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These stories were published Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 196
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Backlash from Stan renews Pacific flooding
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Tropical Storm Stan sent rains that lashed the central Pacific coast that only just recovered from September rains.  The new downpours also flooded areas in Guanacaste again and caused damage in the Central Valley, said the country's emergency commission. 

The downpours bloated rivers and again forced people from their homes Sunday.  In Filadelfia de Guanacaste, 122 persons left their homes.  115 of these found shelter in the local community center.  In Abangaritos de Las Juntas de Abangares, 10 more families had to be evacuated and in the community of Hotel de Cañas, 73 persons found shelter in the local community center.  The commission said it also received reports that 48 families have taken shelter in the Ortega de Santa Cruz community center.   

Rains on Sunday caused problems in Abangares, Cañas and Filadelfia in Guanacaste where 28 houses were damaged, the commission said.  In the central valley, 20 homes in la Unión, central Cartago and Curridabat had problems stemming from the rain, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.   

The commission said that residents of the Pacific coast should stay on alert. but Robbie Felix, a hotel owner in Manuel Antonio-Quepos, said that many people are still in dire straits from last weekend's rains.  She has been participating in the recovery effort.

Ms. Felix and several friends brought supplies Sunday to what seem to be two of the worst hit towns in the country, Silencio and San Cristobal.  The bridge into those towns was half gone, she said.  A raft fashoned from wood and barrels allowed them to pass supplies accross the river.  Once on the other side, a four-wheel drive vehicle carried them the six muddy kilometers into Silencio, she wrote.  When a logjam destroyed what was left of the bridge, her group was forced to spend the night there.  They saw first hand what people there are going through, she wrote.

Once in Silencio, a momentary lapse in the rain allowed them to deliver food to 90 families, she said. 

“The word went out and people lined up, mostly children as we passed out cereals, cookies, basic food items. We saved about half of the food and all the most basic items, coffee, rice, clothing, shoes, socks and half the
other food items with the intention of entering San Cristobal today (Monday),” she wrote.

In Silencio, Ms. Felix found that conditions were bad enough in San Cristóbal that 22 families there had fled to Silencio.

“We gave them (the San Cristobal families) clothing last night as they arrived at the door looking for help.  Each family also recieved food and some of the basic supplies we had set aside for those most affected. Crying and scared children arrived with parents and grandparents shuffling through the clothing, looking for stuff that fit,” she wrote.

Monday morning, Ms. Felix's group made their way to San Cristobal where they found the 18 to 20 families left there living in two houses, pitched tents and a barn.  Residents in the town were adding on to the barn roof with teak poles so more people could fit, she wrote.  The houses are the only two left.

“The area was simply wiped out. What was once a winding river, is a gully of debris, mud, downed trees, and humans trying to just stay dry until all of this passes. It is harder than it sounds. It is raining here still. It rained all day yesterday (Sunday). Potable water remains a problem and basic items are needed such as anti-fungal medications. People slogging through mud and water for days barefoot or in rubber boots are complaining of fungal infestations in their feet.

"Recently branded horses had fungal infections where they had been branded from slogging through pits of contaminated mud. We used those horses to get back across the river, or at least a few, Warren (a member of her party) and I did it on foot, tromping through mud and brown water. We ended up walking out, about 8-10 kilometers in mud, dirty water and through flooded areas, it rained almost the entire time,” she wrote. 

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted Monday night that the rains would continue through Wednesday morning as Stan moves up the Atlantic coast of Mexico. 

The flooding is starting to gain international attention.  The U.S. Embassy in San José said the United States will donate $50,000 today to the affected residents of Guanacaste and Quepos.  The money comes from the U.S. Office of Disaster Assistance.

Tourism is taking a blow as well.  At least one traveler to Tamarindo cut her trip short after heavy rains, high prices and brown ocean water drove her back to San José. 


Scammers take advantage of kind hearts to run check frauds
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Quepos are seeking scammers who took advantage of the goodwill of companies whose employees thought they were helping flood victims, agents said.

The thieves used stolen checks to buy milk, coffee, rice, beans and other supplies from Dos Pinos and Super 2000 and said the products were for the people affected by last week's rains, agents said.

The scammers called Dos Pinos claiming to be members of a benefit association and said they needed 1,800,000 colons ($3,691) worth
 of powdered milk for which they had already dropped off a check at the Cruz Roja de Parrita where they collected the merchandise, agents said.  When Cruz Roja cashed the check, the bank notified employees that it was from a stolen account that had been closed.   

