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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 197       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Young Heredia singer advances to 'Idol' finals after secrecy breach
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country is flying high because María José Castillo will be one of two finalists next week on
"Latin American Idol," a television reality show based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Barva de Heredia native and a girl from Panamá survived the final cut Thursday night to appear in the finals next Wednesday and Thursday. Miss Castillo has emerged as a national heroine.

The decision was announced live on the television show that began at 7 p.m.
Miss Castillo
María José Castillo
However, La Prensa in Panamá had the story in mid-afternoon, raising questions at least about the security of the call-in voting.
La Prensa said that Betzy Rodríguez, mother of the other finalist, Margarita Henríquez, began getting congratulatory calls.

The callers correctly identified Miss Castillo and Miss Henríguez as the show's finalists. There was no information given on how outsiders would know about the decision.

Voting is based on the number of call-in votes each participant gets. In Costa Rica, newspaper advertising and television shows were urging votes for Miss Castillo. Each vote cost 400 colons (about 73 U.S. cents) plus tax.

Both finalists are 17.  Cut were Pako Madrid of México and Sandra Muente of Perú.

Miss Castillo had two knockout presentations Wednesday and received praise from all three judges. She caused a near riot when she arrived at Juan Santamaría airport Friday for a brief visit home.

Pacific low pressure area gives officials the jitters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A stationary pressure area in the Pacific is the latest weather concern, particularly for the western part of Costa Rica.

The national emergency commission has racheted up the alert even though the system is some distance to the north and west.

The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami reports that the low pressure area is a couple of hundred  miles south of Acapulco, México, and has the potential to become a tropical depression over the next couple of days.

An increase in strength would certainly be felt in Costa Rica, which is several hundred miles to the south and east.

One bit of good news is that Tropical Storm Marie is continuing to move to the west in the Pacific Ocean and does not appear to represent any threat to land now. At last report the storm was 800 miles or 1,290 kms. west-southwest of the tip of the Baja Peninsula in México.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the low pressure area still was generating instability and that moisture and clouds were likely today for the Pacific slope, the northern zone and the Central Valley.

Meanwhile the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias predicted that the system would generate heavy rains, which is why the alert condition was upgraded. The ground is already saturated from downpours over the weekend, the commission noted.

The commission blamed heavy rains, poor urban planning and unregulated construction for a series of emergencies in the Central Valley. It said that structures were put up on the banks of rivers and unstable slopes.

Some of these slopes gave way earlier in the week. One big problem was in Tirrases de Curridabat where 16 houses were in jeopardy from landslides. Residents were evacuated earlier
weather map
U.S. Hurricane Center graphic
Shaded circle is area of low pressure

in the week. Some homes were damaged heavily.

Another problem was in Lotos I de Desamparados where five homes were destroyed because the saturated soil gave way, said the commission, adding:

Some 50 homes were flooded by the Río Tarras in Cartago Wednesday night. In La Lima de Cartago 25 homes were slightly damaged, and in La Isla three were destroyed. In Guadalupe four homes were destroyed, and in El Tejar three were destroyed. In Quircot four homes were flooded, and in San Blas there were six homes with light damage.

In La Lima, the local school was flooded, too, and Thursday was an academic holiday.

Most areas got a break from the rain Thursday. In Liberia, Guanacaste, the automatic station there registered 30.4 mms. (about 1.2 inches) of rain from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday. There was just 12.5 mms. (about a half inch) registered during the daytime Thursday. San José got 22 mms. (.86 of an inch) to 7 a.m. Thursday and almost nothing, less than a milimeter, during the daytime. Moderate rains began about 7 p.m.

In Santa Rosa, the closest weather station to the Nicaraguan border, only 7.1 mms. (about a quarter inch) of rain registered by 8:30 p.m. Thursday. There was 19.8 mms. from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday. That's .78 of an inch.

The Guanacaste area is very vulnerable to heavy rains, in part because much of the area is in the watershed of the Río Tempisque, which drains into the Gulf of Nicoya.

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Another fugitive detained
while working in real estate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have located another U.S. fugitive working as a real estate broker on the Pacific coast.

He was identified as Dean Albert Clark, 55, who is wanted
Dean Albert Clark
Dean Albert Clark
by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in Sacramento, California, said the local office of the International Police Agency.

The arrest was made Thursday with the help of the Fuerza Pública in Quepos and the Sección de Capturas of the Judicial Investigating Organization, said investigators with the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad, the local INTERPOL representatives. Clark is facing a
charge of grand theft and fraud.

