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(506) 223-1327             Published Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 209                     E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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teacher's march
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
There was a march Sunday in downtown San José, and everyone was happy for a change. The principal components were bands from the various schools in the country. They were marching to honor teachers. Although the Asociación Nacional de Educadores was involved, there were no signs vilifying Óscar Arias Sánchez or George Bush.
The march was in contrast to a procession of protests against the free trade treaty with the United States. Although diehard opponents of the treaty are calling for a general strike Oct. 27, the bulk of the population seems to have accepted the results of the Oct. 7 referendum. The students pictures are in the student band of the Liceo de Cariari.

More rain expected as nation continues to suffer
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national flooding emergency only keeps getting worse. Another tropical wave bringing low pressure and atmospheric disturbances is expected Tuesday.

That means despite some partly sunny skies in Guanacaste Sunday, the rains will return.

The flooding has been going on for two weeks. Some 2,500 persons are in shelters in Guanacaste alone. Hardest hit are the areas around Filadelphia.  The Río Tempísque has been out of its banks for more than a week. At least five communities there are cut off and have been for five days.

Throughout the nation the emergency commission estimates that 18,000 persons are affected.

The rain may be predictable, but the health consequences are not. Sewage treatment and disposal is at a standstill. Fresh water is only available from emergency cartons of bottles in many area. Health officials estimate the dengue will return with a vengeance in two weeks after the mosquitos bred in stagnant storm water mature. The nation already was facing a health menace with more than 10,000 ill from dengue. Now the floods and standing water that is left will increase the insect totals.

The shelters also are ideal for distributing whatever diseases people might bring to them.

The death of a man in the flood-swollen Río María
Auxiliadora in Montes de Oca Saturday brought the death toll to 19. The bulk of the victims died in a landslide that buried houses more than a week ago in Atenas.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias has estimated the damage at 35 billion colons. That includes some 29 bridges damaged and some 124 stretches of highway washed out.

But this figure, about $67 million, does not include the economic loss for individuals who cannot work and the damage to their dwellings. Some nine schools being used as shelters are not giving classes to children. There also is extensive damage to agricultural fields, including rice and pineapples. Most of these are private losses.

The commission said extensive losses also were sustained by palm growers, sugar cane farmers, melon growers, coffee farmers and milk producers, as well as vegetable growers. 

Daniel Gallardo Monge, president of the emergency commission, said that the damage was greater than from any hurricane near miss.

The damage to the tourism industry, both current and future, cannot be calculated. CNN aired reports from Guanacaste over the weekend showing the flooding.

A large section of Parrita centro is flooded but little change was reported for that area.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 209

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Puerto Viejo residents seek
meeting on marina project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast are distributing a petition in the form of a letter to the local mayor asking about plans proposed for a giant marina in the nearby Playa Negra area.

The letter said that the residents were surprised and concerned with the announcement last Sept. 24.

They said that previous agreements said that the area would be kept low-density.

The letter went to Rugeli Morales, mayor of Talamanca, and George Brown Hudson, president of the municipal council.

The letter asks about the availability of water and what studies are being done to investigate improving the municipal water supply. They also asked about solid waste and the handling of materials like petroleum-based oil and gasoline residues.

The letter asks for a meeting in Puerto Viejo about the project so that residents can attend.

There was no information as to how many residents had signed the letter. Copies also went to the office of the president and a number of national officials.

Negotiations begin today
for treaty with Europe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican and other Central American officials will be meeting in San José this week to begin discussions on a trade treaty with the region and the European Union.

More than 200 nergotiators will be in town. More than 10 rounds of negotiations are expected and they probably will last all next year, said a summary from the foreign ministry.
Costa Rican exports to European countries are about 60 percent of all Central American goods going there and are worth about $1.7 billion a year, the ministry said.

Our readers' opinions

Some professional tips
on keeping electronics safe

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to add to the article about protecting electronic equipment. True, the best defense is to unplug all you can during a storm. We know this is not likely, we hate to reset dates, times, etc.

I do home inspections in Guanacaste, the No. 1 wiring problem I see is no ground to the home, if the distribution box is grounded, it may not extend to the duplex outlets. You can buy all the surge protectors you want. They will not work without a ground. Most of the newer ones have a light on them warning of a wiring fault. Do not ignore it. 

On my home I have a whole house protector and also surge protectors on all electronics. This will not absorb a direct lighting strike but are the next best thing to disconnect and transient spikes. The whole house surge protector also helps protect circuit boards in other appliances that have digital controls, refrigerators, stoves, A/C etc. 

Also you need surge protection on your TV, phone and Internet cables. Whole house surge protectors are available here in Costa Rica for about $150. Most come with a $10,000 to $50,000 damage coverage (not sure about collecting here).

