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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 211                          Email us
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Tamales and mascaradas are on the weekend menu
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tamal season is in the air, and Aserrí will start the holiday tradition this weekend with a fair devoted to the typical Central American dish.

Costa Rican households around the country annually decorate their Christmas table with the maize-based course.  It is presented wrapped in a plantain or banana leaf held together by a tied string.  Inside is a gift of meat, garbanzo beans and rice.

To eliminate the preliminaries, both the leaf and masa or dough can be bought pre-made in local markets.  For those who would rather buy them completely prepared, or who just want to get the treat early, this Feria del Tamal gives the opportunity to buy tamales in the country's tamal capital.

This is the eighth edition of the event which is formally called Expoferia Turística  del Tamal Aserrí 2012.  Activities will take place in the heart of Aserrí Centro around the community park. The canton is south of San José.

Keeping up with the recent festival spirit, patrons can enjoy concerts and buy handicrafts, tamales,  and other traditional foods.  At night, fireworks will design the sky.

Sunday the city will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Encuentro Nacional de Mascaradas.  Representatives from Heredia, Asserí, Desamparados, and Alajuelita will dress in masks and parade from the south side of Cementerio de Aserrí.  They will be accompanied by more than 20 cimarrona groups or small musical bands.

Organizers explained that the purpose of the event is to highlight the natural, touristic and cultural beauty of the community. 

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
 Tamal lovers generally eat them with chiles or a

"This allows us, the Asociación Cívico Cultural Aqueserri, to continue to promote Aserrí as a tourist destination and as tamales-producing area," said Carlos Solís, a member of Aqueserri.

To keep the event eco-friendly, the Comité Bandera Azul de Aserrí will collect recyclable waste such as plastic and tamal leaves. Later the organic trash will be composted and turned to fertilizer, Solís said.

The fair begins Friday and ends Sunday. 

There will be two Sunday masquerades, one of the traditional diana or reveille accompanied by cimarronas at 4 a.m and another at 11 a.m.

The Encuentro Nacional de Mascaradas is an effort to maintain the culture of the masks in the face of Halloween imports from the north. The mascaradas date to the Colonial era and probably before. The papier mâché giant heads are modeled after traditional characters and sometimes current politicians or public figures.

Threatening storms expected to move away to north
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That tropical wave that helped bring a weekend of rain is now Tropical Storm Sandy having developed from a low-pressure area to a tropical depression into a tropical storm in less than a day.

The storm is stationary in the Caribbean, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, estimates that when the system moves it will go northeast away from Costa Rica.

The system is expected to pass right over Jamaica and go through the center of Cuba. The system might be a full-flown hurricane by then.

The hurricane center defines a tropical storm as having wind speeds of from 39 mph to 73 mph.
Meanwhile another low pressure area in the mid-Atlantic, Tropical Depression 19, is expected to take a turn to the north and east without threatening Caribbean islands.

The Instituto Meteorológico said that the country probably will shake off any influences of Sandy by Wednesday. The national emergency commission is maintaining an alert on the Pacific coasts and in the Central Valley.

The commission also is keeping an eye on the Pacific because high seas are expected there today and Wednesday.

The commission said three-meter waves are likely in the southern Pacific with the rest of the coast seeing two-meter waves.

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Airport operator planning
contests for news stores

By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The company that operates the Juan Santamaría International Airport announced that it is holding a design contest for several new stores on the premises.

Winners of the contest will get the right to open their stores in a new area being built where passengers of international flights leave the airport, according to a spokesperson.

Aeris Holding Costa Rica is the company that operates the airport. Administrators of the company are constructing a new, enclosed patio area where passengers of arriving international flights leave the airport. The new wing will be called the international arrivals public area and it will be open to anyone.

The new area will accommodate four new businesses, and administrators plan for each space to be occupied by a different kind of business.

For that reason the company will have four different contests for the four types of businesses they are seeking.

The first space will be dedicated to an ATM. Additionally, a release says there is space for three other ATMs around the airport.

The other three shops in the new international arrivals will be a gift shop that also sells greeting cards and flowers, a café and ice cream parlor combination, and a fast food restaurant.

In all of these cases, the release says that the winning design must be “innovative, flashy and in harmony with the architecture of the terminal.”

The new wing is already in construction and the architecture of the shops has been predetermined. Businesses must submit their design plans for the interior of the store.

