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These stories were published Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 207
Jo Stuart
About us

Our own personal guide
How you can have that great vacation here

By the  A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite the almost constant rains, the high tourist season will be here in eight weeks. So A.M. Costa Rica staffers have compiled a list of dos and don'ts for tourists:

DO see more of the country besides the airport, your hotel room and the resort's beach.

DON'T drive at night. The roads all over are terrible due to government laxity and most

do not even have the most basic painted lines to help you.
DO drive in the daytime but with care, remembering that Costa Ricans
have a tendency to forget anyone else is on the road.

DO visit the Central Market, if in San José, and sample some of the best food in the country.

DON'T order Gringo food. No burgers. No nachos. Go Costa Rican instead: Casados. Arroz con pollo. Chicarrones. And gallo pinto, of course.

DO be careful at the beach. Rip tides can take you away no matter how good a swimmer you are.

DON'T let the hype overwhelm your good sense in real estate deals.

DON'T trust someone just because they speak English.

DO take a Costa Rican bus ride.

leave valuables at the hotel when you go to the beach.

DO go on a canopy tour. They are worth every penny.

DON'T go off alone to explore the volcano, the river bank or jungle.

DON'T pay money to policemen or other officials.

DO carry your passport when you are on a trip. Otherwise a photocopy of the face page and your entry stamp is sufficient.

DON'T wear jewelry in public.

DO learn the basic Spanish courtesy phrases and use them whenever possible:   Thank

you. Please. Excuse me. I'm sorry. Where's the bathroom?

DO spend an evening at the Teatro Nacional, the country's most glamorous building.

DON'T forget that Costa Ricans value courtesy over everything.

DON'T expect swift and flawless customer service.

DON'T bring drugs home as a souvenir and certainly not exotic pets.

DON'T do anything you
would  not do at home.

DON'T expect your embassy to get you out of jail.

DO keep a photo diary of your wonderful trip here.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 207

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Gunmen rob messenger
near U.S. Embassy in Pavas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A robbery in front of the U. S. Embassy escalated to a shootout between Fuerza Pública officers and three gunmen Tuesday afternoon, officers said.

According to reports, a messenger, identified by the last names Villalobos González, working for Distribuidora de Repuestos del Oeste, tried to deposit an unknown amount into a bank but was intercepted by the three armed men, officers said.

Local private guards realized what was happening and fired on the men, who fled in a Hyundai.  However, the guards along with Fuerza Pública officers chased the car down. 

One robber got away, but officers managed to arrest two suspects, a Nicaraguan identified by the last names Centeno Alemán, and a Costa Rican identified by the last names Araya Rojas.  Araya was grazed with a bullet in the back, officers said. 

Local judicial police confiscated the bag with the money from the messenger, officers said. 

The location of the holdup as well as that of the embassy is on the Pavas boulevard west of San José.

Water company workers
on the march again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Water company workers marched to Casa Presidencial again Tuesday to press their claim for salary increases.

This is the second time in five days that the workers have been on the march. They tie up traffic each time because the estimated 3,000 employees use the major highways.

The workers are from the Instituto Costarricense de  Acueductos y Alcantarillados, and they have been on a strike for 11 days. Most administrative activities, connections, repair of leaks and shutoffs have not been done, although the water is flowing normally in the Central Valley.

The workers have the capacity to cut off the flow of drinking water.

The issue rests on the fact that workers in the government agency earn less than other public employees. The government has offered a small raise of about 8 per cent. Workers want two or three times that amount.

Coast guard reports
saving turtles and eggs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coast guard officers have reclaimed 6,260 small endangered turtles from the hands of poachers during the year, they said.

In the course of 731 patrols, officers from the Estación Ambiental del Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas arrested 19 persons for dealing in the illegal trade of turtles and turtle products, the officers said.

Of those 19 persons, officers said 13 were found digging up turtle nesting sites and six were arrested for hunting turtles.

From the hunters, authorities said they seized 249 pounds of turtle meat and 1,717 eggs from animals in danger of extinction.