The scammers also called the Super 2000.  They told an employee that they needed to buy rice, beans, cooking oil, sugar and coffee among other supplies for a total of 2,500,000 colons ($5,127), again for the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias to help the flood victims, agents said.  They used a check from the same account to buy these items presumabily for resale, agents said. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 196


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Reporter attacked, beaten
at Figueres estate blaze


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guards at the Figueres estate La Lucha, attacked, beat and took a camera from a reporter who was trying to cover a fire that killed four persons there, the newspaper Diario Extra said Monday.

Injured was the paper's Cartago correspondent, Oledmar Siles, who followed firemen to the scene in San Cristóbal, Desamparados, and began taking photos.

The newspaper featured the reporter on the front page Monday. He was shown with his right leg in a cast.

Fuerza Pública officers and firemen also said they had trouble getting into the estate to approach the fire scene.

Siles was awake Sunday about 5:15 a.m. and at a service station when he heard the fire trucks, the newspaper said. He followed and entered the estate at the same time as the fire trucks. It was when he began taking photos that guards attacked him, the newspaper said.

Other reporters who arrived later were kept from the fire scene even though such scenes usually are accessible to news people. Despite the attack, Diario Extra was able to locate a photo of the fire scene.

The estate is occupied by Mariano Figueres, son of José Figueres, three-time former president and winner of the 1948 revolution. Mariano also is the brother to José María Figueres Olsen, who also was a president of the country.

The dead are all members of the family of the wife of Mariano Figueres. Mariano Figueres is believed to have suffered burns and other injuries, as did his wife,  Magaly Solano Solano. The woman's mother,  Dora Solano Cerdas, and her brother,  Henry Solano Solano, died in the flames. Also dead is Sandra Castro Solano, the niece of Dora Solano, and her child, Gabriela Castro Solano, 5.

Those who died were visiting the estate for the weekend. Two funerals were Monday and two are scheduled for today. The location is some 40 miles south of San José.

Our reader's opinions

She's not confident
government's better


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I have been following the recent articles published in regard to hotel takeovers on both the Pacific, and now apparently the Las Palmas on the Carribean side of Costa Rica with great interest.

Having read about the laws pertaining to structures within the 200-meter zone, and actually visiting just  about every beach on both coasts, you can see that the law and the reality do not match.

My brother-in-law and I were discussing the current situation in  Punta Uva, he is a Tico from the province of Limón. He and my husband just sat back and listened to my animated story about the Costa Rican government taking over the Las Palmas resort, and how it was going  to be used for some type of tourism school.

They both just shook their heads, and my brother-in-law said “Oh yes, and so the government's use of the property is going to be better for the environment!”

He is so right! We stayed at the Hotel Suerre’s right next door to the Las Palmas resort in February. One of the  best parts of this resort in my opinion was the very secluded beach. Now mind you there are TWO resorts right next to each other, and the beach was STILL  secluded.

Now the government is going to put a school in it’s place? Well, let’s see that will surely decrease the abuse to the eco system. All that transit around the school, bottles and waste from meals and snacks that will be tossed on  the beach and in the brush.

We all need to work together to protect the  environment, by the government using it’s strong hand to take over private business to only change the use “for the public good?” It’s just not right. On  another note, reading about the evictions on the Pacific coast, another “shame  on you” for the government. Utilize your resources by improving the infrastructure of Costa Rica, rebuild the towns destroyed by the floods, enforce the environmental laws.

But for God's sake, stop destroying what is already  there.  Good luck Costa Rica, my favorite place in the  world!

Connie Gutierrez
Belmar, New  Jersey

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Sala IV constitutional court has frozen the eviction at Las Palmas until an appeal for judicial aid can be heard.


He's sad that Carrillo
is leaving government


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a customer our company, I know Federico Carrillo pretty well, and I can tell you that the Ministerio de Hacienda's loss is the Central American Bank's gain.

Notwithstanding his pushing the new tax law, which I think needs re-writing, Federico's problems with the Costa Rican government were basically threefold: He is too smart, too honest, and too outspoken to ever succeed as a member of government in Costa Rica — at least at the present time.

And when he told the Asamblea that they certainly didn't need a new ivory tower - hoo boy!!

I am sure that there are a lot of cooler (and smarter) heads in Costa Rica, that like me, are sorry to see him go.

I wish Federico all the best in his new job, and buena suerte to his sucessor.
 
