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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Oct. 11, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 200            E-mail us
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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo/Pau Gamboa
Agents seek packages of drugs from the crashed plane
Crash of small plane blamed on hidden drug cargo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Guatemalans failed their math test big time Sunday when they took off from Pavas in a single-engine Piper Cherokee that appeared to be overloaded.

Police attributed their flying problems to the 200 kilos, some 440 pounds of suspected cocaine that was concealed in a wing fuel tank.

Investigators and Fuerza Pública officers waded in the Río Torres, at the scene of the crash, and managed to snag 170 kilos in one-kilo packages. The rest washed downstream, and residents along the river were seeking the remainder.

Security cameras photographed the airplane lumbering to takeoff at Tobias Bolaños airport and using nearly the entire length of the runway to get airborne shortly before 8 a.m.. The flight did not last long. Only about two minutes, said Omar Madrigal, head of the security ministry's air service. The crash was northeast of the airport.

The aircraft veered to the left and to the Río Torres where it crash landed on a wooded bank. There was no serious damage on the ground, although there are densely populated areas in the vicinity. The plane was destroyed and the crash ruptured the wing and exposed the concealed packages.

Both the pilot and the co-pilot survived the crash
but were hospitalized under police guard.

Just like the drug-laden helicopter that crashed in the mountains May 1, 2009, the accident alerted investigators to a new technique for carrying drugs north.

Hiding drugs in a fuel tank is a common practice in smuggling by truck. In fact, anti-drug agents discovered 79 kilos of cocaine in the fuel tank of a tractor trailer Friday at the Peñas Blancas border crossing with Nicaragua. The Costa Rican driver was detained.

Private aircraft do not get the same going over that agents give a truck crossing the boarder. The aircraft Sunday was en route to Guatemala.

The security ministry said that the aircraft arrived in Costa Rica Thursday. It may have come from the south. Agents were expected to exercise a search warrant at the hanger where the flight originated. One of the men on the aircraft was in the process of starting an air taxi service here, agents said. The aircraft was registered in Guatemala.

The men were identified by the last names of Ramírez and Monzón. Ramírez is 53 and his companion is 61, agents said. Cruz Roja emergency workers took them from the scene on stretchers.

At least one seemed to be conscious.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 200

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European frogs also facing
dramatic population crashes


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Common frog populations across the United Kingdom are suffering dramatic population crashes due to infection from the emerging disease, Ranavirus. Costa Rican amphibians also have suffered mysterious declines.

Research published in The Zoological Society of London's journal Animal Conservation uses data collected from the public by the Frog Mortality Project and Froglife. Scientists from the society found that, on average, infected frog populations experienced an 81 per cent decline in adult frogs over a 12 year period.

“Our findings show that Ranavirus not only causes mass-mortality events but is also responsible for long-term population declines. We need to understand more about this virus if we are to minimize the serious threat that it poses to our native amphibians,” said Amber Teacher, lead author from society.

Despite a number of populations suffering from infection year after year, other populations bounced back from mass-mortality events. This suggests that some frogs may have some form of immunity to ranaviral infection.

“The discovery of persistent populations in the face of disease emergence is very encouraging and offers hope for the long-term future of this species” says Lucy Benyon of Froglife. “However, we still need regular information from the public on what is happening in their ponds to continue this essential research.”

In the 80s and 90s, the disease was particularly associated with the southeast of England. In recent years new pockets of diseases have turned up in Lancashire, Yorkshire and along the south coast.

“It is very difficult to treat wildlife diseases and so the mystery that we desperately need to solve is how the disease spreads. Understanding more about the ecology of the disease will allow us to offer advice to the public on how to limit the spread of infection, which could also prevent the movement of other frog diseases in the future,” says co-author Trent Garner from the society.


Tamarindo group sets date
to discuss improving water


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tamarindo residents plan to meet later this month to discuss ways in which the water in the community's bay can be improved. The goal is to recapture a blue flag that is awarded to environmentally savvy locations.

Tamarindo Recycles, the local organization that it trying to keep the town clean, said that a blue flag will help the Pacific beach community attract more tourists.

The town still is reeling as a result of the public relations nightmare three years ago with a government study found coliform bacteria in amounts from 3.3 to 329 times the permitted quantity for swimming.  The study was done by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water company.  That news went around the world.

The meeting will be Oct. 27 in the Hotel Tamarindo Diria, said an e-mail announcement.