The winners must be able to paint and decorate the stores themselves. They also will have to pay rent to occupy the spaces.

Designs must be submitted for the ATMs by Nov. 9, for the café by Nov. 12, for the gift shop by Nov. 14 and for the fast food restaurant by Nov. 16. Applications can be submitted electronically to

Private employer group
seeks 3.62 percent wage hike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of private employers asked the Consejo Nacional de Salarios Monday to establish a 3.62 percent increase in the minimum wages as of Jan. 1.

The organization, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, accompanied its request with charts and statistics showing that minimum salaries have increased in real terms despite inflation.

The chamber said that the estimated inflation by Jan. 1 would be about 2.47 percent.
Six organizations that represent labor already have asked for a 4.06 percent increase.

This is the twice yearly negotiations because minimum wages are fixed for every Jan. 1 and for every July 1. The minimum wages went up 3.17 percent Jan. 1 and 3 percent for July 1.

Many employees in Costa Rica work for the minimum salary in their job category. There are long lists of minimum wages ranging from 8,120.33 colons ($16.49) a day for an unskilled laborer to 652,568.90 colons ($1,325) a month for a journalist. Professionals and public employees are not included in these wage classifications.

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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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 211
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Four police officers held in murder of man found dead in Pavas
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four police officers in their 20s were arrested Monday in connection with a conspiracy to commit and conceal a murder, according to a judicial bulletin.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has been investigating the case since the violent death of a man in July in a neighborhood of Pavas. All four police officers that were arrested work in the same area.

Investigators eventually traced a gun used in that murder to one of the arrested police officers, they said. They also suspect that these men tampered with evidence of the crime and the crime scene itself in order to interfere with the investigation.

The murder that the four men are suspected of committing is that of Mario Enrique Espinoza Alvarez, 50.
 In the predawn hours of July 18, police found Espinoza dead with a gunshot wound in his back. The body was found in a lot in the area of Lomas del Río in Pavas, according to the bulletin.

A spokesperson for the organization would only give the last names of the officers. These are Aotua Quirós, 23, Agüero Calderón, 24, Urbina Obando, 26, and Darmond Fallas, 26. They are all officers working in Pavas in the policía administrativa, which a spokesperson confirmed as being normal patrol officers.

Three of the suspects were arrested at the police station in Pavas and the fourth was arrested in San José while applying for a promotion, according to the bulletin. All were arrested at around 10 a.m. Monday morning.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has not announced a motive or reason as to why Espinoza died.

Two of the newly liberated scarlet macaws are a bit timid and slow about leaving their cage to join one of their number that is already experiencing freedom.

Birds set free
Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía photo

Nicoya peninsula now has 60 more free scarlet macaws
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Nicoya peninsula now has 60 more scarlet macaws in the wilds. The birds were released at the Los Delfines golf course at Playa Tambor near Paquera on the east shore of the peninsula.

The birds were raised by the Asociación Pro Conservación de la Lapa Roja. The scarlet macaw (Ara macao) is a threatened bird, but it also is one of the signature birds of Costa Rica. In fact, Los Delfines even has such a bird on the front page of its Web site.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía said that several
government officials were present at the release, including José Lino Chaves of the ministry.

The birds were raised from chicks locally. The largest population of scarlet macaws, of course, is in the undeveloped Osa peninsula.

The association has been working to protect the birds for at least 15 years. This is not the first time that a group was released in the same area. The association also works to reforest areas.

The birds live in holes in trees, so the group also constructed bird-friendly houses that are hoisted up to a safe height.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 211
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Fund raiser to renovate Coco Ebais is planned for Nov. 3
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two years ago community members began to notice that the clinic in Coco Ebais was inadequate.  Officials at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said they were expanding clinics, and the doctors had been waiting on their turn for 10 years.

“The situation in the clinic had gotten so bad that the Ministerio de Salud closed the pharmacy,” said volunteer coordinator Alana Shaffer.  “The space was being used to both give vaccinations and dispense medicines.”

For persons in Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal, Playa Hermosa and Playa Panamá this clinic is the only source for medical care.  Yet the inadequateness of the facility made it ineffective.

Oskar Diaz, the town doctor has been servicing the area since 2009 visiting patients at home who can not make it to the clinic to provide treatments such as dialysis. 

“He's just amazingly giving and loyal, and I guess he was the inspiration to get things going,” said Ms. Shaffer.

A carpenter in the area put out a call for a committee to help make it possible to renovate and expand the clinic. 

