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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 201       Email us
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The message by both man and dog was an end to mistreatment of animals

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Bubble snail

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See story, HERE!

Jealousy cited as motive in Playa Hermosa murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a love triangle, whether real or imagined, is at the center of the motive for the murder of an Argentine business woman in Playa Hermosa near Jacó Sept. 18.

Judicial police detained a Belgian mechanic Monday in the central Pacific and said he was the intellectual author of the crime. A statement from the Judicial Investigation Organization said that he was one of the persons involved in the murder, suggesting that there may be other arrests.

The dead woman was Alejandra Erpen, 38, who ran a gift shop in the beach community. She was gunned down as she was about to enter her home. Her sister suffered a bullet wound. The assailant fired from the shadows, agents said at the time. The woman lived in the beach community for six years, friends said.

The murder shocked the close-knit seaside town, and some residents expressed fear and concern because they knew the victim, her sister and those investigators considered suspects.

The mechanic is Michel Cryson, said the Poder Judicial. The agency said that the man was detained near his home in Quebrada Seca de Garabito around midday. In the same place the man maintains a mechanics shop adjacent to the home, and agents searched that, too.

The Poder Judicial said that he faced a murder allegation in the case of the dead woman and a second allegation for the injury done to her sister, But there are other charges.

According to the Poder Judicial, the man believed that Ms. Erpen had become involved in a romantic relationship with his former girlfriend, identified by the last name of Splendido. To support his suspicions, the man taped conversations and made threats to Ms. Erpen, said the Poder Judicial.

That is why there are additional allegations of obtaining private communications and violation of the law prohibiting violence against women.

The Ministerio Público said that agents have at least eight witnesses on which they based their allegations. Based on these testimonies, agents obtained an arrest order Friday, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

tribute to murdered woman
Reader photo
When they learned of the killing, residents flocked to the storefront to present floral tributes.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the suspect was 45. The agency also differed with the report by the Poder Judicial and said the man was detained in nearby Jacó. It also said that he is suspected of ordering the murder but stopped short of saying he was the man who pulled the trigger.

Prosecutors were questioning the man late Monday afternoon in Jacó at the Fiscalía de Garabito. The Poder Judicial said that he probably would be brought before a judge today at which time the prosecutors would seek incarceration.

Residents of Playa Hermosa responded to the killing by placing flowers at the door of the shop where the dead woman worked. They also chalked comments of sympathy on the metal anti-theft curtain. Many declined to discuss the crime because they know those who were being considered a suspect. The mechanic had long been considered a figure of interest by agents because of the threats witnesses said he had made. However, he has a business relationship with many of the community's motorists, and many doubted that he was involved.

Agents knew from the beginning that the killing was not a robbery. Nothing of value was taken, and they had the testimony of the sister.

Ms. Erpen said on her Facebook page that her hometown was Colón, Entre Rios, Argentina. At the time of the murder, she was identified as Alejandra Erpen Fabre. The Poder Judicial now identifies her as Alejandra Erpen Sorber.

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Another day of downpours
brings emergency alert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast and the Nicoya peninsula are taking the brunt of the storms that have blanketed Costa Rica.

The national emergency commission is estimating from 150 to 200 millimeters over 24 hours in some places. That is from 6 to 8 inches.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional reported that a system of low pressure is driving the humidity into the country.

Rain fell in most of the country Monday, and more is predicted for today.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported flooding, slides and damage to roadways in Golfito and said that some people remain in a public shelter in Valverde Vega in the mountains northwest of San José. A precautionary alert was issued for the entire Pacific coast and the Central Valley.

The Río Parrita was said to be rising with residents expected in a shelter there. A slide near Parrita is believed to have blocked the Costanera Sur.

There was flooding in Paquera and Cóbano on the peninsula.   Sarchí Norte, Sarchí Sur and Bajo los Rodríguez were the locations in Valverde Vega that suffered the most damage, said the commission.

Minister cites new poll
saying security improves

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister said that a new poll shows that Costa Rica can conquer fear and beat the problem of insecurity.

The minster, Mario Zamora Cordero, said that the poll showed that 41 percent of Costa Ricans believe that insecurity is the principal problem of the country. That is down from 49 percent from a year ago, according to figures supplied by UNIMER, the public opinion firm.

The survey firm also said that in the recent polling 11 percent of Costa Ricans said they had fallen into the hands of crooks. That was down from 17 percent a year ago, Zamora said.

Zamora said that it was clear to him that the problem of insecurity would be solved by an integral approach with legal reforms and financing of programs.

