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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 206                          Email us
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Sea Shepherd says shark-finning decree is toothless
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sea Shepherd Conservation society has come out with a scathing critique of President Laura Chinchilla's decree last week on shark fins.

The shark-finning ban is toothless and a largely symbolic gesture rather than a true commitment to sharks and their environment, said the environmental organization.

The statement Monday echos similar concerns in Costa Rica where opponents of shark finning wonder how the decree will be enforced.

“Sea Shepherd is not buying it,” says Julie Andersen, Sea Shepherd’s director of shark campaigns in a release. “The supposed ban is smoke and mirrors by President Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is simply trying to do damage control for all the attention focused on shark-finning since it issued a warrant for the arrest of our founder Captain Paul Watson in May of this year,” she said

The organization argued if President Chinchilla were genuine in her desire to ban shark-finning, she would also ban the trade, possession and sale of shark fin as has been done in a handful of other forward-thinking nations. It added:

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would ban shark fishing in its entirety — a demand for shark meat has been created that provides a very real loophole for shark fishermen to exploit.

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d ensure that Cocos Island was adequately protected and those protections enforced, to prevent illegal shark fishing.

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she’d drop the bogus charges against marine conservationist and Sea Shepherd president and founder Captain Paul Watson and stop siding with the shark fin mafia. 

If President Chinchilla were genuine, she would have enacted legislation and enforcement to protect sharks before their numbers were down by up to 90 percent. Instead, in 2011, she allowed 400,000 sharks to be slaughtered and permitted the export of some 30 tons of shark fins, permitting private docks belonging to foreign interests to operate in violation of the country’s policies.

Sea Shepherd said that the Isla del Cocos, a U.N. World Heritage Site and one of the most important shark aggregation centers in the world, is filled with dozens of fishing boats illegally laying longlines.

By enacting this toothless ban, President Chinchilla is simply trying to appease the tourist industry by creating the illusion she is getting tough on the shark fin industry, said the organization, adding: 

Shark fins are big business in Costa Rica. Indeed, one of the reasons there has been very little outcry from the shark fishing industry over this ban is because they know it will continue to be business as usual. Legislation and marine protected areas are only as good as the political will and available funds required to enforce them. Sadly, history proves the protection of Costa Rican waters is
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President outlines the scope of her decree.

 under-funded and/or managed by corrupt officials who are quick to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in their waters and have no intention of enforcing local laws.

The organization also said that if Costa Rica is really serious about saving sharks, the government should ban the trade, possession and sale of all shark fin; institute an immediate ban on shark fishing, as was done in nearby Honduras; step up enforcement; demonstrate some real conservation efforts at Cocos Island; tally up some actual arrests and seizures, and drop the outlandish charges against Captain Paul Watson.

The people of Costa Rica want shark finning to stop, said Sea Shepherd.

President Chinchilla must understand that she is not fooling anyone with this announcement and that conservationists, park rangers, members of the coast guard, politicians, and members of the public in Costa Rica will continue to report the truth, it said.

And the truth is that Costa Rica remains one of the most environmentally destructive and shark-destroying countries in the world, the organization added.

Watson is the environmentalist who was detained in Germany at the request of Costa Rica. Sea Shepherd and Watson argued that Costa Rica was only serving as a proxy for Japan, a country that seeks to prosecute Watson for the activities of Sea Shepherd in hampering the country's whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. Watson left Germany and is not a fugitive.

The decree by Ms. Chinchilla last week bans the importation of shark fins. Commercial shark-finning already was illegal in Costa Rica, but the practice continues. Small-scale fishing for shark also is permitted.

Puntarenas hosts major wholesalers of shark fins, and after Costa Rica cracked down on the docking of shark fishing boats, the crafts unloaded in Nicaragua and the fins were trucked to Costa Rica.

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New book by retiree outlines
the turmoil of the 1960s

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For many expats who retire to Costa Rica, writing becomes their new hobby and, in many cases, a job.

Santa Ana resident George Pritchard Harris, 61, is using his experience growing up in the turmoil of the 60s for a fictional series.

He has just completed his first book “For Whom the Book Tells,” the first of four installments of the “Four Fathers” series.

The novel follows four characters as they travel around the United States in the late 1960s while they try to negotiate the social changes and cultural battles that the period is famous for.  Harris settled in Costa Rica six years ago, after a long and stressful career in law, bouncing around from his home state of Illinois to Nevada and California.

