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(506) 2223-1327             Published Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 184             E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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This hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata) hobnobbed with  National Geographic divers near the  Isla del Coco. That made researchers very happy. They tagged the endangered turtle in August, but the signal failed. The photo shows that turtle is alive and unimpeded by the transmitter on the back.
Another turtle article
Transmitting turtle
Programa de Restauración de la Tortuga Marina photo

Nation embarks today on a massive trash cleanup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is launching a massive trash cleanup effort starting today that will have swept 40 locations by the end of the project Oct. 4. More than 5,000 volunteers are expected to be involved.

The cleanup is associated with the  International Coastal Cleanup set up by the Ocean Conservancy non-profit organization each year. For the organization this is 24th annual cleanup. Last year worldwide some 400,000 volunteers picked up 6.8 million pounds of trash.

The cleanup here will not be restricted to beaches. A number of local organizations are involved in the project, as is the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The institute said that those organizations involved wanted to call attention to the negative effects that trash causes in the ecosystems along the coast and the contribution trash makes to illnesses such as dengue and malaria. Disease carrying mosquitoes breed in standing water frequently found in trash.

The cleanup comes as it appears that the amount of trash is growing all over the country. A.M. Costa Rica published an article on the topic Monday.

Also involved in the Costa Rican effort are the Ministerio de Salud, the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, the Programa de Paz con la Naturaleza and the Asociatión Terra Nostra. The last group, a private organization, has been responsible for a continuing wave of cleanups mainly to eliminate mosquito breeding spots. It was been credited with reducing the incidences of the diseases.

Allan Flores, the tourism minister, said that a cleanup would improve the quality of tourist destinations.

"For the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, this type of action serves as an example of how an organized community together with authorities and
local companies can unit to develop projects of impact in the improvement of the quality of life of citizens, strengthening at the same time the tourist destinations that are offered to foreigners and nationals." he said in a release.

Flores encouraged companies in the tourism business to become involved in the cleanup and to be an example for other firms and businesses.

The cleanup begins today in La Fortuna de San Carlos under the auspice of the Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica there. Saturday the cleanup is in Santa Ana, backed by the local municipality, VESA Tours, Swiss Travel, the Hotel Corteza Amarilla and Apredisprosa. Cleanups Saturday also are scheduled for Playa Gaucalillo and Playa Garza on the Pacific coast.

Sunday one cleanup is in Hatillo. another is in Playa Uvita. Monday the cleanup moves to Heredia. Both San José and Jacó are on the list for Tuesday.

Country Day School will be leading the cleanup Wednesday in Escazú Centro, and Montezuma is on the list for that day, too.

Sámara is scheduled a week from today. Oct. 3 and 4 the cleanup moves south to the Osa Peninsula under the auspices of the Fundación Corcovado.

Among the private companies already involved are Day Star Properties in Jacó and Florida Bebidas, the parent of the beer company.

In addition to just being needed, the inland cleanups are done because volunteers recognize that a lot of inland trash ends up in the rivers and then the oceans.

The Ocean Conservancy has enlisted a number of major companies in the United States and other countries. Volunteers there and here will keep track of how much and what kinds of trash is picked up. Cigarette filters usually are in the millions. The Conservancy will report the results.

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Our readers' opinions
Letters frequently generalize
about cultures and countries

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I am writing initially to respond to Joe Furlong´s criticism of the British presence and attitude he has encountered, but many of my comments apply to many submissions to A.M. Cost Rica. I find it sad that once again another display of extreme generalizations applied to a culture like so many letters to "the editor." Unfortunately human nature seems to have made it easy to tar and feather everybody with the same brush. It becomes even more frustrating to read when someone is throwing stones from a glass home! When viewpoints are supported by misinformation, it really becomes offensive.
I found it humorous that in Joe´s response and rebuke that he sees the brits as "know it alls." It's so funny because as a Canadian traveling the world the last 25 years I have constantly witnessed same the tag being put on Americans more often then not when they are are visiting and or living in other countries . Joe says he "calls 'em as we see's 'em." Well his vision is very narrow and short sighted unfortunately. I believe all expats from any country compare their current country of residence to their country of origin, and of course it many times they always remembering the good things right ! Its human nature! Why does this confuse some people? I believe in any immigrant enclave in any country you will find many people complaining about the system and or country they live in. Unfortunately human nature again!
The UK has had extreme interest from many EU countries for people to live there, so much so that it is hard to hear English being spoken in the streets of London these days. Russian, Polish, Spanish, Dutch and German, all have become very familiar to hear. As the EU is made up of many different cultures and languages and there is the "right of freedom of movement," many choose to move to England, especially from the poor countries. So much so that the established British have witnessed their country change rapidly and not for the better. The medical system is overloaded and government services spread too thin. As England is far to generous with welfare, they are abused by many people.
I am sure British presence in Florida is only a small percentage of the people moving into UK. Not what Joe thinks at all. Just because many Americans are unattracted to UK does not mean "the world isn´t interested in moving to the UK." Many are leaving because England has become a huge melting pot trying to please everybody and be politically correct. I think any country who takes on so many immigrants has resentment begin and loses many of their own citizens who become frustrated with the changes. I believe Joe is a good example of that frustration personified.
As a Canadian I try to not generalize bad experiences with Americans to all Americans, same with the British and or Ticos, etc. It takes alot of effort at times not to, but I really think we all need to try harder! The world would be a better place!
This is my fifth country to reside in and I must say for all the criticism we put on the Ticos, they have wonderful country and lifestyle to enjoy. That´s why we all are here!
Joe´s response  goes to prove "better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Almost all his ramblings can be leveled back at himself squarely!

