issued a press bulletin Thursday that said it continues to support the expansion of the rail system. Municipalities along the routes also are chipping in.

Once passenger service is established to Cartago, probably in December, service will link that community with San Antonio de Belén in the west.

U.S. ship due to arrive
in Costa Rica at last

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The "USS Carr," the U.S. Navy ship that was denied a port visit will finally tie up in Puntarenas this weekend.

This is the ship that was carrying a quantity of marijuana fished from the ocean after a chase that resulted in the arrest of three persons. That was in the Caribbean, but the "Carr" now is in the Pacific.

Eventually the Asamblea Legislativa approved port visits by eight U.S. ships that are on drug patrol after considerable controversy.

The "Carr" carried a U.S. Coast Guard detachment that makes stopping suspect boats less of a military matter.

The marijuana came into the hands of the "Carr's" crew Aug. 12. Security officials here complained that without the marijuana as evidence those arrested would go free.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 184
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What was once the highway roadway has been excavated and shored up with temporary cement walls so workers can install a giant, enclosed spillway.

Crater not a canal
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo

Progress cited in project to restore General Cañas highway
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's road agency is investing $3 million at the site where a large crater developed in the westbound lanes of the General Cañas highway. The collapse was blamed on a ruptured draining system during a storm.

Now tons of dirt and rock have been excavated at the site of the collapse, and motorists in both east and westbound lanes drive over the worksite on bailey bridges.

The highway is one of the nation's most important roadways.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad plans to put in 52 meters (about 173 feet) of a concrete spillway with concrete sections  6.4 meters (21 feet) high and 7.5 meters wide (about 25 feet).
The department's engineers estimate that the job will last 100 years, the agency said. The spillway is designed to handle 130 cubic meters of water per second, about 180 cubic yards.

Each of the 18 concrete sections weighs 20 tons, and they already have been constructed off the site, the agency said.

Agency officials say they hope to have the job done by December. It is about 60 percent along, they estimated Thursday. The construction firm Castro & De la Torre is doing the work.

When the roadway collapsed the so-called crater that formed became the topic of many cartoons and Internet jokes. It was a running embarrassment for the Laura Chinchilla administration which has had a number of other highway problems elsewhere.

Comfort food is what is needed at a time of great tragedy
Tuesday morning when I got up at 6 a.m., I decided for the first time in several months not to watch the news. Instead, I turned to C-Span where a program on the environment was in progress. The CEO of some big company in Texas had become an environmentalist and was explaining the dangers of our way of life. I remember he said that we eat only three times a day and breathe thousands of times. Yet we are more concerned about what goes in our stomachs than what goes in our lungs. If we continue to pollute our air, he said, we are headed for extinction. 

Just then a friend called and said, "Are you watching the news?" I turned to CNN and began watching the horror unfold. When I saw people trying to protect their lungs from the dust, smoke and debris of the decimated World Trade Center, I couldn't help thinking about the environmentalist’s words. War of any kind is bad for the lungs. 

Sometime during the morning I surfed through various channels — mainly foreign language stations — to see what they were covering. All of them were reporting on the tragedy unfolding in New York. Then I clicked on the food channel. There was Molto Mario cooking and explaining Italian dishes as only he can. I thought about the phrase, "comfort food." I wanted to keep watching Mario, to just pretend that there was nothing more important on the TV than learning a recipe. I wanted to find the comfort I always seem to find watching people cook. It is curious that of all our basic needs, only food is associated with the adjective "comfort." There is no such phrase as "comfort air," or "comfort sex" or "comfort sleep." 

I switched back to a channel with the repeated image of the World Trade Tower collapsing in a cloud of killer dust and debris and thought that many people would find great comfort in a bit of fresh air. I hoped that there would be many more who survived that evening, and would be able to eat mashed potatoes, or spaghetti sauce, or a taco, or a hamburger, or peanut butter or chocolate — whatever would comfort them.

In the afternoon I returned to the food channel. Instead of the happy picture of a capable cook making delicious looking food, there were these words on a black background: "Due to the nature of today’s tragic events, Food Network is suspending programming. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their family." So do mine.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

This was my column the Friday after Sept. 11, 2001.  Today is the Friday after the 11th anniversary of 9/11.  The world and my life have changed since 2001. The friend who called me was Bill White, a dear friend, who has since died.  An earthquake made my apartment building unliveable, and I now live on the west side of town in Sabana Norte.

The first year after 9/11, I walked over to the park where the American Embassy was holding a memorial but was told it was only for invited persons.

This year I tuned into the memorials on TV.  I also saw on the news that an Israeli had set himself on fire in protest that the government’s social services were failing him. He was afraid that he would soon be homeless.  There evidently is a wide gap between the rich and poor in Israel.  There are also citizens protesting the possibility of a war with Iran.

The Food Channel is no longer available on Amnet, so at 11 a.m. I tuned in to The Chew and there was Mario Batali still cooking.  This time the members of the Chew were making their sample of All American food.  All but Clinton, who made macaroni and cheese, chose sandwiches, which, according to a food critic named Simon, is the signature American dish.  Mario chose to make a bacon and lettuce sandwich. 

