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(506) 2223-1327        Published Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 205       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Tarcoles flooding caused a mooooving experience
By the A.M. Full Moon Contingent

Expats in small boats will have to pay attention to the cattle bobbing about in the Gulf of Nicoya, if reports from the Central Pacific are correct.

A weekend of rain washed some cattle down the Río Tarcoles and into the gulf, according to the reports.

Dare we say sea cows?

A little known fact is that cows can swim as well as horses, although they have a notoriously poor sense of direction. The best milk cows can do is line up at the barn at milking time. But these swimmers are not milk cows, and even then the I.Q.-challenged bovines are just following the leader.

But there is a problem.

It seems that the high water also has swept to
swimming cows

sea those much photographed herds of Tarcoles crocodiles. They, too, are swimming in the gulf better prepared for seagoing life, perhaps asking:
"Where's the beef?"

Vigilante neighbors off to prison while robber walks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two separate but significant cases played out in the Costa Rican courts Tuesday.

In one case, five persons who had attacked and fatally injured a man who was ransacking a vehicle each got 20 years in prison for aggravated homicide. The trial court upgraded the charge even though the prosecutor had asked for 12 years of prison each.

The second case was the first of the rapid justice officials promised for persons caught red-handed committing a crime. A man was convicted of robbery for taking a cell phone from a woman in Alajuelita. The security minister praised the process, and the Poder Judicial said that the whole case from robbery to conviction lasted only eight days. The court tribunal sentenced the robber to a year in prison, but he went free under a policy of conditional execution of the sentence for persons with no police record.

Friday the prosecutor in the murder case asked the three-judge panel to convict the five persons and give them each 12 years in prison. The individuals are Siar Lenín Mayorga Guadamuz, identified by the Poder Judicial as a Nicaraguan, and Costa Ricans Michael Quiros Sánchez, Laura Patricia Arias Torres, Kevin Ledezma Méndez and Ricardo Ledezma Méndez.

They had been tried on an allegation of simple homicide in the beating death of Ricardo Enrique Martínez Cedeño, reported to be from Panamá. The death happened May 27, 2007, in  Urbanización la Verbena when the victim was trying to steal from a vehicle owned by Quiros, according to the Poder Judicial summary.

The neighbors chased the man, caught him and subjected him to a violent beating in which, according to the cause of death, a knife was used.

As sometimes happens, the trial panel upgraded the charge to aggravated homicide, which carries a longer penalty. Mayorga and Quiros already were in prison, so the court extended their stay. Ms. Arias had been under house arrest, but she was ordered to jail. The Ledezma brothers, who had been free, were ordered jailed.

An appeal to the Sala III supreme criminal court is
almost certain. The sentence will not be final until that decision is rendered.

The case of a man identified as Gredy Alberto Chaves González had a different outcome. He is the first person to be convicted under a new, rapid system for persons caught in the act of committing a crime or caught shortly after with clear evidence that they committed the crime.

The judicial system instituted the procedure Oct. 1, and lawmakers are trying to make the policy permanent by including it in a law. The idea is to speed up the lengthy and bureaucratic judicial process.

The man was in court on an allegation of simple robbery. The Poder Judicial said he took a cell phone from a woman with the last name of Hernández in Alajuelita centro Oct. 6 and fell into the hands of the Fuerza Pública a short time later.

A judge remanded the man to preventative detention that same day.

Chaves agreed to what is known as an abbreviated process, and the prosecutor, known as the Fiscalía de Flagrancia, agreed to a reduction of the sentence to a third of what it could be. The Tribunal Penal de Flagrancias convicted the man and gave him a year in prison. Flagrancia in Spanish translates to "in the act" or more loosely "red-handed."

Because Chaves has no known criminal record he is being set free with the stipulation that his liberty is conditional on his actions for the next three years.

Both the prosecutor and the robber waived the rights to appeals.

Unrelated to the Chaves case, Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, expressed her satisfaction Tuesday at the results of the speedy justice process.

The Fuerza Pública is within her Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Also participating is the San José Policía Metropolitana.

As of Thursday, the minister said, 13 persons have become involved in the speedy justice process for robbery, aggravated theft from tourists, attempted murder, possession of drugs for resale and sex abuse against a minor. Those held are serving from one to four months of preventative detention, she said.

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kids turn in arms
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y
Seguridad Pública/Humberto Ballestero
Fuerza Pública officers accept youngsters' toy weapons.

