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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 198                          Email us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Ricardo Montealegre shows one of the weapons available at his downtown shop.
Hunting ban has little impact, gun shop operators say
By Kayla Pearson
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gun shop managers are not impressed that lawmakers have voted in favor of a bill that would ban sports hunting in Costa Rica.

This is because not a lot of people in the country are hunting, they said.

If passed on second reading and signed by the president, the law will make Costa Rica the first country in Latin America to prohibit sports hunting. 

“The law is not good because hunting is not big here,” said Manuel Glen at Armeria Polini on Avenida 1.  “All people here are more for fishing, not hunting.”

These who do hunt, are doing so for sustainability, the sport shop managers added.  An example of this are the native peoples who live in their own communities and survive off the land.

“It is a tradition for many years that people come to hunt,” said Ricardo Montealegre, manager at Ameria Rex on Calle 5.   “All the hunting is one or two pieces to eat, nothing more.  I think 90 percent are doing so for this, not for business or other activity.”

The bill would not prohibit hunting for subsistence.

Montealegre reports that on average his store sells between three and five hunting shotguns a month.  These persons have a hunting license and shoot game that is in the season.  Of course, some persons purchase shotguns for self protection.

Costa Rica has three hunting seasons: For duck, deer and doves.  Outside of this, there is really nothing to shoot, he said.

The new law was proposed after an environmental organization started a petition to stop hunting of protected animals such as jaguar and turtles.  Only five of the 41 lawmakers voted against it.
The law has attracted attention worldwide. A media outlet in London was making inquires Wednesday about the law, and news stories have
confiscated weapons
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
Police officer poses with dead paca and confiscated weapons in Sarapiquí.

appeared in major world outlets. The law also is unique in that it is the first to be passed here as a result of a public initiative. Some 177,000 persons signed a petition to support the measure.

What many individuals do not know is that the bill also sets up a tax and a wildlife fund, presumably to help animals. The tax would be 1 percent of base salary, which now is 360,600 colons or about $709. So the tax would be about $7. It would be assessed on all vehicles when owners renew their registration and also when a registration is issued the first time. It also would be assessed when a construction permit is issued and when a property owner pays taxes to a municipality.

The tax will raise millions.

The proposal also would require controls and monitoring of the wild population of animals and combine a lot of existing laws into one package.

Illegal hunting is continual in Costa Rica. Tuesday night, for example, Policía de Fronteras caught two men in possession of .22 rifles and a dead paca, an animal known in Spanish as a tepezcuintle. It is a large tropical rodent that also is raised in captivity for commercial purposes.

The arrests were in La Esperanza de Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí after residents reported hearing shots in the mountain.

Bill requiring more info for consumer advances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative panel with the power to pass bills has approved a measure to require complete information about agricultural products for consumers.

The measure is an amendment to an existing law and specifies that the national origin of products must be provided.

Access to information about goods and services
offered in the national market is a fundamental right of consumers, said the bill, which will need one more positive vote before it goes to President Laura Chinchilla.

One lawmaker said that the bill is designed to safeguard the health of consumers, too, because they can know from where a particular product is coming. The lawmaker, Alfonso Pérez Gómez, noted that Europe has similar legislation that stemmed from the mad cow disease scare.

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Credit card debt increases
slightly over 2011 figure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans increased their average credit card debt by a bit more than $100 to 638,688 colons ($1,277) over the last year, according to the economics ministry. But late payments are down slightly.

This is the finding of a survey done every July by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. This year the ministry found that there were some 6.3 million plastic cards in use issued by 28 firms, mostly banks. The number of cards is up 7 percent from July 2011.

Some credit card interest continues to be sky high. The highest reported were between 48.9 and 54 percent per year. Lower rates, mostly at state banks, were in the 24 to 27 percent range.

 The ministry counted just 1,593,169 credit cards. The rest are debit cards. It is the holders of credit cards who have the average $1,277 debt with the card issuers. The ministry said that debt was up some 59,029 colons or about $118.06. Card holders in arrears were some 4.1 percent, down 1.2 percent from 2011.

Credomatic, Promérica, Banco Nacional and Citi offer 50 percent of the 390 types of cards in the market.

New Web company anticipates
hiring at least 50 persons here

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Akamai Technologies, Inc. has announced the opening of its Costa Rica services and support center. The new San José center is slated to create more than 50 jobs through the end of 2014, the firm said. Akamai markets its cloud infrastructure solutions within countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Representing roughly 10 percent of the world's Internet population, Latin America has experienced steady growth in online usage across all countries, led by Brazil and Mexico, the firm noted. As the second-largest informational technology market among developing nations and the sixth-largest economy in the world, Brazil leads in technology among Latin American countries.