“I was spending four-and-a-half hours a day in my car,” he said about his former career.

He retired and came to Costa Rica to visit six years ago, but it did not take long for him to decide to stay permanently. He added that he would have been here for 30 years had he visited the country earlier.

“Costa Rica’s a great place to be in nature with your brain off,” he said.

He started writing a year ago after a friend suggested it and has now published one novel, close to finishing a second and about to move from outlining to writing a third.

Life experience especially in his youth played a great role in the novel for Harris, who said that even the setting is as important as the characters. The starting point and home of the main characters is in the area where Harris grew up.

“The central character is the town of Barrington, Illinois,” he said.

Harris described the suburban village on the northwest side of Chicago as a powerful, upper-middle class neighborhood with lots of influential connections. Even though the novel is inspired from his own experiences of events and people, he said that it is completely fictional.

The novel is available in digital format only. It costs $11.49 on It is available HERE!

FedEx offers expats a deal
to deliver U.S. ballots

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As Americans prepare to vote for the next U.S. president Nov. 6, FedEx and Overseas Vote Foundation say they want to ensure the votes cast by citizens living abroad are delivered on time to the thousands of local elections offices across the country.  

FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., is teaming up again with the foundation for the Express Your Vote initiative, which helps U.S. citizens living overseas remain active in the federal election process. Since the two began working together in 2008, FedEx Express and Overseas Vote Foundation have helped more than 10,000 U.S. expatriates exercise their right to vote.

Using the FedEx International Priority delivery service, Express Your Vote offers the estimated 3.5 million, non-military American citizens living in 94 countries worldwide access to discounted express delivery of their absentee ballots through Oct. 31.  The service is available to Americans living in Canada, 14 countries in the Asia/Pacific region, 51 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 28 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Express Your Vote program also provides these voters the convenience of online pricing, web-based shipping label creation, tracking capabilities, as well as proof of delivery, said the foundation.  All of these features have been developed with the latest advanced automation solutions from FedEx, and are available on the Overseas Vote Foundation Web site.

“Because mail delivery is unreliable in some parts of the world, Americans voting from overseas need assurance their ballots will arrive back in the U.S. by the required state deadlines. If those ballots are late, they’re not counted in the presidential election. With this initiative, FedEx and OVF offer peace of mind to overseas citizens that their ballots will be delivered on time and their votes will count,” said Raj Subramaniam, senior vice president of marketing at FedEx.

Overseas Vote Foundation, founded in 2005, is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity organization dedicated to serving the voter registration and ballot request needs of uniformed and overseas American citizens who wish to participate in federal elections by providing online access to innovative online voter tools and services.

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Gray Branches
This is the work Ramas grises or 'Gray Branches' that symbolize the autumn years.
Watercolors depict autumn, both seasonal and age of humans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ana Broennimann is marking her 20 years as an artist with a show containing 20 watercolors which reflect on the passage of time. The show is called Otoño or "Autumn" in which she compared the natural cycles of nature with human lives.

The show opens Thursday at the Costa Rica Country Club in Escazú.

Ms. Broennimann, who was born in México, is known for her bold paintings of Costa Rican trees and foliage. But the current offering is more subdued and less vivid.

The works are mostly 29 centimeters by 76 centimeters or 11.4 inches by 30 inches. They carry such titles as Ramas grises or "Gray Branches" and Hojas Oscuras or "Dark Leaves." But there also is a bright red Primavera or "Spring."

Ms. Broennimann has been known for her acrylics, so the watercolors are said to be experimental.

In addition to the watercolors on cotton paper, the artist has also produced a small book with free-verse poems which the artist equates to her version of Japanese haikus.

The show will run from Thursday through Nov. 19.

A.M. Costa Rica first wrote bout Ms. Broennimann 10 years ago. That story is HERE!
two paintings
Hojas Oscuras and Primavera

As holiday weekends go, this one was pretty quiet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The holiday weekend is shaping up to be an unusually quiet one.

Weekends usually see three or four major accidents and fatalities. This weekend only two deaths were reported by late Monday. One was that of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle in  Huacas, Santa Cruz, in northwestern Costa Rica. He was identified by the last name of Vallerjos. The Judicial Investigating Organization said he was 62. The mishap took place Sunday night.

A three-vehicle crash took the life of another man in Los Chiles Monday. Judicial police are investigating this mishap, too.