Youngsters exchange war toys
in Fuerza Pública program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública was in one of Desamparados' poorest and most dysfunctional sections Tuesday asking school children to exchange their toys of war for notebooks, shirts and other school supplies.

The police officers not only got toy weapons, but real ones, including machetes, knives, BB guns and sharp instruments. The shirts the youngsters received said "Armas? No Gracias," Dozens of youngsters participated, officials said.

The event was in the Los Guidos communal hall. The toys consisted of water pistols, guns, plastic grenades and even swords.

The program is being conducted by the Ministerio de Justicia y Gracia and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, in an effort to create a culture of peace among school children.

The idea was to offer a preventative message, according to Capt. Omar Chavarría, head of the Fuerza Pública in Desamparados.

Los Guidos is a settlement of persons in transit, many from the countryside. There is a lot of crime there and the infrastructure is not well developed.

Court decision advances
move to OK in vitro use

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 48-year-old Santa Ana woman won a court challenge Tuesday to a prohibition against in vitro fertilization, but the case certainly will go to the Sala IV constitutional court.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, the agency that runs the hospitals, declined to provide the procedure for the woman based on a decision in 2000 by the Sala IV.

However, the Tribunal Superior de lo Contencioso y Civil de Hacienda said Tuesday that advances in medical science may have made the Sala IV decision moot. The question in 2000 revolved around the creation of multiple embryos of which the bulk would be destroyed.

The procedure involves fertilizing the mother's egg with the husband's sperm outside the body and then implanting the living embryo in the mother's womb.

The woman is Ileana Henchoz Bolaños. The Latin phrase in vitro means within the glass or in this case fertilization within a test tube.

The Caja based its case on the prohibition issued by the Sala IV in 2000. The high court voided a government decree authorizing the process but providing regulations.

The court decision was broad. It ordered the Caja to do medical examinations and diagnoses with the goal of determining the viability of using assisted reproductive methods including in vitro fertilization.

If after a medical evaluation in vitro fertilization was indicated, the Caja was ordered to do so within the framework set out by the 2000 Sala IV decision.

The decision seems to order the Caja to expand its services for infertile couples beyond the case of the woman who brought the case to court.

Tourism plan for islands
suffers legislative setback

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A plan to set up a process to provide tourism concessions of the islands in the Gulf of Nicoya got turned down by lawmakers Tuesday.

The rejection came from the Comisión de Turismo which was considering the measure. Members said the bill contains a number of deficiencies, including possible unconstitutionality.

To provide tourism concessions on the Nicoya Gulf islands would require a modification of the Zona Marítimo Terrestre law, said lawmakers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 205

Republican luncheon
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New Osa radio station was a real challenge for expat DJ
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After three years of wrestling with contractors, some inconveniently placed mangrove trees and that infamous Tico attitude towards time, the expat-themed radio station Radio Pacifico Sur is making some waves across San Buenaventura. But owner and DJ Stephen Petretti now has a warning for other aspiring Gringo entrepreneurs: the bureaucratic struggles in Costa Rica are not to be underestimated.

“I had to get rid of my Gringo hustle-and-bustle attitude and just accept that things are going to take their natural slow course here,” he said. “It's that whole Tico time factor.”

Radio Pacifico Sur at AM 1480, based in the the Cantón de Osa in southern Puntarenas, mixes daily English and Spanish language programing, broadcasting in an approximately 20 to 40 kilometer radius from Coronado to San Pedrillo. The station was supposed to be up and running in May, but costly delays and endless red tape meant that now it probably will not be broadcasting in full capacity until mid-November, said Petretti.

“There's been a lot of problems,” said Eddy Torres, a DJ and assistant manager at the radio station. “A lot of people messed around with us. They kept throwing the ball from one side to another.”

A 54-year-old single parent of two children ages 12 and 13, California native Petretti previously worked as a DJ for four years in Phoenix, Arizona, and San Diego, California. He first came down to Costa Rica in January 2006, after becoming disgusted with what he described as the country's “lack of free speech” and “jerk president.”

“When I came down to San Buenaventura, there was no common media down here,” he said. “There's nowhere businesses can advertise their products, and CDs don't work in your car because the roads are too bumpy.” He immediately started working on building his own radio station.  

Radio Pacifico Sur hopes it will stand out not because Spanish language rock bands like Maná will be played alongside the Rolling Stones, but because its programming will be firmly based in San Buenaventura.