Tony McCreath
San Ramón
 Arkansas solved problem
 of ubiquitous trash

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 As a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, I would like to add a hopeful bit of perspective on Garland Baker's article on trash, I moved to Madison County, Arkansas, in 1976. The trash was  ubiquitous. You could not pause at a scenic overlook without seeing a couple of old stoves, a refrigerator and  general  household refuse. Over the years through, education at the school level, fines and a great solid-waste program (we have one of the best in the country), it is infinitely better. Don't give up; there is hope, but it takes time, effort and education.
Chris Kunkle
Patrick, Arkansas

England hosts immigrants
from all over, including U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Joe Furlong  (Florida reader's opinion, September 16) has not the slightest idea what he is talking about regarding the few people he believes to be clamoring to live in the U.K.. When I left my native England in 1974 it was being swamped with immigrants from Africa, Pakistan, India, the Caribbean and Cyprus, to name only a few regions from which they continue to arrive today.
Now since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Great Britain faces massive immigration both legal and otherwise from former Iron Curtain countries, as well as migrants from other member countries of the European Union.. Also arriving on the shores of the U.K. are African “boat people” as well as Russian and Middle Eastern millionaires and everyone in between, including the as ever large contingent from the U.S.A.

I have lived in several countries, including 13 years in Costa Rica and 22 in the U.S. and have encountered whiners everywhere. Here most have been Americans because they constitute the largest non-laborer group of foreign residents. Also, because so many are not motivated to learn the language and have enjoyed a relatively pampered lifestyle compared to that of Europeans. However, so many do feel free to flout immigration laws by remaining here as permanent tourists

The immigrant or desirous visitor tends to have greater experience and knowledge of other nations immigration policies than do nationals, as it is they who must “jump through the hoops”.

The U.S. is the only country I know of that requires non-exempt nationals to have a visa simply to change planes on its soil. Presumably it is feared that someone transiting from San José, Costa Rica to Paris, for example, via New York, may take time out to overthrow the government of the United States by force.

Whining manifests itself in a variety of ways, maybe Mr. Furlong and I are also guilty of same.
Rodney Richardson
Esterillos Oeste

Letters have many slants
and promote discussions

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Once again I thank A.M. Costa Rica for having the courage to publish reader’s opinions and informative information regardless of their slant.

For example, on Sept. 15th you published the opinion U.S. should adopts ideas directed at Costa Rica from Maggie Drummon.  Although I noticed you did not publish the editorial requirement as to her location.  I assume she lives somewhere in the “Old Country.”  There is no indication if she has been to Costa Rica.  That information would have been helpful in understanding her criticism.  However, it is obvious she does not like the United States.  My response: why would anyone with a gram of intelligence continuously visit a country for which such disdain is held “five months or so each year.”

On Sept. 14th you published the opinion Sept. 11 has another meaning in most of Latin America from Scott Bidstrup, Cartago.  I agree in that Costa Rica has no obligation to recognize or honor the U.S. 9/11 terrorist attack.  If U.S. expats (myself included) wish to do so, they should.  Nevertheless, we should not require the Costa Rican government or Ticos to adhere to such obligation.