Traffic was reported moving well Monday night as the vacationers returned to their homes. The three-day weekend was due to the celebration of the Día de las Culturas Monday.

The weekend was marked by unstable air over the country. Warm temperatures mixed with humid air to generate intense downpours mostly in the afternoons and evenings. Accumulations of from one to three inches resulted, according
to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. The institute issued storm warnings every day of the weekend.

Similar conditions are predicted for today with the heaviest rainfalls expected in the Central Valley and the Pacific coast, said the institute.

In Limón, the carnival continued under heavy police protection.

The Fuerza Pública reported that 24 persons were apprehended for various offenses, including carrying a concealed weapon illegally, drug possession and starting fights.

Officers confiscated 10 firearms, said the security ministry. A knife also was confiscated, they said. All that took place in the vicinity of the carnival celebrations.

Police officers also said that in one of the 10 fights they had to breakup someone threw glass beer bottles. Officers said they have been urging bar operators to sell their beverages only in disposable cups to avoid this kind of breakage.

The Fuerza Pública said that many of those detained would go to the flagrancia courts for rapid prosecution.

A.M. Costa Rica announces an adjustement in advertising rates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica announces a small increase in display advertising rates as of Nov. 1.

The increase will be from 6 to 9 percent to compensate for additional expenses in salaries, rents, utilities, government fees and the estimated 6 percent increase in the cost of living. Current advertising contracts will not be affected.

As has always been the case, the newspaper will continue to place advertising at the current rates until Nov. 1, and
advertising executives have been instructed to contact their clients with this information. Classified rates remain unchanged.

Advertising with A.M. Costa Rica still is a great deal because the company does not have to buy paper and the pages are in at least 90 countries every day.  Every weekday the newspaper serves up about 32,000 pages to readers. Independent statistical monitors report that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 unique visitors a day. Advertising executives are authorized to display the latest statistics to customers and potential customers. Most sophisticated business operators want to see those statistics.

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Researcher uses tidal records to chart Atlantic cyclones
By the University of Copenhagen news service

Are there more tropical cyclones now than in the past?  Or is it just something suggested by media coverage and better detection with satellites? New research from the Niels Bohr Institute clearly shows that there is an increasing tendency for cyclones when the climate is warmer, as it has been in recent years. The results are published in the scientific journal PNAS.

There is a problem in examining the frequency of tropical cyclones throughout history when they have not been systematically registered. Today cyclones are monitored from satellites and scientists can follow their progress and direction very accurately. But it is only the last 40 years or so that researchers have been able to do this. Previously, they used observations from ships and aircraft, but these were not systematic measurements.

In order to get a long-term view of the frequency of cyclones, it is necessary to go further back in time and use a uniform reference. Climate scientist Aslak Grinsted of the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen therefore wanted to find some instruments that have stood and registered measurements continuously over a long period of time.
"Tropical cyclones typically form out in the Atlantic Ocean and move towards the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. I found that there were monitoring stations along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States where they had recorded the daily tide levels all the way back to 1923. I have looked at every time there was a rapid change in sea level, and I could
see that there was a close correlation between sudden changes in sea level and historical accounts of tropical storms," explained Grinsted.

Grinsted said he believed he had a tool to create statistics on the frequency of cyclones that make landfall all the way back to 1923. He could see that there has been an increasing trend in the number of major storm surges since 1923.

Together with colleagues in China and England, he then looked at the global temperatures over the period to see whether there was a trend for a higher frequency of cyclones in a warmer climate. The global temperature has increased 0.7 degrees C since 1923, but there are variations. For example, there was a warm period in the 1940s but the temperature has really risen since 1980.
"We simply counted how many extreme cyclones with storm surges there were in warm years compared to cold years and we could see that there was a tendency for more cyclones in warmer years," said Grinsted.

But not all cyclones are equally harmful and those with the highest storm surges tend to cause the most damage. Cyclones with a strength like Katrina, which hit the New Orleans area in 2005 and caused devastating floods and thousands of deaths, make landfall every 10 to 30 years on average.

"We have calculated that extreme hurricane surges like Katrina are twice as likely in warm years than in cold years. So when the global climate becomes 3 degrees warmer in the future, as predictions show, what happens then?" Grinsted said.

New study highlights differences in salaries of men and women
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Despite recent gains, the wage gap between men and women in Latin America still prevails, according to a new Inter-American Development Bank study entitled “New Century, Old Disparities,” which compares surveys of representative households in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The study was released at a conference in Lima, Peru.