Documentary on diablitos
will be shown this morning

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is presenting a 53-minute documentary today at 9 a.m. over the native traditions of the Boruca people in southwestern Costa Rica.

The audio visual presentation is called “La Fiesta de los Diablitos en Curré.”  The documentary was done by José Luis Amador, an anthropologist at the telecom company.
The showing will be in the auditorium of the Centro de Cultura y Transferencia Tecnológica of the company that is 300 meters north of the central headquarters in Sabana Norte.

The native community of Rey Curré is the scene of one of the annual symbolic clashes between the Spanish invaders and the resident natives. The event lasts for several days, and the fiesta in Rey Curré is just one of several such events among the Boruca.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is trying to develop a major hydro power station in southwestern Costa Rica. Part of the land is on a native reserve, and there have been protests.

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!
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 201

Sala IV rejects pensionado's bid to renew weapons permit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has declined to rule on the facts of the case of a pensionado resident who was stripped of his 10-year-old right to carry a firearm by a presidential decree.

The case received a mention Monday in a summary of court activities released by the Poder Judicial. The pensionado resident was not named, but his argument was that he has been a resident here for 20 years and has had a carry permit for firearms for 10 years.

In July when he went to renew his permit, he was denied by the  Sección de Armas y Explosivos del Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The firearms devision said that the right to carry a firearm had been limited to citizens and to only those foreigners who have permanent residency free of conditions. That change was made in February 2010.

The expat called the decree discriminatory and damaging to his fundamental rights.
The Sala IV said that the legal conflict was outside of its area of competence. It said the constitutional court could not determine the requirements and conditions that are necessary for issuing or renewing a firearms weapon permit.

The court appears to have stopped short of considering the right to self defense to be a human right. That is a strong theory in Anglo-Saxon law. The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2008 and in 2010 that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual's right to have a weapon. The Costa Rican Constitution does not include a similar clause, but the Sala IV usually is friendly to human rights arguments.

The Costa Rican central government is seeking to restrict gun ownership to reduce crime. At the same time, more citizens are purchasing firearms because they do not believe that the current police practices protect them.

In the last month at least six bandits have been gunned down by armed citizens and law men who were carrying weapons. A Judicial Investigating Organization agent died last week when he was confronted by a gunman in Alajuelita and because did not have his own weapons.

Marchers and their animals turn out in force for a party
By Shahrazad Encinias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

From the top of Cuesta de Mora at the Museo Nacional, there was an endless view of people marching toward the Plaza de la Democracia, accompanied by banners, chanting and dogs barking. It isn't everyday that thousands of people and their pets march side-by-side. Well in this case, pet preceding owner for a non-violent march through the streets of San José to bring awareness to animal cruelty.

More than 3,000 people participated in the “3ra Marcha contra el maltrato de animal,” the third annual march against the ill treatment of animals.

The day began with a large group of activists in Parque Central making their way to Plaza de la Democracia from Avenida 4 onto Avenida 2, where dozens of environmentally friendly, non-profit organizations and pet service tents offered their resources to all who participated.

The rain didn't stop festivities. The men in stilts walked around, some even hopped around and caused certain pets to react in fear by howling and others in a growling attack mode.

Activists donned a variety of shirts that were all pro-animals, demanding the cruelty to end. Some went as far as to wear masks that represented animals, such as fish, cats, pigs and dogs. But it wasn't just the humans that got to dress up. Many pets were out in their best outfit for the rally. There were pets in dresses, jerseys, vests, sweaters and raincoats. There were even some with crazy hair dye and bows. All in all it was a positive rally with animal lovers and their well-groomed pets. Regardless of the pet.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes were expected, as were some cats and even a bird or two, but there were alternative pets, like a goat. There were two goats who did walk side-by-side with their owner. When called on, Priscilla,  
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias
This goat seems to like having a photo taken.

the white goat with brown horns, would pose and stare for a picture. At one point she even nodded, in which the owner translated that Priscilla wanted another picture, which she got as a re-shoot atop the stairs of the plaza.

There also was a pot-bellied pig which most of the dogs greeted with confusion.

Organizers of the march are seeking approval of legislation that would establish the rights of animals into law.

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Researchers track how bubble snails moved to the surface
By the University of Michigan news service

Some ocean-dwelling snails spend most of their lives floating upside down, attached to rafts of bubbles. Scientists have known about the snails' peculiar lifestyle since the 1600s, but they've wondered how the rafting habit evolved. What, exactly, were the step-by-step adaptations along the way?

University of Michigan graduate student Celia Churchill and coauthors believe they've found the answer to that intriguing question. In a paper published in Current Biology, they show that bubble rafting evolved by way of modified egg masses.