Peter Todd
Pavas



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'Cinderella Man' is a comeback movie worth seeing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

James J. Braddock's boxing career crashed a few months before the stock market.  In July 1929, Braddock lost a 15-round decision for the light-heavyweight title to Tommy Loughran in Yankee Stadium.  Four years later a six-round fight against Abe Feldman in some dank gym in Mount Vernon, N.Y., was so bad, officials declared it a no contest and denied Braddock the $50 he was promised whether he won or lost.  The boxing commission revoked his license, and like 25 percent of the rest of the United States, he found himself unemployed.

Thus goes the beginning of "Cinderella Man," a Ron Howard-directed film starring Russell Crowe as Braddock.  Like all based-on-a-true-story movies, the ending is fixed so the draw has to come from somewhere else.  Cinderella Man relies on change. 

The opening scene shows Braddock knocking some hapless opponent to the Madison Square Garden canvas.  In the taxi ride back to the upscale New Jersey home he shares with his wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) and their three children, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), his manager pays Braddock more than $8,000 in winnings.  He goes home, sets his jewelry and cash on a bedside table, and when he picks it up again, five years have passed.  The jewelry is a false tooth, the upscale house is a tenement, and he and Mae are excited that he's managed to get a $50 win-or-lose fight.  The swings continue throughout the movie.   

Crowe does an excellent job playing Braddock, the washed-up, down-on-his-luck dockworker who never complains and will do anything for his family.  It's hard not to feel for Braddock after the power is turned off in their New Jersey apartment in the dead of the winter and he's forced to go to the promoters who once adored him to beg for the few dollars it costs to turn the power back on.  And it's hard not to smile as he eventually starts fighting again and claws his way back to a heavyweight title bout against Max Baer.    

Baer's character (Craig Bierko) may be one of the few weaknesses in the movie.  Baer was reportedly a
bit cocky, but in the movie he's a swaggering,

Universal Studios photo
Russell Crowe as Braddock receives money from his former promoter after the power is turned off in his New Jersey apartment.

arrogant jerk who, before the fight, asks Mae if she's ready to be a widow. 

Baer did indeed kill at least one opponent, Frankie Campbell, in the ring, and may have been responsible for one more.  An autopsy showed that Baer hit Campbell so hard that Campbell's brain was knocked loose from the connective tissue holding it to his cranium. 

The film portrays Baer as proud of the act, but Baer reportedly cried over the incident and had nightmares for decades afterwards.  He also gave much of his winnings from subsequent bouts to Campbell's family and put his children through college.  But regardless of the truth, Bierko plays the villain well.   

All in all, it's worth seeing the portrayal of the man who gave Americans a reason to hope when there wasn't much to hope for.  Through every fight and every low blow, viewers will dodge and duck with Braddock and when it's over, their hands may hurt from clenching their fists for two and a half hours.

—Jesse Froehling


Policemen provide a dream for a 4-year-old victim of cancer
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers fulfilled a young cancer victim's dream of being a police officer Monday when in a patrol car with lights blazing and siren screaming, 4-year-old Ashley Castillo Cabrera rode with officers to a restaurant near the Rotunda de Alajuelita in south San José.

There Walter Navarro, Fuerza Pública director genera, waited with a police bonnet embroidered with the young girl's last name, books, colored pencils and
various other toys.   The encounter was part of Programa a Pinta Seguro is a Fuerza Pública program for local schools. 

“This is the best compensation we can receive after extensive days of hard work, the smile of a young girl,” said Navarro. 

Police surprised Ashley with the gift Monday afternoon after her two-week stay in the Hospital Nacional de Niños.  The prognosis of physicians is guarded.


Boca de Toro land owners worried about proposed law, online paper says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee in Panamá is to hold a hearing today on a new land law that some expats think will authorize land grabs in Bocas de Toro from foreign investors and small farmers.

Noriegaville, an online daily newspaper, reported this today and said that foreign retirees and investors who have purchased "rights of possession" on the various islands in the Bocas archipelago may lose the property
if they have not built a house on it, are not farming it or not seeking to make it a tourism development.

A U.S. citizen who lives in the area was quoted saying that locals and foreigners from the area in the northeast section of Panamá close to the Costa Rican border are traveling to Panamá City today to attend the hearing.

Rights of possession are something less than property deeds, but the ownership situation in the area has been mismanaged and confused, the newspaper said.






Ultra-light plane will migrate this year with Monarchs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Like all butterflies, the Monarch begins as a caterpillar, inching along on tiny legs, feasting on leaves. Then comes the slow transformation inside the chrysalis:  from worm-like creature into a thing of wings -- and beauty.

Monarch butterflies, instantly recognizable for their gold and black markings, are found in many places around the world. But only those east of the Rocky Mountains in North America make the annual autumn migration.  From their summer habitats in the north, 300 million butterflies fly south — more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) -- to a few small forests in Mexico.