The study, which also examines wage differences across ethnic minorities of the region, points out that, although the average gender wage gap decreased from 25 percent to 17 percent between 1992 and 2007, the disparity remains quite high.

According to the household surveys, women hold only 33 percent of the better-paid professional jobs in the region, which include those related to architecture, law or engineering. In these professions, the wage gap between men and women is significantly higher: 58 percent on average. These jobs require quantitative skills, and despite women’s progress in education — leading men by half a year of education on average — they tend to focus on careers like psychology, teaching or nursing, where those skills are not developed.

“In terms of women’s participation in the work force, there has been progress in recent decades, but the wage gap between men and women still prevails," said Hugo Ñopo, study author. "The process of closing this gap has been very slow because misguided stereotypes and perceptions of the roles of men and women have distorted interactions, not only in the workplace but also at home. These stereotypes, which arise even in early childhood, discourage women, thus limiting their access to careers with a better future in the labor market,” Ñopo is a development bank specialist in education.

Women have a tendency to work part-time, on a self-employed basis and in informal activities. While one in every 10 men
works part-time, one in every four women works on this basis, said the study. This labor flexibility, which allows women to participate in labor markets while still being able to take care of multiple responsibilities at home, comes at a cost reflected in lower wages, it added.

Likewise, women usually enter the labor market at a later stage and participate in it irregularly, on account of raising children, for example. This might deter their experience and professional development, thus increasing the wage gap with age, the study said.

In order to close the gender wage gap, the study recommends distributing household chores equally and encourages women to study science and mathematics and to take measures that give them a better chance to participate in labor markets. The latter can be exemplified with the expansion of services for early childhood development centers. Not only could this help women to increase their working day, passing from part-time to full-time employment, but it could also increase human capital for the next generation, the study said.

An equal maternity leave for both parents could help level the playing field with respect to decisions of hiring women and men. Furthermore, it could encourage men and women to dedicate more time to their newborns, generating more equal decisions, it added.

The study also presents a regional and country-specific outlook of the wage penalties faced by ethnic minorities in Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. For these groups, the gaps are even bigger than those related to gender. Guatemala and Paraguay show the highest ethnic income gaps: 68 percent and 60 percent, respectively. According to the study, the challenge for this population group must be even greater because of the high level of occupational and hierarchical segregation, as well as the lower educational achievement of these minorities, among other measures.

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U.S. economists honored
for theory of matching

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two American economists have won this year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for their work in designing market institutions that match different parties within the market as efficiently as possible.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm said Monday it awarded the prize to Alvin Roth, an economics professor at Harvard University, and Lloyd Shapley, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The 89-year-old Shapley conducted early theoretical studies of matching methods in the 1950s and 1960s. He developed a formula of how 10 men and 10 women could be coupled so that no two of them would prefer each other over their current partners.

​​​​​​More recently, in the 1990s, the academy said the 60-year-old Roth used Shapley's research to redesign existing instructions for matching new doctors with hospitals, students with schools, and organ donors with patients.

It said the two Americans, who work independently of one another, will share the $1.2 million prize for an "outstanding example of economic engineering."

​​​​The economics prize was not part of the original group of awards established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, also known for inventing dynamite. The Swedish central bank created the annual prize in 1968 in Nobel's memory.

​​The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and those in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature were announced last week. All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.

50 years after Cuban crisis
Berlin seen as motivation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.  Historians say there were several key events that led to the decision by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to station nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962. 

In January 1961 John F. Kennedy assumed office as president of the United States.  One of his major foreign policy dilemmas was how to deal with Fidel Castro, a Cuban nationalist who in 1959 overthrew Gen. Fulgencio Batista, the country’s American-backed president.  Castro ultimately allied himself with the Soviet Union.

In April 1961, Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro.

Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet leader, said Moscow had to help Fidel Castro.

“The Soviet Union, as a superpower, has the obligation to defend all their allies and their clients, even risking nuclear war,” he said. “Soviet intelligence gathered information that Americans planned to invade Cuba sometime in autumn, maybe in October. And so through that period, Cuba became for the Soviet Union the same as West Berlin for the United States, small, useless piece of land deep inside hostile territory,” Khrushchev said.

Graham Allison, author of a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, said at that time, the Soviet Union had a huge advantage over the United States in terms of conventional troops in Europe.