Officers attribute their successes to the residents of the areas poachers prey on most. These residents helped officers guard the beaches from illegal hunting, they said. 

The coast guard reports it has been actively working to convince the public that a live turtle is worth more to the local economy as a tourist attraction than the $1,142 a dead turtle will fetch on the black market. 

Two police officers
held after drug raid

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A raid Tuesday morning in Barrio México, San Francisco de Dos Ríos and various parts of San José by agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization yielded 2.5 million colons ($5,109), 200 rocks of crack cocaine and six suspects, two of whom are police officers, the agents said.

The Fuerza Pública officers are facing allegations that they alerted other members of the gang whenever drug clean-up operations were going to take place in the areas where the gang sold, agents said. 

The two suspected officers were identified by the last names Villarreal Solórzasno, the man, and Gutiérrez Venegas, the woman.

Villarreal had been an officer since July 3, 2000, and Gutiérrez had been working for the agency for approximately six years, agents said. 

Both were immediately removed from duty and will be the subject of an investigations, agents said. 

Bus passenger arrested
on coke smuggling count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers arrested a Mexican with a kilo of cocaine hidden on his person Monday, officers said.

The 46-year-old suspect, identified by the last names Morales Cárdenas, was on a bus that had just crossed the Panamanian border into Paso Canoas.  Immigration officials found his stash during their routine document check, the officers said.

If convicted of international drug trafficking, Morales faces up to 15 years in prison, officers said. 

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Workers in devastated San Cristobal erect a temporary shelter for about 12 people. The photos were taken last week by Roberta Felix, a Manual Antonio-Quepos hotel operator who has been assisting with the relief effort.

Photos by Roberta Felix

Emergency officials hope to dodge Wilma's fury
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Though Wilma has yet to unleash a torment on Costa Rica like the country suffered from Katrina, Rita and Stan, the emergency commission warned Tuesday that the country is not yet in the clear and that residents should stay prepared.

Weather forecasters with the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional are still expecting rain from Wilma especially in the central and southern Pacific Coast.  The country can expect to see rain if Wilma intensifies, the weather institute said.  These predictions come even though the storm is now moving north and east away from the country.

As a result, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, is still working with local first-response committees to stop disasters before they happen, the commission said. 

However, there is still the humanitarian efforts in Guanacaste and Aguirre on the central Pacific Coast to worry about.  The commission said it has been developing a series of preventative measures that will coincide with the delivery of supplies to the stricken communities.  One plan is to maintain a flow of communication between the commission and first response committees so action can be taken before situations get too drastic. 

On a local level, emergency committees worked to set up possible shelters and inform endangered communities that more rain is on the way and families may need to evacuate. 

For the 2,383 persons throughout Guanacaste and Aguirre already in shelters, the emergency commission has sent 60 tons of supplies, said Alexander Solís, operations director.  Some of those supplies have been directed to shelters that are not even in use yet as a protection against the likelihood that more people will flee their homes. 

Guanacaste is feeling the brunt of the storm.  In that province alone 2,083 persons are waiting in 21 shelters or with friends and family for the storms to pass and the water to recede.  Those shelters are in Bagaces, Cañas, Carrillo, Nicoya and Santa Cruz, the commission said.   

Tuesday, workers were using small boats to shuttle supplies to the isolated communities of Bagaces, said Sigifredo Pérez of the department of operations.  Workers were able to carry supplies overland to Ortega after the waters receded he added. 

On the central Pacific, 300 persons in Aguirre are stranded in four shelters in Portalón, El Silencio and San Cristóbal.  Those communities were hit especially hard when the rain started a month ago and still have yet to recover.