A group of volunteers from the committee came together with their different skills to help with the cause.  From this moment, Amigos de Papagayo was formed, she said.

In the group was architect Guillermo Cubas, certified public accountant Zeidy Murillo and lawyers Laura Rojas and Priscilla Solano.  All have been drawing up plans, balancing budgets and getting the proper paperwork together pro bono.

In the new clinic, two new vaccination rooms will be created,
and the pharmacy, patient observation, nursing intake and doctor examination rooms will be expanded.

Everything will be done with prefabricated materials, so the clinic will remain operational during the process.  The only day it is expected to close, is the day the volunteers will put on a new roof for the entire facility, said Ms. Shaffer.

Now the amigos have all the approvals necessary from both the Caja and Ministerio de Salud, and are waiting for the building permits. However, everyone is confident that everything will come through, Ms. Shaffer said. The project has been both exciting and fun to work on, she added.

The next step in the process is to raise the money needed to complete the project.  For this reason, the coordinators of the Coco Ebais Expansion Project will host a seed money social Nov. 3. with the goal of raising $5,000 that night.  Project completion will cost $200,000.

Pisces Restaurant at Coco Bay Estates is the site for the social.  Patrons will receive a free welcome drink and appetizer for joining.  Happy hour bar drink and a full service restaurant menu will be available for purchase, while Mark Forest, the Amazing Juanman Band, provides music.

Every attendee will get information on the project. 

Donors will have chances to win door prizes donated by local establishments.

Special prizes will be given for those who bring the most contributing friends, the persons with the most attention getting apparel item worn, the best civil joke told to a group and the most charming personality.

Sign-in begins at 5:30 p.m. Seats can be reserved at or 2697-1707.

Local dancers join the celebration Sunday as the inauguration of a new fire station in Nandayure turned into a day-long fiesta.

              station celebration
Cuerpo de Bomberos photo

Fire fighters open up another new station, the fourth this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nandayure on the Nicoya peninsula now has a fire station. It is the 11th in Guanacaste, an area where residents have complained for years that the response time is too long.

The new station has six professional firemen and a pumper truck. The station, the 71st in the country services about 10,000 persons in the communities of Carmona, Santa Rita, Zapotal, San Pablo, Porvenir, Jicaral, Pueblo Viejo, Vista de Mar, Punta Islita and Bejuco, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos. 

This is one of the stations that is being constructed with the money raised by an assessment on the electric bills in Costa
 Rica. The fire fighters were left without support when the insurance market opened up in the country.

Previously the agency was supported fully by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, which also had a monopoly on writing fire insurance policies.

The new tax went into effect in September 2011. The assessment is 1.75 percent of the face value of the electric bill on usage of from 100 kilowatts to 1,750.

So far the fire fighting agency has used the money to open new stations in Los Chiles, Puerto Jiménez, Bribri and in Puntarenas. The last one, inaugurated two weeks ago, is for fireboats.

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Earthquake scientists guilty
of failing to predict tremor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An Italian court Monday convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter for underestimating the risks of a killer earthquake and failing to adequately warn citizens before it struck the central Italian town of L'Aquila in 2009.

More than 300 people were killed, tens of thousands were left homeless, and the town's historic center and medieval churches were destroyed in the 6.3-magnitude quake.

Prosecutors argued that the defendants, members of a national panel that assesses major risks, offered "incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information" to residents. The international scientific community denounced the trial, noting that predicting earthquakes is impossible. Even early warning systems, which rely on a network of sensors to detect surface seismic waves that precede larger quakes, can provide residents only 10 to 60 seconds advance notice, and then, only in areas where those sensors are in place.

After the April quake, seismologists and other experts blamed lax building codes for the deaths and damage. In many earthquake-prone parts of the world, shoddy construction practices lead to many more deaths than would occur if homes and other buildings were more structurally sound.

The trial opened last September and was adjourned for more than a year, until resuming this month. The defendants have been sentenced to six years in prison, but they are unlikely to face jail while their legal appeals are pending.

Some observers have expressed concern that the convictions will make other experts and public officials reluctant to share their expertise, to avoid any legal repercussions.

Attacks by pirates lower
off east Africa this year

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sea piracy has fallen to its lowest level since 2008, including a sharp decline off the coast of Somalia. However, the International Maritime Bureau warns Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is growing increasingly risky for shipping.