“The U.S. was committed to and determined to defend Berlin at all means,” he said.  “Khrushchev had been trying to solve the problem of Berlin by which he meant absorb it into the Soviet sphere.  And the U.S., both under Eisenhower and under Kennedy, were determined that this was not going to happen and were prepared to risk nuclear war over it.  So the Berlin developments were, in effect, a kind of twin to the Cuban missile crisis,” Allison said.

Sergei Khrushchev saw the same potential outlook, but from the Soviet and Cuban sides.

“If you will not defend it, even risking nuclear war,” he said, “you will lose face and your other allies will not trust you.  And you know that the United States had plans to use nuclear weapons if Soviets tried to take control of West Berlin.  So it was a very similar situation on both sides,” said Khrushchev.

In June 1961, President Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev held a summit meeting in Vienna, Austria.  The issue of West Berlin dominated the session, but no progress was made.  Many experts said Khrushchev came away believing the U.S. President was inexperienced and weak, and that might have contributed to the Soviet leader’s decision to station missiles in Cuba.

Finally, many analysts, including Graham Allison, said Moscow had another motivation to help Castro. “From the perspective of Khrushchev and the Soviet Union,” Allison said, “this was their success story in the Western hemisphere and they were committed to try and keep it alive.”  An effort, said experts that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

New film tells how Canada
helped save U.S. diplomats

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. and Canadian leaders commemorated their two countries’ close ties and cooperation this week at the premier of a movie about the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in which 52 American diplomats were held captive for more than a year.

The movie, "Argo," opened in the United States this weekend and its director and star, Ben Affleck, introduced it at a private showing at the Canadian Embassy.

The film is based on the true story of a covert Central Intelligence Agency operation to rescue six Americans who managed to escape when Islamist demonstrators took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and captured most of its diplomats. The six who escaped secretly took refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Affleck, who also wrote the screenplay, plays Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration specialist who gets the six American escapees out of the country by having them impersonate a Canadian film crew scouting movie locations in Iran.

"This movie is about cooperation . . . the great things that are possible with diplomacy,” Affleck said at a private cocktail reception at the Canadian Embassy before the film’s screening.

Affleck was addressing several hundred guests at the embassy, including members of Congress, CIA officials and former Tehran embassy hostages, including two of the six portrayed in the film.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 206
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Long-time expat Roy Lent
dies after struggle with cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats in Costa Rica have a knack for juggling more businesses and enthusiastiasim than most locals where they have settled or where they came from.

For Roy Lent it was a way of life

“He worked all around and he would do all sorts of things,” said his son Roy “Billy” Lent. “He did too much, I just can’t cover it all.”

Lent died Friday after a long and painful struggle with cancer. He succumbed to respiratory arrest at his home in Escazú, said his son. He would have turned 81 next month.

Professionally, Lent was a botanist and received his education at the University of Maine. He moved to Costa Rica about 45 years ago in order to study plants both here and throughout Central America.

As a result of his studies, over 20 species of plants were named after him, according to his son, including the Cestrum lentii, a flowering shrub that grows on either side of the Talamanca mountains.

Additionally, Lent used his expertise in plants to work for businesses such as fruit companies, orchid farming, designing new biofuels and making passion fruit wine. He also was a founder of the local computer club.

“I'm a strange one: a 75 year-old wanna be . . . who lives in Costa Rica,” he wrote on a bulletin Web site for scientists. “My original training was in botany but I've also worked as a teacher, farmer, plant breeder, plant explorer and numerous other things.”

His son said that this was just a few of the things he did that involved botany.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” added the younger, adding that his father taught English at a local school, taught people how to use computers, became a webmaster and acted in local theater performances.

However his son also recounted how he had a difficult battle with skin cancer, which started on his ear which eventually had to be removed in two separate surgeries. About a year later, he went through a seven-hour long surgery to remove several tumors, and that largely gave him his life back.

“After that he enjoyed a really good year because he wasn’t in pain anymore,” said his son.

In that final year, the son said that his father dedicated himself to setting up a sustainable community that was focused on providing care to those who require assisted living while adopting a healthier lifestyle.

He was unable to see that project completed, but the other co-founders of Gaia Sana have set up a Web site, which is HERE!

The younger Lent said that his father’s will was that his body immediately be donated to the Universidad de Ciencias Medicas for research and that there be no funeral service beforehand.

In addition to his son, Lent is survived by his wife, Margarita.

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