Investigators said he was the operator of a firm that rented vacation homes in Nevada County, California, near Tahoe National Forest. A colleague has surrendered on the charge and is awaiting judicial action, investigators said.

The basic allegation is that Clark rented out the homes of clients and never gave them the money generated by the rental, said investigators, citing a summary of the California charge. The amount involved is about $150,000, they said.

Investigators said they had been looking for Clark in various towns on the central Pacific coast and finally found him working in a real estate office. He was taken to San José for judicial action.

Working as a real estate broker or salesman seems to be a frequent job choice of U.S. fugitives.  Last December agents and immigration officers arrested a U.S. citizen, Charles Edward Boy Vance, 41, who was wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in Jacó. He had been working for six months there as a real estate salesman, they said. He was arrested inside the real estate company, agents said.  He faced charges in the U.S. State of Minnesota of robbery, assault, and drug trafficking, said the International Police Agency.

In December 2005 agents detained a convicted sexual predator fleeing a 30-year prison sentence who had been working in Flamingo as a real estate salesman. He was James A. Colwell, 65, who entered Costa Rica in January 2004.

Many U.S. citizens are hired illegally in the real estate business, in part because of their English-language abilities. In some cases the photos and information about the fugitives are easily available on the Internet, but they still manage to be hired.

Wide selection of pieces
anticipated at Sunday concert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wind and horn ensemble will play a concert Saturday in the Teatro Nacional in San Jose at 8 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Ministerio de Culture y Juventud, in collaboration with the Centro Nacional de la Música and the Instituto Nacional de la Música. Jorge Rodríguez will direct the wind ensemble, while Miguel Peña will direct the horns.

The Ensamble de Vientos will play a wide selection of pieces composed for a woodwind orchestra, from Czech composer Josef Myslìvecek's Baroque classic “Wind Octet No. 1,” to French composer Louis Theodore Gouvy's more modern piece, “Petite Suite Gauloise No. 90.” Those who go should look for a new spin on a Latin American classic, as the ensemble interprets Vinicio Meza's “Compadre Pedro Juan,” originally a popular, folksy merengue tune but rearranged by Meza for orchestral performances.

The Banda Sinfonica Intermedia will also tackle a versatile range of scores, including M. Mussorsky's “Procession of Princes and Priests” from the opera “Mlada” and, for the movie lovers, a melody of John Williams' film scores, arranged by Paul Lavender.

Those interested can call (506) 2221-5341, 2221-5103 and 2221-1329 (ext. 214) for information about tickets. Tickets will also be sold at the box office the day of the concert, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission seats are 2,000 colons or about $3.65.
Another warehouse store
planned for Alajuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

PriceSmart Inc. said this week that it will build a fifth warehouse club store in Costa Rica and also jointly develop an adjacent commercial center.

The exact location was not given, but the company said it purchased  21,576 square meters (5.3 acres) of real estate in Alajuela and expects to open the new story and commercial center in the spring of 2009.

Walk planned against cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizations fighting cancer will hold a walk Saturday from the Parque la Merced on Avenida Secunda to La Sabana, starting at 10 a.m. The event was announced by the Fundación Dra. Anna Gabriela Ross. Other organizations also are expected to participate, including the Instituto Costarricense Contra el Cáncer, the Asociación Limonense de Lucha Contra el Cáncer and the Asociación Costarricense de Sobrevivientes de Cáncer de Próstata, among others.

The purpose is to raise public awareness, the foundation said. There are musical events scheduled in La Sabana.

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Major mountain bike race is Saturday in Playa Sámara
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers are expecting up to 800 participants Saturday in the 10th edition of the Vuelta de la Soledad mountain bike race. The start and finish is in Playa Sámara.

The races will leave the coast and ascend to the mountains. From a staggered 8 a.m. start racers will go from Sámara to Puerto Carrillo to Santa Marta to Le Soledad to Pueblo Nuevo, then back to Santa Marta in the mountains and then back to Carrillo and Sámara along the coast.

There is a change in elevation of about 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) three times during the course of the
90-kilometer (57-mile) race, organizers said.

Organizers have set up 12 different categories, from professionals to those aged 65 or more, with winners seeking their share of some 2 million colons in prize money, about $3,600.

There is an additional juvenile race Sunday.

The participants will be in teams of two, and scoring will be based on the times of both team members.