Over the past 12 months, Akamai said it has experienced considerable growth on its global platform in Web traffic destined to end users in Latin America. Akamai's continued expansion into Latin America will be led by Jim Ebzery, a 30-year industry veteran with executive leadership experience across various high technology disciplines, according to the firm. Most recently, he ran the security, management and operating platforms business at Novell, where he led the growth of the security business and expansion of their strategic cloud business, said the firm.

The company also has business development offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The addition of a technical services and customer care team in Costa Rica diversifies Akamai's world-class support organization, said the firm.

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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Email scammers make use of U.S. diversity lottery program
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A scam new to Costa Rica promises foreigners U.S. residency and makes strong use of State Department logos and text.

The scam arrives as an email that says the recipient has won a U.S. visa in the diversity lottery.

All that is needed is a $879 per person payment by Western Union to someone in London.

The scam is timely because the U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that applications will be accepted online for some 50,000 slots for persons from historically under-represented immigrations. The only trouble is that 2014 winners will not be known until next year.

The diversity program scammers made heavy use of what appears to be material lifted from a State Department Web
page. The email purports to come from the department and carries the department's logo.

The emails come from this Web domain:  That site has been identified as a scammer by the U.S. diplomats in Serbia and London. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also appears to be aware of the scam.

Karin King, at a press briefing Tuesday, was critical of third parties who exact a fee from helping people enter the lottery, but a wire service report did not mention any concerns by her about online scams. She is with the Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, D.C.

The recipient of the fake email in Costa Rica was someone who has contacted third parties in the past with the possibility of applying for the diversity lottery.

That is probably how scammers obtained the email address.

DNA from cows expected to be great evidence against rustlers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial Investigators are being trained to help ranchers obtain and provide DNA samples of their stock as possible evidence in rustling cases.

The informational effort is by the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal and the Sección de Inspecciones Oculares y Recolección de Indicios of the judicial agency.

Some 17 judicial agents received instructions Wednesday, and the goal is to obtain samples from 3,000 head of cattle.

There are many ways to identify cows, including the Old West method of branding the young stock. Less painful methods have been tattooing the ear or perhaps even clipping the ear according to some code.

However, judicial investigators said they believe that DNA, when presented in court and when it has been subject to a chain of possession, is iron-clad.

Rustling is epidemic in Guanacaste and in the northern zone. Usually the stolen animal is quickly reduced to meat, so branding or ear tattoos will not provide identification.

Of course. a DNA sample also could be used to identify offspring.

Alex Chavarría Solano, an agent involved in the program, was quoted by the judicial agency as saying that the DNA test in court has a 99 percent certainty.

One preferred method of getting a DNA sample is by simply clipping some hair from the tail of a cow. Hair does not require refrigeration, the agency noted.

There is an emphasis on handling the sample so the test can standup in court.

Under other circumstances, samples of blood, bone, teeth or skin can provide a DNA sample.

Agents were in Liberia last week providing instructions to agents and cattle owners there.

Investigators also said that a big problem is that only an estimated 20 percent of cattle thefts are reported to authorities.

cows tail
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Agent demonstrates how to take a hair sample.

dna sample in liberia
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Samples taken in Liberia were not always hair.

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New Mayan discovery is tomb of a 7th century warrior queen
By the Washington University news staff

Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya holy snake lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

The tomb was discovered during excavations of the Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, by a team of archaeologists codirected by David Freidel. He is with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

A small, carved alabaster jar found in the burial chamber caused the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel.

The white jar is carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening. The depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar, point to the jar as belonging to K’abel.

Based on this and other evidence, including ceramic vessels found in the tomb and stela carvings on the outside, the tomb is likely that of K’abel, says Freidel, a professor of anthropology and Maya scholar.

Freidel says the discovery is significant not only because the tomb is that of a notable historical figure in Maya history, but also because the newly uncovered tomb is a rare situation in which Maya archaeological and historical records meet.

“The classic Maya civilization is the only ‘classical’ archaeological field in the New World — in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images,” Freidel says.

“The precise nature of the text and image information on the white stone jar and its tomb context constitute a remarkable and rare conjunction of these two kinds of records in the Maya area.”

The discovery of the tomb of the great queen was “serendipitous, to put it mildly,” Freidel said.

The team at El Perú-Waka’ has focused on uncovering and studying features such as shrines, altars and dedicatory offerings rather than on locating burial locations of particular individuals.

“In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that the people of
Alabaster jar
Washington University photo
 This carved alabaster vessel found in the burial chamber
the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of

Waka’ buried her in this particularly prominent place in their city,” Freidel says.

Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster in Ohio, originally began excavating the locale while still a doctoral student of Freidel’s. Continuing to investigate this area this season was of major interest to both she and Freidel because it had been the location of a temple that received much reverence and ritual attention for generations after the fall of the dynasty at El Perú.

With the discovery, archaeologists now understand the likely reason why the temple was so revered: Lady K’abel was buried there, Freidel says.

Lady K’abel, considered the greatest ruler of the late classic period, ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 AD), Freidel says. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title kaloomte, translated to “supreme warrior,” higher in authority than her husband, the king.

Lady K’abel also is famous for her portrayal on the famous Maya stela, Stela 34 of El Perú, now in the Cleveland Art Museum.

El Perú-Waka’, located approximately 75 kilometers west of the famous city of Tikal, is an ancient Maya city in northwestern Petén, Guatemala. It was part of classic Maya civilization (200-900 AD) in the southern lowlands and consists of nearly a square kilometer of plazas, palaces, temple pyramids and residences surrounded by many square kilometers of dispersed residences and temples.

This discovery was made under the auspices of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Guatemala. The El Perú-Waka’ project is sponsored by the Foundation for the Cultural and Natural Patrimony of Guatemala.

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Cartoonists seeking new way
to continue their commentary

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The pen may be mightier than the sword, and editorial cartoonists have skewered many a politician with one.  But with the newspaper industry shrinking, it is getting harder to make a living doing it.

Some of the best cartoonists from around the United States gathered in the nation's capital recently for the annual meeting of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

In the 1990s, there were several-hundred staff cartoonists working at American newspapers.  "Now it's down to somewhere closer to 60," said Jimmy Margulies, who draws for The Record of northern New Jersey.

He says what's being lost is a form of commentary that is more blunt and to the point than editorials.  "This is more like pinning someone down, and in its simplicity bringing out some essential truths that are not directly stated in other forms of opinion writing," Margulies said.

But Chip Bok, who used to work for the Akron Beacon Journal and now has his own Web site Bokbluster was optimistic.

"Times are tough for the old idea of cartoonists, but all kinds of other things have opened up," he said.  "And editorial cartoons, all cartoons, are more popular than ever.  You see them all over the Internet.  The problem now is figuring out how to get paid."

Despite their worries, cartoonists are having a field day making fun of the candidates in the U.S. presidential election.  "I love drawing Obama," said Bok.  "He's got the ears," the cartoonist added, drawing a pair each nearly as large as the presidents head, "and an incredibly skinny neck and body."

Bok noted that Romney is often drawn as a robot, a commentary on the candidate's difficulties in connecting with ordinary Americans as well as a parody of his squareish facial features.  "He's got kind of a heavy brow and bushy eyebrows and the big chin," Bok said, wistfully recalling the fun he had with the chin of former President Bill Clinton.

Matt Wuerker of says often the best presidential ticket to caricature is the one he did not vote for.  "Eight years of George Bush and Cheney, it was hog heaven!  It was tough on the world, but for cartoonists, it was great."

Wuerker invited a reporter and cameraman to Politico to watch him drawing a cartoon, an exaggeratedly square-jawed version of Romney as the notoriously out-of-touch French queen, Marie Antoinette "That 47 percent?  Let them eat cake," the Romney character says in the cartoon.  It was a reference to the real Romney's secretly videotaped remarks, telling wealthy donors that he wouldn't try to win the votes of that percentage of Americans, who he said depend on government aid.

Wuerker believes cartoonists will survive the crisis, and he jokingly borrows what he describes as a Romney metaphor.  "Cartoonists are basically opportunistic parasites," Wuerker said.  "We've survived on the backs of newspapers for a couple centuries, and it worked really, really well.  But the old dog is dying, and so we have to jump onto something new."

China's local social networks
growing despite censorship

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A recent report that claims strong growth in Chinese Internet users' access to Facebook and Twitter is being rebuked in China, where analysts say that, although people are becoming more web savvy, only a small fraction of the mainland's Internet community has the tools to penetrate the government's online censorship.

The London-based Internet research firm GlobalWebIndex said that around 8 percent of Chinese Internet users or netizens are on Twitter and 15 percent are on Facebook, despite both social media sites being blocked within the country.

But Michael Anti, a well known Chinese blogger, magazine columnist and advocate for online freedom, says that the report greatly overestimates Western social media penetration in China.

“The fact is only 1 percent of the Chinese users can reach the free Internet,” he said,“If you depend on that number you have a wrong hope, and we can't live depending on the wrong hope,” Anti added.