That sounded good to me so I called my friend and neighbor Doug and ‘borrowed’ two slices of bacon and two slices of bread and made one for myself.              
As I munched I thought about the speeches at the plane crash sites.  It was a comment by the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, that I remember.  He said, “We become who we are through some cause we make our own.”   

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 184
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Rice farmers get a raise but no barrier to imported competition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Producers have failed in an attempt to have restrictions placed on the importation of milled rice, but they will be getting more money.

The Asociación Nacional de Productores Arroceros de Costa Rica said Thursday that the price paid to producers will be 23,131 colons per 73.6 kilogram sack. That was a victory because the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio cut the price the government will guarantee to 20,050 colons.

But producers went to the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo and successfully argued for the higher price.

The bulk of the rice grown in Costa Rica is sold to the  Corporación Arrocera Nacional, which then sells the product to commercial outlets. The message Thursday establishing the new price came from that agency, the producer's group said.

Producers have twice asked the ministry to invoke a special World Trade Organization rule to allow additional import duties on rice. The ministry said Thursday that it would not do
so and that the concept still is under study.

World Trade rules provide for special protection for domestic producers under certain conditions. In its preliminary determination, the ministry said that only a small amount of rice is imported. In 2011 the amount was 3.78 percent of the national harvest. Not included in the discussions are imports under the Central American Free Trade Treaty and treaties among the Central American states.

The ministry also said that current imports do not represent a grave danger to the rice industry. A final decision is expected in November. However, there is another request for what is known as a special safeguard that was presented only July 27, said the ministry.

Rice grower representatives are expected to meet Tuesday with ministry officials and its Dirección de Defensa Comercial, which made the determination.

The average Costa Rican eats about 50 kilos of rice every year, according to international estimates, so changes in the price directly affects consumers.

Park in Bolivia may be the most diverse location on earth
By the World Conservation Congress news staff

Costa Rican residents have long considered the country as a center of biological diversity. However, a remote park in northwest Bolivia may be the most biologically diverse place on earth, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped put together a comprehensive list of species found there. The announcement was released Thursday.

The list, published in a compendium by the Bolivian park service, shows that Madidi national park contains 11 percent of the world’s birds, more than 200 species of mammals, almost 300 types of fish, and 12,000 plant varieties. The 19,000 square-kilometer (7,335 square mile) park is known for its array of altitudinal gradients and habitats from lowland tropical forests of the Amazon to snow-capped peaks of the High Andes.

The report compiles the work of more than 50 scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society Bolivian Fauna Collection, Bolivian National Herbarium, Amazon Conservation Association, Armonia, Missouri Botanical Garden, and others. Some have worked in the park for 15 years. At the request of the park service, the scientists gathered at a workshop in late 2008 to summarize what is known about the park, including how many species Madidi contains and its conservation needs for the future.

The resulting compendium estimates 1,868 vertebrates for Madidi, including 1,088 species of birds. Only 11 countries have more bird species than Madidi national park; the entire U.S. contains less than 900 bird species. Mammals range from the 300-kilogram (661-pound) lowland tapir, an Amazonian herbivore, to the tiny insectivorous Spix’s disk-winged bat that weighs just 4 grams (.14 ounces). Bird
parrot snake
©Wildlife Conservation Society/ Mileniusz Spanowicz
A  parrot snake seems to object to being photographed.

species range from the harpy eagle, one of the most powerful birds of prey in the world whose diet includes sloths and monkeys, to the diminutive festive coquette, one of 60 species of hummingbird in the park.

Still much is unknown about the park particularly in the tropical montane or cloud forests between 1,000 and 3,000 meters (3,280 and 9,842 feet). Despite significant efforts from the scientific team, two thirds of the park’s total biodiversity has yet to be formally registered or observed by scientists, highlighting the need for further research in the region. This is particularly relevant given the looming threat of climate change to the biodiversity of the world’s mountains.

Madidi national park is one of the top tourist attractions in Bolivia and part of a larger protected region known as the Madidi-Tambopata Landscape, one of the largest such complexes in the world.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 184
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. Fed says it will buy
billions in securities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. central bank launched new measures Thursday to try to stimulate the weak U.S. economy, even as it predicted that the country's economic fortunes would improve over the next two years.

The Federal Reserve said it would buy $40 billion a month of securities supported by real estate loans in its latest effort to boost economic growth and spur slack hiring in the country's labor market.   It said the U.S. economy, the world's largest, would advance no more than 2 percent this year, but could expand by as much as 3 percent next year and 3.8 percent in 2014.

The Fed placed no time limit on the new purchase of securities.  It said that if the country's job market "does not improve substantially," the central bank would buy more mortgage-backed securities and other assets, as well as "employ its other policy tools" to advance the U.S. economy. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called the slow creation of jobs in the United States a grave concern for the country.

"While the economy appears to be on a path of moderate recovery, it isn't growing fast enough to make significant progress reducing the unemployment rate. Fewer than half of the eight million jobs lost in the recession have been restored.  And at 8.1 percent, the unemployment rate is nearly unchanged since the beginning of the year and is well above normal levels. The weak job market should concern every American. High unemployment imposes hardship on millions of people and it entails a tremendous waste of human skills and talent," Bernanke said.