There have been 233 reported pirate attacks worldwide in the first nine months of this year. That’s down from more than 350 during the same period last year.

Pottengal Mukundan is director of the International Maritime Bureau, which runs the Piracy Reporting Center.

“The numbers so far this year are down from the last few years,: he said. "I think particularly with Somalia we have to be a little careful, and wait for the end-year statistics to see if this is a sustained trend. But so far, the numbers are encouraging.”

Usually, from the middle of June to early September, there are few pirate attacks off the Somali coast. That’s due to monsoons that make sailing treacherous for the pirate vessels. The attacks and attempted hijackings generally increase toward the end of September.

“We have not seen them pick up quite in the way they have picked up in past years. But there have been reports of sightings of pirate’s skiffs both in the northeast of the Arabian Sea and in the Somali Basin. So we know they’re out there,” he said.

But despite the monsoons, international naval patrols off the Somali coast get a lot of the credit.

“The role of the navies have been critical in bringing these attacks down because they can do things which neither private armed security nor the ship owners can do, which is to go after the mother ships and board them; remove their weapons; remove their equipment before they get into a position where they pose a threat to merchant ships. There’s also been one incident where the navies took action against a logistics base off the pirates’ shore in Somalia on the beach,” he said.

Also, more cargo vessels and oil tankers now have contingents of private armed security guards.

Mukundan said on the other side of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea is a pirate hot spot.

“Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have increased, and what is very worrying is that they have seemed to have gone well and truly transnational. What last year was purely a Nigerian problem appears now to have spread to the neighboring countries of Benin and Togo; and since the end of September there has been an attack in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast where a tanker was hijacked. So this is a very worrying trend,” he said.

Right now, the Nigerian navy has borne the bulk of anti-piracy measures in the Gulf of Guinea.

The International Maritime bureau reported in Asia there were 51 pirate attacks in the first nine months of the year. But Mukundan said those incidents cannot compare to attacks off the African coasts, which are often very violent.

Fidel Castro disputes rumor
of his approaching death

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has written an article in state media disputing claims he is on his death bed.  It was posted on the Internet Web site early Monday, accompanied by several photographs of the 86-year-old former leader, showing him standing outside while leaning on a cane and reading a newspaper from Friday. 

Sunday former Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said he met with the aging revolutionary icon for five hours.

Jaua said Castro personally accompanied him back to the Hotel Nacional in Havana after their meeting Saturday.  Jaua showed the media photographs of his encounter with the former Cuban leader.

​​Castro's last public appearance was in March with visiting Pope Benedict.  Last week there was a flurry of rumors that Castro was seriously ill.

Castro rose to power after the 1959 revolution.  He remains popular to many in Cuba, where previous absences have fueled questions about his health.  He temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raúl, in 2006 while suffering from an intestinal illness, before fully transferring power in 2008.

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University for Peace offers
master's degree

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations mandated University for Peace announced a new fellowship that will pay for half of the tuition for a one-year masters program at the school in Ciudad Colón.

Peace Builders Fellowship is for young professionals interested in establishing peace, international cooperation and conflict resolution, a release said. 

The university works with students in more than 50 countries.  Upon graduation, students will have the skills to work internationally in fields such as human rights and education.   They can also obtain a doctorate in Peace and conflict studies.

The fellowship is for the 2013-2014 academic year.  Applications will be accepted until Jan. 31.  More information is available at

Caja union says it will skip
general strike set for today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union that represents workers in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said Monday that they would not strike today.

A number of unions, primarily those in education, plan a protest today that will end up at Casa Presidencial. They oppose a veto of a detailed rewrite of the labor code that results in lower salaries for some.

The Caja union, the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social, said it supported the idea of the protest today but that the Caja is experiencing a financial crisis and a strike by employes would damage the institution. However, the union said it is looking to the future when such a measure might be appropriate.

Appeal in Alcatel case is set
for five days in November

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An appeals panel will hear a challenge to the sentences handed out to eight persons, including former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, in an open hearing starting Nov. 5, according to the Poder Judicial. Five days are set aside for the hearing before three judges.

The former president and others were convicted April 27, 2011, of a variety of crimes relating to payoffs by the Alcatel telecom company in order to obtain a cell telephone contract form the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Rodríguez got five years and was told he could not hold public office for 12 years. He has strongly maintained his innocence.

The trial court found Rodríguez guilty specifically of instigating a kickback scheme for the 400,000 cell lines.

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