I do note that the local Tico TV news I watched did mention and give honor to the U.S. 9/11 terrorist attack.  However, I did not notice any mention to the 9/11 tragedy of Chile.  It is obvious with Bidstrup’s use of Gringo he harbors a great amount of hate.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Gringo as often disparaging: a foreigner in Spain or Latin America especially when of English or American origin; broadly: a non-Hispanic person.  I assume Bidstrup has some definite ties to Chile.  For almost four centuries Spain and the Catholic Church brutally dominated Chile (and similarly so for Costa Rica).  Finally after seven years of bloody revolution Chile broke this domination and became independent.  I’m curious how Bidstrup reconciles that with the fact that he resides in a country that pays homage to Spain by allowing her citizens automatic Costa Rica citizenship and honors the Catholic Church by naming it as the religion of Costa Rica along with providing public funds?

Again, on Sept. 14th you published the opinion Book on Latin America recommended by ex-expat by James Marshall Fairport, New York  Thanks to Mr. Marshall and to A. M. Costa Rica. After reading this I have a better understanding of the cultural differences between Central and South America and the US and other Countries.

As for Garland Baker and his article on Ticos and Latinos, again thanks for the publication.  It certainly generated interest.  However, I’d say it was terribly racists.  Garland should read the book recommended in the above referenced article from Marshall Fairport:  Just maybe his opinion will change.

Your publication provides the avenue for discourse between persons.  If those who show such obvious hatred (Ticos and non-Ticos alike) can change from hatred to criticism, maybe we can then go to understanding and improvement.  That would be a wonderful monument to A. M. Costa Rica!

Bob Piazza
Santa Barbara de Heredia

EDITOR'S NOTE: We use the word Gringo all the time and do not see it as a negative term. It may have been once. We reject the allegation that Garland Baker is racist. Those who live in the United States and those who live in Costa Rica are of the same races.

Women's Club says thanks
for article on its auction

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Many thanks are due to A.M. Costa Rica for your support of last Sunday's Women's Club auction at the Aurola Holiday Inn which raised over $17,000 for our education programs.   Yours was the only media to have the information that tickets were available at the door, and we were inundated with sales — yet another testimony to your vast coverage.   We are also indebted to the many businesses and individuals who donated over 200 items of artwork, goods and services to this, our major fund-raiser of the year.  Thanks to you all, our scholarship and library programs are ensured to continue and grow.  
We are privileged to enjoy life in Costa Rica and to be able to offer educational opportunities to the future leaders of our adopted home.  The Women's Club is one of the oldest, continuously operating service organizations in Costa Rica.  In fact, next year we'll be celebrating our 70th anniversary.  The support of A.M. Costa Rica, our esteemed sponsors and everyone who donated to and/or attended the auction fund-raiser is great appreciated by the 250 women in our membership and the children who benefit.   Thank you from us all.
Bonnie Murry
Women's Club of Costa Rica

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Final vote on delaying traffic law fines expected today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are expected to vote for the second and final time today to postpone fines in the new traffic law for six months.

They debated the matter Wednesday.  Grettel Ortiz of Movimiento Libertario said that the legislature should form a special commission to look into the traffic law that may have disproportionate fines for certain violations.

Mario Núñez of the same political party was not convinced. He called the move a trick being played on the public. He noted that the six-mont delay until March 1 would put the
effective date of the fines after the Feb. 7 general election.

Lawmakers passed the traffic law in December, and two sections went into force by the first of the year. These were the penalties for drunk driving and reckless driving.  Costa Ricans and expats have been concerned about the rest of the bill because the law requires motorists to use car seats for youngsters and to have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit handy. There also is a requirement for additional insurance.

The trick now after passing the postponement today will be to get the signature of President Óscar Arias Sánchez and to have the bill published before the fines go into effect Sept. 23.

Security minister seeking advice from Colombian police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister and the head of the Fuerza Pública are seeking technical help from police officials in Colombia.

The two are traveling to Colombia for their meetings. The announcement came just a day after sources in Colombia said that a major narcotics ring was broken up and that the criminal organization had contacts in Costa Rica. Other members of the right were arrested in the United States. There were no arrests here.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio, and the director general of the Fuerza Pública, Erick Lacayo, also want to discuss intelligence gathering, said the ministry in a report on the trip.

Costa Rican police officials have generally been in a response to stimulus mode. The drug smugglers have the
initiative. Anti-drug police capture suspected smugglers when they run aground in fastboats or they make arrests
when vehicles are found to be carrying illegal drugs.