Bob Klenz, a property owner in Portalón said the streets were dry Tuesday but that wasn't the case

Jakira of San Cristobal is only 6 but she has been helping other youngsters draw up lists of basic items they need, like bookbags and boots. Her art work will be used to raise funds for the communities.

over the weekend.  The dike in the town still hasn't been repaired and though workers from the Ministerio Obras Públicas y Transportes cleaned up the damaged bridges into town, they haven't been repaired either.  A temporary bridge erected by the townspeople is the only entrance, Klenz said.  People in those towns still need money to repair their homes and need donations, Klenz said. 

The emergency commission has issued the following warnings: Bagaces, Carrillo, Santa Cruz, Hojancha, Nandayure, Nicoya in Guanacaste and Aguirre in the central Pacific are all under red alert.  That means residents should be ready to evacuate should the need arise. 

Abangares, La Cruz, Liberia, Tilarán and Upala are yellow and the Caribbean slope, the zona norte and Central Valley should keep an eye out for floods and landslides the commission said.

Tuesday night, the hurricane was 180 miles south of Grand Cayman and moving west northwest at 7.5 mph.  By tonight, Wilma should have shifted to the northeast.  The weather bureau predicted that by today, the hurricane should be a Category 2.   

The U. S. National Hurricane Center shows Wilma curling off the eastern tip of Cuba and smacking southern Florida.  By Sunday afternoon, the storm should be somewhere off the coast of Georgia, the center predicted.

Wilma should rain on Costa Rica until Thursday, the weather institute predicted.  

Costa Rican man of letter Luis Ferrero Acosta dies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Luis Ferrero Acosta, journalist, writer, professor and winner of the Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón in 1987, died Monday from a heart attack, said Juan Alberto Gonzalo Johansson, Ferrero's assistant. 

Ferrero began writing in 1947 about cultural affairs for the La Nación supplement, Ancora.  Between 1993 and 1995 he had a column, “Pensándolo bien,” in Al Día.

Besides journalism, he also wrote more than 100 books about the history of art, the history of literature, anthropology, archeology and more.  He also wrote a number of essays which were nationally respected. 

Ferrero was born Jan. 31, 1930, in Orotina.  His primary schooling was at Escuela Portirio Brenes in San José, and he went to high school at Liceo de Costa Rica. 

His interest in national literature started in adolescence when historian Ricardo Fernández Guardia took Ferrero under his wing.  Joaquín García Monge was another mentor.  García pointed Ferrero toward a life defending human dignity and civil justice, friends said.

In 1951, he helped form the committee that decided
to create the Casa del Artista, after which he organized a large exhibition of the works of Costa Rica artists.

Between 1951 and 1955, Ferrero went to Mexico to study at the Colegio de México.  There he studied typography and liberal arts, which permitted him to introduce new techniques that benefited the editorial process here in Costa Rica.

During the years between 1969 and 1971, Ferrero traveled throughout Costa Rica soliciting funds to give rural schools libraries.  He also convinced the Ministerio de Educación Pública to create the Dirección de Bibliotecas Escolares. 

He was a member of the Junta Administrativa del Museo Nacional de Costa Rica and curator of the Arte del Museo de Arte Costarricense.  He was also a collaborator of the Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría.

Some of Ferrero's more noteworthy books are: "Mujeres de la Historia de Costa Rica" (1948), "Literatura Infantil Costarricense" (1958), "Árbol de Recuerdos" (1968), "La Escultura en Costa Rica" (1973), "Arqueología, Sociedad y Arte Precolombino" (1981), "Escultores Costarricenses 1973 - 1990" (1991), "Raigambres" (1998), "Navidad en Costa Rica y Del Oro Precolombino" (2003), "José María Barrantes-Monge y Confesiones de un lector" (2004) , among others.

Costa Rica takes a hit on perception of corruption
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The perception of corruption was greater in Costa Rica during 2005 than in earlier years. The country is one of the noteworthy decreases, Transparency International said. 

In 2004, Costa Rica was ranked 41st and had a score of 4.9 out of 10 on Transparency's index.  This year, Costa Rica's score has dropped to 4.2 and its ranking among other countries is 51st. 