The Fed also said it would extend the timetable to keep its key lending rate near zero percent from late 2014 at least through mid-2015.  The central bank said it expects that eased financing "will remain appropriate for a considerable time," even after the U.S. economy strengthens from its current sluggish pace.

The policymakers, who met in Washington for the last two days, have been stymied in their effort to advance the U.S. economy beyond the meager 1.7 percent growth it recorded in the April-to-June period.  The Fed has bought more than $2 trillion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds and home loan securities since the world financial crisis began in 2008, but the country's economic growth has remained sluggish.

Stock investors applauded the Fed's new action.  The bellwether Dow Jones Industrial Average of key stocks surged 1.5 percent in late day trading.

The U.S. government reported last week that the country's labor market added only 96,000 jobs in August, not nearly enough to reduce the country's unemployment count of nearly 13 million workers.  The jobless rate has been above an unusually high 8 percent level for 43 straight months.  The Fed projected the rate will decrease slowly over the next three years, to as low as 6 percent by the end of 2015.

The government said Thursday the number of Americans making first-time claims for jobless benefits last week increased by 15,000 to 382,000, another sign of slow job growth.

Court ruling in Panamá
called a blow to the press

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A court ruling in Panamá upholding the conviction of two journalists and their newspaper on a libel charge was called by the Inter American Press Association Thursday an indirect means of restricting press freedom and encouraging self-censorship.

At issue was publication more than a decade ago of alleged acts of corruption committed by a government minister.

The first court of justice Wednesday ratified a 2009 sentence imposed by a lower court on the news company Editora Panamá América, which publishes the daily newspaper Panamá América, and reporters Jean Marcel Chéry and Gustavo Aparicio in a civil lawsuit claiming “damage to reputation” filed by Winston Spadafora, who was also a Supreme Court justice and gave up that position earlier this year.

The ruling requires Spadafora to be paid $20,000 in damages for harm to his reputation and $5,000 in legal costs.

As it declared in 2003 and again in 2009, the Inter American Press Association said the ruling punishes the messenger and does not take into account legal precedents regarding the truth and the intent of the journalists and the media outlet to denounce matters of public interest and of benefit to the common good.

The chairman of the association's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, said, “In practice the ruling is resoundingly against press freedom, as it warns the press to practice a lukewarm kind of journalism, fearful that it could suffer reprisals, despite its being responsible and faithful to the facts.”

Spadafora began his civil legal action following the publication on March 8, 2001, in the Panamá América newspaper of a report by journalists Chéry and Aparicio that disclosed the construction with public funds of a highway that benefited and led directly to a ranch he owned. At that time Spadafora was government and justice minister in the administration of President Mireya Moscoso.

Leading cartel drug figure
arrested by Mexico's navy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Mexican Navy says its forces have captured one of the country's most notorious drug cartel leaders.

The navy has identified the man arrested Wednesday as Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, who is alleged to be the leader of the Gulf Cartel.  Costilla was arrested in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.

Costilla, also known as "El Coss," joined the Gulf Cartel in the 1990s when it was run by Osiel Cardenas Guillen.  Costilla remained with the cartel after Cardenas Guillen was arrested in 2003, and assumed control in 2010 after a brother of Cardenas was killed in a shootout with Mexican troops. 

Mexican authorities had offered a $2.2 million award for Costilla's arrest, with the U.S. State Department offering an additional $5.5 million bounty. 

Costilla's arrest comes a week after another of Cardenas Guillen's brothers, Mario, was arrested in Tamaulipas. 

Cardenas Guillen was extradited to the United States in 2007 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  The Gulf Cartel's power has diminished amid a deadly turf war with its former allies and enforcers, the Zetas. 

A military offensive against the cartels launched by outgoing President Felipe Calderón shortly after taking office in 2006 has led to more than 50,000 drug-related deaths.
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Fruit and vegetable merchant
faces money laundering count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pérez Zeledón merchant has been detained on suspicion of being involved in a money laundering operation, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The 34-year-old man who was not identified immediately, runs a fruit and vegetable business. Agents detained him at 6 a.m. Thursday as he left his home.

The agency said that the man over four years banked some $200,000 in colons that do not seem to be the result of his business. Agents said they have been investigating the case for four years.

Labor cases will become
more vocal under new law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature took another step Thursday to increase the use of oral arguments in Costa Rica's courts.

The measure that received approval on second and final reading extends oral presentations to the labor courts the  Juzgados de Trabajo. The procedure already is in use in other courts.

In the past much of the legal presentations in Costa Rica was by written documents.

Cases in the labor courts frequently involve appeals by dismissed employees and efforts by individuals to get money from their former employer.

Dredging in Puntarenas
is a 24-hour operation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry said that a dredging operation in Puntarenas is operating 24 hours a day so that ferry service can be resumed Wednesday.

The ministry shut down the ferry service to Paquera and to Playa Naranjo last Wednesday so the dredge could clear sand from the ferry docks.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and its División Marítimo Portuaria said that in case of some type of emergency, the ferry crews could operate.

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