However, the nation does not have a trustworthy ring of informants. In fact, the Fuerza Pública has been riddled with policemen who are suspected of being involved in illegal activities, including assisting drug smugglers. Many of the tips that lead to successful arrests here come from local and international agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The ministry also said that Ms. del Vecchio wanted to discuss police selection and training with the Colombian officials. One of the individuals being contacted is the head of the Colombian police school.

Costa Rica is a major transit country for cocaine from Colombia. Smugglers even have hidden drugs in the belly of frozen sharks to outwit authorities. An arrest Wednesday involved men who had placed drug-filled metal tubes in the body structure of their automobile. Police face new techniques every week.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 184

Miami shares Costa Rica's problems with sea turtle threats

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Miami Beach is a top destination for vacationers from around the world -- not to mention a location for sea turtles laying eggs. For eons, female sea turtles have returned to the beaches where they were born to build nests for their next generation.

As Miami Beach continues to develop, wildlife officials and volunteers are making sure the beach remains a welcoming place for these endangered animals.

The problems are similar to those at Costa Rican beaches.

For one man, the sea turtle patrol starts at sunrise.

"The reason we need to get out at first light is to make sure we see the tracks before anybody else gets out here, the man, Bill Ahern says, "Something that weighs 350 pounds [160 kilograms] is going to leave evidence."

Ahern directs the sea turtle program in Miami-Dade county.

His team monitors and marks nests left by sea turtles who lay eggs in the sand and then return to the sea. The patrols also work with beach residents to keep track of new nests and possible threats to existing ones.

Nearly 65,000 turtles nested on Florida's Atlantic coast last year. A tiny portion come to Miami Beach where they face many risks. Tough laws have cracked down on poachers. And bright lights from nearby buildings can confuse hatchlings, luring them onto roads instead of into the ocean.

"I recall in the mid-1960s, me and my beach buddies would pick up hatchlings  and put them back in the water," he recalls. To avoid that problem, city officials have imposed limits on coastal lighting. 
The end result: Ahern's team has been able to leave more nests intact and out of the hatchery they maintain.

"We only had 25 nests moved to the hatchery. In years prior to 2003, everything would get relocated to a safe, protected area of the hatchery," he said.

Although most sea turtles hatch on their own, emerging at night, some have a harder time.

"Here we go. We have one loggerhead so far. We may find some of the eggs are unfertile, we may find some have died, he says, "But that guy is pretty lively so we have saved him."

In the future, the Sea Turtles Program hopes to do away with the hatchery. 

Educating beach-goers is a step in that direction. Each week, people are invited to see a release of hatchlings recovered from nests.

The experience helps sunbathers understand the role of the beach in the turtle's life cycle. 

Since 1980, the Miami-Dade program has released more than a half million turtle hatchlings to the sea.

"I have two hatchlings that are ready to go, so I'm going to release them here at Haulover Beach," he explained.

Only a fraction of the hatchlings will escape predators and man-made perils in their first year.

"Their instincts are so keen," he says, "I'll face him to the west, and watch him, he turns right around facing the ocean. Mother ocean."

For the females born on Miami Beach, as adults, they will try to return home to lay their eggs.

Honduran candidates visit Arias and praise his accords

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Candidates for the Honduran presidency met with Óscar Arias Sánchez Wednesday and, in theory, four of them voiced their support for his San José Accord.

However, none of the four seemed to want the overriding condition of the accords to be met. That is the return of José Manuel Zelaya to the presidency.

In a statement, the four said that the accords would aid in the reconciliation of the Honduran people under an effective international monitor.
Elections there are Nov. 29, and the winner takes office Jan. 27.

Signing the document were Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the Partido Nacional de Honduras, Elvin Santos Ordóñez of the Partido Liberal, Bernard Martínez Valerio of the Partido Innovación y Unidad Social Demócrata and Felícito Ávila Ordoñez of the Partido Democracia Cristiana Hondureña.  César Ham of the Partido Unificación Democrática declined to sign.

Zelaya was ousted by the military June 28, and Arias assumed the role of negotiator.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 184

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First Guatemalan conviction
in 1980s cases draws praise

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Human rights advocates say the recent conviction of a former paramilitary officer on charges of orchestrating the forced disappearance of six ethnic Mayan villagers in the mid-1980s signals the country might be ready to deal with its legacy of human rights violations.

The remote settlement of Choatalum, in the lush green hills of the region of Chimaltenango, just west of the capital, Guatemala, seems at first glance to be an unusual site for a trial of monumental importance to the country's legal system.

But the history of this region, a bastion of Mayan culture and resistance to the governments that ruled Guatemala in the mid-1980s, make the area an epicenter of the ongoing search for reconciliation over what human rights groups call widespread genocide perpetrated largely against the country's native people more than two decades ago.