Paul Johnston
Costa Rica Inspections
Playas del Coco

Sometimes fault could be
with the electrical provider

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You are so right about protecting sensitive equipment. Out here in Guanacaste we have many problems with "burned equipment." Some of it is caused by lightning. But I truly believe a majority is caused by our provider [Coopeguanacaste]. As an electrical contractor here, I have seen voltages from 108 to neutral to 127 volts to neutral. There is a voltage imbalance and the problem lies with how that transformer is tapped on the pole. It can be adjusted!

Secondly, if you have sensitive equipment, install surge suppression on the circuit breaker panel and on the main disconnect out on the street where the meter is. Cable and telephone protectors will help too. These also must have a GROUNDED wire that is COMMON with the ground for the whole building or house, apartment, etc. Surge suppressors with ''low clamping voltage" should be used. With surge suppression the more you spend on it will make a difference. A secondary lightning arrestor goes out on the main.

If lightning hits your house directly, I don't believe anything will protect you. But if it strikes a line and travels to your house an arrestor will help.

Check your grounding electrode wires. I, too, encountered a theft of the ground here in Tamarindo. The customer called me and complained about appliances shocking them. Upon inspection I found the the house grounds missing. With the soaring price of copper, stealing ones wires has become quite common. I recently loss 9 meters of 2/0 wire off a service riser, no thanks to the great speed of our local utility here for dragging their feet when asked to energize it.

Just a few tips.
Dave Shear
Playa Langosta

Quote by Noriega refers
to George Bush just as well

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Yesterday’s article, “Concern voiced by Some on direction of Venezuelan reforms,” included the following quotation from Roger Noriega, a former U.S. State Department official.
"When the agenda is to get elected democratically and then shred the constitutional order to reconstruct it to advance your personal, particular narrow interests, that is a problem."
I happen to completely agree with Mr. Noriega.  However, I would be referring to U.S. President George W. Bush, and not to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.  What a jaw-dropping example of hypocrisy!
Erich Strebe
Puerto Viejo

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 209

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A true iguana
takes in the sun in order to maintain body temperature.

Iguana comes to visit
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers

Iguanas are under pressure from loss of habitat and hunting
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Large iguanas have a charming dinosaur aspect attractive to visitors. Alas, they are only present in the fossil record since the Miocene, long after the dinosaurs were gone.

The green iguana, Costa Rica’s most impressive species, ranges from Mexico to southern Brazil and the Caribbean. Today’s iguanid lizards are concentrated in the New World tropics and presumably evolved there, though tropical climates are not conducive to fossil formation, so details are sketchy. There are also species on Fiji and Tonga, indicating long sea crossings.

Iguana iguana, was described to science in 1758 by Linnaeus, who was the inventor of the binomial scientific name system used for standardization to this day. These are often referred to as Latin names, but in this case iguana reached Linnaeus by way of Spanish explorers to the Caribbean and is an indigenous Arawakan word.

Larger individuals are strictly vegetarian, and can often be seen basking in the sun to keep their body temperature at the correct level for digestion. New vegetation is preferred, along with flowers and fruits. Smaller young do eat some insects.

Nests are burrows dug into riverbanks up to two meters in length. A large female can lay as many as 70 eggs. Young are bright green.
Human hunting pressure and habitat loss have greatly reduced numbers. The best habitat is near water where the iguanas can leap if threatened. Costa Rican country people usually blame Nicaraguans for depleting populations, but natives eat iguana meat and eggs too, especially after a few weeks of nothing but rice and beans.

Various projects to encourage iguana farming in Costa Rica have met with mixed success. The Pro Iguana Verde foundation near Orotina has provided support to encourage commercial activity rearing iguanas which are then released as free-ranging individuals until they reach harvestable size. This creates a commercial use for forest that otherwise might be destroyed and encourages reforestation.

Farming has a longer history in Nicaragua, where iguana meat is more popular than in Costa Rica. A more successful market has actually been in selling immatures for the pet trade. Small personal leather items can be made from iguana skin.

The common large gray lizards seen in the drier parts of Costa Rica are actually ctenosaurs, not strictly iguanas, and usually called “garrobos” They are mostly found on the ground though perfectly capable of climbing, and the biggest adults spend as much time in trees as iguanas.

Large adult ctenosaurs look much like adult iguanas, but iguanas have a large scale behind the jaw.  Ctenosaurs adapt readily to human-altered habitats, so are much more abundant.

California wine producers to promote their labels at expo here this week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is the week of a wine expo in San José, and California wines and supporters are here in force, thanks in part to the anticipated entering into force of the free trade treaty with the United States.