The bubble-rafting snails, members of the family Janthinidae, secrete mucus from their foot, a broad, muscular organ at the base of the snail's body. But instead of using slime to get around or to communicate chemically, as other types of snails do, they trap air inside quick-setting mucus to make bubbles that form rafts on which the snails spend the rest of their lives.

They're found all over the world in every tropical and subtropical ocean where the water is warm enough.

"We had a pretty good idea that janthinids evolved from snails that live on the sea floor," Ms. Churchill said. The question was, which specific group of snails gave rise to the janthinids, and how did the janthinid lineage make the transition from bottom dwellers to surface surfers?

To find the answer, Ms. Churchill and coauthors first sequenced DNA from janthinids and other snail families thought to be closely related to them to identify the ancestral lineage. They discovered that the rafting snails are descendents of sea-floor snails called wentletraps that parasitize corals and sea anemones. The researchers then asked which specific habits of wentletraps might have morphed over time into raft-building.

"We thought of two possibilities," said Ms. Churchill, who did the work under the direction of Diarmaid Ó Foighil, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a curator of mollusks at the university's Museum of Zoology. "The first was that bubble rafting evolved from juvenile droguing." In many species of marine snails, the juveniles produce a mucus thread called a drogue that helps them drift from place to place like a kite on a string. Adding air-filled mucus bubbles to the drogue thread could result in something resembling a bubble raft.

The other possibility was that rafts represent modified egg masses. In wentletraps, which belong to the family Epitoniidae, females remain on their hosts, attached by stretchy mucus threads to tethered egg masses. These egg masses typically have egg capsules in various stages of development, from newly encased embryos to empty husks, and the researchers reasoned that the empty husks might trap air, making the egg mass and attached female temporarily
Bliue snail
University of Michigan/Denis Riek
Janthina janthina, a bubble-rafting violet snail. This is the most common janthinid species.

buoyant. As in the drogue scenario, adding bubbles to this
ephemeral raft could lead to development of permanent bubble rafts. Either way, getting to the surface would give the snails access to a completion-free food source: floating jellyfish.

To know which scenario was correct, the researchers needed to find a transitional form, a janthinid with characteristics that fall somewhere between the bottom-dwelling epitoniids and the permanently-rafting janthinid known as the common purple snail (Janthina janthina). They got a break when they received a preserved specimen of the rare rafting snail recluzia from Australia.

"I started to dissect it, and when I pulled the float away I noticed that there were tiny recluzia on the float and egg capsules of the large female," Ms. Churchill said. These hitchhiking juveniles suggested a life history consistent with the egg mass hypothesis.

Ms. Churchill and colleagues went on to reconstruct the path that led from egg mass to bubble raft. In the scenario they propose, the ancestors of janthinids lived on the ocean floor, and females formed tethered egg masses with associated males, just as a number of present-day epitoniids do. The egg mass then became modified for buoyancy, resembling a typical recluzia float, which serves as raft, egg-storage area and platform for juveniles. In the next step, all individuals began making their own floats, so the hitchhikers were lost, but the floats continued to serve as rafts and (in females) egg mass carriers.

Finally, the rafts lost their egg-carrying function altogether and came to serve only as floatation devices, as they do in Janthina janthina, in which the female doesn't produce an egg mass at all, but broods the eggs inside her body until they're ready to hatch.

Even a clumsy, special effects sloth needs a good name
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers have responded to suggest a name for the clumsy, three-toed sloth creature which is the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar tourism institute promotion.

The sloth's friends have names.  He (assuming the sloth is a male) introduces Luis, a monkey, and Jorge, a turtle. And there is Freddy, the Costa Rican, who refers lamely to the sloth as Mr. Sloth. But no name for the principal character.

Readers should remember that the sloth is algae-free, perhaps the only one of its species that way. And, despite being a Costa Rican native, he speaks Midwestern standard English. He can be found here on the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo promotional video.

A.M. Costa Rica will not award a prize, but editors will give readers a chance to vote on submitted names. Readers should also provide a reason why they believe that the name they suggest is appropriate.

Submitters will be identified unless they request otherwise.
sloth falls
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo photo
Some are upset that the sloth ends his sales pitch by falling off a tree branch.

Those interested can send suggestions to until Oct. midnight Oct. 17.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 201

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Small business grants seek
to increase competitivity

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With a vast agricultural, scenic and environmental richness, the Huétar Norte Region is little known outside of Costa Rica, and even internally its productive and touristic potential is not fully explored. More than half the milk produced in the country comes from that area, which covers 20 percent of the national landscape and it is home to only 7 percent of Costa Rica’s population.