Friday night witnesses
a quake double header


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That shaking Friday night was not the result of the wine. A 5.9 magnitude earthquake at 7:54 p.m. was followed at 9:30 by a magnitude 5 quake some 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) south of Laurel in the southern zone. The first quake was reported that night by A.M. Costa Rica.

The second quake does not appear to have been felt strongly in the Central Valley, although there were reports of it all over the country.

The 7:54 p.m. quake was centered near Zarcero but still attributed to the Coco tectonic plate.


Election tribunal plans
to recycle tons of ballots


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has 105 tons of materials from the 2010 national elections that it will begin to recycle today.

Some 90 tons are ballots for president, legislators and local municipal council members. The tribunal said there were 9 million ballots to be discarded.

Workers will need two weeks to prepare the waste material and deliver it to Kimberly Clark. The Tribunal will get 6.5 million colons in exchange. That is nearly $13,000.

 
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 HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 200

Latigo K-9

Pedestrians will get a bridge in stream-ravaged Salitral
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public works officials are hoping to install a pedestrian bridge this week in Barrio Los Montoya in Salitral de Santa Ana. This is where flooding prompted by a landslide in the mountains wiped out a bridge.

Residents have had to wade the Quebrada Canoa. Now that the water level has decreased, there are wooden planks that form a sort of bridge. But this will not last if there is more rain. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes plans something more secure with handrails.

The problem developed when a side of the Cerro Chitaría collapsed and the rock, trees and mud entered the waterway. The trees would form an impromptu dam, and water would build up behind it. Then the blockage would rupture sending a strong flow of water downstream. Houses were flooded out, and transportation was hampered.

For several days residents have been wading the stream
Salitral bridgeMinisterio de Obras Públicas y Trasnportes photo
School children make use of the temporary bridge

hoping that there was not more water on its way. Some took off their shoes. Others carried children and seniors.

The proposed bridge will connect the upper part of the community with the rest of the world.


Key highway to Caribbean being closed mornings for study
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highways continue to be a challenge for expats.

Ruta 32, the San José-Limón route, will be closed today, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to noon. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad has contracted with a team of geologists and engineers to create a three-dimensional image of the highway where it passes through Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo.

The goal is to find a definitive solution to the landslides that have plagued the stretch.

The firm Stereocarto is involved as well as specialists from a number of government agencies.  Officials suggest that those who must travel to the Caribbean use the alternate
route through Turrialba. Most truckers will choose to await the reopening of the highway instead of taking a chance on the less then adequate Turrialba route.

Meanwhile work continues on the Autopista del Sol where side-by-side bailey bridges have been installed. Transport officials still are not ready to open that route. This stretch, too, was the victim of a landslide, and the issue rises to the level of a political one because the highway was constructed by a private firm working on a concession.

The closed portion is between Atenas and Orotina. The alternate route is the Interamericana Norte, which also has been faced with geological challenges.

The situation has improved because there have been four days in a row without rain.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 200

Anti-cancer caiminata
Casa Presidencial photo

Hundreds turned out in good weather Saturday for the Caminata: Luchemos por la vida or the walk fighting for life. The anti-cancer event was sponsored by the Fundación Ana Gabriela Ross. The goal was to raise the
consciousness of Costa Ricans. This was the seventh year. In addition some owners downtown are illuminating their structures with rose-colored lights as a show of support.



Development bank, Seattle nonprofit promote microlending

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter-American Development Bank and Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based non-profit organization, have signed a $5 million loan, which will serve to capitalize the organization’s new social investment fund.

The Global Partnerships Social Investment Fund 2010, which raised a total of $20 million from a number of private and institutional investors, will invest in microfinance institutions that are going beyond providing working capital loans by bundling traditional microfinance lending with the provision of other services. 

Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Mark Coffey, chief investment officer of Global Partnerships, signed the agreement during the XIII Inter-American Microenterprise Forum, the biggest gathering of microfinance institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The forum was in Montevideo, Uruguay.

With this project, the development bank, through its Opportunities for the Majority Initiative, said it hopes to support the regional growth of a new generation of microfinance investments with the potential to mobilize
social change among the population traditionally served by such loans.

“Through the Social Investment Fund 2010, Global Partnerships is taking microfinance to the next level and making a difference in the lives of those living at base of the socioeconomic pyramid,” said Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen, the development bank's project team leader. “Microfinance institutions have established deep inroads into low-income populations. Adding new products to their existing network can greatly increase the impact of development interventions.”