Playa Sámara is on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Two woman detained as suspects in a case of a fatal abortion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators detained two women Thursday to face allegations that they were instrumental in an abortion in which a 16-year-old died.

The women were detained in Urbanizaciones Cuatro Reinas de Tibás and Pacuare Nuevo de Limón. Both are in their early 40s. The Tibás woman is believed to be the girl's mother.

Abortion is not legal in Costa Rica, and the exact allegation
in this case is abortion without the consent of the individual because of the victim's age.
The teen died in March 2007. Investigators say they did not fully understand why until an autopsy report much later showed that the girl suffered from a fatal infection.

Investigators said that the infection was the product of the abortion, although it seems that the girl was given medication to initiate the process.

There may be other suspects sought, said a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The girl, whose name was not disclosed, was taken to Limón for the abortion, the spokesperson said, adding that she did not receive any medical attention at all.

Democrats Abroad effort really got out the vote Saturday
Last Saturday at 9:30 in the morning there was a lot going on on the third floor of the Holiday Inn in downtown San José.  In one room people were sitting around tables filling out forms that would be absentee ballots to vote for their choice for president and other candidates for office in the United States.  In another room there was a non-partisan party going on of those who had voted.  In the hallway there was a line of probably 15 persons waiting to get into the first room. 

That line was still 15 persons long (different people) when I left a little before noon.  All in all, Pat and Willy Piessens and their helpers assisted 260 people in sending their votes to the right places in the U.S. 

The votes should get there safely because the U.S. Embassy notary public, Carol Vargas, took them all to the embassy where they will be sent via diplomatic mail. 

All in all, it was a great morning with lots of animated conversation and no fist fights — not even voices raised, except in laughter.

Democrats Abroad was able to pay for everything involved in facilitating the voting by holding a fundraiser with the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica.  Sponsoring one of their shows is a great and easy way to raise money. 

I respectfully disagree with the comments in the article in this newspaper Thursday regarding the fleeing Democrats should John McCain and Sarah Palin win.*  They – the Democrats -- won’t have time to brood.  They will be too busy, not just growing their organic gardens but planting thousands of trees, learning about eco tourism and conservation and starting recycling projects, as well as volunteering in all sorts of nonprofit organizations.  I won’t presume to speak for the Republicans, but I am sure they will enjoy those parts of Costa Rica that have not been socialized, as they watch from afar while the U.S. financially endures eight years similar to what it experienced during the last Democratic presidency.

Later that day I went to a charades party.  Another emissary from the U.S Embassy was there.  Well, I don’t know where Mel actually works.  He was bringing a message from the consulate.  Essentially he was saying that we should register with the embassy. (not to vote,
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

just to have it on record that we live in Costa Rica, and where.)  Only 3,500 North Americans are registered, and it is estimated that between 35,000 and 55,000 from the United States live here.  Emergencies, especially dying, can be a problem if the consulate doesn’t know where you are or whom to contact. A will, properly and officially translated into Spanish, seems a must if you want your possessions dealt with according to your desires. That’s your possessions.  It can be even more complicated when it comes to your body.

This information utterly dismayed me because I hate tramites (bureaucratic procedures) and have done my best to avoid them during my life and now I learn that one cannot avoid them even on the way out of life.

To register or for information, contact the U.S. Consulate (phone 519-2000; e-mail:

However, as long as you are still breathing and of sound mind, be sure to vote.  The U.S. Embassy can help you with that, too.

Whatever you do, do it in the morning.  We are nearing the end of the rainy season — and in the worst part of it.  It begins to rain closer and closer to noon every day, and the rain is coming down in quantities that have caused damage even in the urban areas. Those communities near rivers and hillsides and without good drainage systems are really suffering. 

I am grateful to be living on the fifth floor.  My apartment feels the dampness, and a balcony tends to flood, but there is no mold in my closets.  During the rainy season, paradise is a relative term.
*EDITOR'S NOTE: Hey, Jo. It was supposed to be humor!

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 197

Taxi operators get a 50-colon raise to go into effect in a week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Higher taxi fares go into effect Thursday if the plans of the price regulating agency are accurate.

The agency has authorized a 50-colon-a-kilometer increase for taxi companies, short of the 85-colon increase the national taxi cooperative wanted. The raise, 50 colons, is just nine U.S. cents. Even the 85-colon increase sought by the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Taxi is just 15.5 cents.

Taxi drivers are among the groups that have been hard hit by the increases in the price of fuel and other petroleum-related products.