The event, ExpoVino Costa Rica, is from Tuesday to Thursday from 1 to 9 p.m. at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

The U.S. Embassy's commercial section is helping the California distributors to play a role. The wines from Lodi, California, are well known in Costa Rica. Frank
Gayaldo, a Lodi international wine broker, provided bottles
from California for the inauguration dinner for President Óscar Arias Sánchez in May 2006. These were from Pasos Vineyards, Watts and Macchia Wineries.
The event is open to the public, and there will be labels from all over the world to sample. The $25 entrance entitles a visitor to a glass to sample the offerings.

Pat Patrick of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce is in town, too, to participate in the event. He said in an Internet posting that the end of tariffs due to the free trade treaty will be a good development for U.S. wine makers.

Some 25 of his chambers members also are visiting to promote their wine exports.

Among the features at the Lodi tables will be Irish Vineyards' apricot wine, which Gayaldo said is fantastic over ice cream.

The event is sponsored by Ekaconsultores, which puts out a magazine to the hotel trade.

Escazú Christian Fellowship to host Remembrance Sunday Nov. 11
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Servicemen and women who died in the world wars and other conflicts will be remembered Nov. 11 in a 5 p.m. ceremony being arraged by Tom Kennedy, the British ambassador, and the Escazú Christian Fellowship, which meets at the International Baptist Church in Guachipelin.

The day is officially designated Remembrance Sunday by
Canadians, Australians and those in the United Kingdom.  It is Veteran's Day in the United States. And Armistice Day elsewhere. World War I ended on Nov. 11, which is why the date was chosen.

The day is remembered as a time when artificial poppies are sold to support veterans. Poppies sprang up quicky on the battled scarred fields of Europe, and were immortalized by John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields."

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 209

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Suspected pedophile featured on Internet captured in Asia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thailand's capture Friday of a suspected pedophile from Canada is highlighting efforts in the Southeast Asia region to combat child sex tourism.

The suspect, Christopher Paul Neil, 32, was taken to Thailand's Royal National Police headquarters in Bangkok Friday after his capture in the north of the country.

Neil's arrest came after the international police agency, Interpol, issued an unusual appeal over the Internet to law enforcement agencies and ordinary people around the world. The appeal was to help identify and catch a man shown in Internet photos, allegedly performing lewd acts with at least 12 young boys in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The photos showed the man's face distorted by a digital swirl pattern, but authorities in Germany were able to
 unscramble the pictures and reveal Neil's face. A manhunt ensued when Thai authorities discovered he had entered the country last week after leaving South Korea, where he had worked as a teacher. He had previously taught children in Thailand.

The manhunt for Neil and his arrest highlights growing worldwide efforts to combat so-called sex tourism, a problem that is rampant in Southeast Asia. The number of pedophile arrests and prosecutions is rising, thanks to growing cooperation between the rich western nations that export child molesters and the poorer countries that host them.

Some nations, including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, have passed laws with extra-territoriality clauses — meaning those who travel and abuse children in other countries can be prosecuted and jailed at home.

Cuba goes to the polls, but there are few choices on ballot
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cubans went to the polls Sunday to vote in municipal elections, the first since ailing leader Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother last year. Cuba's roughly eight million people are electing more than 15,000 municipal council members.

Sunday's vote is the start of an electoral process that will culminate with the election of a new national assembly next March. Lawmakers could then decide whether to officially replace Castro with his brother, Raúl Castro.

Cuban state television read a statement Sunday attributed to Fidel Castro. In it he said the strong turnout for Cuba's local elections was a response to threats from President George Bush.
Castro said Bush is obsessed with Cuba. He also criticized the war in Iraq and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Critics of Cuba's electoral process say there is no real freedom to choose opposition members, since candidates are nominated for municipal positions in open neighborhood meetings.

The United States has said it hopes for a transition to democracy on the Communist-run island.

Close to a 95 percent voter turnout is expected in the election.

Failing to vote in elections is frowned upon by the neighborhood committees.

Hitmen gun down popular Honduran radio commentator Carlos Salgado
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two gunmen have killed a popular Honduran radio journalist known for his satirical broadcasts and social commentary.

The commentator, Carlos Salgado, was shot multiple times Thursday as he was leaving Radio Cadena Voices, the station where he worked in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
Salgado hosted a comical radio show, Frijol el terrible "Bean, the Terrible," that touched on politics and social themes and which often criticized the social situation in Honduras.

Authorities are searching for the people suspected of carrying out the shooting. Salgado's murder comes at a time when Honduran President Manual Zelaya is at odds with the local media, which have been questioning the actions of his government.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 209

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