“We're going to emphasize news and events in this area, not from San José,” said Petretti. “We want to keep the station community oriented, and advertise events in churches and schools and tamale sales and cabalgatas.”  

Upon arriving to San Buenaventura, it took Petretti six months before he tracked down an AM frequency for sale.  Because the Costa Rican government no longer issues them, aspiring radio broadcasters must look to families and churches, who, if they own frequencies, are usually unwilling to sell, he said.

Petretti eventually ended up buying a 5,000-watt Elcore transmitter from Marco Afaro, the owner of Radio Puntarenas. But the secondhand equipment turned out to be less than ideal: the transmitter currently works only at one-fifth of its supposed capacity.

“The machine's obsolete,” said Torres. “It was like buying an old car that the owner hasn't checked on for a really long time and wasn't too sure if it was still running, but he sold it anyway.”

After buying the frequency by selling some real-estate assets that he owned in the United States, Petretti decided to build the radio station on two hectares of land that he owned near Coronado. It is mushy, swamp-like land surrounded by mangrove trees, conveniently placed exactly where it was necessary to set two utility poles to carry the station's power lines.

It took a year to secure the permits necessary to cut down some of the trees. In the meantime, Petretti hired a local architect, William Martínez, to start drawing up plans for the station building. He also contracted local company Constructadores y Electricidad Mora y Mora to start building the tower that would support the station's antennae.

After starting work in October 2007, Martinez waited
antenna of new station
Antenna of new station

Stephen at San Diego station
Stephen Petretti in his previous life in the States.

until December before informing Petritti that before construction could continue, they were legally required to do a soil contraction test on the site.

Likewise, contractors at Mora y Mora, who began laying down groundwork for the antennae in February, waited until May before telling Petretti that he needed the government's environmental agency to inspect the land for ecological damage before he could start broadcasting.

“I was just like, why didn't you tell me any of that earlier?” said Petretti. “Every little department had its own little hurdles. We had to jump through, and once we finished with one, we had to go through another.”

Torres said it's especially tough for an expat to navigate around the country's seemingly endless red tape or even to know where to start.

“You need to know who to talk to,” he said. “I feel like Don Steve started backwards in a way. What had to come first was obtaining all the permits and then buying a frequency. He climbed the branches before the tree trunk, as they say down here.”

Petretti estimates that he has spent between $3,000 and $5,000 on the radio station so far. Even now, the station's ambitious programming schedule – which includes sit-down interviews with the local mayor once a week and a children's show on Saturday mornings – has yet to see the light of day.  Petretti said he goes on air from time to time, in between picking up and dropping off his kids at school, but for most of the day the radio broadcasts a preprogrammed playlist from a computer in his house.   

“At this point we just have to use the frequency just for the sake of using it, so that we don't lose it,” said Torres, citing a Costa Rican law that says that radio stations will lose the right to their allocated frequency if it goes unused for more than six months.
The station will likely begin its planned programming in mid-November, if all goes well. Petretti will host his own evening talk show, a spin on the politically charged program he used to broadcast in San Diego, under the pseudonym Dr. Meno.

“My disclaimer is I'm not a real doctor, I just have a lot of patience,” he said. “But if you ask me, anyone who spends two and a half years in Costa Rica trying to build a radio station deserves a doctorate.”

Major weather systems are moving away from country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A tropical depression developed into Hurricane Omar over Tuesday, but the good news is that the storm appears to be heading to the northeast and away from Central America.

The hurricane, which is a category 1 storm on the international scale, had been Tropical Depression 15. The hurricane is centered off the north coast of Venezuela.

Meanwhile, a depression that passed over the northeastern coast of Costa Rica is now officially Tropical Depression 16 but not yet a tropical storm or a hurricane, according to the U.S. Hurricane Center. The storm has moved north along the coast to Honduras, and it is expected to pass over that country and Guatemala before making landfall again on the Mexican Yucatan. Officials here think that this path might generate more rain for Guanacaste.

Both storms are a good distance from Costa Rica, which is why the weather was not rainy Tuesday in most of the country. An exception was in Guanacaste where residents in the community of Dimas were flooded out by a local river.
The commission said 49 persons were in shelters. That is in the canton of La Cruz in extreme northwest Costa Rica.

Emergency officials are continuing to total up the damage from the heavy weekend rains.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y  Atención de Emergencias said that 38 roadways have been affected by the storms, which were a product of dueling low pressure areas, one from the west and one from the east, that met over the country.