With the support of the development bank, Global Partnerships is helping establish a new investment class in the region, in which investors receive both social and economic returns. Among the beneficiaries are Pro Mujer, which offers health screenings and education to its clientele of low-income women; FRAC, which serves in some of the poorest areas in Mexico; and Honduras-based Comixmul, which also has a female client base.

Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based nonprofit with a 16-year history of supporting microfinance projects in Latin America, has established three prior investment funds, which provide loans to a select portfolio of microfinance institutions.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 200

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Engineers reinforce shaft
that connects to miners


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean workers are reinforcing an escape shaft that will be used to rescue 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months.

Workers began placing lengths of metal tube into the shaft Sunday, to ensure that a specially made rescue capsule will not snag as it moves up and down the shaft, bringing the miners up one at a time.

Chile's mining minister Laurence Golborne says the rescue will likely begin on Wednesday, after a pulley system is installed.

The drill digging the escape shaft finally broke through to the miners' underground chamber Saturday, sparking celebrations among rescue workers and family members waiting for the miners to be brought back to safety.

In a drama that unfolded before television cameras from around the world, bells rang and sirens blared signaling that the escape shaft had been completed.

Engineers embraced and jumped for joy.  Relatives waiting at what has been nicknamed "Camp Hope" laughed and cried.  Some described the moment as "overwhelming."

The miners have been trapped since part of the mine collapsed Aug. 5.  Crews have been sending food, water, games, letters and other items to the men through small supply shafts.

A team of 16 paramedics and rescue experts has been preparing to help bring the miners to the surface.  Authorities say some of the team will join the miners underground to make their journey as easy as possible.

Chilean navy engineers and mining experts helped build the rescue capsule, known as the Phoenix. The capsule is about half-a-meter wide and includes an oxygen supply and a phone to communicate with rescue crews on the surface.

Some of the miners appear to have skin infections and have complained of dental problems. Officials say once the miners are rescued they will be carried by helicopter to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

The 65-day ordeal is the longest time that workers trapped in a mining accident have survived underground.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has vowed a complete investigation into the accident that caused the cave-in in a deep section of the mine.

Argentines protest plan
for British maneuvers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina has called on Britain to refrain from conducting military exercises on the disputed Falkland Islands.

Argentina said Saturday it has sent a letter of protest to the British ambassador in Buenos Aires.

Britain notified Argentina last week about the upcoming military exercises on the Falklands.

Britain and Argentina have had a long-running dispute over sovereignty of the British-held Falklands in the South Atlantic.

Earlier this year, a British company said it may have discovered oil off the coast of the Falklands. Rockhopper Exploration said the find would be the first oil discovery in the North Falkland Basin.

Argentina said it would take legal measures to prevent Britain from gaining access to any oil.

Argentina invaded the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas, in 1982 and held them for two months until British forces retook control. More than 600 Argentine and 255 British troops were killed.

Argentina asserts its sovereignty over the islands, saying they are located on its continental shelf and are thus within its sphere of economic influence.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 200


Latin American news
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potted pot
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Young marijuana plants were in individual pots

Small pot-growing operator
gets quick police attention

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry is sending a message with the arrest of a La Fortuna woman who is accused of having 10 young marijuana plants in her home.

The ministry said that it will enforce the law equally whether the drug involved is marijuana, crack or cocaine.

That seems to be a change in the ground rules because police frequently overlooked small marijuana growing operations. The woman has been turned over to prosecutors for processing. She has the last names of Rodríguez Herrera, Fuerza Pública officers said.

They said the arrest was the result of complaints by neighbors. The Policía Turística made the arrest.


Bad-check allegations
land trio in detention


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons accused of victimizing persons who were selling goods through newspaper classified ads have been placed in preventative detention for three months, the Poder Judicial said.

The trio and a fourth person who already is behind bars are accused of fraud because the allegation is that they used stolen or otherwise worthless checks to obtain 5 million colons worth of items. These included pedigreed animals, portable computers, clothing, shoes, and other items, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. There are some 12 different allegations pending, said judicial agents.

The case was made by the Unidad Especializada en Estafas of the Ministerio Público. The trio was detained in Paso Ancho.  They were identified with the last names of Valenciano Campos, Vargas Hidalgo and Solís Guerrero.





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