Guatemalan civil rights lawyer Mario Minera says the six peasant farmers who disappeared from Choatalum and presumably were killed during the early 1980s are only a fraction of the more than 600 unresolved documented cases. Most of the killings acknowledged in Guatemalan and international courts took place during the presidential administrations of military rulers Jose Efrain Rios Montt and Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores between 1982 and 1986.

A U.N.-backed truth commission found that about 200,000 people were killed and more than 40,000 disappeared during Guatemala's 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. The killings peaked in the mid-1980s. Many of the victims were ethnic Mayans.

Mario Minera, a lawyer, says that for years, the perpetrators of the crimes lived with impunity under what he and other human rights activists describe as Guatemalan state reluctance to investigate the alleged crimes of those in power and, in some cases, are still active in the government.

But that began to change earlier this year, when a Guatemalan court ruled that crimes involving the forced disappearance of Guatemalans missing since the 1980s could be considered active cases and not subject to a statute of limitations.

Lawyer Minera says the decision opened the way for the prosecution of individuals suspected of coordinating the atrocities.

The first to be convicted under the new ruling was former military collaborator Felipe Cusanero, a civilian commissioner accused of six cases of forced disappearance of members of the Choatalum community. Earlier this month, Cusanero was sentenced to 150 years in jail for his part in those disappearances.

Human rights activists worldwide have hailed the sentence as a milestone in the fight for reconciliation for the families of victims in Guatemala.

"There are other cases where convictions are very likely in the imminent future," said Andrew Hudson of the New York-based organization, Human Rights First. "So I think this is important on a number of levels in that it shows that people can be prosecuted in Guatemala. And I think it will really open the doors for justice in many other cases in Guatemala as well."

Rights advocates in Guatemala say the case is the first of several being processed in the courts.

While experts agree that the Cusanero case is a big step forward, Hudson says further action will be needed if Guatemala is to overcome its history of impunity for human rights violators and move toward reconciliation.

"Through these emblematic cases you can start to reinstate the rule of law. You can start to try and heal the wounds of the civil war," said Hudson. "Mayan villages cannot move forward if they are living with the person who killed and massacred their entire village. It is just not possible to have reconciliation, in my opinion, without holding some of the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice."

Many experts say impunity for those associated with atrocities has not only hampered efforts at justice for the victims, but also has filtered through Guatemalan society, leading to a culture of violence and disenfranchisement.

Large groups of the country's population, including women, youths and indigenous people, are still frequently the victims of basic human rights violations, says Sebastian Elgueta of Amnesty International.

"To view the current public security crisis and current level of violence in a vacuum or de-contextualized does not really work very well to understand the reality of Guatemala. The institutions in Guatemala have not, for years, actually exercised effective investigation and prosecution into crimes, because during the conflict they could not. It is a question of rebuilding these institutions."

In late 2007, the United Nations and the government of Guatemala established an independent body, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, to investigate continuing crimes against human rights advocates, and uphold the rule of law.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 184

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partido Alianza Mayor
Party colors  are orange and green

New political party seeks
to defend older adults

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new political party has emerged that has the rights of older persons as a principal concern.

It is the Partido Alianza Mayor. So far it is not a national party. The organization will concentrate on winning legislative seats in the Provincia de San José and also seek out municipal offices.

The party described itself as independent, democratic and inter-generational. It seeks to promote and defend the older adult population, it said on its Web site.

The way the Costa Rican election law is set up, a legislative candidate could win a seat with 15,000 votes if they are all from the same province. Óscar López, a blind lawmaker who promotes the causes of the disabled did that in 2006 as a candidate for a different party.

The party already is enrolled with the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones.

Young woman suspected
of giving info to gunmen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a young woman established a friendship with members of an expat family so she could case the home for her gun-wielding accomplices.

The home invasion took place in July, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The location was in San Rafael de Escazú, and the amount of the items robbed came to about $30,000, agents said.

The 23-year-old woman was detained in a raid at a dwelling in Calle Blanco Wednesday. A man also was taken into custody there. A second man was detained in Palmares,  said the judicial police. The men are 24 and 19.

Agents said that as a result of the raids they are investigating the trio for other robberies that have taken place in the Escazú area.

Gunmen invaded the home and tied up the occupants with telephone cord, agents said. They were able to circumvent various security devices which led agents to suspect that they had inside information. A lot of the loot was in jewelry.

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