China's Internet access has risen dramatically in the past decade. According to official statistics more than half a billion people are online in China, but the government retains control over servers within its borders, and bans content it deems controversial.

Online social networking services with servers located outside China, like Twitter and Facebook, can only be accessed using circumvention tools. A virtual private network, or VPN, for example, is a technology that protects Internet communication. Companies outside China provide VPN services that allow users to browse the Internet privately through a server located abroad, thereby avoiding the blocks China imposes on its domestic Internet.

Anti says that though many netizens use these services to access sensitive information that the Chinese censors block, an increasing number of people bypass China's Internet filters for commercial reasons.

“Even China Daily has advertisements on Twitter,” he said, “VPNs not only for you to reach particular sensitive news but also it makes the communication online safer,” he added. China Daily is a state-backed news agency.

The global market research company International Data Corp. recently predicted double digit growth in the Chinese demand for Internet security products, with firewall and VPN services accounting for almost 40 percent of that growth.

Most Internet security firms do not give details on the number of people buying their VPN services, or how consumers in China are using their products. But a 2010 study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University found that in countries where the Internet is heavily filtered, less than 3 percent of the netizens use circumvention tools.

Jon Russel, Asia editor of The Next Web, an online magazine on Internet and technology, acknowledges a trend towards more widespread use of Internet security tools, including VPNs, but says that the average Chinese netizen still has no real need to use foreign based social networking sites.

“In the absence of these services like Twitter or Facebook the homegrown networks have become very strong and very, very popular,” he said.

Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like site, has 300 million registered users, and has become one of China's most powerful platforms to share comments, videos and pictures online.

Censorship within China's domestic sites, like Weibo, is extremely common, and often implemented by the companies themselves in effort to avoid angering authorities.

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Rights group asks U.N.
to study Venezuela's courts

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
and wire service reports

The Human Rights Foundation said Tuesday that it has submitted a petition and legal report to the United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers requesting that she send an allegation letter to the government of Venezuela regarding the state of subordination of the judiciary to the executive power in that country.

The foundation's petition and legal report call on the U.N. special rapporteur “to inquire into the serious confessions and accusations recently made by former Venezuelan supreme court justice Eladio Aponte.” In a 40-minute interview and an affidavit that was recently made public by his attorney in Costa Rica, Aponte confessed to manipulating the criminal justice system in Venezuela in order to persecute political opponents.

“Former Justice Aponte lacks all credibility and integrity, as one can judge by his own self-incriminatory statements about his time on Venezuela’s highest bench. Clearly, he is capable of anything — an opportunist, a scoundrel,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “However, given that he was a retired army general who was appointed as a supreme court justice because of his loyalty to President Hugo Chávez, and given the detailed nature of his statements, we believe they must be investigated and taken very seriously by all international organizations championing human rights and democracy,” continued Halvorssen. “This individual wrote the decisions of the highest court in Venezuela for almost a decade, and played a key role in consolidating President Chavez’s authoritarianism.”

The foundation's legal report documents the gradual erosion of judicial independence in Venezuela, as evidenced by the implementation of a mechanism for the arbitrary appointment and removal of judges in violation of the principles of stability and tenure, as well as the passing of a 2004 law and the subsequent stacking of the judiciary with judges loyal to the ruling party. This subordination of the judiciary even led to President Chávez and several justices of the supreme court making public statements in which they proclaimed that the judiciary must be subservient to the executive branch.

The foundation's petition to the U.N. special rapporteur specifically asks her:

(1.) to inquire into the serious confessions and accusations made by Aponte;

(2.) to send an allegation letter to the State of Venezuela, requesting an official and comprehensive answer to each one of these allegations; and

(3.) to make concrete recommendations on measures that the state of Venezuela should undertake in order to reverse the subordination of the judiciary to the executive branch. In particular, “to cease the acts that are causing this situation, to offer appropriate assurances and guarantees of non-repetition, and to make full reparation for the injury caused by this internationally wrongful act.”

Sunday Venezuelans will go to the polls to either extend the almost 14-year rule of Chávez for another six years or choose his younger challenger Henrique Capriles to lead the nation. While the Venezuelan leader's ongoing battle with cancer has been a prominent issue in the presidential race, that for many voters this election will be a referendum on the results of Chavez's socialist policies.

As Sunday's election nears, Chávez has stepped up new government building projects in Caracas that provide jobs and free housing to the poor. By using Venezuela's vast oil resources to pay for billions of dollars worth of social programs and subsidies, the president has in the past been able to maintain the support of a majority of voters.

A tank of gasoline in Venezuela costs less than a bottle of water.

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