They also are unhappy that they have to take their vehicles to inspection twice a year, and there always is a major mechanical problem to be fixed because of the state of the nation's highways.
The last time taxi drivers got a raise, it was just 3 percent April 21.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said it planned to announce the increase in the La Gaceta official newspaper of Oct. 9. The publication date is when the new rate would go into effect.

Upon publication of the new rates, taxi passengers will pay 470 (85.5 cents) instead of 420 (76.5 cents) for the first kilometer traveled.  Rural taxis will charge the same rate for subsequent kilometers.

Urban taxis will charge 430 colons for each additional kilometers (some 78.2 cents), instead of the current 380 colons or 69 cents.  Taxis designed for the disabled with ramps and lifts will be able to charge a few cents more.

All taxis are supposed to have meters that change for fractions of kilometers, too.

U.N. rights commissioner seeks to spotlight and abolish illegal detentions
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The new U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, is calling on governments to stop the arbitrary and unlawful detention of their citizens.  Ms. Pillay is launching a United Nations initiative to abolish this illegal practice and to highlight the plight of millions of people around the world who suffer unjust imprisonment and systematic violation of their human rights.

Ms. Pillay says arbitrary arrest and unlawful imprisonment are widespread and global. She says problems relating to detention exist in almost all countries.

But, while unlawful detentions have been going on for a long time, she says they have been made worse in recent years by the so-called war on terrorism.

"Many more individuals have been placed in detention as a result of these anti-terrorism initiatives by governments in many parts of the world," said Ms. Pillay. "So, the trend in new anti-terrorism legislation in some countries appears to allow the police to detain people for longer and longer periods prior to their being charged."

In the past, people normally were detained without charge for 48 hours. Now, they often are held incommunicado for months without charge, making them more vulnerable to torture. 

Ms.. Pillay, who grew up in South Africa, says she attaches
great importance to the rights of all detainees to have their cases reviewed by an independent and impartial tribunal. She says she is concerned that the human and legal rights of hundreds of suspected terrorists detained by the U.S. government in Guantanamo Bay are being trampled.

But, the high commissioner said she welcomes the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court confirming the constitutional right of habeas corpus for detainees in Guantanamo.  Habeas Corpus places the burden of proof on those detaining the person to justify the detention.

While Guantanamo commands headline news, Ms. Pillay says it must not be forgotten that millions of people around the world suffer unjust imprisonment, or unjust treatment in prison. 

"Every day around the world, there are hundreds of new cases of men, women and children being placed in detention, when they should not be - sometimes in quite inhumane conditions," she added.

The U.N. high commissioner says people are detained for political reasons or because they are immigrants and asylum seekers.  She says the poor, the disabled, orphans, women who are trafficked and sexually abused are frequently imprisoned.

She says the initiative her office is launching aims to shine the light on these forgotten victims of abuse and promote their cause for justice. 

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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Bandits use fake guns
in Alajuelita stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four thugs ruffled some feathers when they robbed a chicken-delivery truck with a pair of fake guns, but four suspects were captured by the Fuerza Pública at Alajuelita shortly afterwards.

The four men jumped the chicken truck outside of Alajuelita early Wednesday, brandishing one .38 caliber rifle and two toy guns. They escaped with approximately two million colons, about $3,660.

Police were alerted through a phone call, and confronted the four suspects at 10:20 a.m., only several meters from where the robbery took place. They were identified by the last names of Haens, Rojas, Salazar and Guevara. They are between 18 and 25 years of age.

The four suspects also are being investigated in the robbery of 19 firearms and two shotguns from another delivery truck belonging to a business based in La Uruca, officials said.

Two remote communities
are hooked up by satellite

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telecommunications monopoly has installed antennas that allow two remote communities to have access to fixed telephones and the Internet via satellite. The communities are Cabo Blanco de Limón and Shiroles de Talamanca, said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The antennas each measure about 1.8 meters in diameter, about six feet. The cost including installation was about $80,000 the company said. The company has plans to install some 40 such antennas before the end of the year in other remote communities.

In addition to the use by residents, the telephone company said that the devices will be used to provide communications to government, banks and health workers.

Quake hits near Cóbano

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake estimated at a magnitude of 4.6 took place about 4:26 p.m. Thursday at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The earthquake observatory, which is affiliated with the Universidad Nacional in Heredia, said that the quake was felt in Cóbano Central, Esparza, Paquera and Jacó across the Gulf of Nicoya. The location was given as 7 kilometers south of Cóbano. That's about 4.5 miles.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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