The region is known for having areas of rural poverty, a low income level and a low social development index, particularly in cantons near the border with Nicaragua.

The Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, will invest almost $1 million to expand the participation of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise in agriculture and bolster innovation of products, processes and services offered by both the agricultural and tourist sectors.

Likewise, the project will also assist in a better coordination between the local and national government and private institutions in order to improve the formulation, implementation and conflict resolution related to productive development strategies in the region, said the fund.

“The project seeks to take advantage of regional assets in a way that is environmentally responsible and sustainable, based on an effective public-private relationship,” said Betsy Murray, the Multilateral Investment Fund’s project team leader. “In fact, we expect to increase the role of the most vulnerable population in production chains and contribute to reducing poverty in the region.”

The project aims to improve the capacity of producers and agricultural small businesses to compete in the market by promoting the concepts of partnerships, productive chains and cleaner processes to reduce environmental impact. At least four production chains have been identified — pineapple, chile picante, ipecacuana (medicinal root) and palm heart —that can be potentially improved in terms of product quality, processing and industrialization.

In terms of the tourist sector, the project proposes the creation of the first carbon footprint management model for companies at the national level. It is expected that other sectors will replicate this model and thus contribute to the Costa Rican government’s goal to reach national carbon neutrality in 2021.

The project will finance technical assistance to more than 30 tourist and agricultural micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to measure their carbon emissions and cleaner production plans; improve their handling of agricultural waste; and design new tourist products that take advantage of the U.N. declaration of the area as the Agua y Paz Biosphere Reserve.

The fund also is providing $1 million in financing for the rural credit services expansion project in the Central Sur region. The project aims to expand access to credit for small producers and rural micro entrepreneurs that lack resources to improve their socioeconomic condition.

This project comes at a critical time for the Costa Rican microfinance sector, whose growth has slowed down in recent years following the global financial crisis.

Small business forum meets
through Wednesday here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The XIV Inter-American Forum on Enterprise is meeting through Wednesday in San José.

Organizers at the Inter-American Development Bank call it the most important event for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

President Laura Chinchilla addressed the group Monday night and told those present that during the peak of the recent economic crisis, 56 big companies closed their doors, but 2,000 small businesses began operation.

The president also announced that a capital seed fund would be launched to help the small enterprises. The initial amount is 3 billion colons or about $5.8 million.

Also Monday, Alfio Piva and Luis Liberman, the nation's two vice presidents, participated in the inauguration of a new building for the Inter-American Development Bank in San José.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 201

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Requirement for air bags
modified in committee

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans and residents will not have to retrofit their cars with air bags, according to a decision Monday by a legislative commission that is studying the new traffic law.

The committee decided to dump a provision that would have required that. Instead, the only vehicles required to have operating air bags will be those that have them installed at the factory.

However, committee members were giving no slack to drunk drivers. Several spoke on zero tolerance for drunks. Some have said the existing fines and possible jail terms for drunk driving are too harsh. But Carlos Góngora Fuentes, a Movimiento Libertario lawmaker, said that the legislature needs to send a signal to motorists that they cannot drink and drive.

The commission still has a long list of proposed changes to consider relating to the new traffic law that went into effect March 1, 2010.

U.N. experts urges reform
of Thai royal family law

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

A United Nations expert on freedom of speech is urging Thailand to amend controversial laws that prohibit defamation of the country's royal family.

The statement by Frank La Rue Monday said the legislation encourages self-censorship and stifles important debates on matters of public interest. He added that the laws are overly broad and do not conform with the country's international human rights obligations.

The statement was issued on the same day U.S. citizen Joe Gordon pleaded guilty in Bangkok's Criminal Court to charges of insulting the monarchy, an offense that could be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The 55-year-old resident of Colorado was arrested in May while vacationing in Thailand. Gordon, who was born in Thailand, is charged with posting material deemed offensive to the royal family on his blog, as well as a link to a translation of a banned book, while he was living in the U.S.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Gordon said that he did not want to fight the case, but that he hoped for help from the American government.

Thailand's laws impose jail terms of three to 15 years on “whoever defames, insults or threatens” top members of the country’s royal family.

“The recent spike in lèse majesté cases pursued by the police and the courts shows the urgency to amend them,” said the  expert, Frank La Rue, using the legal term for offenses or crimes against a state’s rulers or affronts to their dignity.

La Rue cited section 112 of the Thai penal code, which states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years,” and the computer crimes act, which can impose jail terms of up to five years for any views on the monarchy made on the Internet that are deemed to threaten national security.

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