The highest weather alert had been in force for the cantons of Quepos, Parrita, Desamparados, Oreamuno, Paraíso, El Guarco and Cartago Centro.  Nearly 300 homes had suffered some form of damage, said the commission.

Officials said they were able to open up the Interamerican Sur highway that had been closed by a slide since Sunday.

Officials reported that a handful of bridges in the southern part of the country had been damaged and three dikes had suffered some form of damage.

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 205

Researchers have created a gecko-inspired adhesive with 10 times the stickiness of a gecko's foot by combining vertically aligned nanotubes with curly spaghetti-like nanotubes.
gecko climbs wall
Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation after Liangti Qu et al., Science 10/10/2008

Scientists inspired by gecko's foot create super adhesive
By the National Science Foundation
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The gecko's amazing ability to stick to surfaces and walk up walls has inspired many researchers to manufacture materials that mimic the special surface of a gecko's foot.

The creature, an immigrant probably from Asia, is best known as the chirping insect hunter (Hemidactylus frenatus) in many Costa Rican homes.

The secret behind the gecko's ability to stick so well is a forest of pillars at the micro level on the underside of the gecko's foot. Because there are so many pillars so close together, they are held tightly to the surface the gecko is walking on by a molecular attraction called the Van der Waals force. This relatively weak force causes uncharged molecules to attract each other.

In an unprecedented feat, Liming Dai at the University of Dayton and colleagues report in the Oct. 10 issue of Science successful construction of a gecko-inspired adhesive that is 10 times stronger than a gecko, at about 100 newtons per square centimeter. The newton is a measure of the force required to accelerate a one kilogram mass one meter per second per second.
The researchers constructed their adhesive out of two slightly different layers of multi-walled carbon nanotubes.

The lower layer is composed of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, while the upper segment — which comes into contact with the surface it is sticking to — is curly, like a mess of spaghetti.

The adhesive sticks best when it is pulled down parallel to the surface to which it is sticking. This is called shear adhesion. This action arranges the tips of the curly nanotubes so they have maximum contact with the surface, thereby maximizing the Van der Waals force.

Pulling the adhesive off in a motion perpendicular to the substrate is much easier. At this angle the sticking force is 10 times weaker.

In this way, the adhesive has strong shear adhesion for firm attachment and relatively weak adhesion for detachment perpendicularly to the surface. Just like a gecko, the adhesive can stick to a wall when needed and then lift off easily to take the next step.

This breakthrough, supported by the National Science Foundation, will have many technological applications.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 205

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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

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

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


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


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


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

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Harper keeps his job
but fails to get majority

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canada will once again have a minority Conservative government, based on votes totaled Tuesday night. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ruling Conservatives got 143 seats and 5.2 million votes or 37.6 percent of those votes cast.

The Liberal party got 76 house seats and 26.2 percent of the vote. The Bloc Québécois got 50 seats and 10 percent of the vote. The New Democratic party got 37 seats and 18.2 percent of the vote. The Independent Party managed to get two seats.

The results from Election Canada were with nearly all of the 69,000 polling places reporting. But the totals are not official. They were phoned in.

Harper carried his own district, Calgary Southwest, with 72.9 percent of the popular vote. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion carried his Saint-Laurent—Cartierville district with 61.7 percent of the vote. Jack Layton of the New Democratic party carried his Toronto—Danforth district with 45 percent of the vote, and Gilles Duceppe of Bloc Québécois carried his Laurier—Sainte-Marie district with 50.3 percent of the vote.

There are 308 seats in the upcoming 40th Canadian Parliament. Some 13.9 million votes were cast. Harper called early elections in hopes of getting a majority in the house. He fell short but did manage to pick up 16 seats from the previous parliament. He needed 155 for a majority.
Municipalities told to give
access for the disabled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipaiidad de San José has to provide disabled access to its office of highway control within six months, according to a Sala IV constitutional court decision reported Tuesday. And the Municipalidad de Santa Cruz has to provide disabled access to its second floor offices in the same amount of time, said a companion decision.

Both cases were brought by residents who said they were hampered in their conduct of municipal business because of the barriers to the disabled.

New call center opened
by Sykes in Moravia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sykes Enterprises, Inc., has opened another call center, this one in Moravia. The location is expected to employ some 500 bilingual individuals.

The location is the former Sony Music building. The 30-year-old company is in 19 countries and features employees who speak 30 different languages. Several thousand of the firm's 29,500 employees are in Costa Rica.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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