“The substantial fall in Costa Rica’s performance can be attributed in part to several corruption scandals in recent years, involving former presidents,  multinational companies and foreign governments. Despite some government efforts to counter these  problems, such as creation of the Office of the Special Attorney for Ethics and Public Services, much  more is needed to rid the country’s political institutions of corruption,” Transparency said.

Countries with a score below 5 – almost two-thirds of the 159 surveyed – have a bad record on corruption.  Transparency International notes a strong correlation between poverty and corruption.  However, Costa Rica was tied with El Salvador at sixth out of the 28 countries surveyed in the Americas.  The United States was second with a score of 7.6 behind Canada. Haiti was last with a score of 1.8 which is actually an improvement from last year.  The average for the Americas was 3.86.  The global average was 4.11. 

When Hospital Calderón Guardia burned down July 12, President Abel Pacheco offered as an excuse to the lack of smoke detectors, fire alarms, evacuation routes and illuminated exit signs, the fact that Costa
Rica is a poor country and does the best it can.  Most citizens were appalled.

In addition, the country has suffered through the arrests of two former presidents and the investigation of other officials, stemming from at least two major financial scandals. A third ex-president is in Europe and refuses to come home to explain himself to the Asamblea Legislativa.

The survey is based on citizen perception of corruption so high-profile cases can skew rankings.

"One of the links is that corruption tends to cause poverty and make poverty worse than it would otherwise be. And that is devastating for the lives of ordinary people who find, for example, that they are having to pay bribes for services they ought to be entitled to free from their governments by way of health care or education, and so forth," said David Nussbaum, the chief executive of the Berlin-based Transparency International.

The countries identified as most corrupt tend to be the poorest.  Bangladesh, Chad and Turkmenistan rank at the bottom.   But Nussbaum said some developing countries have registered significant improvements.

"There are some of the poorer countries in the world that have been able to improve their scores even though they were quite low.  For example, Bulgaria, Colombia and Estonia have all improved over the last few years," Nussbaum said.

Countries perceived to be the least corrupt are Iceland, Finland and New Zealand, although Finland figured in one Costa Rican corruption scandal.

Bush promotes the idea of a guest worker program
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush is renewing pressure on the U.S. Congress to approve his plan for a temporary guest worker program. The president says such a plan will improve border enforcement and free up agents to track down criminals, drug runners and others who pose a threat to the American public.

Bush delivered his remarks before signing into law a $32 billion homeland security bill. President Bush said border enforcement is crucial to national security. He said more money is needed to protect the borders, along with changes in immigration law.

"To defend this country, we have got to enforce our borders," he said. "When our borders are not secure, terrorists and drug dealers and criminals find it easier to come to America."

The president spoke as he prepared to sign legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The measure provides $30.8 billion for a wide range of activities. But the president focused his remarks almost exclusively on the area of border control.

He noted the bill sets aside funds to hire more border enforcement agents, improve technology and expand detention facilities to hold illegal immigrants from the time they are arrested until they are sent home.

But the president said this expansion of enforcement capability, while important, is not enough.
"As we improve and expand our efforts to secure our borders, we must also recognize that enforcement cannot work unless it is part of a larger, comprehensive immigration reform program," he said.

Bush has proposed a program that would match up employers who need to fill jobs no American will take with foreign workers. He said many of those who cross the border with Mexico illegally are simply looking for work. The president said a carefully drafted guest worker program would give them a way to enter the United States legally and then return.

"I am going to work with members of Congress to create a program that can provide for our economy's labor needs without harming American workers, without providing amnesty, and that will improve our ability to control our borders," he said.

The president said, if done properly, a temporary worker program would not only help American employers and foreign workers, it would "ease pressure on the border."

"The fewer people trying to sneak in to work, means it is more likely we are going to catch drug smugglers, terrorists and drug runners," he said.

Earlier in the day, Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, made the case for immigration reform before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said tougher border security alone will not stop the flow of illegal immigrants, and a way must be found to help migrant workers gain temporary legal employment.

Jo Stuart
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