And that’s the path that an unusual ultra-light aircraft will follow this year — piloted by a crew of documentary filmmakers, including lead pilot Francisco Gutiérrez.

At a stop in Washington, D.C., Gutiérrez said he’d designed the plane’s Monarch-like wing markings himself. The purpose of the flight, he said, is to raise public consciousness about the environment. “Basically, the idea is to make people aware that we have to take care of our world,” he said. “And I found in this incredible insect, the Monarch butterfly, a very magic and amazing phenomenon.”

Pilots from all three countries will take turns flying the motorized glider from Canada through the United States to Mexico. The butterflies will determine the flight schedule.

“If the Monarchs fly, it’s because we have good weather,” Gutiérrez said. “If they don’t fly, it’s not good, so I’m just trying to follow their rules. So, if I fly with them, I will be ready.  . . . when they have a thunderstorm, they stay somewhere, I don’t know where. And when the weather is good again, they fly.”

“To me, the Monarch is a symbol of the interrelatedness of all animals and plants,” said Lincoln Brower, a  Sweet Briar College professor. Now a fellow at the World Wildlife Fund,  Brower has studied Monarch butterflies for 52 years.  He says that large-scale agriculture’s herbicides and gene-engineered crops are killing off everything else,
including the plants that butterflies eat  -- with

 
disastrous consequences for biological diversity. In Mexico, meanwhile, illegal logging is also destroying the high-altitude forests that the Monarch butterflies shelter in over the winter.

“The Monarchs depend on the trees to get through the winter,” Brower said. “If they lose that over-wintering habitat in Mexico, at some point the straw will break the camel’s back and we’ll lose the whole migratory phenomenon.”

While the Monarch species itself isn’t endangered, Brower said that the butterflies’ migration is both a beautiful natural resource, and a well of scientific knowledge. “For example, right now there’s a current controversy as to whether the Monarch is capable of detecting magnetic lines of force,” he says. “The fact that these little guys can fly from Toronto to a pinpoint on the map in Mexico, nearly 2,000 miles, how do they do it? What clues are they using? How is their brain processing this information? I mean, the brain of a Monarch is about the size of a small steel pinhead, and yet within it is the capacity of navigation comparable to the highest humans have, or even higher, for that matter.”

The pilots of Papalotzin, as the motorized glider is called -– the word means “little butterfly” in the ancient Aztec language -– must depend on cruder navigational tools as they track the clouds of butterflies south.  The flight began in August in Canada, and will end in November in Central Mexico.


Animal refuge in Heredia begins classes today for area youngsters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asociación Humanitaria para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica in San Rafael de Heredia is opening a school today to teach the youngest generations to care for their furry, four-legged friends as well as the natural world around them. 

The school plans to use mostly kittens and puppies in the shelter to teach students how to care for their pets and other animals and also the importance of spaying and neutering programs, said Leigh Monahan, the refuge's vice president.  Today also is World Animal Day.

“We want them to know that animals have feelings too,” said Ms. Monahan.
Another instructor will teach children about the importance of the environment, Ms. Monahan said. Students will learn such necessities as throwing garbage in trash cans and how to planting seeds.   

The refuge worked with the education system in the Central Valley to set up the school.  The classes of 25-30 students will meet three times a week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Ms. Monahan said. 

The refuge has anywhere between 50 to 200 animals at any given time that all need homes, Ms. Monahan said.  Adoption is free.  These animals are mostly cats and dogs but police and other people bring the refuge injured cows, horses, monkeys, sloths, toucans and many other animals that need medical attention and homes, Ms. Monahan said.  


Sex case fugitive and two suspects detained by police in separate cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers caught one convicted sex-offender and two suspects in three separate operations Monday.

Police arrested a man near a soda in the center of Orotina who they say had an 8-year-sentence hanging over his head.  The man, identified by the last names Irías Méndez was convicted of sexual abuse against a minor in 2003 and had been on the run since.  

Another man, identified by the last names Irías Palacios, was arrested in Tárcoles de Garabito,  
 Puntarenas.  Police said Irías, 25, raped a 75-year-old disabled woman who was alone in her house.  Officers captured him in the room he rented from the woman in the same house, they said.

A third man, identified by the last names Mora Castro, was arrested near the school in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados.  Officers said the 25-year-old suspect raped an 11-year-old girl minutes before they detained him.

Officers said they had to guard the man from enraged neighbors who were attempting to hit him as they led him away. 


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